Interviews Q&A

Interview: Eli Young Band


I was fortunate to interview Eli Young Band on their tour bus while I was in Nashville last month. The band that made “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” one of my all-time favorite songs a huge hit, it was great to meet the group who have been the soundtrack of my struggling freelance days. During our chat, the guys filled me in on their new EP, songwriting and how their wives continue to inspire their music. Read an excerpt below and the full interview on

The Eli Young Band originally had no intention to release any new material this month. But the four members of the Texas-based group were recently in the studio working on music to follow up their 2014 release 10,000 Towns, and their label Republic Nashville immediately loved what they heard.

Now four of those brand-new songs are included on the group’s new EP Turn It On, which dropped on March 10.

“We felt like we were onto something as far as the next step as the Eli Young Band,” frontman Mike Eli tells me, sitting in his tour bus with his bandmates during a stop in Nashville, Tenn. for the 2015 Country Radio Seminar.

“We just recorded these songs in January, so it’s a fast turnaround,” Eli continued. “The label came in and heard what we were doing and really liked it and wanted to release the single and get it out as quick as possible. They really fast-tracked it, faster than anything we’ve ever done.”

While the four Eli Young Band bandmates are all happily married, Eli says they often draw from their past, “Your Place or Mine” being no exception.

“It’s fun to channel the old days in some songs,” Eli says. “We’ve all been in that relationship.”

Eli says that song in particular was “really fun to write, and there are some really cool lyrical moments that we were really happy with as we were writing it. The song draws from the old school music of the Eli Young Band, which is neat to incorporate into the evolution of where we’re going.”

Eli wrote the song with bandmate Jon Jones and songwriters Ross Copperman and Jeremy Stover. Of the track, he says he and Jones each ended up marrying a woman like the one in the song, and Jones agrees.

“My wife and I are married 14 years now,” Jones adds. “We dated through college, and then we took a break. Then there was a point before we got back together that we went through a ‘Your Place Or Mine’ kind of thing, where maybe we were getting back together because it was familiar. Even though it is a really sad song, maybe it does have a happy ending.”

Interviews Q&A

Interview: Shania Twain


If you were to tell me back in 1999 when I was sitting down with my family watching Shania Twain’s CBS television special (with an appearance from the Backstreet Boys!) that one day I would interview her, I would not believe it. But that’s exactly what happened a few weeks ago.

Earlier this month, I chatted with the country singer over the phone right before she announced the news about her final tour. During our chat, she told me it will be a “dynamic, kick-ass show.” As the title of the tour, Rock This Country, suggests, she promises exactly that.

“It really is a rock meets country show. It’s going to have a lot of punch and edge. I just feel like I want to go out there with a bang,” she adds.

She’s also working on new music and while she wouldn’t divulge too much, I did get a little hint as to the direction she’s going in.

“The songs are going great,” she says enthusiastically. “I’ve been putting them together for a really long time now. They’ve been whirling around in my head, so I’ve got a pile of things, way too much for one album.”

While Twain says she’s in the studio and the “record is on its way,” she explains that it’s difficult to vividly describe and categorize the sound of the new material.

“It’s hard for me to put my finger on it; I don’t know how to explain it,” she confesses. “One of the producers involved, we were talking about how to describe it in words and he said, ‘This is soul. This is soul music.’”

Twain wouldn’t reveal the producer she’s working with, but she did agree with his ‘soulful’ explanation.

“It’s not like my music was ever traditional anyway. I don’t think anybody expects that from me. Nothing that I’m doing is traditional,” she says. “Certainly, as I reflect back on listening to this stuff, it reminds me a lot of the influences that I had growing up. There’s influences from my childhood in the music that I’m writing now.”

The country singer says she hears hints of artists like Emmylou Harris, Gladys Knight, Roy Orbison and Glen Campbell in the music she has been writing more recently.

“It is a more soulful approach to my songwriting then I’ve probably ever allowed myself to have before,” she admits. “It’s fun music, too. I like to stay positive. I’ll make sure that I do some things on there that make you feel good and happy as well. I’m having a lot of fun.”

For more of my interview with Shania Twain, visit And for a flashback to the ’90s, watch Shania perform “From This Moment” with the Backstreet Boys.

Interviews Q&A

Interview: Blackberry Smoke’s Charlie Starr


(Courtesy: New Rounder Records)

As soon as Blackberry Smoke start playing, it’s like the air gets thick and swampy. For well over a decade now, the Southern rock quintet have made a name for themselves with their gritty country and blues guitar riffs, vivid storytelling and frontman Charlie Starr’s distinct vocals, delivered with a hint of his Southern drawl.

While ‘Southern rock’ is a good catch-all generalization, it’s often hard to place Blackberry Smoke into just one genre, and they’re OK with that. In fact, a number of rock legends from the South are fans, including Gregg Allman—who sings the group’s praises as being “the band that will put Southern Rock back on the map”—and ZZ Top‘s Billy Gibbons, who frequently jams onstage with them.

“We never sat down and thought, ‘We’re a Southern rock band,’” frontman Charlie Starr tells me over the phone. “We’re just a rock & roll band from Georgia. So are R.E.M. They play the kind of music that makes them feel comfortable and so do we. Plus, I have a pretty Southern accent and Michael Stipe doesn’t, so the singing comes across in a different way.”



“I’ve always appreciated albums that have a lot to offer lyrically and musically,” Starr says, a few days before the release of Blackberry Smoke’s fourth album, Holding All the Roses. “Nobody wants to buy an album and listen to it and all the songs sound the same, that’s a bummer. We’ve always tried to approach an album like an album. Have it be a bit of a roller coaster ride where you have songs with different feel, different subject matter.”

While the album takes the listener on a journey, it also shows Blackberry Smoke’s evolution as a band. This time around, they’re using more textures, haunting string features and keyboard interludes unheard of on the band’s previous releases. Throughout its 12 tracks, Holding All the Roses has songs about women, the devil, loneliness and seeing a woman in the moon on the fittingly titled,”Woman In the Moon.”

“It feels good to me to continue to evolve and not be stuck in a rut,” he says. “There’s something to be said about allowing yourself freedom musically. We’re lucky, we don’t really have to answer to anyone. We don’t have a major label breathing down our necks that says, ‘This is not working.’ We appreciate that freedom.”

Read my complete interview on

Artist of the Week Band of the Week Interviews Q&A

Band of the Week: The Bros. Landreth


(Courtesy: Shore Fire Media)

On a cold Friday night in January, silence came over a packed crowd at New York’s famed rock club Mercury Lounge. Not the norm for the often sweaty and loud venue, the Bros. Landreth were halfway into their soulful set when lead singer Joey Landreth began to sing “Let It Lie,” the poignant title track off their debut album released earlier that week (Jan. 27).

While the character in the song tells his lover that it’s time to move on, his voice tells a different story. Quiet, full of regret and endless questioning, Joey urges her to let things go while standing alone at the edge of the stage. Soon after, the band joined in. They lessened the quiet, but the crowd remained mesmerized.

Who are these people who can instill such quiet reverence among a normally rowdy audience at an NYC rock club? What is their secret?

The Bros. Landreth hail from Canada, made up of brothers Joey and Dave Landreth and longtime friends Ryan Voth and Ariel Posen. Taking influences from Americana, country, blues and rock, the Bros. Landreth feel like a combination of the Allman Brothers Band and the Eagles, with their blues-inspired guitar licks and memorable harmonies working alongside the pop sensibility and guitar virtuosity of a singer-songwriter like John Mayer.



“Those bands and artists are people who we have definitely spent a lot of time listening to and appreciating,” Joey Landreth says of the comparisons to the Allmans and the Eagles. “When someone picks out your influences like that, it’s pretty touching and very encouraging.”

As far as John Mayer’s influence, guitarist Ariel Posen said the singer changed his outlook on guitar music. “He opened my palette to a whole new style of music I wasn’t really listening to,” Posen confesses.

Bandmate Dave agrees, recalling his former band having played many Mayer covers. But what he most respects about the singer-songwriter is that he stuck to his guns and did his own thing musically.

“He put out a very pop record, and then he built on it, and then he abandoned it to chase down another thing, and then he put out Continuum, which was incredible,” Dave says. “Then he put out that blues record, which was so much fun and he got to shred all over it. And then his last two records are totally beautiful, grown up mature records. I respect the music, respect the man, respect the arc of his career and commitment to his integrity.”

Not unlike Mayer, the Bros. Landreth blend all these influences and passions on their debut album Let It Lie. While Joey admits it is a breakup album, he said it wasn’t intended as such.

“I think it’s served a purpose for some listeners to hopefully be catharsis for them as well. I think it has been,” Joey reflects. He adds, “We met a really drunk, brokenhearted dude one night, and he pulled me aside and was like, ‘Man, number 7.’ He was talking about the seventh song on the record. It was all he could muster.”

Dave Landreth explains that while the writing and recording process is an emotional catharsis for them, it is also a way to connect with music fans.

“When you hit those real poignant moments and connect with someone and their story, and you know that you’ve struck a chord, and for just a second that makes them feel better or pause to think, that’s really cool,” he says. “It’s a neat way to connect with complete strangers.”

For my complete interview with the Bros. Landreth, visit

Features Interviews Q&A

Melissa Etheridge On Brandy Clark


Before the holidays, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Etheridge. This wasn’t your typical artist interview, though. I’d be chatting with Melissa about Brandy Clark, who was recently nominated as Best New Artist at the GRAMMYs, and why Brandy deserves to win the award.

Melissa is a huge fan of Brandy’s, and when I asked her what she thought it meant for country music that Brandy was openly gay she confessed that she had no clue that she was and from the sound of her voice on the phone, it was evident that she was ecstatic. She even told me that she’d love to collaborate with Brandy in the future. Read an excerpt of my piece, an As Told To with Melissa Etheridge below. For the full chat, visit


“I’m a big fan of really classic country music. When I hear Brandy Clark, she reminds me of what I loved about Tammy Wynette, what I loved about Loretta Lynn. They were singing about the real woman’s experience.

There’s nothing slick about [Clark]. She is genuine. She’s a great writer. She knows how to write a great song from beginning to end, each verse, each line. I love that type of writing and singing and that kind of country music.

Oh my God, I did not know that she is gay. Lord have mercy, I’m jumping up and down here. Do you know what I love? I love that I read everything about her and it did not say that. It wasn’t like my bio 20 years ago. That was the first thing, that I was gay. Wow, well that makes me very happy.

I know that a couple artists have come out in country music. I feel like the boundaries that have kept people apart and kept people out of certain areas of music are coming down. I really wish the best for her. I’ve always stood by the thought: “If you are talented and honest about who you are and can deliver the goods and you don’t blame any failures because you are gay. If you just make it part of your life, people will accept it and you can succeed.” I think I’m starting to see that, and that’s really beautiful.

I just wish her the best, it just makes me so happy, her nomination. I will be watching for her. I hope she gets to perform something at the GRAMMYs, you never know.

Maybe they will invite me down there [to Nashville] someday now. Call me, Brandy! I’m available.”

Interviews Q&A

Top 25 Interviews of 2014: No. 1 Nick Carter

This just happened. My life is complete. Jordan Knight and Nick Carter! #ktbspa #nickandknight #dreamscometrue

A photo posted by Annie Reuter (@yousingiwrite) on


This year, I sat down and interviewed a Backstreet Boy. What a dream come true. You see, I’ve obsessed over the Backstreet Boys since the seventh grade. My childhood bedroom was covered from floor to ceiling in posters of BSB, I attended all their concerts when they came to New Jersey and I was pretty convinced I’d marry one. Unfortunately, that never happened but hey–a girl can dream, right?

Much to the chagrin of my parents, every single year since the seventh grade my birthday or Christmas present request was a Backstreet Boy. Fully aware that this was a nearly impossible task, I continued to ask year after year. Well, it seems that my birthday and Christmas present came early this year when I got a chance to sit down with Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys when he teamed up with Jordan Knight of New Kids On the Block to form the duo Nick & Knight. I’m not sure how I didn’t faint, turn bright red or stutter my words but I guess the professional journalist in me remains despite the greatest odds. I mean, come on I was sitting down and talking to a Backstreet Boy not even five feet away!

Gushing aside, the interview went smoothly and the guys opened up about what it’s like living life in the spotlight and some of their questionable fashion choices over the years. Watch the video from my interview below as well as an excerpt from our chat. I guess now I need to create a new bucket list of interviews for 2015. Any suggestions?

“I never, ever have thought that I actually was very good at style and dressing myself,” Nick Carter admits when he’s given some photos of his earliest looks. “Now more than ever I let my wife help me out a lot. Some things like this, I have no idea what that is. I look like the guy from Puddle of Mudd.”

He’s talking about an outfit he wore to the Festivalbar Music Festival in Turin, Italy back in 2005. During his performance, the Backstreet Boy showed his dark side with a skull woven onto his button-down dress shirt.

“Woah! Beeper,” Jordan exclaims.

He is of course referring to a beeper clipped on an all-leather ensemble he wore back in 1999, when he showed up at a Virgin Megastore in California to promote his debut solo album Jordan Knight.

It had us, and Nick, wondering who was beeping Jordan back then?

“You know,” Jordan smirks, not naming any names. “You know how I roll.”

And by far the favorite of all the photos we found is one of Jordan from 1985. In the promo photo shot in New York, he’s wearing denim overalls sans a shirt.

“This was just terrible. People in my neighborhood wore this for some reason,” he recalls. “If I was on an episode of Cops this is what I’d be wearing. Running from the police.”

He smiles. “We all have those photos. You look back in your yearbook and you go, ‘Oh my God. What was I thinking?’ We take this stuff lightly. It’s pretty funny to look at.”

Read more of my interview with Nick & Knight at

Interviews Q&A

Top 25 Interviews of 2014: No. 2 Kip Moore


I was incredibly lucky to interview Kip Moore twice this year, first at the ACM Awards in Las Vegas back in April and again last month at Starland Ballroom in New Jersey. To fully understand my excitement (and nerves) to sit down with Kip for a lengthy interview, I have to tell you that his debut album Up All Night is by far my most listened to country album ever. He released it back in 2012 and for the past two years it has been the soundtrack of my life. Whether at home, at work or traveling around the country, it’s one of those timeless albums that I put on no matter the mood I’m in and it always makes me feel better. So to interview him twice this year truly was a dream come true.

What struck me most about our interview was how serious Kip was. While answering some of my questions he at times seemed intense, especially when talking about songwriting and his last single “Dirt Road.” A complete departure from his fun and flirty stage persona, it was interesting to witness the two sides of the singer-songwriter in one night. Below is an excerpt from our chat.

It’s no secret Kip looks up to The Boss. He even covered his song “Atlantic City” twice that day at the Starland Ballroom, once during soundcheck and again when opening his show later that night.

Kip closed his soundcheck set raving about Bruce Springsteen, attributing him as “the guy that really saved my life and the life I was living.”

“You know, Springsteen gave me hope,” he says. “Gave me hope that I could get to where I was trying to get and also gave me comfort. It’s a scary thing to face yourself when you’re feeling like you’re irrelevant. That vulnerable feeling. His music gave me comfort to feel that way, but he also gave me hope into a better life.”

Much like Kip looks up to Springsteen, his fans look to him for inspiration—something that is difficult for him to believe. But it is knowing this that makes him work harder and has him choosing his lyrics more carefully.

“It’s awesome and it’s scary at the same time, because you realize how much weight your words hold. And when you realize your words hold that much weight, you actually think about what you’re saying a lot more,” Kip says. “It means a lot to me because that’s why I do what I do. I always wanted people to hear my music and I wanted it to impact them in a profound way, so now that it’s actually doing that it means a whole lot to me.”

When asked what the hold-up with his sophomore album is, Kip explains his record label isn’t to blame—in fact as he describes it, they’re “protecting” him.

“People need to understand this is not my record label’s fault,” he asserts. “To be honest, it all comes back on me. I wrote a song, ‘Dirt Road,’ that I thought was going to get further up on the charts and high enough to release a record around, but my label is protecting me in a lot of ways. In my own stubbornness, I just want to put the record out. They know what they’re doing, and it’s hard to release a record around a song that didn’t get past number 40 [Moore’s first three singles all reached No. 1]. And that’s just the fact of the matter.”

So, adds Kip, “hopefully we can come with something next time with some more traction and we can put a record out around it.”

For my complete interview with Kip, visit

Interviews Q&A

Top 25 Interviews of 2014: No. 3 Westin Davis

It’s crazy how after just one phone conversation your whole perspective on songwriting can change. That’s exactly what happened after I interviewed Westin Davis. The songwriter behind many of my favorite songs by Kip Moore (“Dirt Road,” “Young Love,” “Lipstick”), the more I talked to Westin the more he gave me faith in my dream to be a songwriter. He told me he didn’t learn the craft of songwriting until he rolled up his sleeves and started putting the work in.

Westin explained that inspiration for a song comes from everywhere. He could be driving down the road, remembering a conversation he had or just thinking about his own life. What struck me most throughout our chat was his honesty. He opened up about his past and his struggles, never holding back. He even gave me advice when  I confessed that it’s my goal to write a song.

Below is some of the transcription from our chat. Stay tuned for my article on songwriting, which will feature Westin, early next year.

“I carry all of my yesterdays into my co-writes. I carry my home town, I carry everything bad that ever happened to me. So when I’m writing, I’m giving everything I have just like an entertainer would if he was performing for an audience. There still is that thing deep within me where the only motivation I need is my past. I take what I do very seriously.

“I think writing in general is therapy. Somebody told me recently, they said, ‘Man, I can hear you in every song that someone else sings or every song that I hear you play. I can hear your life story in it.’ I’ve always drawn from my life. I’ve been very fortunate to have very rainy days and sunny days. I’ve been very fortunate to live in black neighborhoods, to be poor, to be around crack dealers and drug dealers. To drive to a family member who lives 30 miles down the road and has more money than he knows what to do with and to see that side of life. And also be in love and out of love and heart-broke and lose somebody. I know that might sound crazy. It wasn’t until I started writing, that I looked back and actually thank God for hard times because I can draw from a deeper well than most people.

“If you want to be the best writer read books. Find out words. Follow the people you look up to. See how they said something and say, ‘Oh my gosh, they said that in a different way. How could I do that?’ It’s like anything. The beautiful thing about writing is it gives you the freedom and a sense of pride. Take a leap.”

Interviews Q&A

Top 25 Interviews of 2014: No. 4 Lady Antebellum

I’ll never forget the first time I interviewed Lady Antebellum back in 2010. At that time, their song “Need You Now” was everywhere–on country radio and pop radio. Heck, it even was made into a club mix, which I found so strange at the time. I prepared the entire weekend with the hope to ask them at least one question they were never asked before. (I succeeded!)

This year, I had the chance to sit down with the country trio for a bit longer and they were as nice as I rememberd. We talked about their latest album 747, songwriting and what it’s like for Hillary Scott to be the only girl in the band. Nearly four years after my first interview with them, I walked away even more impressed with the way the band has evolved and how they continue to make music that moves people. Below is an excerpt of my interview with Lady Antebellum

Recording 747 was fun for the band, and Hillary Scott said this is always the goal.

“That’s the ultimate thing, if you can have fun doing it then that’s the truest success,” she says. “We needed to step outside of what was comfortable for us. The three of us as a band needed the change. It felt the most like the excitement we had when this all started. It felt so much like the first record. In the eight years we’ve been a band, things can start to feel familiar, so to have that excitement and first time feeling again was really special.”

Charles Kelley reiterated Hillary’s sentiments, explaining that he also had to exit his comfort zone for “Freestyle,” which is the band’s new radio single. He said he was initially hesitant during the writing process (he and his bandmates wrote the track with Shane McAnally) because it was “such a departure” from their previous material. Today, though, it’s one of his favorite tracks to play live.

“The one thing we learned was not to be afraid,” he says. “‘Downtown’ was a good example of a song where at the time when we cut it Hillary was like, ‘I don’t know. This is so different.’ We’ve always found that our biggest and best songs always push us in a different direction. ‘Freestyle’ has this infectious energy to it. [You have to] keep it lighthearted sometimes.”

The lightheartedness heard on “Freestyle” weaves throughout Lady A’s album, from lead single “Bartender” (which reached No. 1) to opening track “Long Stretch of Love.”

The latter song Charles described as the most honest on the album.

“We’re all married. True love is ups and downs. You hit, you miss. You’re fire and ice,” he says. “But at the end of the day we’re not going anywhere. We feel that way in our personal lives and as a band. We’re going to have our ups and downs. We’ve been through a lot. We just have this long stretch of love. This long view of the group.”

“It’s going to be an interesting journey,” he continues. “Who knows where we’ll be in 10 years.”

For my complete interview, visit

Interviews Q&A

Top 25 Interviews of 2014: No. 5 Dustin Lynch

Dustin Lynch

(Credit: Paul Familetti)

For years, I’ve been hoping to interview an artist at Serendipity, my favorite dessert spot in New York. I’ve been going with friends and family since high school (always ordering the Frozen Hot Chocolate!) When I met Dustin Lynch last November in Nashville and told him I live in New York he said his favorite place to visit is Serendipity. I was speechless for a second because I never thought I’d meet anyone who loved the place just as much as me. When I told him I want to move to Nashville, he suggested I open up Serendipity Nashville and to be honest, it’s not a bad idea.

Nearly a year later, I learned Dustin would be in New York to do press for his new album Where It’s At. I thought Serendipity was the perfect spot to sit down and chat. When I interviewed him on a gondola at The Venetian in Las Vegas during the ACM Awards,  he compared one of the songs on his album, “Sing It to Me,” to sexual chocolate so I had a feeling Serendipity would be a fitting location. Below is an excerpt from our chat over Frozen Hot Chocolate.

A self-professed sweets fanatic, Dustin said he first stumbled upon Serendipity years ago when he was on the hunt for cheesecake in New York. His publicist had recommended Serendipity.

“We got here and it was like, ‘Wow!’ Every dessert that came out was bigger than life,” he told me.

So what did he think of his Frozen Hot Chocolate?

“Good grief,” Dustin said, after taking his first sip. “The gym has to happen tonight,” he said grinning, before going in for another sip. “We can run to dinner.”

Since we were sipping frozen chocolate treats in a popular dessert emporium, I had to wonder: Is there one dessert that best describes his album Where It’s At? “I’m going to have to go with Brownie Earthquake Sundae. A little bit of everything I love is in it,” Dustin said.

It’s true, Where It’s At does have ‘a little bit of everything’ in it, from heartfelt ballads like “She Wants a Cowboy” and “Your Daddy’s Boots” to uptempo live numbers including “Where It’s At,” “To the Sky” and the album’s kickoff track, “Hell of a Night.”

Dustin has previously described one song on the new release, “Sing It To Me,” as “sexual chocolate,” so since we were actually indulging in chocolate, I had to bring it up again. Dustin , to his credit, didn’t flinch. With R&B and pop influences, he said “Sing It To Me” is the sexiest song he’s ever written.

“‘Sing It To Me’ is our lovey dovey song on the album,” hesaid. “It’s not even really lovey dovey, it’s about not wanting to get out of bed with someone else in the morning just because it’s perfection.”

Once the interview came to a close and we finished the last sips, we headed outside into the bustling streets and sweltering July heat to say our goodbyes. Maybe it was the sugar high, but on my walk to the subway I couldn’t help but wonder if Dustin was right — that real cowboys do indeed still exist.

Earlier, when he discussed his song “She Wants a Cowboy,” he’d said there are plenty out there. “I think the song, it is digging deeper than simply ‘She Wants a Cowboy,’” he said. “She wants a guy that’s simple, down to earth and honest. She wants a guy that can kick back and peel back the layer of whatever persona you have to put on in everyday life.”

And despite my protests, he did personally pay for our Frozen Hot Chocolates. So maybe I did, in fact, meet my very first real cowboy.

To read the complete interview from Serendipity, visit You can also read our chat on a gondola at The Venetian here.

Had an amazing gondola ride @VenetianVegas with @dustinlynchmusic. Read all about it!

A photo posted by Annie Reuter (@yousingiwrite) on