Concert Reviews Features

Top Musical Moments at CRS 2015

garth brooks

(Ben Krebs © GCOM)

Each year, thousands of radio professionals travel to Nashville for the Country Radio Seminar (CRS). The annual three-day gathering is packed with live music, industry-related panels, parties and surprises, and this year I was lucky enough to attend and to take it all in.

Between artist interviews, label showcases and even a few ‘secret’ events, I covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time. There were tons of highlights, but below I’ve singled out my top 10 CRS moments. For the rest of the list, visit


1. Garth Brooks’ Secret Club Show

Garth Brooks came out of retirement last year and has been selling out arenas ever since. So, to witness the country singer live at a small club with a few hundred people was an experience that will likely never happen again. Though he has been off the grid for nearly 20 years, it was impossible to tell. He put on the show with the same energy as if it was a sold-out gig at Madison Square Garden. In addition to playing some new material off his latest release Man Against Machine, Brooks’ set spanned his catalog of hits including “The Dance,” “The Thunder Rolls,” “Callin’ Baton Rouge” and fan favorite “Friends In Low Places.”

2. Keith Urban’s Intimate Midnight Show

Keith Urban is no stranger to the spotlight. He is in homes across the nation every week as a judge on American Idol, but in the early hours of Friday morning it was as if he took CRS attendees into his own home. Shortly after midnight, Urban took to the historic Ryman stage where a carpet engulfed his music gear. Urban performed his first few tracks alone and it was as if we were in his living room having a conversation. Throughout his hour set, he played most of his previous hits stripped down on acoustic guitar, banjo and piano and even filled the audience in on his writing process. Before he began “Somebody Like You,” he said the track was written with the help of a drum machine and his old six-string banjo. Other highlights included a brief cover of “Jessie’s Girl” into “Long Hot Summer” at the start of his set, a piano version of “Somewhere In My Car” and “Kiss a Girl,” where he invited audience members to join him onstage and take over the mic to have their own moment in the spotlight.

3. Dinner Cruise with Cheap Trick

A dinner cruise isn’t complete without some music, and Sony’s 29th annual CRS boat show did not disappoint. The night included a sit-down meal with live performances from Sony’s roster while sailing down the Cumberland River. While highlights included Trisha Yearwood‘s moving cover of Linda Ronstadt’s “Blue Bayou,” Jake Owen‘s powerful new single “What We Ain’t Got” and Brad Paisley‘s impressive cover of Van Halen‘s “Hot for Teacher,” it was the surprise performance by Cheap Trick that had everyone on their feet. The band walked out on the stage as Paisley was covering their song “I Want You To Want Me” and stayed to perform “Surrender,” “Ain’t That a Shame” and “Dream Police.”

4. Dierks Bentley’s ’90s Country Cover Band

When he’s not on tour (and working on how to prank his tourmates), Dierks Bentley likes to play in another band called Hot Country Nights. This band however, is not like anything you’ve ever seen before. Hot Country Knights is Bentley’s ’90s country cover band and he and his friends really get into the roll complete with costumes and ridiculously awesome wigs. On Wednesday (Feb. 25) night Bentley called on friends Miranda Lambert, Lady Antebellum‘s Charles Kelley, Randy Houser, Kip Moore and Brothers Osborne to join him at The Stage on Broadway to make some very special music. Highlights included covers of Alan Jackson’s “Chattahootchee,” Brooks & Dunn’s “My Maria,” Shania Twain’s “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under” and a very disturbing Russian rendition of Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart.

5. Lee Brice’s Sold-Out Show at Ryman Auditorium

A year ago, Lee Brice released the video for “I Don’t Dance,” which was shot at an empty Ryman Auditorium. This past week he returned to the famous venue, and there wasn’t a single empty seat—a situation that was not lost on him. “I cannot believe this,” he said between songs. “The last time I stood on this stage I was filming a music video and there was not a soul here. I was dreaming of the day when it would be filled completely, and so here we are.” Throughout his set, Brice demonstrated his prowess and versatility for songwriting and entertaining. The show had peaks and valleys, and while his more tender songs like “I Don’t Dance,” “Love Like Crazy” and “More Than a Memory” silenced the room, tracks like “Drinking Class,” “Parking Lot Party” and “Beer” transformed the Mother Church of Country Music into a tailgate party, showcasing the best of both worlds.


ACM Awards Performances: Collaborations Steal the Show

It was a night of jaw-dropping collaborations, surprises and new music at the 46th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards.

“Alright Mandalay Bay, ready to see a little music history?” Sugarland’s Kristian Bush asked the audience before bandmate Jennifer Nettles and R&B/pop sensation Rihanna took to the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino stage.

And music history it was. Rihanna appeared alone in a knock-out white dress, singing the first verse of her new single, ‘California King Bed’ as Jennifer’s vocals could be heard in the background. Soon, Jennifer appeared side stage and the two alternated singing lead and harmonizing throughout the remainder of the track. The vulnerable ballad showcased each artist’s incredibly powerful vocals and was just one of the many unexpected collaborations of the night.

Brad Paisley kicked off the night of collaborations at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino with his current single, ‘Old Alabama.’ Wearing blue jeans, a black Alabama concert t-shirt and his classic white cowboy hat, Brad wowed the crowd with his guitar skills for his tribute to the iconic country band before they came out and joined him mid-song. Alabama walked onstage with their guitars in hand to screams and helped Brad close the song with a fast-paced guitar jam.

For my complete review and photos of last night’s ACM Awards, visit The Boot.


10 Best Come-On Lyrics in Country Music

Don’t have a date for Valentine’s Day? Just turn on country radio, and you might get some advice for finding that special someone. Yes, country music is known for tales of love and heartbreak, but something’s gotta happen to spark all that romance. For some, it begins with a pickup line. Read below as I count down the best pickup lines in country music for The Boot, mixing the clever with the cleverly cheesy.

“Boy, if you wanna know the things I’ve been thinking/ You’d be meeting me outside”
‘Last Night Again,’ Steel Magnolia

That’s Meghan’s line, but an honorable mention goes to Josh’s equally provocative opening lyric: “Your lips are moving but I can’t hear you/Wish you would talk your way right over here.”

Last Night Again – Full VersionSteel MagnoliaSteel Magnolia Videos

“I’d like to check you for ticks”
‘Ticks,’ Brad Paisley

Known for his quirky and descriptive lyrics, Brad paints the vivid picture of meeting a girl at a bar before escaping to the sticks in hopes of getting to know her a little — make that a lot — better. Whether or not our amateur entomologist finds any bugs on her is another story.

And my current favorite (and cheesiest of all, I know).

“Are you from Tennessee?/’Cause baby, you’re the only 10 I see”
‘Pickup Truck,’ Shane Yellowbird

Pickup lines are abundant in this song; whether they actually work or not is still a mystery. “My name is Shane/How do you like me so far?” he asks, followed by the predictable “I need a map/’Cause I’m lost in your eyes.” Cheesy as a supermarket’s Velveeeta shelf, sure, but give the guy some credit for persistence.

For my complete list, visit The Boot and be sure to let me know some of your favorite (or least favorite) pickup lines in the comments!

Concert Reviews

Brad Paisley Performs 'Live on Letterman'

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Staab of CBS

Brad Paisley performed an hour-long set for lucky New Yorkers earlier this month at the Ed Sullivan Theater. For those not in the Big Apple, the concert was streamed live for CBS Interactive Music Group’s ‘Live on Letterman’ webcast, allowing fans to watch the set in its entirety on

Moments before he took the stage, Brad tweeted, “About to go on here at the Ed Sullivan theater. Like the Beatles. Sorta.”

Though he’s in Manhattan for the next few days promoting his new greatest hits compilation, ‘Hits Alive,’ Brad never feels too far from home. “On the way in here, when we were coming in from the airport, we were in an SUV. Low and behold, somewhere right after we got out of the tunnel, we hit this little patch of mud. I don’t know where in the hell that came from. It wasn’t quite big enough to have much fun with with your truck, but it made me miss home,” Brad said before singing his huge hit, ‘Mud On the Tires.’

For my complete review visit The Boot. Watch Brad perform “Then” below.

Festivals Interviews

Brad Paisley

Photo Credit: David McClister

Far from a newcomer to the country music scene, Brad Paisley is what legends are made of. A three-time Grammy award winner, Paisley has secured 14 No. 1 singles and recorded eight albums which have amassed to over 10 million albums sold. Hard to believe it all started just a decade ago with his debut, Who Needs Pictures.

Since 1999, Paisley has secured himself as a talented singer-songwriter and admired entertainer. His concerts are known for their interactive and animated backdrops and energetic performances, as Paisley can be found continually running around the stage between his breathtaking guitar solos. A stand-out performer at this year’s CMA Music Festival, in the press conference Paisley discussed visiting the festival before he was a country star, his current tour and album, American Saturday Night, and the freedom he felt making his previous instrumental album, Play. Read on for more.

How does this year’s CMA differ than previous years?

It’s great. It’s come a long way since Fan Fair of ’99 [which] I think was the first time I played, back before anybody knew who I was. For me, I used to visit Nashville during Fan Fair. I came down a few times before I had any real reason to be here than just to watch and so it’s an interesting thing to see it evolve. I think it’s really important for a couple of reasons, the big one being this city. Having a music festival that is country in Nashville is very important. They have great music festivals everywhere else and one of them needs to be here. I think they’re doing a great job here. The lineup is great and everybody seems excited. Last night I did a performance at 1 in the morning at a club downtown and the crowd was young and just excited and it just feels like this festival is still young, in a good way. It feels almost new and that’s a good feeling.

Why is it important for Tennesseans to support CMA Music Fest?

Well, because it’s ours. It’s something that brings a lot of money into this city and keeps it the center of country music’s attention. We shouldn’t be getting on our busses and only playing other places. It’s a big deal that we actually present what we do here to some degree, even though all of us go out there and it’s a different thing than putting on your full production. It’s a good thing to have this celebration of our music, which is largely, probably 90% recorded on these streets.

You kicked off your “American Saturday Night Tour” this past weekend. How did it go? Why did you feel your opening acts were the perfect fit for this tour?

I’ve got Dierks [Bentley] and Jimmy Wayne out. I just like what they’re doing and it’s a great thing to have. Also, they’re both old friends of mine. We really wanted to give the kind of show to these fans where they have gotten their money’s worth before I even strike the first note. And I think they do, they get their money’s worth with these two.

The comments from Jimmy the first night I heard about from meet and greet, and a lot of people were very excited about him. That’s not always the case. It’s not a normal thing for the fans to come to the meet and greet and say, “Oh, I love Jimmy Wayne!” Which is really great and it says a lot about him. He really relates to a lot of these people I think. As far as how the tour went, for the first weekend it really couldn’t have gone better. You walk away with some tweaks, I did, I was like, “This song needs to be here, not there” and certain things felt like they could be tighter, but we’ll get it right I think.

You’re such a guitar aficionado. Did you enjoy making your guitar album better than your vocal album?

I loved making that. I don’t know that I liked it better. I liked it from the standpoint of, creatively there was so much freedom to do whatever I wanted to do. I also felt freedom in the sense that I didn’t think that anybody was going to buy it. So it’s the kind of thing where you go in and make a different record when you’re not the least bit concerned with that. In the end, it’s done very well and I’m really proud that I did that. And it’s the reason we didn’t do an instrumental on this new album because I figured there are 10 new ones and the time to take a break from that was this new album. I didn’t need to add another one to that.

Can you talk about your pants? Are those designer paint pants or did you just add slaps of paint on them?

On the way here there were some protestors. The blue, they were protesting Smurfs. [Laughs]. No. The album cover and the whole package is about this painting that I did in an hour of the town, basically with red buildings and the sky. It’s cartoonish. And then we took photos in front of that and that’s our album cover and the entire inside is me painting that. So, we had this idea for the tour where we would just take clothes and throw paint on them, and that’s what we wear. From the first night on through this tour, we basically come out with something with stripes of paint on it. I’ve always liked that thought process of you feel like when you go to this tour, it’s launching an album at the same time. There’s a concept behind it, which is we’re coming basically to paint your town and we’re going to try to do that in one night on one of these nights when we play a city and we walk out there covered in it. I think it kind of says, “New tour. You’re in for something.”

There is such great energy behind your latest release, American Saturday Night. What inspired it? Is it something you orchestrated?

I think it’s my team. I have a really good team of writers. I co-wrote every song, there is nothing I wrote by myself. I came to the table as prepared as I can be, but I have a group of songwriters that have since gone on to surpass me and write for other people as much as they write for me. Kelley [Lovelace], Chris [DuBois], Ashley [Gorley] and Tim Owens and all these guys that started out with me in some way. When it was time to do the record it was like all of us got together and said, “What do we got?” Everybody came with ideas. Some of them had 25 on a page and one of them might be something called, “I Thought I Loved You Then” and we wrote that one.

I think my team, as far as Frank [Rogers] as a producer, it goes without saying based on his track record and what he’s doing now without me around. Both of us went to school together and we were each other’s first time . . . you know. He’s gone on and has done such great records. He is just so confident going in there, it’s almost annoying actually. Going into the studio he knows exactly what a song should be like the minute I pla
y it on an acoustic guitar. I
can play a song like “Water” and he’ll say, “Okay, it needs this and needs that. How ’bout this in the chorus?” He’s a genius. This crew, they’re really hitting their stride. That was another reason for the album cover. I feel like we got together and threw paint on a canvas and this is it, in a way I’ve never done before. It just felt right to me this time. There are other albums that I’ve done before that are different of course, that are compilations of some outside songs and things I wrote, that in my opinion are perfect the way they are. This album felt like it was time to do one of these — almost hauled up in a studio or a club and play some songs.

You started out with Frank. Were you always cool with him going off and doing so many other projects?

I was cool with it. I make a record every two years and he belongs in the studio doing this. Right off the bat he was sought after we made Who Needs Pictures album. The next album he did was Darryl Whorley and then Josh Turner’s debut, which took a few years before he came out with his first single. I’m cool with him doing any of that. I’m also really content on any album we do, whether it’s instrumental, to not produce, to not co-produce. He is the sole producer on these records.

Frank is the sole producer. He’s the guy in there directing this movie. I like that. I don’t think I’m somebody who can be behind the camera and in front of it. I’m no Clint Eastwood that way. I need somebody to tell me when I didn’t sing it very well ’cause I would go into the studio and sing a song twice if I could get away with it. And Frank usually makes me do it at least eight times on that. He knows. He knows me at this point. He needs to be producing as many people as he feels necessary, that’s for sure.

Your animation started out as a hobby and has since evolved heavily in your shows. Have you thought about taking that talent and skill and putting it somewhere else? Maybe animating movies or television shows?

Not really, but thanks. I should. I’m really proud of the new tour cartoon. The premise of the new cartoon is that it’s the first time that I’ve drawn other artists or cartoons in the show. It says, “Country music singers are under attack. Who will save them?” And I run and I leap into the air and I rip off my clothes and I’m wearing a Superman outfit and Carrie Underwood is tied to train tracks and then I fly and save her and she says, “My hero” as I fly off. And then Kenny Chesney is in the islands getting attacked by robots and I fly and save him and beat the robots up and he says, “My hero.” It also says in the beginning, “This is based on a true story.” [Laughs]. Then Reba is being chased by a dinosaur in it, which could happen. And I save her and she says, “My hero.” Then the third one you just gotta see.

It was fun to do that and also fun to do that without asking permission from any of these guys. I asked about that. “South Park” gets away with amazing stuff and I asked, “How do they do that?” and they said that parody is the broadest of basic copyright licenses. You can parody anybody and get away with it. They’re really lenient with that and I was like, “Great!”

For more on Brad, visit his Web site and catch him currently on tour.