Sometimes a song hits you at the right moment. That’s exactly what happened last July when I heard Brett Eldredge perform “Mean to Me” at the CMA Songwriters Series at Joe’s Pub. It was a week or so before his excellent debut album Bring You Back was released and I remember sitting there, tearing up as he played the beautiful song on an acoustic guitar.
“‘Mean To Me’ is very much a one-on-one love, romantic song that’s telling somebody else how much they mean to you,” he told me last year during his album release week. “I wanted to write a song telling someone, ‘If I could mean half as much as these things, half as much as you mean to me, then that would be amazing.’”
Brett wrote the song with Nashville songwriter Scooter Carusoe and said “Mean to Me” came about pretty naturally.
“I was just fiddling around on the guitar and we just started pouring them out [the lyrics] in these real descriptive ways. It’s a real special song that hopefully I can sing to my future soulmate one day.”
I’m a strong believer that if you want something bad enough you’ll make it happen. Of course hard work, persistence and luck are usually the ingredients to success but sometimes it’s also timing. Being at the right place at the right time, or just having faith that things will work out. This all pretty much sums up my career as a music journalist. When I started this blog nearly seven years ago I never dreamed it would take me all the places I’ve been. I especially never thought I’d be covering an awards show, but I certainly hoped I’d attend one at some point in my lifetime. Lucky for me, it was this year and the Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas last weekend. Below are my Top 10 moments of that experience. For all the photos, you can follow me on Instagram.
1. Gondola Ride with Dustin Lynch
I have never been to Las Vegas and for the longest time, the only reason i wanted to go was to see The Venetian in person and pretend I was back in Italy. I got that wish, but it was even better than I could have imagined. I rode on a gondola while interviewing Dustin Lynch! If that was the only thing that I accomplished while there it would have been enough.
2. The Red Carpet
I’ve covered a few red carpets before in New York and they were nothing compared to an awards show red carpet. Everyone was dressed up (including myself!) and I had butterflies the hours leading up to it. I already planned my standard three questions, but my nerves were getting the best of me, until it started and I realized how many friendly faces there were. Half of the artists that came by I had already met and interviewed, which helped calm my nerves. When I told Will Hoge of my worries, his advice: just be yourself. Which I did and luckily, the artists all remembered me which made it even easier.
3. The ACM Awards
For as long as I can remember, my dream was to attend an awards show. To sit in the audience and take in everything that was happening firsthand. In reality, it was more like a concert event than awards show with all the performances. During the commercial breaks, we’d see artist EPK’s on each new single, album, tour and best of performance moments from previous ACM Awards. Witnessing Merle Haggard come onstage and accept the Crystal Milestone Award, seeing George Strait perform in person for the first time and accept the Entertainer of the Year Award, it can’t get any better than that!
4. Interviewing Kip Moore
Talk about butterflies. I know I shouldn’t have crushes on musicians, but this guy is special. I don’t think I’ve listened to any country album more than his debut, Up All Night. My alarm every morning is set to his song, “Hey Pretty Girl.” While I’d never admit I’m obsessed, I am pretty infatuated. He’s just an incredible songwriter and someone I admire. Interviewing him only further proved this because he was so humble and almost uncomfortable talking about his nomination for New Artist of the Year. He also gave me some insight into his next release, which I can’t wait to hear later this year!
5. Brett Eldredge
He’s another one of my favorites and a friendly face throughout the weekend — backstage and on the Red Carpet. He is always one of the most fun guys to interview. Maybe I’ll even go shark diving with him…
6. Merle Haggard and George Strait Performing Together
I can’t believe this even happened. On Monday, I attended the TV taping for a special to air on CBS called ACM Presents An All-Star Salute to the Troops. The first performance of the night was George Strait and Merle Haggard playing “The Fightin’ Side of Me.” Two legends I never even dreamed of seeing live in the same room as me. It was truly mind blowing.
7. Attending Big Machine’s ACM After Party
Of course I was hoping to run into Taylor Swift at some point during the weekend, but this never happened. (There’s always next year!) I did attend her record label’s ACM party though where I chatted with Rascal Flatts, Eli Young Band and The Cadillac 3. Believe me, I was pinching myself. Having interviewed Rascal Flatts a few months prior, it wasn’t difficult to go up to the band but for some reason I was super nervous to approach Eli Young Band. Their single, “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” is one of my all-time favorite country songs and one of the songs that kept me motivated as a freelancer when I constantly questioned my ongoing struggles in making my dream career work out. When I told my colleague this, he told me to go tell them. And I’m very glad I did. So sweet and humble, when I told one of the guys this he thanked me profusely and confessed that he often feels like the band is country music’s underdog. I’m not quite sure why and I told him this because I always hear their songs on the radio. It’s interesting to learn band’s perceptions on themselves and to find out that even country stars can be insecure.
8. Interviewing Chris Janson
“I hear you’re a songwriter,” Chris Janson said as he approached me on the red carpet. I was speechless and didn’t know how to respond. I still have never written a complete song. “It’s a simple question. Yes or no,” he said. To which my colleague urged me to say yes. “Sure, I guess,” I responded note even able to convince myself. It’s my dream to write a song (and his publicist knew this) so when I landed in New York, I signed up for a songwriting class. At least the next time someone asks me I’ll be more certain in my answer.
9. Walking the Strip
I couldn’t help but feel like I was walking on a movie set while in Las Vegas. My last day there I was able to take in the sites, walk past Italy, France and pretty much every major city imaginable all on the same street. It was surreal.
10. Being a Kid at Heart
Sometimes you just need to ride a roller coaster that’s in your hotel. It was actually terrifying! I stayed at the New York New York, ironically, and there is a roller coaster that starts at the top of the hotel and ends inside the hotel. It was something I never imagined seeing before. I also took a 30-minute trip on the new 550 ft Ferris Wheel at the Linq Hotel where I got a view of the entire city. To me, these rides were better than gambling…at least I knew where my money was going!
It’s hard to believe 2013 is coming to a close. I’ve been so lucky to interview some incredible artists this year, some that I never would have dreamed of getting the chance and others I’ve been dreaming up meeting since the seventh grade. Here’s my Top 13 interviews of 2013.
Do I need to say more? He filled me in on how difficult life as a boy band can be when your fiance is receiving death threats on a daily basis. That made me throw away my lifelong dream of marrying fellow bandmate Brian Littrell. Yes, I truly grew up in 2013.
I interviewed Willie on his tour bus and yes, it did smell like pot. I’m not quite sure if I got a contact high, just because I was so high on life after interviewing him. And that’s the truth. A true legend, he opened up about why he can’t live without songwriting and how the first time he heard his voice played back to him he hated it.
The Gambler. He had the absolute best stories and a true passion and gratefulness for his long career.
4. Robin Thicke
I interviewed him the week “Blurred Lines” went to No. 1. Also, this was the first time I ever interviewed an artist who kept his sunglasses on throughout the entire interview which was a little awkward at first. And he gave me some great relationship advice.
The first song I ever learned on guitar was “Hey There Delilah” and Tim and Tom made me blush while I recounted the story of my friend teaching me. In all fairness, they did have some pretty interesting views on relationships.
After seeing Deana Carter perform at the CMA Songwriters Series, I was excited to talk with her on the phone and learn about her latest album. The conversation geared it’s way into talking about how much we both love the TV show Nashville where she filled me in that she in fact auditioned for the star role.
The most thoughtful interview, I was at first startled at how he would stop and really think about answering my every question. After a while, I just let the dead air stay until he told me what he wanted to say and truthfully, I think that’s the best way to conduct an interview. Leave space to let the artist really open up and tell you something they may not have otherwise if you just jump to ask them the next question.
I was so excited to see this band succeed this year as I’d been catching them perform over the years throughout New York. There’s something so refreshing about a band you saw perform at a tiny club in New York to sharing a stage with Christina Aguilera.