Festivals Interviews

Martina McBride

Martina McBride‘s career is what dreams are made of. Each release garners more recognition and her fan base is greater than it has ever been. A veteran to the country music scene, McBride has been belting out hits for the past 17 years. Not to mention her current single, “I Just Call You Mine,” from her tenth studio album, Shine, has been referred to as the wedding song of the summer.

With over 18 million album sales, 22 Top 10 singles, and raising thousands of dollars for YWCA, a domestic violence shelter in Nashville aimed at empowering women and eliminating racism, McBride is an inspiration to women everywhere. “It’s so important for women to support other women. It should be like a family. We should be out there rooting for each other and helping each other out,” she says.

I was lucky enough to chat with McBride at the YWCA auction as well as sit in on her press conference at this year’s CMA Music Festival in Nashville. Of her YWCA celebrity charity auction, McBride said, “This event goes to help women and children really start over and rebuild there lives in a positive way and I just think that that’s important.”

Read on for more on Martina’s musical collaborations, her signature wine, and upcoming fall tour.

Can you tell us about your Twittering frenzy?
Is it really a frenzy? I discovered it about 2-3 months ago. It’s really fun. I’m really enjoying it. I don’t try to overdo it, I check in a couple times a day. It’s a cool way to keep in touch with your fans.

You’re not a big fan of flying. How does touring in the UK go for you?
You know, I’ve gotten better. There was a period of time when I was really paralyzed by it, but I’ve gotten a lot better. I flew to Italy last year. Especially when there’s something really worthwhile on the other end and it’s worth the plane flight, I’m okay with it.

Your single “I Just Call You Mine” is the wedding song for the summer.
Well, I hope that it’s the wedding song of the summer! It’s just a love song. I don’t know that I’ve done a straight-up love song like this since “Valentine.” I’m excited about it, it’s beautiful.

Your YWCA fundraiser is this Saturday.
We’re doing the YWCA celebrity auction on Saturday. It’s our 13th year to do it and it just gets bigger and better every year. All the proceeds go to the domestic violence shelter here in Nashville. I’ve heard testimony after testimony that it’s really changed a lot of lives. It’s a place where women and children can go and get a fresh start and get the support that they need to start rebuilding their lives. So, I’m proud to help with that.

I heard you’re putting a tour together. Will it be more arena based?
Yup, we’re going to be going back to arenas. Last summer we did the amphitheaters outside. This fall of course we wouldn’t be outside in amphitheaters in November, so we’re going to be in arenas. I haven’t really started or seen any drawings yet or anything. The thing that is cool, is usually I put out an album and we go right out on tour. This time I do really feel like I have a lot of time to really plan and create a whole new show. We toured so extensively on Waking Up Laughing, even went back to markets a couple times. I really want to create something that’s a whole new experience for the fans.

You recently released the 2006 Martina McBride “Signature Series” wine. What made you take your passion for wine to the next level to have your own line?
It’s funny. We have Blackbird Studios and there’s a Blackbird Vineyard. So, when we were in Napa we stopped by and checked it out and met with the owner. And, really just sat down over a glass of wine and said, “We have the same name. It’s kind of a coincidence. If you ever want to do a signature wine, we’d love to do that.” About a year went buy and he called and said it was the right time to do that.

Can you explain your wine?
It’s really good! I’m not really a good wine speaker, but it’s a lot of fruit. It’s a Cab. It’s a blend of Cab and Merlot and some other kinds of wines. I love it because it has a little bit of chocolate. It’s just a little bit sweet, lots of jam and fruit. A fruit forward is how I think I’d say it.

You had the Jonas Brothers in the studio. Was that a business decision or were you trying to impress your children?
Well, we’re so happy that he came to record in the studio. Of course Delaney and Emma were very, very excited. John said right up front, “I want to tell you, we will try for our daughters not to stalk you while you’re here.” They were actually really good. They ran into each other, but Delaney was very poised. It was great to have him there.

How did you become collaborative with them?
Well, I got to sing with them when they were here in Nashville at the Ryman. They asked me to come sing with them onstage so I got to go to rehearsal, hang out a little bit. They’re really serious about their music, really sweet kids. Got to meet their parents. I wouldn’t say we hang out and are really close friends, but we have connected quite a few times.

How has music festival changed or evolved since you started?
Well, there is the obvious change that it’s not at the Fairgrounds anymore. Sometimes I miss that. There is a certain charm about it being at the Fairgrounds. It’s gotten bigger, we obviously can have more and more fans come every year. So that’s exciting, that we have more room for fans to enjoy what I will always call Fan Fair.

What is your advice to women accomplishing goals and overcoming obstacles?
Perseverance and support. If you can get support from your friends or from your family, that’s important.

You’ve been in the music industry for a while. What keeps you motivated?
I love it. This is my dream, ever since I was a little girl. For me, every minute that I get to do this is a dream come true.

When you’re writing your material, do you feel a song comes out better when it’s based on a real person or experience or fantasy?
I think it’s a little bit of both. I’ve done songs that are obviously about my life and I’ve done songs that are story songs about someone else. The most important thing is that you connect with the lyrics and it feels honest when you sing it.

Be sure to visit Martina’s Web site for upcoming tour dates and for more on YWCA, visit their site here.


CMA Music Festival Airs on ABC Tonight!

Photo Credit: Wendy Hu

Tonight ABC will showcase highlights from the CMA Music Festival I attended and covered in June in Nashville. You can watch the special, “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock” from 8:00 – 11:00 PM/ET with performances, interviews and fan interaction.

Sets include artists like Kenny Chesney, John Rich (photo above) Kid Rock, Lady Antebellum (below), Martina McBride, Reba McEntire, Jake Owen (you can watch my interview with him here), Brad Paisley, Darius Rucker, Taylor Swift, Zac Brown Band and many more. Additionally, get behind-the-scenes access to bands on their tour bus, meeting fans and shopping.

If you haven’t watched my video interviews from the CMA Music Festival with Holly Williams and David Nail, check them out on YouTube.

Features Festivals News

Martina McBride and Former Miss America Speak Out on Domestic Violence

For the thirteenth year, Martina McBride’s charity fundraiser in Nashville auctioned off thousands of dollars of celebrity memorabilia. Items like Darius Rucker’s autographed guitar sold for $775 while popular garments, such as Reba McEntire’s black sequined top went for much more. All the money raised was donated to support YWCA, an organization with the goal of eliminating racism and empowering women.

This year has seen the rise of relationship abuse portrayed by A-list stars in the media. Just take Chris Brown and Rihanna’s ongoing coverage and it’s clear that married women with families are not alone when it comes to abuse. YWCA’s mission is to support women and with popular artists like Martina McBride and former Miss America Ericka Dunlap providing needed awareness, much more can be accomplished to combat domestic violence. However, McBride and Dunlap aren’t the only ones who can help. “We can have it all if we work together. Girls are so competitive and catty and it’s not necessary to be mean girls,” said the former beauty queen.

More can be done. No woman is alone.

“If I had one message for women, it would be that we have the ability to reach out and help other women,” said Patricia Shea, President and CEO of YWCA. “When women help women, we change the world and we change the future. I want women to know that we are so powerful and we can change the world so we have to step up.”

Chart-topping and four-time winning CMA Vocalist of the Year, Martina McBride has a similar message. “It’s so important for women to support other women. It should be like a family. We should be out there routing for each other and helping each other out. This event goes to help women and children really start over and rebuild their lives in a positive way and I just think that that’s important,” McBride said.

Although new to the music business, aspiring country singer-songwriter Ericka Dunlap is familiar to the entertainment scene. Former Miss America 2004, Dunlap talked of how she first became involved with the YWCA. “I have become friends with some folks who are involved in the YWCA. I love the mission, it’s very clean and clear and it’s just so obvious that we all need to be a part of the issue of domestic violence and solving these problems,” Dunlap said.

While being an African-American country star may turn some heads, Dunlap had an important message for young women making their way in the world. “I think one of the most important things that young women can learn is to really pay attention to who you are. Find out who you are. Ask yourself some of the deeper questions about life that really are simple,” she said. “There’s a lot of things that people just don’t know about themselves and when you’re tested and when you’re tempted in certain situations, if you don’t know the little things about yourself, you’re not going to be able to handle the really big things that come along.”

She continued with a shoe analogy every girl can relate to. “Don’t ever devalue yourself. If you go into a shoe store, it’s great to get a pair of designer shoes on clearance, but you’re only going to get it somewhere else. You’re not going to get it from the designer for a discount because they always know the worth. So, make sure you know your worth and don’t discount yourself for anyone. Your parents, boyfriends, best friends.”

For more information on the YWCA be sure to visit them at or call their domestic violence 24-hour hotline at 1-800-334-4628.

Festivals Interviews

Lady Antebellum

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.


CMA 2009: Six Artists To Watch

Photo Credit: Russ Harrington

This year’s CMA Music Festival brought country fans closer than ever to their favorite musicians through signings and fan parties. While LP Field was the place to be each night to catch some of country’s more established singers, the smaller stages throughout the four-day festival introduced some refreshing new talent to the country music scene. Give each artist a listen, I think you’ll like what you hear.

Jake Owen

One of the most comical musicians I’ve interviewed, Jake Owen sure knows how to make those around him laugh. When asked about his dog touring with him, Jake informed the press room that his dog was just neutered, adding, “I realize I need to get neutered. I would probably chill out a lot if that happened.” Coincidentally, the room erupted in laughter.

While his debut album, Startin’ With Me has garnered much success, recent release Easy Does It isn’t too far behind. With first single, “Don’t Think I Can’t Love You,” winning praises from critics and fans alike, Owen is sure to be following in the footsteps of country’s great legends. Whether it’s his heartwarming ballads or edgier, rowdy tracks like “Eight Second Ride,” Owen brings his diversity to the table, always leaving room for the unexpected.

Darius Rucker

Former Hootie & The Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker (photo above) has proven that successful pop rock artists can go country and still maintain that edge and uniqueness they’re known for. His debut country album, Learn To Live, graced No. 1 on the country charts while all three singles off the album have received similar success. One of the most down-to-earth musicians, when Thursday night’s show at LP Field was postponed three hours because of a storm, Rucker was found mingling with fans in the rain until the show continued. If that’s not a true sign of character, I don’t know what is. Catch him currently on tour with Rascal Flatts.

David Nail

With a solid performance Friday afternoon at the Sommet Stage, David Nail captivated the audience with his heartwarming ballads and onstage banter. While hit single “Red Light” is climbing the charts, ballads like “Turning Home” leave a lasting impression on the listener. It didn’t hurt that the recent newlywed dedicated a song to his wife onstage, surely making all the sentimentals in the crowd swoon. A self-proclaimed mama’s boy, be sure to visit his MySpace to hear tracks from his upcoming release, I’m About To Come Alive due out August 18.

Veronica Ballestrini

17-year-old Veronica Ballestrini has been garnering attention and numerous fans after launching her music on sites like MySpace and Facebook. Not to mention, current single “Amazing” is gaining quite a buzz. Her laid-back vocals and catchy melodies make for the perfect summer soundtrack. Be on the lookout for a digital release of her debut album, What I’m All About, and tour soon.

Holly Williams

Her name says it all. Daughter of Hank Jr. and granddaughter of Hank Williams, music runs in Holly Williams‘ blood. Her latest release, Here With Me, is a solid compilation of heartfelt tracks. Penning the majority of the album, Holly sings about divorce on emotional song, “Mama.” Telling the story of her mother and the positive attitude she displayed when splitting with her father, it’s one of the album’s most striking songs. With such a stellar release and a tour on the way, Holly continues the strong family legacy.

Lady Antebellum

Having won Top New Duo or Group by the Academy of Country Music and New Artist of the Year by the Country Music Association last year, Lady Antebellum were definitely a favorite among many at the CMA Festival. Hundreds of fans attended their fan party and autograph signing (watch live footage below) and they rocked LP Field Saturday night with hit song “I Run To You” and a solid cover of John Mellencamp’s “Hurts So Good.” Currently on tour with Kenny Chesney, Lady A is working on a follow up to their debut self-titled album. Giving a preview of one track at their fan party Friday morning, from the sound of it, the album is sure to be another smash for the trio.

Lady Antebellum Webisode of CMA fan party/autograph signing (and a proposal!)

Lady Antebellum on iLike – Get updates inside iTunes

You can also read this article on with my complete video interviews.

Festivals Interviews

David Nail

David Nail‘s foray into the music scene is an inspiring tale of persistence and dedication in the midst of ongoing frustrations and obstacles thrown in his path. From moving to Nashville right out of high school to releasing his debut album, I’m About To Come Alive, featuring tracks by Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts’ Gary Le Vox and guest vocals by Miranda Lambert, Nail has come a long way.

A self-proclaimed mama’s boy, Nail filled me in on his transition into the country music scene, the inspiration behind some of his songs and his favorite part of performing in the video below. With his debut album due out late August and a recent marriage, Nail seems to have it all figured out. Be sure to visit his MySpace to hear his current chart-topping single, “Red Light” as well as tracks from his upcoming release.


Festivals Q&A Videos

Jake Owen Video Interview

I’m sure you’ve been anxiously awaiting my first video interview as much as I have. I’m happy to announce that today marks the world debut of You Sing, I Write’s video coverage. Last week I posted the full transcript of my interview with Jake Owen at the CMA festival. Since then, Wendy and I have been working hard to edit all our video footage. Below is our first installation. Feel free to visit my YouTube channel for more clips in the upcoming days. Enjoy!


Festivals Interviews

Holly Williams

Photo Credit: Wendy Hu

Music is in Holly Williams‘ blood. Writing her first song at the age of eight is just one indication. Being the granddaughter of the legendary Hank Williams Sr. and daughter of Hank Williams Jr. doesn’t hurt either.

I chatted with Holly the week before the release of her latest album, Here With Me. A solid compilation of moving ballads and timeless tales, Holly lives up to her family name. Read below as she fills me in on her songwriting process, her up-and-coming stylish boutique and the Nashville music scene.

How do you feel your new album is different from your past work?
This new album is definitely different in terms of just having the experience of touring forever, more studio experience and knowing what I wanted out of the sound. The songwriting didn’t change that much. There are a few more songs that are a little rootsier, more country sounding. This time around I wanted to have at least two songs on the record that are totally raw. There is one song called, “Three Days In Bed” which is just myself and guitar, it’s a live performance and then there is a Neil Young song called “Birds” which is just me and a piano. And then there is the big band stuff. I really wanted to have a mixture of everything production-wise. It’s just songs over the last four years, what I’ve been going through.

Your song “Mama” is very emotional. Are you ever scared to put too much of yourself into a song because it is like writing a diary?
Yeah, it is definitely like a diary. We all get along great in my family, and all the issues were discussed. But, there are always songs that are very strange to play. Whether it’s an ex-boyfriend that you wrote about who hears it, or a friend, or a family member, there just are always situations that feel sticky when you are playing songs. I can play them in front of thousands of people, but if there are the right two or three people there, that’s when it can get really awkward. But that’s what I love. My favorite artists were the ones that were really raw and sang what they wanted to sing without caring. I try not to let that fear of people hearing things change it.

You started writing at the age of eight in a notebook. Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?
Yeah. I was actually looking at the notebook this morning because I was staying at my mom’s house last night. The first song was called “Who Am I” and I really wanted a publishing deal when I was a little girl. I remember calling companies. I was very ambitious and tried to get my own stuff going. It was during the years of the Tiffany and Debbie Gibson reign and it was something I wanted them to cut. But, it was very introspective for an eight-year-old. I had a really normal childhood even though my dad was Hank Williams Jr. I lived in the suburbs with my mom, so church and school and field trips. I don’t know where these songs were coming from, but they were all deeper and darker than most eight-year-olds would write. It’s similar to some subject matters today.

Your father and grandfather are legends. Did you feel pressure growing up and following in their footsteps?
Well, I never did growing up because it was never discussed around the house. No one ever said to me and my sister, “You’re all going to be musicians” or “Do you like writing?” Really, my dad never pressured me. He just said, “Whatever you want to do.” I was interested in design at the time and didn’t start playing guitar until I was 17. I was doing part-time modeling and I liked interior design. There were a million different things that I was interested in.

Since I’m ask the question so much it now makes me think, “Should I be feeling more?” But, there’s a healthy amount of pressure enough to where it makes me want to work my hardest and write the best songs I can write. Never do I feel I have to be as successful as them because that’s kind of impossible. My dad has had over 50 number one’s and over 70 albums and Hank Sr. released over 200 songs by the time he was my age. These days, it’s an album every year-and-a-half and the cycles are slower. So, it’s enough pressure to have a healthy fan base and following, but it doesn’t stress me out too bad.

You live in Nashville now and lived in LA briefly. What do you feel is the difference between the Nashville music scene and the rest of the country?
I lived in LA briefly when I was 22 and I went out there to try and learn how to play piano and I said, “I’m not coming back until I know how to play piano.” The Nashville music scene, to me isn’t really the country scene. I didn’t grow up around Broadway or the honky tonks and never even played those places. So that’s kind of the tourist music scene, you come and you go to Broadway and you see country music. But, the Nashville music scene, Kings of Leon and Mindy Smith and Ben Folds, that’s the kind of music scene I was around when I was playing around clubs.

I think that if you’re a local, you have some of the country music scene, but most locals don’t necessarily go to Broadway on their nights off to listen to music because you can have it any night and we kind of take it for granted, for the country music. There’s all kinds. There’s the Christian music record labels are here and a lot of indie bands have gotten deals, The Features and De Novo Dahl. It’s such a variety and that’s what I love about living here. Everyone from Richard Marx to Sheryl Crow now has a place here, Michael McDonald, all the country artists, so it’s a variation.

I love your necklace! Tell me about your boutique.
Well, it’s called H. Audrey and it opened a year-and-a-half ago. There just wasn’t much shopping in Nashville, there never really has been. There’s the Macy’s in the lower end and we don’t have a Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Saks, Barneys or anything like that and I’m a huge Barneys fan. I have everything from Alexander Mcqueen to Rag & Bone, Alexander Wang, Rick Owens, APC, just off center designers that I loved and felt like weren’t getting a presence here. A lot of stylists come in all the time. The musicians, I think feel like they finally have a place to shop.

I try to carry a lot of unique pieces. This necklace is from there and these rings, I just try to carry statement pieces, whether it’s one great jacket or one great shoe. It’s my passion and music will always be my number one, but it’s great to have this as a side project and to get off the road and have a few days of going to market, folding jeans and doing inventory. I mean it sounds boring, but it’s nice to have it on the side. I do all the buying, just seeing what’s coming new for spring and what’s coming new for the next fall and finding new lines. The website is You can’t buy off it yet, but you can see what’s there and call and order.

You’re involved in so many things. How do you prioritize and multi-task and still have a life?
Well, it’s interesting because when the shop opened I was off the road and making the album. I’m at the store every day, all day if I’m
not busy with music. These days, now especially since my album is coming out, it’s a couple hours of press each day and then I’ll go to the store. It’s definitely juggling now. I have a great store manager, so it can run while I’m not there, but I like to be there just because the racks look better.

When you’re the owner, I guess you think of it as your baby. And I have great employees, and they treat it great, but it’s hard. It’s getting harder now that I’m getting busier. I have to do a lot of the buying online, which I don’t like. I like to feel the fabrics and see the designers and I love to style people. Eventually, when I settle down and have kids and take a couple years off, that’s going to be what I’m doing. It’s definitely getting harder, but I’m still committed to both.

What’s your songwriting process like?
I don’t carry a notebook. It’s all in my head. Songs always come to me at the same time, the lyric and melody. A lot of people sit down with their guitar and play chords and find a melody or they’ll write lyrics and then come back to the instrument. But, for me it’s always been at once. The single “Mama,” I was driving down the road. A lot of times it comes when I’m driving or on a plane. It’s always at once and very quickly. Usually a 10-15 minute period and it kind of gets out real quick.

If it’s a song where it doesn’t come quickly and I have to work on it, then it’s usually not very good and not one that I want to keep. It’s few and far between. I used to write a lot more in my younger days and I didn’t get that much I liked. Sometimes I’ll go two months without writing a song and then two will come to me in one day and it’ll just all come out. So I never know. They’re like little droplets from God that I never know when they’re going to hit.

When recording, how do you decide what goes on the album? What happens to all the songs that don’t make the cut?
Well, I think the different thing about my career is that most people go in with their A&R; guy who helps them find songs and the label says, “Cut this many and then we’ll choose.” But I had an amazing amount of creative freedom here and the label’s great about it. So I actually knew what we were going to cut and I just walked in and said, “Okay, today we’re going to do these two and these three.” And for this time, especially, we did not overcut. I think we overcut two songs and then took them off. I like to have things planned out before and go through [the songs] a couple weeks before the studio starts and see what are the favorites. Since I write most everything, I don’t search as much for outside songs and have more of a grasp on what I want to record for sure. It’s always about a two-week process before the studio starts to really nail it down.

What’s going through your head when you’re onstage performing?
I’ve been performing for a really long time. I started when I was 20 and I’ve probably done 1500 shows. So, I’ve finally gotten to the point where it’s really just living in the moment and I’m so comfortable with the songs. Sometimes I can be in the middle of a song and think, “Oh my God did I let the dogs out?” I’m so comfortable with certain songs at this point that I really am just able to live in the moment and enjoy singing it. It took a few years to get to that point. I used to stare at my feet the whole time. I wouldn’t look at the crowd. I didn’t want to talk about the song, I was really nervous. Now, I’m usually really in the song and really in the middle of it and just telling the story and connecting with it. I’m always thinking about, “I wonder who’s out there that can relate to this” or “I hope someone is familiar with this story and has lived through it.” It’s always about people being able to relate to it.

For more on Holly and her new album, be sure to visit her on MySpace and for all you fashionistas out there, check out her store H.Audrey.

Festivals Interviews

Rascal Flatts

No new name to the country scene, Rascal Flatts have released six studio albums where 10 of their singles have hit No. 1. Not to mention, their fan base spans worldwide. With a summer U.S. tour in the works and new album, Unstoppable climbing the charts, the trio had much to say in the CMA press conference. Whether it was joking about Cascada’s remake of their hit, “What Hurts the Most,” or talking about their current tour, one thing is certain: Rascal Flatts is one class act that’s not going anywhere.

This is the only music event that allows you to go one-on-one with your fans with meet and greets and signings.
Joe Don Rooney: It’s a wonderful opportunity. This is the only thing this town does where you can get as many country music fans in one place at once. And it’s really great for us too because we get to see a lot of the artists that we’re friends with that we don’t get to see all year long because we’re all busy and we’re all on the road. It’s a chance to reconnect with some of our friends in the business as well.

The best part is being able to see so many fans at one time. It’s just a wonderful event. I think we’re probably the only genre that does this kind of event where artists are so accessible to the fans. We’re very proud to be a part of that.

Jay DeMarcus: That’s what I’m most proud about too: that we’re the only genre that gets to do it. Even people in other genres, when you go to the Grammy’s and AMA’s and that kind of stuff, like Snoop, or someone will go, “I think that’s the coolest thing, having all your fans there. Ya’ll crazy, but man that’s cool.” We’re really proud to do that.

Did you hear the dance version of “What Hurts the Most?”
Gary LeVox: Yeah, that’s the thing that hurt us the most. [Laughs]. [In London] they thought that we were doing the remake. They’re like, “You’re doing Cascada’s song.” We’re like, “No, no. That was our song first.”

Jay DeMarcus: Every time we did an interview over there they were like, “Why did you remake Cascada’s song?” And we were like, “Nah-uh. You got that backwards there pal.”

You just launched the “American Living” tour. You have a few stadium dates, Wrigley Field and then are going home to Crew Stadium.
Joe Don Rooney: Chicago is going to be fabulous. Brian O’Connell with Live Nation brought that to the table a few months back and asked us if we’d be interested in doing Wrigley Field. I think we said, “Are you crazy?” It’s going to be awesome to go back and play. We’ve got Darius Rucker with us and Vince Gill is going to come out with us. I don’t know how we talked him into it, but he’s going to come out with us, which is great.

Gary LeVox: It’s really cool to be able to do Wrigley because we’re the third act ever to do Wrigley. I think Elton John and U2 maybe.

Joe Don Rooney: I do think Jimmy Buffett was one of the two. It’s going to be crazy with all this history with Wrigley Field, which never had to do with music, but we’re taking music to Wrigley Field, which is really special. It’s going to be a great night.

Jay DeMarcus: Columbus Crew. It’s funny because growing up all I wanted to do was to play soccer and there was no soccer stadium. So, now there is and now I’m playing music in it. It’s actually the last night of the Ohio State Fair so it’s great to be home and it’s great to play outside.

Your fans voted for you in two categories for the CMT Music Awards.
Gary LeVox: Fan-voted award shows are our favorite. I wish all of them would be fan voted. When we go into the studio to make an album, to make music, to go tour, they’re our employers. That’s who we make the music for. It’s great that they have a voice in it and we’re honored every time that we’re up for a fan-voted, fan-nominated award show. It’s a great honor. They’re the reason we make music. It’s great that they’ve nominated us for things that we’ve done in our careers. It makes it big. We’ve enjoyed doing it for them. We do have the greatest fans on the planet.

From the start, your career has gotten bigger every year. How big can it be? What’s the ultimate show for you to put on?
Jay DeMarcus:
I think we’re going to get so big we’re going to explode one of these days and have to go right back down to an acoustic. I don’t know. It presents its challenges year after year to try and top what you’ve done and try to be bigger and better than what we were the year before. Actually, what we did this year, is we scaled back a bit. We made it more about the music.

The set’s a little more simple and a little more sleek. It’s still a great show with a lot of interactive video and lights. But, we made this show, and this tour in particular, more about the music and we’ve tried to cram as much music into 90 minutes as we possibly can. People are going to be very disappointed that I don’t get to do a standup routine this year. It’s going to disappoint a lot of fans. We’re really packing a lot of music in and I’m proud of that. We’ve taken a step back from the big, bombastic sets we’ve done in the past.

Does that feel more comfortable?
Jay DeMarcus:
It’s a change. The last couple tours we’ve done have been huge and the sets have been gigantic. You get to rely on those things; those technologies and the things that make your show spectacular. Now, the entertainment value is squarely on our shoulders and we’re proud of that. It’s something that we look forward to. It’s an interesting challenge to be responsible for all the entertainment.

You’re so well known for putting together a well-constructed show for your fans. What’s the difference playing a shorter show at a festival like this? Do you work on your set list a different way?
Jay DeMarcus: It’s a different stage experience for us because we feel like we’re just getting started by the time that it’s over. We definitely like to take our crowds on a journey and there is very little time to do that within 25 to 30 minutes. We try to pick some songs, obviously do some of the big ones that people want to hear and do our current singles, which we’re so thankful for. “Here Comes Goodbye” we just celebrated being the No. 1 record last week. We’re definitely going to do that tonight. It’s difficult to do all the things that you like to do as an artist within a limited amount of time.

Joe Don Rooney: And we’re outside. It’s the biggest party in Nashville for country music so you don’t want to get up there and do a whole bunch of ballads.

Jay DeMarcus: Which is tough for us because that’s all we sing. [Laughs]

You can also read this interview featured on For more on Rascal Flatts, give their My

Space a listen and if you
like what you hear, catch them currently on tour.