Festivals Interviews Videos

Jake Owen

Photo Credit: James Minchin

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.” Coincidently, 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.

After he hurt his shoulder wakeboarding, Owen picked up guitar during rehabilitation and the rest, as they say is history. Performing this year on LP Field, Owen talked about the thrill to perform on a stage, where two years ago he didn’t even have access to, the songs on his latest release Easy Does It and what he thinks about while onstage performing. Read on for more and stay tuned for video footage of my interview with Jake!

How do you feel the recording process was different on your latest release, Easy Does It than your debut album?

I think it was a lot more fun this time around making the record, because while I was making it I was out on the road. I was able to play a lot of the songs I was writing for the record live for people so I got that fan interaction that I didn’t have on the first record because no one knew who I was.

Being on tour, do you feel you had a lot more stories to share? Did the writing come easier on this album?

Yeah. I don’t really write for records. I just write what I feel like writing. I had a lot of songs to choose from and I felt like it was a really good test out there on the road. Almost a little test ride of songs. People are so honest and truthful and if they don’t like songs, you can see it written all over their face. And, if they love it their face lights up and people let you know too.

What’s your typical writing process like? Do you carry a notepad everywhere you go?
No. I always keep it up here in the noggin.

A lot of your songs are about relationships. Do you feel a song comes out better if it actually happened to you?

I don’t know. I tend to write about the things I know about. But at the same time, I find it a lot of fun sometimes to sit down and completely make up a story and write about it. It’s like when you’re a kid, you can just make up a story. That’s what a love about music. As long as you have a melody, you can put anything to that melody.

Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?

Yes I do. I think it was just a silly song I wrote about a girl I hadn’t seen in a while and I believe it was called, “It’s Been A While,” ironically enough.

I wanted to ask about your song, “Who Said Whiskey (Was Meant To Drink a Woman Away).” Was that about a specific person that you always see in the crowd?

Yeah. When I was in college I used to sit on the bar stool and it [the song] says, “Oh boys, you all see that girl in the back standing with the bachelorettes.” Any girls that were going to get married would always come in with their bachelorette party and they would always start way in the back, toasting and wearing that thing around their neck saying what they were supposed to do.

In all the old country songs everyone sings about how they would drink whiskey to get a woman off their mind and keep them away from them. But as I’ve come to notice, whiskey, when mixed with women, they just tend to get closer and they become more friendly. So that’s where that came from.

The meaning behind your song, “Green Bananas” is very moving. I was curious as to what inspired it.

I had a friend of mine who had a boat called Green Bananas growing up. A friend of his passed away of cancer. Needless to say, he named his boat Green Bananas because his buddy told him in the hospital, “Don’t ever buy green bananas because you never know what tomorrow is going to bring.” And I thought, what a great way to look at life.

What’s your favorite song to perform?

I like “Don’t Think I Can’t Love You.” That was my first, big, big hit. It went to number two on the chart. I just love singing that song. It takes a lot of effort and I like putting everything I have into music.

Do you have a favorite song that you’ve wrote?

I really like “Tell Me,” which is the first song on my record. I think it has a really cool melody and it’s very mysterious, I like that a lot. I didn’t write “Cherry On Top” but I like that song. It’s got a very sexual connotation to it.

What do you think about when you’re onstage?

Depends who’s in the front row. [Laughs]. I mean, if there’s a guy in the front row with an unbelievable mullet, I’ll get on the talkback mic and tell my band, “Wow, that guy has an unbelievable mullet.” If there’s a girl that’s in the front row and she’s pulling her top off, I’m probably going to think about that. It just depends on what’s in the front row.

Tell me about “Eight Second Ride.” Why’d you decide to re-release it?

I don’t know what it is about that song. I really don’t. I wrote that song when I was in college, which was almost eight years ago. When I wrote it, I was tired of playing “Sweet Home Alabama” and I wanted to play one of my own songs on the bar stool that people didn’t get up and get a drink when I put in an original tune so I had to write something rockin’ and uptempo. At the time, my brother and I both had big trucks and Jarrod does a lot of spittin’ tobacco and he always had a cup that sat on the console and I’d climb in his truck and he’d say, “Hey man, watch out. I’ve been spittin’ in that cup.”

So, there’s a line in the song about, “Climb on up, but honey watch the cup where I’ve been spittin’ my dip inside.” But, people tend to get the connotation that I’m saying, “I’m sticking my ….” but they don’t pick up on the fact that I wouldn’t stick my dick in a cup. [Laughs]. I think it’s just the fact that people let their mind wander. Anyways . . . I don’t know what it is. It was on the first record and people loved the song so we put it on the second record and here we are. We play it at all of our shows and before we get to the end of the show people are already c
hanting, “Eight Second Ride.”
I’m excited that it’s a song that’s lived that long.

How does the Nashville music scene differ from the rest of the country?

Well, definitely for country music, it’s Music City. It’s the birthplace of country music. I love how the city is filled with other people who have the same emotion and passion for music, not just country music. There’s a brotherhood here. Whether you are a so called “star” or whether you are someone trying to make it, people embrace you and they want to help you. Everyone here is great people. It’s very comforting to live in this town.

You’ve been pretty creative using Twitter to invite people to dinner, to hide backstage passes. Are you constantly thinking of ways to use Twitter or do you happen to be going somewhere and think, “I’m going to hide a pass under a trash can?”

For a while, before everyone caught on and began Twittering nonsense, I was using it for things like that. I got away from it for a while and I realized how people were really upset. They thought I died or something because i didn’t Twitter in three days. I think anything, especially now with the electronic world and to be able to keep in touch with folks, it’s a great way to do that. I think the first major Twitter that I did was, I was flying into Dallas and I was hungry and I said, “The first person to get back to me wins dinner with my tour manager and I.” And sure enough, we took her out to dinner and it was a great time. It just spreads. I’m doing anything I can right now to gain fans and friends and popularity and I think that’s a great way to do it.

What’s the coolest thing a fan has ever said to you?

This goes to show you the power of a song, especially one like “Don’t Think I Can’t Love You,” which is probably my favorite to date that I’ve released. I met Tony and Terri in Phoenix, Alabama, just the other day. I noticed they were standing outside of the bus for quite some time, so I finally walked out and introduced myself and Tony introduced me to his wife Terri and [told me] they had been married for 28 years.

He said, “We have four kids man, and we never get out of the house. And they’re finally old enough where we can sneak away and come out to your show. We drove two hours to get here and the only reason we came tonight was to hear that song, ‘Don’t Think I Can’t Love You’ ’cause it talks about them big diamond rings and those big ol’ houses and how just ’cause you can’t afford it don’t mean it. That’s our song, ’cause to be honest with you Jake, I can’t buy her shit.” And he’s like, “But she loves me and that’s all that mothers.” And I go, “Thank God my music touches people.”

There are stages set up all over town. What’s it like to play LP Field?

You don’t understand the happiness and joy that I have to be able to play on this stage tonight. Just two years ago was my first year playing on the River Stage and my mom and dad were in town. We came over and I really wanted to go backstage because Hank Jr. was playing and so was Skynyrd. My dad was with me and he’s a huge fan, being from Florida Skynyrd is a huge deal. Obviously so is Hank Jr. We tried to sneak down and the guy was like, “Sorry you can’t get down.” And I was like, “Man, I played the River Stage earlier, seriously, I’m an artist.” And he’s like, “I don’t care. You’re not getting down there” So, somehow we snuck around him and got backstage. Well, we get backstage and I run into Newman from WSIX and he’s like, “Hey man, you want to introduce Hank Jr. with me?”

I went from not even being able to get onstage to introducing Hank Jr. All the guys that were up in the suite who were from my label and said that I would never be able to get down there because I didn’t have a pass, got to see me walk onstage and introduce Hank Jr. So, it’s pretty cool tonight that I’m getting introduced to play my own show. It’s a really big deal so I feel flattered.

For more on Jake Owen, be sure to check him out on MySpace or follow him on Twitter.

Artist of the Week Festivals

Artist of the Week: Darius Rucker

Photo Credit: Russ Harrington

He’s known by many as the former frontman of Grammy-winning group Hootie & The Blowfish and now Darius Rucker is making a wave on country radio. Rucker’s debut country album, Learn To Live, landed No. 1 on the Billboard charts and his first two singles off that album are receiving just as much success — including most recent “It Won’t Be Like This For Long” landing atop all three country singles charts.  
What perhaps is most surprising about Rucker’s music is the natural transition from his former pop songs to country music. You can feel his honest emotion on heartfelt, bittersweet song “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It.” With moving string and guitar interludes, the listener can picture a failed relationship and the resulting regrets drowned in whiskey. 
Of his transition into the country genre, Rucker has said, “So many people in pop try to write all these psychedelic crazy lyrics, and I’m sure I’ve been part of that — but that’s something you don’t find in country music. The thing I like most about country songs is that they keep it simple. I love that, and I love the melodies.”
And his melodies are what keeps the listener coming back. With haunting tales about relationships and the joys of having kids, Rucker’s release Learn To Live takes the listener on a journey. Moving ballad, “It Won’t Be Like This For Long” tells the story of a father watching his daughter grow up; taking her to pre-school while realizing soon enough he’ll be giving her away at the alter. “Alright” is more upbeat, as Ruckur sings, “‘Cause I got a roof over my head/The woman I love layin’ in my bed/And it’s alright, alright/I got shoes under my feet/Forever in the aisle staring back at me/And it’s alright, alright/Yeah,I’ve got all I need/And it’s alright for me.” 
For more on Darius Rucker, be sure to check him out on MySpace and catch a show while he’s in town. Currently on tour with Rascal Flatts, it’s definitely a show worth checking out. 
Features Festivals

Poll of the Week: Which CMA Interview Are You Looking Forward To Reading?

The CMA Music Festival in Nashville was a blast and I’m still recovering from the weekly events. I just posted my interview with Taylor Swift from the nightly press conference, but I want to know which interview you want to read next! 
I had some great one-on-one interviews with Martina McBride, David Nail, Holly Williams and Jake Owen as well as covered the press conference with acts like Rascal Flatts, Brad Paisley and Lady Antebellum. Who are you most excited to read about? Vote in this week’s poll and I’ll get each interview transcribed as fast as I can. Hope you enjoyed my updates so far! Lots more to come. Thanks for reading and voting!

Which CMA Interview Are You Looking Forward To Reading?

Brad Paisley
David Nail
Holly Williams
Jake Owen
Lady Antebellum
Martina McBride
Rascal Flatts
Reba McEntire
Festivals Interviews

Taylor Swift

Photo Credit: Wendy Hu

Her music is embraced by country and pop fans alike, but she never fails to display her country roots — always wearing a cute sundress and cowboy boots. Having recently recorded with Def Leppard and showing the world her impeccable rap skills (who knew?) with T-Pain at the CMT Awards on cleverly titled, “Thug Story,” Taylor Swift is the only artist I know who has five-year-old girls and 25-year-old women equally excited about her music.

At the CMA Music Festival in Nashville, Tennessee, even Reba McEntire was singing her praises. Of Swift, Reba said, “I’m thrilled to be in the same business as she’s in because I’ve learned from Taylor. She’s a very smart, old soul and she’s very in tune with what’s supposed to be going on. She knows how to think. She has a very great business sense so I like to eavesdrop in on what Taylor’s doing. I always learn something.”

Did I mention she’s only 19? Taylor Swift is known for wearing her heart on her sleeve, whether it be in her lyrics about ex-boyfriends or simply her interaction with her fans — hundreds, of which, camped out to meet Taylor at her autograph signing. And, by the look of it, Taylor Swift won’t be going anywhere anytime soon if her fans have anything to say about it. Read on to learn more about collaborating with T-Pain and John Mayer, her writing process and how she feels about her fast-paced lifestyle.

Earlier this week, Reba McEntire talked about the music industry and people in country music she looks to for inspiration and she mentioned you.
Wow. That’s the coolest thing I’ve heard in a really long time! It better be true! Reba is absolutely one of my favorite people on this planet. I think that when you’re making your way up in the music industry you have all these heroes and the reasons why they are your heroes are one thing. As soon as you get into the industry your guidelines change a little bit. For me, my heroes now are great people first and great artists second. People on that list for me are Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire and Faith Hill — people that I just feel strive to be great people and kind people first before anything else gets factored in. To hear something so wonderful from one of those people on that giant, huge, amazing list, that’s awesome. I love Reba!

It seems like you’re going 100 miles an hour right now. Is this too fast or just right for you?

This is just right for me. I’m loving it. I played Atlanta last night and got in at 3 a.m. this morning and then went straight to the Convention Center to sign autographs for five-and-a-half hours and that’s the way I want to live my life. This is absolutely my favorite time of year. I remember when I was 14-years-old and was holding a clipboard interning at the CMA Music Fest, just feeling like if there was ever a chance that one day people would line up to have me sign something of theirs, then that would be a really, really good day for me. I’m really happy to say that today was that day and it’s so wonderful to get the chance to do this.

What role does faith play in your life and your career?

I definitely know that there is someone looking out for me. And, for me it’s just wonderful to know that all of this has happened. There has to be someone up there holding all the cards because I could have never done this on my own.

Thanks to Twitter we know that you may be doing something with John Mayer and T-Pain. Could you talk about working with those artists, the freedom, and what’s that like for you creatively?

I love making new friends and I respect people for a lot of different reasons. For me, great music doesn’t just have to fall into one category or one genre and I love appreciating all kinds of music. Country music is obviously my favorite and that just goes without saying. But, I’ve always loved John Mayer and I think T-Pain is brilliant. Getting to work with people like that has been really, really fun for me. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do and the fact that country radio has been so wonderful to me and has remained so true to me despite the fact that I’ve gotten to go and do all these things that I’ve dreamed about doing. It’s just been a really, really cool thing.

Your music is so personal; it’s almost like writing in a diary. Do you remember the first time you performed and were you nervous that the person you were singing about was in the audience?

For me, writing a song, I sit down and the process doesn’t really involve me thinking about the demographic of people I’m trying to hit or who I want to be able to relate to the song or what genre of music it falls under. When I sit down and write a song the only person that I’m thinking about in that room is the person that I’m writing the song about and what I want them to know and what I wish I could tell them to their face, but I’m going to say it in a song instead. So, for me, music is really more about a diary and a confession. I love it. I love getting to say things to people that I wouldn’t say to them if I was standing face to face with them. Music is a way of verbalizing those things that I feel that I can’t say.

What country song do you relate to most?

I have favorites. My top favorite country songs are “Run” by George Strait or “You Were Mine” by the Dixie Chicks or Faith Hill “Breathe.”

What was the craziest thing you’ve had to sign?

I’ve had a lot of interesting things like a turtle shell with my face painted on it. That was the winning touch. But today, my fans know me so well and they get me awesome presents. This girl brought me this bracelet [that I’m wearing] and I really like it. A lot of the jewelry that I wear and that you see me wear are fan gifts because they’re so awesome and they give me great presents.

Thousands of girls are running around in sundresses and cowboy boots. Is this a fashion phenomenon for you?

Yes! That’s awesome. I wasn’t trying to start anything. I wasn’t trying to make people dress a certain way, but seeing girls coming to my shows wearing sundresses and cowboy boots and curling their hair is one of my favorite experiences ever because I remember when I was weird for dressing the way that I dressed and I was weird for having curly hair. It’s really fun to see that I’m
not that weird anymore.

What do you do to keep from burning out?

As far as burning out, I get tired a lot, but I never get tired of it. Because for me, I remember when I was a little kid and I used to sit there and think about how lucky I would be one day where people cared about the words that I wrote or how lucky I would be if someday I was just walking through the mall and saw some little girl walking by with my face on her t-shirt.

When you spend so much time daydreaming about things like that, when that actually happens you don’t ever complain about it. When I go to a restaurant, yeah I know that a line is probably going to form in front of the table, but didn’t I always wish for that? Yeah, I did. So it’s like, I never want to be the girl who wanted something so bad her whole life, she just wanted one thing, and then gets it and complains about it. I’m not going to be that girl.

You can also read this interview on here.

Features Festivals

Hundreds of Fans Camp Out to Meet Taylor Swift

Photo Credit: Wendy Hu

The highlight of CMA week for many fans was Taylor Swift signing at the Nashville Convention Center Sunday morning. While hundreds camped out 18 hours for a chance to meet her in person, Swift showed her appreciation to each and every fan in line. Introducing herself with a welcoming hug and talking one-on-one before signing everything from a photograph to a fan’s guitar, Swift demonstrated just why fans are so receptive to her, signing for well over five hours. 

Pictured above is one such fan, Shannon Calley from Birmingham, Alabama who drove three hours and slept outside since 8 p.m. Saturday night to meet Swift. “It was crazy. There were so many people, but I’m so glad I got to meet her,” Shannon said. “She is one of the nicest people ever. I’m so happy she got to sign my guitar because I started playing because of her. The fact that she got to sign it is awesome.”

Having been writing songs since she was 13, Shannon’s excitement after meeting Swift was so contagious that I wished I had met her myself! When asked if there was anything else she had to say about her experience, all she had to say was, “Taylor rocks!” And, after listening to Swift in the press conference Sunday night and watching her perform an energetic live set on LP Field, I couldn’t agree more. Stay tuned for the full interview. 

Festivals Song of the Week

My Top Five Favorite CMA Week Songs

CMA week has definitely turned me into a country music fan. I know there are so many stereotypes, but give these songs a listen and maybe they’ll change your opinion on country music. If they do, and you want to catch a show sometime be sure to let me know! 

“I Run To You” by Lady Antebellum
I absolutely love this song. After hearing them play it live at their fan party as well as the nightly concert at LP Field I was hooked. I was lucky enough to visit the spot where they filmed the music video for the song — Dunn Bros Coffee — where one of the baristas filled me in on the story behind the video. You can watch it below. If you like it, check out “Lookin’ For A Good Time” (another one of my favorites) here.


“All I Want To Do” by Sugarland

The chorus just won’t leave my head. “All I want to do-o-o-o-o-o.” Give it a listen on YouTube, I think you’ll agree.

“Chicken Fried” by Zac Brown Band

Zac Brown Band blew me away during their performance Friday night at LP Field. I haven’t seen a band with that much energy and diversity in a while. (See about 4:15 minutes in). Love the lines “You know I like my chicken fried/Cold beer on a Friday night/A pair of jeans that fit just right/And the radio up.” Come on, don’t you?


“Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It” by Darius Rucker

Hootie & the Blowfish fans have followed frontman Darius Rucker embrace a solo country career and his debut album was praised by critics and fans alike. I took a personal liking to Rucker the first night of the press conference. Still new the the press conference setup, I kept raising my hand and trying to ask him a question when everyone else talked over one another jumping in over me. 

When the publicist in charge told the crowd “last question” I was bummed that I didn’t get my question in. Darius must have noticed though, because he pointed at me after and said, “You’ve been so patient this whole time. What’s your question?” Extremely surprised that he called on me, it gave me the confidence I needed to be more aggressive the rest of the week, seeing that the artists really do notice and acknowledge you if you’re patient. Watch the music video for “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It” here.

What do you think? Do you like any of the songs? I’ll be introducing you to some musicians with my upcoming interviews and I’d love to hear of your favorite country musicians.


CMA Music Festival Recap – CMA Music Fest June 11-14, 2009 in Nashville, TN

This past week’s annual CMA Music Festival reminded me of why I’m so passionate about music. The energy, the excitement, and the thrill of meeting your favorite musician is an experience everyone can relate to. Despite a few technical snafus (including a five hour flight delay due to a failed electrical generator and my laptop crashing while attempting to live blog the festival), the behind-the-scenes access to CMA week and determination to bring you the most intriguing interviews and festival coverage is what kept me going.

Growing up, I was a huge music fan, always researching the latest news on my favorite band, in constant hope to one day meet them. CMA makes this dream come true for country music fans. Whether it was waiting in line for an autograph (in Taylor Swift’s case hundreds of fans camped out over night) or attending an exclusive fan party where a band debuts new tracks off their upcoming album and takes questions from those in attendance, the CMA Music Festival is unlike any other music festival out there. The entire week is solely dedicated to the fans and thanking them for their continued support. After all, a musician wouldn’t be anyone without his fans.

Over the course of four days I interviewed some amazingly talented up-and-coming musicians (David Nail, Jake Owen, Holly Williams) as well as some of country’s legends (Martina McBride). Additionally, I learned how to be more aggressive in the nightly press conferences and ask your question recommendations suggested in last week’s poll. While I’m more a fan of one-on-one interviews, the first night was a learning experience as press conferences are often a free for all with everyone jumping in and talking over each other. While Thursday was an adjustment, by Friday I was a pro and able to get in many questions to some of country’s hottest talent. Thanks for submitting them!

I traveled to Nashville with two friends, Wendy and Deana who helped me out with photos and video footage during the festival, so I’m psyched to include their coverage as well within the next few days. Be on the lookout for tons of interviews, photos and trip highlights, including a stop at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Studio B as well as Memphis to visit Elvis Presley’s infamous Graceland estate.

Being in Nashville for CMA week really opened up my eyes into the country music realm and I was so glad to be a part of it. Somewhat of a newbie to the genre, what I saw this week were some of the most down-to-earth, appreciative and welcoming people in the business and it’s so refreshing to see the stars so receptive and engaging with their fans. I just may have to make a yearly trip to Nashville from now on!

I’ll be working hard to get all my coverage up for you asap, but in the meantime feel free to visit my Twitter account for my daily festival footage.

Artist of the Week Festivals

Artist of the Week: Veronica Ballestrini

With her warm pop-country vocals, 17-year-0ld Veronica Ballestrini is bound to lighten the mood of any listener’s worst day. While comparisons to Taylor Swift abound, Ballestrini’s easygoing style and MySpace success bring reference to that of Colbie Caillat. Most recently, her single “Amazing,” has been climbing the Country Music Television countdown. Did I mention she’s only 17?

Songs like “This Girl” are upbeat and fun, the kind you have the windows and sunroof open while driving to the beach. In fact, most of her MySpace tracks have that same quality. Ballestrini’s music is fitting for her age. She never tries to be someone she isn’t, whether she’s singing about boys, not knowing what she wants or unrequited love.

Current hit “Amazing,” is blowing up the Country music charts and debuted No. 6 on CMT’s fan-voted “12 Pack Countdown,” above Taylor Swift’s new video “You Belong With Me.” A pretty impressive feat for an up-and-coming artist.

It’s remarkable that just a few months ago, Ballestrini introduced her new music to fans on MySpace and Facebook. Since then, she’s met with an overwhelming welcome, her MySpace page views soaring to more than 8 million.

You can listen to her song, “Amazing” and watch behind the scenes of her music video shoot below.


For more on Ballestrini, be sure to visit her on MySpace and, if you’re headed to Nashville for the CMA Music Festival check out her appearances listed. I’ll be interviewing Veronica this Thursday, so if there’s anything you want to know about her, leave your responses in the comments.


Poll of the Week: What CMA Coverage Do You Want To Read? – CMA Music Fest June 11-14, 2009 in Nashville, TN

I’ve been listening to country music all day in preparation for the CMA Music Festival next week in Nashville! It’s always been a dream of mine to visit Nashville and I’ve already gotten a list of places to visit from some musicians who live there. So psyched!

Currently, I’m in the process of setting up interviews with country artists at the festival as well as some Nashville-based musicians, but I wanted to know what you’re most interested in reading throughout the week. I’m sure it will be similar to SXSW, but I want to make sure I write about what’s most intriguing to you!

Concert Reviews
Daily Updates
Flip Cam Footage

Which artists are you most excited to read about? And, if you could ask them one question, what would it be? Check out the full lineup here and let me know!