Artist of the Week Band of the Week

Read the Rascal Flatts Cover Story

rascal flatts

Courtesy: Big Machine Label Group

I was recently given a major assignment — to write the inaugural cover story for Sounds Like Nashville on Rascal Flatts. When I first started this blog in 2007, my dream was to write cover stories and to travel with bands for a living and somehow I’ve managed to make that work over the past decade. I’ve previously written a cover story for Country Weekly so I was well aware of the task at hand of interviewing an artist and writing 2,000+ words. But, that doesn’t mean the nerves weren’t there to write it well. I thought I’d share my article with you. Love to know your thoughts! You can find me on Twitter.


For many, 2016 was a year of significant loss. Music legends including Merle Haggard, Prince, George Michael, Glenn Frey, Leonard Cohen and David Bowie, among others, died last year. Many of these artists directly influenced country music’s biggest entertainers, Rascal Flatts included.

Personal loss hit close to home for Rascal Flatts, too. In a candid interview with Sounds Like Nashville, Rascal Flatts’ bassist Jay DeMarcus details a tough personal loss and collaborative loss. Their new single, “Yours If You Want It,” was written by Jonathan Singleton and the late Andrew Dorff. It is also the first song written by and released since Dorff’s unexpected death in December at the age of 40. Upon learning the news, DeMarcus said the life was sucked out of him.

“It’s been such a hard year. I lost my father-in-law right before Thanksgiving. We’ve lost so many wonderful artists in 2016, so it was just like the final straw,” he says quietly of Dorff’s passing over the phone. “Andrew was such a wonderful soul and such a gifted songwriter.”

DeMarcus says Dorff’s death was heartbreaking, but he immediately found comfort in the fact that the band had recorded his song and had already decided it would be their new single.

“I had gotten to talk with Andrew right before his passing about how much he loved our version of the track and loved what we had done with the arrangement. So, at least I knew that he was proud of what we brought to the table, as far as his song goes,” DeMarcus explains. “I was comforted and proud of the fact that, at the very least, we could be a part of, in some small way, ensuring that his legacy continues to live on.”

The song itself has received a welcomed reception from the industry as it was the most-added song to country radio just three days after its release according to Mediabase.

DeMarcus produced “Yours If You Want It” with his bandmates and said there was little to change from the demo. He envisioned a musical hook to the intro and outro of the song in the form of a guitar riff and added those ever catchy “whoa, whoa’s” to the chorus.

“It was such a great demo and Jonathan Singleton is such a great singer and he sang the demo,” DeMarcus notes. “The bones were there. We just put our Flatts stamp on it musically.”

“Yours If You Want It” includes a soaring melody and big chorus the band is known for and continues to push their sound forward. A song about a man who has been beaten up by life, he soon finds himself opening up to a woman explaining how he might be rough around the edges, but what he has left he will give wholeheartedly to her. It’s a triumphant return for Rascal Flatts and a much needed positive anthem to ring in 2017.

For more of my cover story on Rascal Flatts, visit Sounds Like Nashville.

Songwriting Session

Songwriting Session with Paul Compton

Paul Compton / Facebook
Paul Compton / Facebook


Songwriting Session is a column that goes behind-the-scenes with artists and songwriters. Each Sunday, a new songwriter will share their journey and provide lessons they’ve learned along the way. This week, Paul Compton shares what he has learned from working with Nashville songwriters as a song plugger.


Paul Compton was drawn to music from an early age. He played in his first band shortly after high school and eventually received a performance scholarship at Calhoun Community College in Alabama. In 1990, he moved to Nashville and completed his degree in Recording Industry Management at Middle Tennessee State University.

A fan of music and songwriting, Compton found himself interning at a publishing company called Murrah Music Corporation for two semesters. It just so happened that once his second semester ended, his boss exited which left a position open at the company. So, prompted by another employee, he applied and got the job. Compton would find himself at the same company for the next 17 years where he helped the early careers of many up-and-coming singer/songwriters including superstar in the making, Luke Bryan.

Compton recalls meeting Bryan around 2002 and while he says he never predicted the remarkable success that the “Move” singer would eventually have, he knew Bryan had the drive and determination to make it in the industry having come from a family of hard workers.

“When he walked in a room, before anybody even know who Luke Bryan was going to be, he could captivate a room,” Compton recalls. “This big southern voice, good looking guy, looks like a young Elvis, walks in a room and just lights up the party. You knew that if he could capture that in some artistic way on the stage with his songs, that people were going to respond because they did that before they even knew he could sing.”

Compton says Bryan was like a sponge when it came to learning about songwriting. He often borrowed what he could from people who had years of experience on him and soon went from someone they signed as an artist who wrote a little bit to becoming a “really respectable writer.”

Bryan’s early cuts included the title track off Travis Tritt’s 2004 album, Honky Tonk History and Billy Currington’s No. 1 song “Good Directions.”

“Luke started getting attention as a writer before his artistry was brought to fruition. He came at ideas from a different angle, wrote with writers who taught him how to craft a song. He was a good student and he worked hard. That was the deal with Luke,” Compton adds.

Compton says his job started out as a professional manager, what a lot of people in the industry call a song plugger. In addition to pitching songs to artists, he acted as a manager by setting up co-writes as well as demo production. He learned a lot from the publisher’s owner Roger Murrah, who is a Hall of Fame songwriter, and recalls Murrah having the perfect career attributes of being both creative and business savvy, which he says is often rare to find.

“I worked with him for 17 years, mentoring off of him, and slowly was promoted inside the company all the way up to Senior Vice President, which is the position I held for the last ten years that I worked there. We helped mentor young, aspiring professional writers to get to their first level and second level of success. Some of those writers, a great majority of them, went on to have No. 1 songs. I was a part of helping a lot of those writers get established, and get their songs cut. ”

For 17 years the company grew and was recognized by Billboard as Independent Publisher of the Year. Some of Compton’s personal successes included pitching what would become career songs for Kenny Chesney and Rascal Flatts. While he says there isn’t a direct science to getting a song in the hands of a popular artist, Compton would always pitch songs he believed in.

“I’ve been blessed to be around a lot of great firsts. Great songs that were a big part of not only the writer’s career but may have been a big part of the artist’s career,” he says with a smile. “I remember a young Kenny Chesney coming in, who had just gotten signed to RCA and they had cut most of his record, and they were looking for a few more songs. He was really desperate to find an uptempo song. I was back and forth playing him song after song of these uptempo songs, and towards the end of the meeting I kept asking, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to hear a ballad?’ He kept shooting me down, ‘No, I need uptempo.'”

Eventually Barry Beckett, Chesney’s producer at the time, urged him to try a ballad. So, Compton played him “When I Close My Eyes” written by Nettie Musick and Mark Alan Springer.

“He literally jumped off the couch, ran around the room, and it was almost like he had just scored a touchdown, he was so excited,” Compton recalls.


The song would be featured on Chesney’s 1996 album Me And You and make it all the way to No. 1 on the R&R chart (Radio and Records). It would also be his first No. 1 hit as an artist. Compton would have similar success with a brand new trio in 1999 — Rascal Flatts. Once again he was told by the band’s producer, Mark Bright, that ballads just weren’t probable at country radio. He recalls him saying, “A ballad right now is impossible. A midtempo is next to impossible. We just need uptempo songs to finish the record.”

Compton had only brought a midtempo and a ballad with him to the meeting, where 10 other song pluggers went around in a circle and pitched their songs. So, he started with the midtempo. He was the last one at the table and was getting increasingly more nervous as his turn came to play the ballad.

“I’m sitting there the whole time sweating bullets and thinking, ‘I’m holding a ballad and that’s all I’ve got.’ It’s like playing poker when you know you have nothing, and you’ve got all the chips on the table,” he reasons. “I believe in this song, I know it’s a hit song, I know it’s great. It kills me. It’s brand new, maybe I’m just too in love with it. I start trying to talk myself out of it. It gets all the way back around to me and I had no choice. I’m like, ‘Here’s the moment of truth. Either they’re going to laugh me out of the room, kick me out of the room, or think I’m a complete idiot, but I’m totally committed to this song, I believed in the song.'”

So, he plays the song and the room remains silent as the track comes to a close.

“It’s like that awkward thing where you tell a joke and nobody laughs right away. It’s like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ Then it’s almost like everybody exhaled, and Mark Bright said, ‘They can like it now or they can like it later, but we’re cutting this song.'”

That song — “I’m Movin’ On” written by Phillip White and D. Vincent Williams — would become the last single released off the band’s self-titled debut album in 2000 and garner them an ACM Song of the Year win.


“It was a good moment for them and a great moment for us,” Compton adds. “I love songs that go past the entertainment value, that actually change people’s lives. I remember seeing emails and reading stories about how there were people contemplating suicide, going through a drug addiction, who were in prison. There were people going through the lowest point in their life and they heard that song, and it gave them hope that they could move on. When you’re a small part of something like that and you put it out into this world that went way past just entertainment, that’s a pretty special feeling. I hope Nashville can continue to celebrate those kind of talents and that kind of creativity that can foster those kind of songs.”

Murrah Music was bought out in 2009 and the company has since dissolved. Compton, however, has far from stopped helping up-and-coming songwriters. He has started a management company called Music Highway Writers Services that is strictly focused on writers. While he works on a daily basis with artists and singer/songwriters, he prides himself in helping the unsigned writer who hasn’t gotten their break yet. His goal is to help each writer get to the next level. Additionally, he helps the older, more established writers stay connected and plugged into the Nashville songwriting scene and acts as a consultant for those hoping to build their own publishing companies. Compton aims to help Nashville newcomers to navigate the waters easily and with nearly 30 years in the business, he is offering his talents to many Music City transplants.

“There’s a saying I used to have in my office, ‘You become successful by helping others become successful.’ That has been the motto of my career. I’m only successful if my writers and my artists that I work with can find success, and I’m happy with them getting all of the spotlight, because that’s not what I came to town to do. When they have their moment, there’s no better feeling in the world than to watch them revel in their moment.”

Artist of the Week

Artist of the Week: Caitlyn Smith


(Credit: Spencer Combs)

Caitlyn Smith has been writing for as long as she can remember. As a kid, she’d sit in her bedroom for hours coming up with stories and songs.

“I started writing when I was 8 years old,” she told me over coffee during a recent visit to New York. “And instead of doing the normal kid thing of sports, I would come home from school and go into my closet and push the dresser all the way to the side and sit in my closet and write. I would write poetry. I would write songs. I would just make stuff up for hours.”

All that practice came to fruition last year when the country singer-songwriter heard a song she had written on the radio for the first time. It was a song she’d written with her husband, Rollie Gaalswyk, over a bottle of red wine called “Wasting All These Tears,” which was recorded by Cassadee Pope.

“He [Gaalswyk] was in the garage and had the radio on, and the song came on and he runs in the house and he’s like, ‘Get out here!’ And so I run out into the garage and we turn it up all the way and dance around our garage. It was just a super magical moment. Really, really fun,” she recalls with a big smile.



To some, it might sound strange to write a breakup song like “Wasting All These Tears” with your husband, but for Smith it’s just another day at work.

“We’re both writers and we both have crazy ideas and crazy lines coming,” she admits. “I don’t always write from, ‘I have lived every word of this song.’ Sometimes when you write you put on an actor hat and you can play a different character, which makes writing breakup songs with your husband a little easier.”

She says that the two of them “keep doing it because we like writing with each other. Sometimes it ends in a fight,” she laughs, “and sometimes it’s awesome.”

“Wasting All These Tears” became a platinum-selling single for Pope. But it’s not the only song that has helped raise Smith’s profile as a writer. Her catalog also includes songs that have been cut by such high-profile artists as Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton (the GRAMMY-nominated “You Can’t Make Old Friends”), Lady Antebellum (“747″), Rascal Flatts (“Let It Hurt”) and even Garth Brooks (“Tacoma”). More recently, Smith has her writing credit on Meghan Trainor’s new album Title where Trainor duets with John Legend on a song called “Like I’m Gonna Lose You.”

In addition to songwriting, Smith has been a performer as well for years. She’s recorded and released several albums on her own—her first at 15 years old—and just this past fall released a seven-song EP titled Everything To You. While “Tacoma” isn’t on the track list, the EP does include Smith’s own version of “Wasting All These Tears,” along with six more tracks that showcase her powerful storytelling.



For more of my interview with Caitlyn Smith, visit


You Sing I Write’s 12 Most Memorable Interviews of 2012

Josh Turner

2012 was quite the year. In February, I started a new job at CBS full-time where I interview bands, cover concerts and write music news stories every day. Pretty much my dream job that I was starting to doubt existed. In addition to many memorable interviews I finally met John Mayer (!!!), attended my very first music video shoot (Gaslight Anthem!), album listening party (Justin Bieber) and album release/film screening (Rascal Flatts).

Throughout the year I’ve interviewed so many artists and while it was hard to narrow down my favorite interview I’ve compiled a list of my 12 most memorable interviews from 2012. While some allowed me to bring my mom along (Josh Turner), others were over the phone (Gaslight Anthem) but none were any short of interesting. I’m sure 2013 will bring even more excitement. Happy New Year!

12. Rascal Flatts

Rascal Flatts have been making music together for over a decade. With eight albums under their belts, it’s nearly inconceivable that the popular country trio almost called it quits. But they did and I learned this all at a red carpet film premiere in New York where I chatted with the band.

“We’ve been more excited about this one then we’ve been in a long time,” Jay DeMarcus told me of their new album Changed. “We feel like we’ve got renewed energy and a resurgence of the spirit of what Rascal Flatts was about to begin with.”

11. Jerrod Niemann

I know I’m not supposed to be friends with rock stars (at least according to Almost Famous) but country artists make this so difficult! The moment I met Jerrod Niemann I knew it would be a great interview. I started off gushing about my love for Nashville and by the end of the interview we were discussing cowboy boots (he had on a pair of alligator skin boots!). A bit self-conscious about wearing mine in NYC, and finding it a cliche to wear them while interviewing a country artist at that, Jerrod put me at ease. “Hey, everybody thinks I’m crazy most of the time,” he told me. The next week I wore my pair of boots to work twice.

10 and 9. Benny Horowitz and Brian Fallon of The Gaslight Anthem

If you’ve been reading this blog over the years then you know of my obsession with Jersey band The Gaslight Anthem. This interview was also a long time coming. I used to work with drummer Benny Horowitz in college. While attending Rutgers University I was Features Editor for the college paper, The Daily Targum. As editor, one night a week I had to proofread the whole paper before it was sent to the printer. Benny was the Night Pro editor and always talked about the bands he was in. Little did I know a few years later he’d be sharing the stage with Bruce Springsteen and touring the world.

In 2008 during my internship at Rolling Stone I was flipping through the magazine and was in shock when I saw Benny’s band featured as a Breaking Artist. At first I didn’t think it was him, but sure enough once I read the photo caption and contacted all my former co-workers I realized it 100% was him. For four years I tried interviewing the band for various publications but for some reason it just never worked out. My friends would always joke with me that I could interview Taylor Swift and Pat Benatar but not Benny, who I actually knew.

Well, 2012 was finally the year. I interviewed Benny and frontman Brian Fallon after their music video shoot and found out some facts no magazine feature could ever reveal. Truthfully, personally knowing someone who followed his dreams even in the midst of countless obstacles and witnessed success is one of the reasons that has kept me perusing my own passion. When you actually know someone who has succeeded in the industry, you can’t help but think, “I can do that too.” And that’s exactly what Benny has done for me. Knowing that his band could make it into the pages of Rolling Stone made me realize that I too, could make it writing for Rolling Stone. Why not? The sky’s the limit.

The day after I was on the set with the guys for their music video shoot I spoke with Benny on the phone and he informed me that Gaslight’s debut album Sink or Swim was full of desperation because in his mind that was his last shot at music. He had been in bands since he was a kid and in his head if Gaslight didn’t work out he was going to give it all up and get a boring 9 to 5 job. Luckily for him (and the rest of us) that never happened.

8. Gari Lamar Askew II aka John Mayer’s photographer

John Mayer has been an infatuation of mine for quite some time. My former co-workers at WebMD and colleagues at JANE Magazine, heck all my friends, family and acquaintances know of my love for John Mayer. He’s one of those artists who has been such a major part of my life that the idea of meeting and interviewing him was so full of anticipation and high expectations. My dream interview, I’ve been trying for years to get a shot at interviewing him. I even got the okay from but unfortunately he hasn’t been doing many interviews as of late.

So, when I got the email that he’d be signing autographs for fans in New York at a pop-up store I just knew I had to cover it. When I got to the pop-up store location and realized I wasn’t on the press list I instantly felt defeated because with nearly 3,000 fans lined up to meet Mayer too, there was little chance I’d get inside. Luckily, some co-workers started talking to one of the men by the door and it turned out he was John Mayer’s photographer (Gari) who had traveled with him and had photos on display at the exhibit. This guy not only traveled with John, but considers him a friend and only had the nicest things to say about him. After I interviewed him about his experience working with Mayer he was able to get us inside. Gari asked if I was going to talk to John and I suddenly became so shy. This singer who I’ve grown up listening to was standing 10 feet in front of me!

Of course I had to at least say hi, right? After purchasing an album for him to sign for a friend along with something for myself my friend Wendy and I approached the table where he was signing. “Hi, I’m Annie” I said reaching out my hand for him to shake. He looked at me inquisitively and I couldn’t help but wonder if no other fans in line shook his hand. After much coaxing from Wendy for John to take a photo with me he apologized that he wasn’t able to take photos with fans since the line was so long. As the manager clearly wouldn’t let a photo opp happen I assured Mayer that I understood and it was no big deal (although of course I wanted a photo!) As we were ushered to the door he turned to me and said, “Thank you for being so understanding, Annie.”

That was it. I didn’t ask him any burning questions about his music I’ve wondered for years or say anything witty. I simply introduced myself and got something autographed and was ushered out of the store like every other fan in line. No fireworks, nothing remarkable to report. I walked out of the store indifferent and realized — here’s the shocker — John Mayer is just a person like the rest of us. He’s not some musician who should be worshiped or idolized. He’s just another human being working at making a living doing what he loves.

7. One Direction

Having grown up a boy band fan, I can recognize when the next big sensation is coming. Early in the year I received a press release on One Direction, revealing that their first U.S. fan signing brought over 5,000 fans to a local mall in Boston. I mentioned it to my boss and we learned the guys would be in town in a few weeks so we set up an interview.

I had a flashback to the 90s when Backstreet Boys, N’ Sync and 98 Degrees ruled the charts when I saw girls line up hours before their concert at Radio City Music Hall (and heard their screams from the 44th floor of my building!). When I interviewed the boys of One Direction I got a behind-the-scenes look at what life is like for the current music sensation and it wasn’t pretty. With back-to-back interviews lined up on their day off with little but a second break in between, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the guys. A few of them kept remarking how they just wanted to go home while the publicist assured them they just had one more interview (which they didn’t). Just a glimpse into their daily life made me thankful I never became a rock star.

6. Little Big Town

There is no concert I look forward to more than the CMA Songwriters Series held at Joe’s Pub. It’s here that the songwriters and singers from Nashville come and share the story behind their songs and perform in a round. I attended the show Little Big Town were performing at and afterwards interviewed the band for Billboard. The day I sat down with them their ever popular single “Pontoon” just hit No. 1 on the country chart. It became the group’s very first No. 1 hit. Incredibly down to earth, I confessed to the band that I never knew what a pontoon was before their song.

They shared with me the story behind the song and how it was important to showcase their live sound on the new album. In order to channel their live performance, the band came into the studio at 6 p.m. to record as if they were rehearsing for a performance later that night.

“We just wanted to do something different. That was our producer’s idea, Jay Joyce,” Kimberly Schlapman said. “He wanted us to come in like we were playing a show and to have the energy and a little bit pressure like it is to put on a show. He wanted us to sing it live and put us on the spot a little bit. That was his idea and it worked like a charm.”

“I think it’s just a bolder, bigger, more confident sound from us,” Phillip Sweet said. “It’s unapologetic and just honest.”

One Republic

5. OneRepublic

To be honest, I was very fearful this might be my worst interview ever. The guys of OneRepublic were coming to CBS at 8 a.m. for an interview. I only had 15 minutes with them so I know I had to make it quick. From the moment they sat down though I thought it was a bust. When I asked my first question I was greeted by silence.

“You know that part in the car where I said, ‘Can you guys answer some questions today?’ Cue,” frontman Ryan Tedder said to the band.

Man, could I feel my nerves heat up, but he quickly apologized and the interview went on without a hitch.

“Can you ask the question again? I’m going on four hours of sleep here.”

4. Darius Rucker

Back in May I got word that I’d be interviewing Darius Rucker for CBS. In order to understand my complete excitement I have to take you way back to the summer of 2009 when my love for country music began. My best friends Wendy and Deana had been talking about visiting Nashville for quite some time. It just so happened that every June the city of Nashville is transformed into country music heaven as thousands of fans and artists descend on the city for the CMA Music Fest, what used to be known as Fan Fair.

For four days country music fans are treated to live performances and exclusive meet-and-greets with their favorite country artists. The three of us booked our flight and festival package and I wound up covering the nightly press conference and days events for Marie Claire. An outsider to country music, it was also my first time attending a press conference. While I knew the major artists like Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts and Reba, each night I was introduced to new acts. My first night in the press conference was intimidating to say the least. Not an exceptionally outgoing person, I soon learned that in order to get your question in you usually had to yell out to the artist onstage. The first artist in the room was Darius Rucker. The Hootie & the Blowfish frontman recently released his debut country album and would be performing on the main concert stage later that night.

Being my first time in the press room I kept raising my hand in hopes to get my question answered. When the last question was asked and the publicist started to usher him off the stage he pointed in my direction. “You’ve been so patient this whole time,” he said. “What’s your question?” After looking around and realizing he was talking to me I was shocked and thankful to be given a second of his time. So, I asked him how his Hootie fans have reacted to his leap into country music and he told me they’ve embraced and supported his career in country music. Still stunned he pointed me out in the crowd I instantly knew country would become my new favorite genre.

So, early this yeah I finally interviewed Darius one-on-one about his career, writing process, transition into country music and what it’s like working with Lionel Richie. I also filled him in on the fact that he’s pretty much the reason I decided to start covering country music and he actually remembered that time in the press room nearly three years ago!

3. Tristan Prettyman

In June, I chatted with singer-songwriter Tristan Prettyman whose new album Cedar and Gold dropped in September. Formerly engaged to fellow singer Jason Mraz, the album was deemed a breakup album. Reading over all the press material, I wasn’t sure exactly how I’d bring up the elephant in the room, but everything was stated pretty clearly in the press release so I wouldn’t be a good journalist if I didn’t.

The more we talked about the album and her relationship, the closer I came to having to bring up his name. So, I asked if she was nervous to have Jason listen to the album and she revealed that she sent him a few tracks and he responded, remarking at the fact that she didn’t hold anything back.

As Tristan continued to talk about the songs and her relationship she started to tear up and while I wasn’t quite sure whether to keep asking questions, I figured if she felt that uncomfortable she’d let me know. We continued the interview and I was so grateful for her honesty. Writing songs is often like writing in one’s diary and she shared so much of her process and the stories behind her songs with me. After our interview, I have no doubt her release will help a lot of people deal with their own heartbreaks. And that in itself is often the goal for a songwriter.

As far as my future interview goals, while I definitely don’t strive to make anyone cry from the questions I ask them, I hope I do allow them to feel comfortable enough to let their guard down for a moment. I know it’s not always the best idea to be friends with rock stars, but building a 30 minute friendship during our interview can’t hurt, can it?

2. James Valentine

When I found out that I’d be interviewing Maroon 5 guitarist James Valentine I joked with my co-workers about the last time we used a payphone. After listening to their hit single “Payphone” on repeat I knew I had to ask him the same question.

Still trying to implement the idea of making my interviews more like a conversation with a friend, I was a bit nervous but determined to make it work. Having seen Maroon 5 perform the night before I at least had a few good conversation starters. As the interview went on I found my questions fitting seamlessly into the interview with no internal dialogue of “what am I going to ask next?”

By far my favorite interview to date, James Valentine took me behind-the-scenes of his writing process with Adam Levine, how he came to join the band, and of course the last time he used a payphone. This was the first interview I’ve had in a long time that really felt like a conversation with distinct connection.

1. Josh Turner

In September I learned that Josh Turner would be coming in for an interview. My mom’s a huge fan so I HAD to bring her along. I’ve never seen my mom speechless or star struck before so it was a treat to have her sit in on my interview and even ask Josh a few questions of her own. It was during this interview that my mom finally realized what all my hard work, unpaid internships and years of freelance work amounted to and I could tell she was proud. It hasn’t been the easiest journey convincing my family that I would make a career out of music journalism but in 2012 I finally proved it was possible. I have no doubts that 2013 will bring even more fun and a lot more stories to add to that future music memoir! Thanks for joining me for the ride.

Features News

You Sing I Write's Biweekly Wrap Up

Photo Credit: Scott Vollweiler

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind for me and while I try to update You Sing I Write as often as I can, it’s getting a bit difficult with my new job. In the meantime, you can follow all my day-to-day adventures on Twitter.

Just over a month ago, I started working at CBS where I cover Top 40 for their radio station websites. On any given day I’ll be writing music news stories, interviewing bands or covering shows and I couldn’t be happier! It’s what I’ve been doing for the past few years, but in a permanent and stable environment. And, as a freelance journalist for so long it’s a rare find.

Photo Credit: Scott Vollweiler

While not much has changed with my daily writing process, I now have access to an even more wide range of musicians and the past two weeks seem like a dream. One day I was interviewing Jordan Knight from New Kids On the Block at the office and the next week I was hanging out with the guys in Rascal Flatts on a rooftop in Times Square. I can’t believe my life sometimes and am so glad to be able to bring you along on the journey!

From my first concert review in college with Gavin DeGraw to stalking down the All-American Rejects at their tour bus for a quote for an article, amidst the craziness I’ve come to find that it is 100% possible to find a job you love and make money from it. While it definitely has not been an easy transition, all the blood, sweat and tears have finally paid off.

Though I’m mainly covering Top 40 acts these days (especially boy band sensation One Direction) I’m always open to new indie acts and country artists. Since You Sing I Write is where I got my start writing about music on a daily basis, I don’t plan to stop blogging. I might be writing less frequently on here, but that doesn’t mean I’m not open to covering new acts. So, keep ’em coming! Feel free to E-mail Me band pitches as always. Thanks for reading throughout the years!

Concert Reviews Features News Q&A

Rascal Flatts Celebrate Album And Film Release In NYC

Rascal Flatts have been making music together for over a decade. With eight albums under their belts, it’s nearly inconceivable that the popular country trio almost called it quits.

CBS Local caught up with Rascal Flatts at their film premiere last night (April 5) in New York. The band discussed their latest album Changed, which was released Tuesday, their film and future endeavors. Their eighth studio album and first LP with Big Machine Records, Rascal Flatts said the excitement of album release week never wears off.

“We’ve been more excited about this one then we’ve been in a long time,” Jay DeMarcus said. “We feel like we’ve got renewed energy and a resurgence of the spirit of what Rascal Flatts was about to begin with.”

For my complete review and interview, visit CBS.

CD Reviews

Album Review: Rascal Flatts' “Changed”

“I think this record is probably to date our most country record that we’ve ever done,” Rascal Flatts’ Jay DeMarcus has said of Changed.

The trio’s eighth studio album, Changed details the ups and downs we all face in life. Recorded at DeMarcus’ home studio with stripped-down production, it has a more personal and intimate feel.

“Hot In Here,” for instance, follows a blossoming relationship from the honeymoon stage, “Come Wake Me Up” demonstrates the torture heartache can bring. With poignant vocals, spot-on harmonies and memorable lyrics it’s hard not to relate to each of the 11 tracks.

Despite the major heartbreak showcased throughout the album (“She’s Leaving,” “Let It Hurt,” “Come Wake Me Up”), the music never falters. With electrifying guitar, memorable percussion, and powerful banjo throughout, the guys in Rascal Flatts continue to showcase their influence.

For my complete review, visit CBS. Rascal Flatts’ film Changed will air Thursday in over 600 theaters across the country. The movie captures the band live in concert and never-before-seen footage of each member in their daily lives.

Concert Reviews

Rascal Flatts Debut New Album 'Live on Letterman'

Photo Credit: John Filo of CBS

Rascal Flatts had the Ed Sullivan Theater audience on its feet for the entirety of their 45-minute set Monday night, November 15, for ‘Live on Letterman,’ a concert series run by the ‘The Late Show With David Letterman’ crew. Frequently making jokes with each other and fans, the playful trio’s humorous vibe carried throughout their performance.

In New York promoting the release of ‘Nothing Like This,’ the Flatts took requests and even dedicated a track from their LP to a newly engaged couple in the audience. But most of the banter, whether joking or not, was aimed at reminding fans of their new album’s release. “Make sure you pick up a copy or 12 tomorrow. They make great stocking stuffers,” bassist Jay DeMarcus said of the new disc, which hits stores today (November 16).

With the album being Rascal Flatts’ first release on Big Machine Records, lead singer Gary LeVox joked that label president Scott Borchetta needed permission from Taylor Swift to sign them.”We said, ‘Scott, we’d love to be on Big Machine Records,’ and he said, ‘Hold on a minute, I need to call Taylor Swift and see if she’s OK with that.'”

For my complete review, visit The Boot. Watch Rascal Flatts perform “Life Is a Highway” below.

Related Links:
Q&A with Rascal Flatts
Song of the Week: “Life Is a Highway”
Q&A with Taylor Swift
Brad Paisley Performs ‘Live on Letterman’
Song of the Week

Song of the Week: “Life Is a Highway”

Summer is winding down (I know, I’m sorry. No one wants to hear this), but that doesn’t mean the end of  road trips, BBQs and good music. This week’s song of the week is inspired by Sammy, Darla and Julia, three girls about to embark on a 20-city road trip to discover authentic stories of food, fashion and music throughout the nation.

Watch the video below to find out more on the idea behind Road Hug USA as they embark on their road trip next week.

Road Hug USA from Road Hug USA on Vimeo.

Be sure to follow Sammy, Darla and Julia’s adventures on Twitter. And for some inspiration to start planning your own road trip, check out Rascal Flatts’ video for “Life Is a Highway” below.


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]

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