Listen, I live all year long in one unending schmoozathon, but nothing tops CRS in the schmooze department.
The 43rd annual Country Radio Seminar got underway Tuesday afternoon (2/21) with the presentation of the 10th annual Country Breakout Awards by MusicRow magazine. Staged in the upstairs party room at Margaritaville, in reality the event was a manic gab fest. Talk about a tough room – the schmoozers just barely paused to applaud Artist of the Year Brad Paisley.
Brad didn’t seem to mind – he knows what CRS is all about. “I hope you have a great week,” he told the babbling crowd. “Take care of yourselves. Don’t drink too much. But don’t abstain from drinking, either.”
The CMA Entertainer of the Year was accompanied by Gary Overton. “It’s a real honor to work with Brad Paisley,” said Gary O. “You can’t ask for a better partner.”
Thompson Square won the Breakthrough Artist award. “Shawna and I are pretty humbled today,” said Keifer Thompson. “We played this [Lower Broadway] strip for years and years.” Margaritaville, you see, lies in the heart of the district where country dreams are born and die in Music City.
For the seventh consecutive year, Capitol Records was named Label of the Year. Steve Hodges led the company’s promo staff in accepting.
The Independent Artist of the Year honor went to Eric Lee Beddingfield. “I take a lot of pride in being an independent artist,” he said. “Thank you MusicRow for helping artists such as myself and giving us the chance to get our music heard.”
The magazine’s awards are based on the number of spins that artists or labels receive from its 102 chart reporting stations. Of those stations, the Reporter of the Year went to Jim Quinton at WPPL Mountain Country in Blue Ridge, GA. In a room full of his peers, Jim received the afternoon’s rowdiest ovation.
“I love the music that we have right now – so many different styles to choose from,” Jim said. “Our audience is just growing and growing. Use this time [in Nashville at CRS] to re-charge yourself.”
Some of that diverse music was performed during the event. Marlee Scott is a Canadian now living in Nashville. The porcelain skinned, raven-haired beauty is a FaceBook sensation with 25,000 followers. She has topped the country charts in England, Germany ahd Holland. Marlee offered the partiers a sprightly “Crazy for You,” the tuneful hit “Beautiful Maybe” and her funky current single “Train Wreck.”
For my money, the performer of the day was JT Hodges. His gleaming smile, neo-rockabilly hairstyle and pent-up intensity added up to a charismatic stage presence, and his urgent singing completed the package. The rollicking “Hunt You Down,” driving “Sleepy Little Town” and throbbing “Goodbyes Made You Mine” all sounded like hits.
The McClymonts probably commanded the crowd’s attention the most. Although performing last, no one at the bash left while those three Aussie charmers were on stage. Their harmony singing was flawless, as always.
Joanna Smith, who showcased at last year’s MR event, dropped by to offer the attendees the world premiere of her new single “We Can’t Be Friends.” She got the song from Kenny Chesney, she said.
More than 500 people rsvp’d, setting a record for this shindig. Bobby Karl spotted Oak Ridge Boy William Lee Golden, plus Ron Allen, Allen Brown, Steve Ferguson, Steve Markland, Shelly Marks, Chuck Dauphin, Chuck Thompson, Frank Myers, Isabel Ross, Tinti Moffatt, Paul Ciliberto, Ed Carter, Mike Thomas, Martha Moore, Ed Spacek, Bill Wence, Sherrill Blackmon, Tom Long, Teddi Bonadies, Paula Szeigis, Clif Doyal and Becky Harris in the schmoozing throng.
The Margaritaville staff was super attentive, passing around the club’s signature Cheeseburgers in Paradise snacks and offering a tasty nacho bar. Not to mention plentiful adult beverages.
“We are so honored to start off your CRS,” said the mag’s head honcho Sherod Robertson. “Hope your CRS is off to a great start,” added co-host Jon Freeman. Thank you. It is.