Special Performances and Events Added to CMA Festival Week

More performers and events have been added during and surrounding the 2012 CMA Music Festival, taking place June 7-10 in downtown Nashville.

Glen Campbell will serve as Grand Marshal for the parade.

Before June 7 rolls around and CMA Fest gets underway, Country Weekly is hosting a special benefit concert and unofficial kick-off party at Hard Rock Cafe on Tuesday, June 5. Performers for the event, benefiting Musicians On Call, include Colt Ford, LoCash Cowboys, and Matt Stillwell. Tickets are available here.

The official start to the Festival begins Wednesday, June 6 with the eighth annual CMA Music Festival Kick-Off Parade at 11 am/CT, followed by the seventh annual CMA Music Festival Block Party at 12:30 pm/CT. Iconic performer Glen Campbell will serve as the parade’s Grand Marshal, and the members of vocal group Little Big Town will promote new single “Pontoon” by each riding in Premier pontoon boats with fans.

During the nightly concerts at LP Field, each evening will now feature two acoustic performance sets. American Idol alumni Kellie Pickler and Lauren Alaina will each perform acoustically on Thursday, June 7. Randy Houser and The Voice contestant Gwen Sebastian will each take a turn Friday, June 8. Duo Love and Theft and Kip Moore will each perform on Saturday, June 9. On Sunday, June 10, Country Music Hall of Famer Bill Anderson and duo Steel Magnolia will each perform.

Additionally, during the opening ceremonies on Thursday, June 7, David Nail will perform the title track of his album The Sound of a Million Dreams with the Nashville School of the Arts Chamber Choir (directed by Walter Bitner). Nashville School of the Arts has been a recipient of funds from CMA’s Keep the Music Playing program, benefitting music education in Metro Nashville Public Schools.

Storme Warren, producer/host of GAC’s “Headline Country” will host the nightly concerts on June 7. Actress/comedienne Melissa Peterman will host June 9. Evan Farmer, host of CMT’s Top 20 Countdown, will host on June 10. The host for Friday, June 8 will be announced soon. Full nightly concert lineup is included below.

Thursday, June 7:

Full band performances: Jason Aldean, Glen Campbell, Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Brad Paisley,and Zac Brown Band
Acoustic performances :Lauren Alaina and Kellie Pickler
Special performance: David Nail with the Nashville School of the Arts Chamber Choir (under the direction of Walter Bitner)
National Anthem performer: Nashville School of the Arts Chamber Choir (under the direction of Walter Bitner)
Host: Storme Warren (GAC’s “Headline Country”)

Friday, June 8:

Full band performances: The Band Perry, Brantley Gilbert, Ronnie Milsap, Jake Owen, Blake Shelton, and Carrie Underwood
Acoustic performances: Randy Houser and Gwen Sebastian
National Anthem performer: Oak Ridge Boys
Host: To be announced soon

Saturday, June 9:  

Full band performances: Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Hunter Hayes, Faith Hill, Little Big Town, and Kenny Rogers
Acoustic performances: Love and Theft and Kip Moore
National Anthem performer: Julie Roberts
Host: Melissa Peterman (CMT’s “The Singing Bee”)

Sunday, June 10:  

Full band performances: Dierks Bentley, Alan Jackson, The Mavericks, Martina McBride, Scotty McCreery, and Rascal Flatts
Acoustic performances: Bill Anderson and Steel Magnolia
National Anthem performer: Sarah Darling
Host: Evan Farmer (CMT’s “Top 20 Countdown”)

Cracker Barrel Issues Ronnie Dunn Album Exclusive

Ronnie Dunn’s newest solo CD was released today (5/21) through the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store® exclusive music program.

The CD, Ronnie Dunn – Special Edition, is a collection of 12 songs that Dunn first released in 2011, and includes an additional two previously unreleased bonus tracks. A portion of the proceeds from sales of this CD will be donated to Wounded Warrior Project.  The CD is available for $11.99 exclusively at all Cracker Barrel locations and online at crackerbarrel.com.

Tracks on Ronnie Dunn – Special Edition:
1.     I Love My Country (Previously Unreleased)
2.     Singer In A Cowboy Band
3.     I Don’t Dance
4.     Your Kind Of Love
5.     How Far To Waco
6.     Once
7.     Cost Of Livin’
8.     Bleed Red
9.     Last Love I’m Tryin’
10.  Let The Cowboy Rock
11.  I Can’t Help Myself
12.  I Just Get Lonely
13.  Love Owes Me One
14.  Keep On Lovin’ You  (Previously Unreleased)

McGraw Joins BMLG Roster

Tim McGraw has joined the Big Machine Records roster, it was announced today (5/21) at a press conference at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

“Many people know that I came to Nashville 23 years ago on a Greyhound bus with nothing but a guitar,” said McGraw. “And 23 years to the day, on May 9, I went back to the bus station and officially signed this deal. It was a significant way for me to mark this new beginning. Scott Borchetta has developed a powerhouse at Big Machine, and I’m happy to be a part of what he has built and to call Big Machine Records my new label home. Excited doesn’t even begin to describe how I’m feeling about working on a new album for this next chapter in my career. Here’s to the next 20 years!”

“I’ve always felt a kinship to Tim as my dad (Mike) originally signed Tim to Curb Records,” added Borchetta. “We have wanted to work together for years and I can’t believe this day has finally come. His level of artistry, vision, passion and energy comes along only so many times in any given era and I can tell you with the utmost confidence that there are many, many important chapters left to write.”

Universal Music Group will handle global distribution. “I’m so pleased to add the great superstar Tim McGraw to our incredible Nashville family of distributed labels,” said Lucian Grainge, Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group. “Tim’s accomplishments reach around the world and we intend to exert the full compliment of global support to Tim’s new releases on Big Machine Records.”

This June, McGraw will kick off the Brothers of the Sun Tour with longtime friend Kenny Chesney. The outing launches June 2 in Tampa and will hit the nation’s biggest stadiums through August.

McGraw has sold over 40 million albums.

Underwood Featured in “Dateline” Special

Hoda Kotb and Carrie Underwood singing karaoke.

Carrie Underwood will be featured in a one hour Dateline 20th Anniversary Special which will air Tuesday, May 22 at 9 pm CT on NBC.

To celebrate the occasion, Underwood will be interviewed in a special segment by Today show co-host Hoda Kotb. The two originally met in 2005 when Underwood won the fourth season of American Idol.

Underwood’s latest album Blown Away hit stores May 1 and debuted at No. 1 on the SoundScan sales charts. The album’s first single “Good Girl” has already been certified Gold for more than 500,000 downloads.

The Dateline 20th Anniversary Special will also highlight some of the most extraordinary stories form the past 20 years including Michael J. Fox, Aron Ralston (subject of film 127 Hours), the McCaughey septuplets and more.

David Shaw Joins Tenacity Records Promo Team

David Shaw has joined the Tenacity Records promotion team as a National Director of Promotion, it was announced today (5/21) by Tenacity President Mike Kraski. The addition of Shaw rounds out the label promo team of Gary Greenberg, Jeff Davis and Anne Sarosdy, and headed by David Haley. Tenacity is home to recording artists Bill Gentry and Darryl Worley.

“David Shaw is everything a label could hope for in a professional and a person,” Kraski said. “I couldn’t be more excited about adding him to the team.”

Shaw comes to the label with 20 plus years of experience in radio promotion, including stints at Columbia Records, Category 5 Records, Ride Records and most recently R&J Records. He has worked with artists including Randy Owen, Jerrod Niemann, Steve Azar, Andy Gibson, Aaron Lewis, Aerosmith, Destiny’s Child, James Taylor, George Jones, Johnny Cash, Train, Billy Joel, David Bowie, John Mayer, Bruce Springsteen, Sammy Kershaw and the Dixie Chicks.

Reach him at 401-219-1139 or [email protected].

Photo Roundup (5/21/12)

Tracy Lawrence appeared on stage during Jason Aldean’s My Kinda Party tour stop at the Oak Mountain Amphitheatre in Birmingham, AL on May 17. Lawrence joined Aldean and Luke Bryan for a first time performance of Lawrence’s hit “Time Marches On,” a song that Aldean and Bryan have been covering during the tour. Concert-goers were treated to a 20 minute set by the country trio with additional Lawrence hits “Sticks And Stones” and a finale performance of “Paint Me A Birmingham.”

(L-R): Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Tracy Lawrence Photo: Ed Rode

• • •

On May 17, Little Big Town members Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Jimi Westbrook and Phillip Sweet appeared at an in-store cocktail party co-hosted by Nashville Lifestyles and in partnership with the T.J. Martell Foundation to celebrate the grand opening of Ann Taylor’s first new concept store in Tennessee. Singer-songwriter Dara Maclean performed. There was also a mini-fashion show featuring local professional women involved with the T.J. Martell foundation. The grand opening shopping event will follow on Saturday, June 2 from 1-5 pm. Ann Taylor will be donating 10% of sales from the shopping event to the T.J. Martell Foundation. Ann Taylor will open its second new concept store in Tennessee at Cool Springs Galleria in Franklin this July.

(L-R): Phillip Sweet, Kimberly Schlapman, Andrew Taylor (Ann Taylor Public Relations Director), Karen Fairchild, Jimi Westbrook

• • •

Brett Eldredge held a special performance on May 16 at 12th & Porter in Nashville as part of his upcoming web series Take Me Home Tonight. In attendance was one lucky couple, Rachel Johnson and Jerad Yenni, that matchmaker Eldredge set up himself. The couple received a VIP date that began at Arrington Vineyards, followed by a dance class at Studio Goddess and ended with an exclusive performance by Eldredge at 12th & Porter. Eldredge’s performance and the couple’s date will air on Warner Music’s premium YouTube Channel.

(L-R): Rachel Johnson, Eldredge, Jerad Yenni

McCreery To Perform On “Idol” Finale

Scotty McCreery will return to the American Idol stage on Tuesday (5/22) and Wednesday (5/23) during the show’s Season 11 finale on Fox. Just a year ago, McCreery faced off against Lauren Alaina in the American Idol Season 10 finale and emerged as the champion.

On Tuesday, McCreery will sing “Please Remember Me,” the song he recorded as the Season 11 “goodbye song” which played when contestants were eliminated. On Wednesday, he will help celebrate the winner of Season 11.

“I am so excited about going back to American Idol and seeing everyone again,” he says. “I hope to spend some time with the finalists, Phillip Phillips and Jessica Sanchez, and share some of my experiences with them. I can’t believe that it’s been a year since I was in their shoes.”

Additionally, McCreery has been nominated for two Teen Choice Awards, which will be held July 22 at the Gibson Amphitheater at Universal Studios in Los Angeles and airs live on Fox. His nominations include Choice Male Country Artist and Choice TV: Male Reality Star (American Idol). He previously won New Artist of the Year at the Academy of Country Music Awards in April, the same honor he earned at the American Country Awards in December 2011.

The Producer’s Chair: Brett James

Brett James released his album Sugarcane last year and is currently developing artist Caitlyn Smith. He lives in Brentwood with his wife Sandy, and their four children.

By James Rea

Don’t miss Brett James on The Producer’s Chair Thurs., May 31, 6 p.m. at Douglas Corner. Details at theproducerschair.com.

Over the past decade, Brett James has had more than 300 songs recorded by some of the biggest artists on the planet including Kenny Chesney, Carrie Underwood, Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts, Bon Jovi, Backstreet Boys, Daughtry, Kelly Clarkson and Leona Lewis. His songs have appeared on albums with combined sales of over 100 million units. He has had 13 No. 1s, won a 2006 Grammy for “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” and was named ASCAP Songwriter of the Year in 2006 and 2010.

James wrote current Kelly Clarkson single, “Mr. Know It All” and a recent Chesney hit, “Reality.” His producer credits include Kip Moore, Mark Wills, Billy Ray Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Buddy Jewel, Jessica Simpson and Josh Gracin. He is also active in the industry, serving on the CMA and NSAI boards of directors.

• • • • •

Brett James is an Oklahoma native who grew up singing in church, got his first guitar at 18, taught himself to play and by the time he reached college was the lead singer in a rock band. “As soon as I learned three chords, I started writing songs,” he recalls. “Then I went to a Steve Wariner concert and that night I got serious about writing songs.” Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, Brett eventually went on to medical school.

In the meantime, he sent his five best songs to his friend Deb Markland in Nashville, whose husband Steve Markland now runs Warner Chappell. Deb’s boss, Reen Nalli, wanted to manage Brett, so they met in Nashville and she introduced him to Cliff Audretch, who in turn took the young songwriter to meet new Arista head Tim DuBois. On Brett’s third day in Nashville, DuBois said “If you move to Nashville, I’ll give you a record deal.”

Brett made arrangements for a one-year leave of absence from med school, loaded up his 1980 Maxima with a garbage bag full of clothes and a guitar, and moved to Nashville.

“When I arrived, something in my gut told me I wasn’t ready for a record deal, so I didn’t call Tim for about nine months. I started waiting tables at Midtown Café, played open mics and started meeting with publishers. Three or four months later, Pat Higdon offered me a pub deal and within the year, I had some decent demos and decided to give Tim a call.”

Brett’s showcase was the first one at the Wildhorse Saloon when they opened in ‘93 and Tim signed Brett that night to Artista/Career Records. They spent a year making the first record, which was produced by Steve Bogard (NSAI) and Mike Clute. As Brett puts it, “The singles stiffed, so they re-grouped and we made another record, but it never got released and I was dropped from label in ‘97.”

Eventually Brett left his deal with Higdon and signed with EMI, but by 1999 he was looking for a new publisher. Mark Bright was just starting Teracel, a co-venture with Sony, and Brett was the first writer he signed, earning about 1/3 of the draw he had at EMI.

“Too many guys hold on to the dream too long. I’d been here going on seven years and I had a family to feed. One night I was at Target on White Bridge Road and I panicked because I couldn’t buy my kid a pair of shoes. Without telling my wife, I wrote a letter to the dean of the med school to see if I could get back in. I had to repeat my second year. I was 30 years old, but I knew that at 36, I’d be working as a doctor. I told Mark Bright I’d been accepted and he told me to keep writing while I was in school. At that point I had cuts on Dean Miller and Kenny Chesney, but Kenny released ‘She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy’ instead of my song as the single.”

Three days after returning to med school, Brett and co-writer Troy Verges got a cut on Faith Hill’s Breathe album, which sold 7 million copies. He continued to write seven or eight songs per week. Songplugger Kelly King helped him get 33 cuts in nine months, including “Blessed” by Martina McBride, and “Who I Am” by Jessica Andrews. His writing advance increased, he quit med school for the second time and came back to Nashville in 2000. According to Brett, “God had other plans.”

“Through the initial period of pub deals, Pat Higdon and EMI lost a lot of money on me, but they afforded me the opportunity to write about 600 bad songs and demo about 400-500 of them. I’ve now produced close to 2,000 demos in the studio. One day Dann Huff called me when I was still in medical school and said, ‘I love your demos, let’s make a record.’ I got re-signed to Arista by Joe Galante in 2000. I co-produced the album with Dann, put out a single called “Chasing Amy” which went to about No. 29 on the charts. When that single stiffed, Joe Galante called me and said, ‘Brett, I have bad news and good news. The bad news is we’re going to drop you from the label. The good news is I want ‘When The Sun Goes Down’ for Kenny Chesney and ‘The Answer’ for Brad Paisley. Chesney took that song to No. 1 for 6 weeks.”

• • • • •

Producer’s Chair: What is the most important thing that you learned from Dann Huff about producing?
James: You can learn a lot from making a record with Dann Huff. He’s the master. I learned about the atmosphere that he creates, and the respect that he demands, because he’s a musical genius.

Do you plan to continue producing for a long time?
Yes and no. I love producing, but I also love writing. The money isn’t what it used to be for songwriters, by any stretch, because it’s based on record sales. Your advance money is about what you can expect to make, unless you’re writing with the artist. I’m pretty hands on as a producer. For instance, I sang all the background vocals on Kip Moore’s record and I engineered all of his vocals. There’s a huge benefit of being a singer. Whether it’s demos or records, I can sing it for them to convey my thoughts.

Producing is very labor intensive for me. The fun part is tracking and mixing. There is no greater joy than being in the studio with a bunch of musicians. I get to walk into a room with a bunch of my friends and have them spoil me rotten. And I get to drive the ship. The process is such a rewarding collaboration with the musicians.

How did you start working with Kip Moore?
Kip is a pro golfer, a surfer and an outstanding all-around athlete. He introduced himself to me at the Maryland Farms YMCA. He said, “I like what you do and I’d like to be a writer,” and he seemed like a cool guy. Six months went by, we never scheduled anything, and I felt so bad that I was afraid I might see him at the Y.

One day Joe Fisher in A&R at Universal called me and said, “Hey this guy came in my office and said he knows you from the Y, his name is Kip Moore.” So I said, send him over right now. Kip walked in, played two songs, and I said, “OK, you’ve got a publishing deal, now what else can we work on?”

Kip signed with Universal and had a gold record with first single “Somethin’ ‘Bout A Truck,” which has sold 600,000 downloads. He sold 38,000 albums the first week out.

It’s very much a labor of love. He’s like my little brother. I don’t think there’s ever been a more talented songwriter in Nashville and I don’t say that lightly. I think Kip will be a 25 or 30-year heritage artist. The depth of his songwriting is beyond anything I’ve ever seen. He’s going to be selling out arenas and I hope I get to be there every step of the way.

When did you produce Taylor Swift?
When Taylor was 12, Renee Bell signed her to a developmental deal at RCA. They tried several producers and we did a demo with her on a song called “Perfectly Good Heart.” Long story short, RCA didn’t sign her to a full deal. Taylor went back to Pennsylvania for a while, came back seven years later and became the biggest artist in the world. She put one of the songs we cut on the record.

How do you feel about our industry today?
I think our business is going to do what it’s going to do and you have to roll with it. My one complaint is when Nashville loses sight of the-best-song-wins. We once had all these artists that didn’t write, like Reba, George Strait, Faith and Tim, who became stars on the backs of the writers in this town. Now it’s not like that. Staff writer positions went from 1200 at the peak in the ‘90s to about 200 today. Great records get made when the best song wins. It serves our community better and it serves the artists better.

Partial Discography
“Cowboy Casanova” Carrie Underwood #1
“Mr. Know It All” Kelly Clarkson 6 week #1 Hot AC
“The Man I Want To Be” Chris Young 3 week #1
“It’s America” Rodney Atkins 2 week #1
“Summer Nights” Rascal Flatts #1
“Out Last Night” Kenny Chesney 2 week #1
“The Truth” Jason Aldean 2 week #1
“Reality” Kenny Chesney # 1
“What Do You Got” Bon Jovi top 10 AC
“I Love You This Big” Scotty McCreery top 15
“It’s A Business Doing Pleasure With You” Tim McGraw top 15
“Get Off On The Pain” Gary Allan top 15
“Good To Be Me” Uncle Kracker current single
“Life After You” Daughtry top 20 Pop/#4 A/C
“When The Sun Goes Down” Kenny Chesney 6 week #1
“Jesus Take The Wheel” Carrie Underwood 6 week #1
“You Save Me” Kenny Chesney # 2
“Blessed” Martina McBride 2 week #1
“Who I Am” Jessica Andrews 4 week #1
“Keg In The Closet” Kenny Chesney top 10 single
“Love You Out Loud” Rascal Flatts top 5 single
“Drugs or Jesus” Tim McGraw top 10 single

Photos: Niemann Joins ASCAP; BMI Buzz Showcase

ASCAP welcomed songwriter-artist Jerrod Niemann when he stopped by the Nashville office recently to join ASCAP as a writer member. The Sea Gayle Records/Arista Nashville singer-songwriter recently released  “Shinin’ On Me,” the lead single to his yet-to-be-titled sophomore album. On Monday, May 21, TheBoot.com will host the exclusive worldwide premiere of the “Shinin’ On Me” music video. The clip was directed by Chris Hicky and filmed at the Family Wash in East Nashville, telling the story of a lowly, overworked businessman who needs to let loose and have a little fun. GAC, CMT and all streaming partners will begin airing the video May 22.

(L-R): Steve Emley, ASCAP's Alison Toczylowski and Marc Driskill, Jerrod Niemann, ASCAP's Ryan Beuschel, Evyn Mustoe, Robert Filhart and Michael Martin

• • •

BMI featured three young songwriters at beloved Nashville venue The Basement on May 16 at its quarterly BMI Buzz showcase. Jessica Roadcap, Billy Dawson, and Jesse Lee each played three-song sets in front of a packed house full of industry executives and friends and family.

(L-R): BMI’s Mark Mason and Penny Everhard, Jessica Roadcap, Billy Dawson, Jesse Lee, and BMI’s Jody Williams. Photo: Drew Maynard

Dolly Parton Cracker Barrel Collection Goes Gold

The first-ever Cracker Barrel Old Country Store two-disc set, An Evening With…Dolly, has been certified Gold by the RIAA. The DVD/CD reached Gold status four weeks after its April 2 release date and its debut at No. 2 on Billboard’s Top DVD Music Videos Chart.

The RIAA Gold honor marks a first for Cracker Barrel and the first for Dolly Records in the U.S., with previous Gold certifications in Australia and the United Kingdom.

“I’m thrilled that so many fans are listening to my songs and taking a look behind-the-scenes of my European tour,” said Dolly. “I had a wonderful time performing in London and I think the audience did too. It’s exciting to be able to share my experiences with Cracker Barrel fans. And I have to tell you, I’m even more excited that An Evening With…Dolly earned the first Gold in the Cracker Barrel exclusive music program. That’s just icing on the cake.”

The first-ever Cracker Barrel two-disc set was the second project with Dolly Parton and is available for $11.99 exclusively at all Cracker Barrel locations and online at crackerbarrel.com.