Jennifer Nettles, Justin Moore Make An Impression At BMLG’s CRS Showcase

Jennifer Nettles. Photo: Sara Kauss

Jennifer Nettles. Photo: Sara Kauss

On the final day of Country Radio Seminar (CRS), Jennifer Nettles and Justin Moore anchored the Big Machine Label Group (BMLG) luncheon at the Omni Nashville Hotel, bringing some older hits and new material to the Wednesday (Feb. 10) event.

New artists Tucker Beathard, Tara Thompson, and Drake White all made special appearances, following opening remarks from BMLG President and CEO Scott Borchetta and Nashville actor Charles Esten (“Deacon”).

Nettles is back on the scene following a solo project on another label, a short-term stint in Chicago on Broadway, and a star turn in the television movie, Dolly Parton’s Coat Of Many Colors. While her soaring new ballad, “Unlove You,” is climbing the country chart, she is out headlining CMT’s Next Women of Country Tour.

On stage at CRS, she wore a black leather jacket over a stylish patterned dress, which accentuated her tough girl/thoughtful woman personality. She unveiled two new songs with a lot of spunk: “Playing With Fire” and “Drunk in Heels.” Both are expected to be on her first BMLG project due later this year.

Then she slowed things down for “Unlove You,” a country-influenced ballad that allows her to open up her commanding vocals and wail. Encouraging the audience to take a trip back in time, she submitted fun versions of Sugarland staples “Baby Girl” and “Something More,” smiling all the while before saying farewell.

Drake White. Photo: Sara Kauss

Drake White. Photo: Sara Kauss

Her set was preceded by White’s pair of acoustic songs, performed with two other musicians. A scruffy Alabama native who has a blues tinge to his baritone, White is working on his bow on the Dot Records imprint. To preview the project, he offered the sultry “Makin’ Me Look Good Again” and the single, “Livin’ the Dream.”

Moore earned the sole standing ovation of the afternoon, thanks to an emotional rendering of 2011’s “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away.” His set was a strong reminder of his natural charisma and enviable track record at country radio. Although he’s working on a new album, the first four songs he performed were familiar: “Point at You,” “’Til My Last Day,” “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away” and “Small Town USA.”

Justin Moore. Photo: Sara Kauss

Justin Moore. Photo: Sara Kauss

Moore said he has taken time away from releasing singles to focus on making sure he was sending the best possible songs to radio. That hiatus officially ended when he shipped “You Look Like I Need a Drink” to country stations in late 2015. The catchy tune elicited laughter and knowing looks from the crowd, who had just finished dining on a spread of beef, salmon, fried chicken, roasted vegetables, dinner rolls and tossed salad.

Citing a previous engagement—baking cupcakes for his daughter’s 6th birthday the following day—Moore once again effusively thanked the programmers in the room for allowing him to have a career in country music.

Pictured (L-R): Tara Thompson, Drake White, Scott Borchetta, Jennifer Nettles, Tucker Beathard. Photo: Sara Kauss

Pictured (L-R): Tara Thompson, Drake White, Scott Borchetta, Jennifer Nettles, Tucker Beathard. Photo: Sara Kauss

Emerging from behind a black curtain, Beathard was almost shy on stage. That’s a surprise because so many of his family members have found a spotlight in various fields, from football to music. Although he’s relatively green at age 21, Beathard is able to pull off a solo performance on the strength of songs like “Rock On,” a memorable first single with a lyrical twist that feels comfortable in country music. His second tune, “20-10 Tennessee,” is a metaphorical slice-of-life song that indicates his upcoming album will be an interesting and intriguing one.

Tara Thompson. Photo: Sara Kauss

Tara Thompson. Photo: Sara Kauss

Opener, Thompson—or “Tara Damn Thompson” when she’s introducing herself—is currently on the road with Nettles’ CMT-sponsored tour, so she’s had some experience warming up crowds. With redneck imagery and a Jerry Springer reference, “Vows” is a romp down the wedding aisle. As for Thompson’s sole love song, it’s called “Jail.” Her take-charge debut single, “Someone To Take Your Place,” wrapped her set.

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Craig Shelburne is the General Manager at MusicRow.

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