Artist Pics: Diana Upton-Hill, Southern Halo, Casey Weston

Diana Upton-Hill recently visited the MusicRow office to perform a trio of songs, including her current single, “Southern Gentlemen.” Upton-Hill is signed to Third Floor Records, and recorded the project Do Love Well with songwriter/producer Bryan White.


Diana Upton-Hill. Photo: Molly Hannula



Sibling trio Southern Halo visited MusicRow staff to perform their latest single “Little White Dress.” The Mississippi-born trio recorded their first EP with Alabama’s Jeff Cook.


Southern Halo. Photo: Molly Hannula



The Voice finalist Casey Weston dropped by MusicRow to perform songs from her album Young Heart, including “No Strings Attached.” Weston, a Florida native, moved to Nashville in 2011.


Casey Weston. Photo: Molly Hannula


Weekly Chart Report (3/11/16)

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Click here or above to access MusicRow‘s weekly CountryBreakout Report.

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Exclusive: Nashville Band The Wild Feathers Stick Together

The Wild Feathers. Photo: Frank Maddocks

The Wild Feathers

With a band name like The Wild Feathers, following your animal instinct comes naturally. The Nashville-based band has scaled back its Americana leanings for their second full-length release, Lonely Is a Lifetime, released Friday (March 11) through the L.A. division of Warner Bros. Records. Although it’s more experimental, it also offers the tight musicianship that comes from playing hundreds of shows promoting their 2013 self-titled debut album. The band will no doubt offer up tracks from the project during their recently announced show at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, slated for Saturday, June 25.

Band members Ricky Young, Joel King, Ben Dumas, and Taylor Burns dropped by MusicRow offices after a photo shoot earlier this month to talk about the project. Even after a few years on the road, they’re all still friends, which lends itself to a loose, easy conversation.

MusicRow: Tell me about the vibe in the studio when you were making this record.

Young: It was pretty inspiring because we worked with Jay Joyce again. While we were making the first record, he was in the process of buying this big church in East Nashville. We were thinking, “Man, I really hope we get to record in that someday.” And a couple of years later, we did. It was a super awesome and he’s an incredible guy.

Dumas: He would play along with us. A lot of times, producers will get in there and listen way too closely, almost to a fault. He wouldn’t do that. We would all just play and whenever if felt we had something that felt good, and everybody had fun playing it, he’d say, “Yeah, I think we got it. Let’s go listen to it.”

MR: One thing you guys can’t fake in your band is the chemistry. I can really hear it on “Goodbye Song,” when you jam at the end. Why do you think you click so well?

Young: I think we genuinely appreciate where we’re all coming from musically, and as people. We’re not those immature, ego/argument types. [In disagreements] we’ll say, “That’s a really good point.” You don’t really try to argue for the sake of being heard. It’s what benefits the song or the album, or what does the most good for the overall situation.

Burns: And we spent four years non-stop in a van, right on top of each other, so it was either like kill each other or figure it out. And it happened easily, is what I’m saying. We’re friends with a lot of other bands and there are horror stories out there of people hating each other. But luckily we don’t hate each other yet.


MR: At what point did songwriting become something you knew you’d like to do?

Burns: I always wrote songs because first off, I wasn’t good enough to learn other people’s songs. I was like, “That’s too hard to learn that song. I’m just going to make one up.” So, that was it for me. You suck for a long time, then you get a little better, and a little better, and then people say, “Maybe you should be a songwriter.”

Young: That’s exactly how it happened for me. I remember trying to figure out songs from that early grunge era and thinking, “Man, I know this is pretty easy but I just cannot do it.” You know, I was 12 or 13 years old. So I wrote my first song, and thought I’d made up the chords, because I had no idea what a G was. It happened to work out perfectly. Like, a G, an E minor 7, and a D. I wrote like 11 verses to that one progression, like, “Dude, I can do this!”

King: I learned how to play, and played covers, and then thought, “OK, now I know how to play. I have to find a guy that can play drums or whatever.” And you’d start forming bands. “OK, what do bands do? I guess they have to write songs.” The same way you go from wearing the band’s T-shirt to dressing like the band. I was like, “You know what? I don’t want to be a fan, I want to be like them. I want that to be me on stage, singing songs I wrote.”

Wild Feathers 2

The Wild Feathers: Taylor Burns, Joel King, Ricky Young, and Ben Dumas. Photo: Frank Maddocks

MR: When this record hits, it could introduce another side of Nashville to people around the country. Why was it important for you to stay in Nashville and be a Nashville band?

King: It’s just easier being here I guess. (all laugh)

Young: It’s inspiring. You can be sitting around doing anything, and somebody else is getting better and writing a better song. We all come from different towns where there’s not a whole lot of that going on, and you think you’re pretty good. Then you move here and think, “Man, that waiter is way better than me.”

Burns: It is the competitive factor, and it pushes you to be better. You’re surrounded by like-minded people in the musician community. The musicianship here is off the charts. Coming from Austin, which is the Live Music Capital of the World, I love Austin, and there are great musicians there but not nearly the high concentration that there are here. There are more studios here. There’s just more work here, so all musicians flock here. We moved here for the scene because it’s an inspiring place, and this is where some of our favorite bands migrated to, but also logistically, touring out of Nashville is way easier than touring out of Texas.

King: Where I come from [in Oklahoma], anybody who makes a living playing music is probably playing in a casino for four hours straight. But really, the comforting thing is that you see other people living their lives and playing music. In high school, you say, “I want to be a musician,” and they say, “Well, you need to have a backup plan.” In Nashville, it’s like, “Cool, get busy.” It’s more feasible. Look, I didn’t know people had long careers and had kids. ‘Musician’ is not a legitimate job in Oklahoma, and I thought, ‘Well, you’ve got to go wherever your industry is.” I thought it was great to hang out and see how people do it, because I want to be in music for the rest of my life, so I’ve got to be here for that.

lonely-is-a-lifetime-extralarge_1447439528221MR: When you listen to the album now, what kind of impressions go through your mind?

Young: Pride, I think. It’s the first word that came into my mind. We worked super hard, not only writing and recording it, but touring the last record and growing into different kinds of guys and musicians on the road. That led to the songs and experiences and all that stuff. When I hear certain songs, it brings me back to a certain soundcheck, or a certain day in Cleveland where someone had an idea and we messed around with it, took a voice memo of it, and turned into something.

King: There’s a lot of people that say that a record is like a record of your life at one point. I think good bands should do that.

Burns: I think it’s an evolution from our first album. We’ve grown as men, as musicians, as bandmates, and everything else. I think you can hear it when you listen to it, or at least I can.

MR: What is it that you’re hearing that makes you think so?

Burns: It’s more experimental than the first one. It’s a different sound than the first record. Even there, I think we knew we didn’t want to make the same record twice, and we set out to do something different on purpose, to push ourselves and to prove that we could do it, and to write songs that weren’t necessarily in our wheelhouse, like they were on the first record.

Young: On the first record, we always sat around a coffee table drinking coffee or beer, with an acoustic guitar. It had that natural swing. And then this record, we had all these ideas writing with electric guitars, and as opposed to a swing, it’s more of a tempo thing.

MR: What do you hope your fans will take away from listening to this record?

Young: Hopefully the exact same thing – that we’ve evolved as musicians, and as people.

Burns: It still sounds like us, but that’s what I was nervous about originally. Like, “We’re changing it up quite a bit,” or at least it felt like we were, until I listened back to some of the first mixes. I thought, “This sounds like The Feathers, this sounds like us.” We don’t always know what that is because we’re only two records in, but we’ve established this thing and you want to be true to it, but also be true to yourself and push yourself. I just hope people appreciate the songwriting and will want to come to the show because that’s what we like to do more than anything – to play live – and I think we’re pretty good at it.

The Wild Feathers pose with MusicRow staff.

The Wild Feathers pose with MusicRow staff.

LifeNotes: Canadian Country Great Ray Griff Passes

Ray Griff

Ray Griff

Hit Nashville songwriter and Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame member Ray Griff has died at age 75.

Born in Vancouver, he came to Nashville as a teenager to become a country-music artist. He earned recording contracts with MGM, Dot, Capitol, RCA and other labels. Between 1967 and 1987 he placed 24 songs on the charts.

Griff made the top-40 with such self-penned songs as “The Mornin’ After Baby Let Me Down” (1971), “You Ring My Bell” (1975), “If I Let Her Come In” (his biggest singing hit, 1976), “I Love the Way That You Love Me” (1976), “That’s What I Get” (1976), “The Last of the Winfield Amateurs” (1977) and “A Passing Thing” (1977). He released 30 albums and had eight top-10 Canadian country hits.

But he became much more prominent in the U.S. as a songwriter for others. Griff wrote “It Couldn’t Have Been Any Better,” a No. 1 hit for Johnny Duncan in 1977. His top-10 songwriting successes include Gene Watson’s “Where Love Begins” (1975), Faron Young’s “Step Aside” (1971), the Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton duet “Better Move It On Home” (1971) and Wilma Burgess’s “Baby” (1965).

He had more than 700 recordings of his songs by Nashville stars. Among them are the top-20 “Who’s Gonna Play This Old Piano” by Jerry Lee Lewis (1972), “Something Special” by Mel Tillis (1968) and “Between This Time and the Next Time” (1981) by Gene Watson.

Other notable cuts include the hits “Canadian Pacific” by George Hamilton IV (1969), “Your Lily White Hands” by Johnny Carver (1967), “Lost in the Shuffle” by Stonewall Jackson (1965) and “Darlin’” by Wayne Kemp (1972).

“Darlin’” has also been recorded by Conway Twitty, George Jones, Jeanne Pruett, Wilma Burgess, Jim Ed Brown and Nat Stuckey. Similarly, “Baby” has multiple recordings by, among others, Dinah Shore, Ferlin Husky, Pat Boone, Eddy Arnold, Teresa Brewer, Dottie West, Arlene Harden and Tennessee Ernie Ford. “The Mornin’ After Baby Let Me Down” has been covered by Loretta Lynn, Ray Price, Bill Anderson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Mel Tillis and more. “Something Special” has been recorded by Bob Luman, Claude Gray, Jerry Wallace and George Hamilton IV, in addition to Tillis. “Step Aside” also has multiple recordings.

Ray Griff songs have also been recorded by Chat Atkins, Jim Reeves, Johnny Horton, Bonnie Guitar, David Houston, Marty Robbins, Kenny Starr, Del Reeves, Hank Snow, Slim Whitman, Connie Smith, Sheb Wooley, Jean Shepard, Narvel Felts, Mac Wiseman, Ruby Falls, Wayne Newton, Bobby Lewis and many others.

He moved back to Canada from Nashville permanently in 1998. Ray Griff is said to be his homeland’s most prolific songwriter, since his catalog includes more than 2,500 titles. Griff has seven BMI awards and 47 ASCAP citations. His songs “Canada” and “Maple Leaf” are often played on Canada Day (July 1) north of the border.

Also in his homeland, he hosted two TV series, Goodtime Country and Uptown Country. In addition, he has been a radio host with the syndicated series Raymond’s Place, which had its last broadcast on Jan. 31. In recent years, he has produced records for a number of Canadian country artists.

According to Canadian country journalist Larry Delaney, Ray Griff was hospitalized this week for minor rotator cuff surgery. He developed pneumonia in the hospital and died on Wednesday, March 9. In recent years, he had battled throat cancer.

Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

Webcasting Ruling Sent To U.S. Copyright Office Register For Review

crb-logo-owlThe Copyright Royalty Board recently issued its final decision regarding webcasting, which set a rate of $0.0017 per play for free-to-consumer streaming services, and $0.0023 for paid subscriber streaming services from Jan. 1, 2016–Dec. 31, 2020. That decision has now been sent to the U.S. Copyright Office Register for review, Billboard reports.

The U.S. Copyright Office Register has 60 days to review the decision.

After the ruling is signed and published in the Federal Register, the parties have 30 days to appeal the ruling.

MusicRowLife: Holly Williams Welcomes Second Child

Photo: Twitter/Holly Williams

Photo: Twitter/Holly Williams

Holly Williams welcomed her second child, a daughter, with husband Chris Coleman on Tuesday, March 8.

Lillie Mae Louise Coleman weighed 6 lbs., 15 oz., and measured 20 inches long, and joins 17-month-old big sister Stella June.

Williams, a granddaughter of Hank Williams and the daughter of Hank Williams, Jr., also owns Nashville stores White’s Mercantile and H. Audrey. Williams and Coleman wed in 2009.

Industry Ink: Americana Music Association, Music City Tennis Invitational, Webster PR

Americana Music Association Earns Second Emmy Award

Pictured: Michelle Aquilato, Edie Lynn Hoback, Martin Fischer, and Jed Hilly. Photo: Sarah Como

Pictured (clockwise from bottom left): Edie Lynn Hoback, Michelle Aquilato, Martin Fischer, and Jed Hilly. Photo: Sarah Como

High Five Entertainment, Executive Producer Martin Fischer, Executive Producer and Americana Music Association Executive Director Jed Hilly, and producers Michelle Aquilato and Edie Lynn Hoback recently won an Emmy® in the Entertainment category for their production of the 2014 Americana Honors & Awards at the 30th MidSouth Emmy® Awards. This marks their second Emmy award.

The Americana Honors & Awards program is the marquee event of the Americana Festival & Conference, which is put on by the Americana Music Association, a professional not-for-profit trade organization whose mission is to advocate for the authentic voice of American roots music around the world. Held at the Ryman Auditorium, there were 23 musical performances during the Americana Honors & Awards, which included Jackson Browne, Loretta Lynn, Jason Isbell, Taj Mahal, and rock royalty Robert Plant. Ten awards were handed out.


Music City Tennis Invitational 2016 Registration Open


Registration is open for the 43rd annual Music City Tennis Invitational 2016 presented by Jackson National Life Insurance Company, which will take place Saturday, April 23 and Sunday, April 24 at the Brownlee O. Currey Jr. Tennis Center at Vanderbilt University.

MCTI seeks tennis players of all levels who want to have fun, play tennis and raise money for children with developmental disabilities and their families. MCTI is the only fundraiser for the Center for Child Development at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and provides funding for the center’s services not covered by medical insurance.

Participants can register online at

The Music City Tennis Invitational is the longest-running music-related charity tennis tournament in the country. MCTI was established in 1973 by music publisher Wesley Rose of Acuff Rose Music, Helen Farmer of the American Cancer Society, and leaders in the music industry and business community. To date, MCTI has donated more than $1.5 million to the Center for Child Development.


Johnny Lee Signs With Webster PR

Johnny Lee. Photo: David Bailey

Johnny Lee. Photo: David Bailey

Johnny Lee, known for his chart-topper “Lookin’ For Love,” has joined Webster Public Relations for publicity representation. Lee, a Texas Hall of Fame member, is gearing up to release You Ain’t Never Been To Texas, his first studio album in 10 years.

Rounder Records Signs Jack Ingram

Jack Ingram

Jack Ingram

Singer-songwriter Jack Ingram has signed with Rounder Records.

Ingram recently recorded his debut project for the label, titled Midnight Motel. The album marks Ingram’s eighth studio project, and his first since 2009’s Big Drums & High Hopes. Midnight Motel will release in June, and was produced by Jon Randall.

Rounder Label Group COO Cliff O’Sullivan says, “Jack Ingram speaks from his heart, whether on a stage or in the studio. Midnight Motel is a return to the kind of raw songs and performances that made Jack fans from the early days of his career in Ft. Worth and all over Texas before becoming a nationally known artist in the past decade. We’re thrilled to have him join the Rounder Label Group family.”

Ingram will preview material from Midnight Motel at the South By Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, next week. He has a handful of appearances in Nashville over the coming months, including a live taping of the tribute show The Life & Songs of Kris Kristofferson on March 16 at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, and a writers round slot at Nashville’s Tin Pan South on April 6 at The Listening Room. Ingram will also headline a show at Nashville’s City Winery on March 28.

Grand Ole Opry-Themed Restaurant Coming To New York

Sandbox Entertainment Adds John R. Cash Revocable Trust To Roster


Sandbox Entertainment has added the John R. Cash Revocable Trust to its management/marketing roster in a partnership that will focus on strategic oversight and further brand development across all platforms for the legendary Cash name and its legacy.

“Johnny Cash has stood as one of the most enduring names in the entertainment business and we could not be more excited that Sandbox has been given an essential role in preserving and furthering the legacy of one of the most iconic artists of all time,” said Sandbox Entertainment President/CEO Jason Owen.

“Sandbox’s team understands how to keep Johnny Cash relevant and inspiring to his growing fan base. Cash’s artistic, poetic and prophetic legacy will thrive in Sandbox’s capable hands,” said Cathy Sullivan, Cash Trustee.

“My dad trusted Lou Robin to play an important role in the protection and promotion of the Cash brand, and I believe Dad would be gratified by Lou’s recommendation to turn that role over to Sandbox. Since my father’s passing in 2003, we have strove to maintain the same standard of business and morals as while he was alive. Josh and Jason pay careful attention to our needs and bring exciting new opportunities to assure the Cash legacy will endure and flourish,” added John Carter Cash.

“I’ve been working closely with the amazing Lou Robin for the past year to ensure we properly reflect the Cash history as we grow future fans,” said Sandbox’s Josh Matas.

Matas, via an existing business development arrangement, previously had been consulting on marketing and business initiatives for the Trust and will serve as manager moving forward.