BOBBY KARL WORKS THE ROOM
The 15th annual MusicRow CountryBreakout Awards event spread the love around as artists affiliated with the Columbia, EMI, Republic, Thirty Tigers and Arista imprints were honored.
The big winner, again, was Capitol Records Nashville. This imprint was named Label of the Year for the 13th time, and 12 of those wins have been consecutive.
“Thanks to everyone at MusicRow,” said label VP Bobby Young. “I appreciate all y’all. Thanks for all the great airplay.” He introduced his fellow promoters Ashley Laws and MaryBeth Watson on stage. “The best part of my job is working with talent,” Bobby added. And what talent: The Capitol roster includes Little Big Town, Lady Antebellum, Luke Bryan, Darius Rucker, Keith Urban, Jon Pardi, Mickey Guyton and Dierks Bentley. They accounted for nine No.1 records on the MusicRow chart during the past year.
“Thank you for all your amazing, amazing support for three years running,” said BMLG Records VP Matthew Hargis accepting the Group/Duo award for the third consecutive year for Florida Georgia Line. “We appreciate you so much.” FGL has three CMA Duo honors, has one of country’s top-10 grossing tours and is an ACM Entertainer nominee.
“We certainly don’t take it for granted how supportive you are,” said Arista VP Josh Easler in accepting Carrie Underwood’s Female Artist MusicRow award. She is the CMA’s four-time Female honoree and is the only woman nominated for the ACM’s Entertainer of the Year in 2017, thanks to her “Storyteller Tour” playing to more than a million fans.
EMI VP Jimmy Rector accepted the Male award for Eric Church. This is his second MusicRow win. He won Album of the Year at the CMA’s. “Thank you to everyone in this room,” said Jimmy. “Eric is all about the fans, as you all know. And he knows that the best way to reach them is through you guys.”
Columbia’s Maren Morris won the Breakthrough artist award, thanks to earning a Grammy, winning the New Artist CMA award and getting six ACM nominations.
MusicRow’s Sherod Robertson presided. “We absolutely love hosting this event every year,” he said. “I want you to know how grateful we are for these relationships.”
The periodical’s Troy Stephenson presented the Independent Artist of the Year award to Aaron Watson. As usual, the tireless road warrior was off doing a show.
“I think we all know Aaron’s independent spirit,” said Anthony “Gino” Genero of Thirty Tigers. “We thank each and every one of you for your spins. ““Independent music!” crowed Nancy Tunick. “MusicRow’s reporters have the independent spirit. We applaud you. We feel like it is a privilege to bring music to you.”
Troy also presented the MusicRow Reporter of the Year honor. It went to Greg Almond of WGGC in Bowling Green, KY. “Greg is a big supporter of new and independent artists,” said Troy.
“Thank you; this is pretty cool,” said Greg. “My motto is, ‘Work hard; be nice to people; and eventually you’ll be recognized for what you do.’”
The Songwriter of the Year award went to Ross Copperman. “We all love songwriters,” said Sherod. “Ross has had six No. 1 songs on the MusicRow chart, all in one year.” They were “Setting the World on Fire” (Kenny Chesney), “Noise” (Kenny Chesney), “American Country Love Song” (Jake Owen), “Break on Me” (Keith Urban), “Confession” (Florida Georgia Line) and “I Know Somebody” (LoCash).
“I love you guys so much,” said Ross. “I love the [MusicRow Challenge] coins. You always make such a big deal out of No. 1 songs.” Added publisher Tim Wipperman, “If it weren’t for songwriters, the rest of us would just be digging ditches.”
In between the presentations, the publication presented two showcases. Alex Smith launches his first tour this year with his new Nashville band. He comes from two generations of working musicians and has already opened for Brett Eldredge and Uncle Kracker. Alex started with the rocking, upbeat “Fear of Missing Out,” introduced his newly-written, jaunty love song “Saving Grace” and wowed the crowd with his driving, insistent, high-energy debut single “Load It Up.”
Rachael Turner took the stage to introduce her torrid, smoldering new single “Hurts Don’t It.” She got excellent response from her sultry ballad “I Don’t Love You” and closed with a fiery, power-packed performance of “Aftershock.” Rachael has been singing professionally since girlhood and holds two degrees in music from Belmont University. She records for Rust Records, one of Music City’s most durable independent labels.
The crowd included a number of other artists. We spotted SaraBeth, Sarah Dunn, Courtney Dickinson, towering hunk Travis Rice, Robby Johnson, Ali Morgan, Melissa Mickelson and African-American country newcomer Tony Jackson, who has already had 10 million video views for his revival of the George Jones classic “The Grand Tour.”
Industry fabulons attending included Tim McFadden, Aaron Crisler, Ron Huntsman, Martha Moore, Susan Collier, Sherrill Blackmon, Scott Thomas of Silverado Records, Terri Brown, Chris Diestler, Preshus Tomes, Chuck Thompson, Kristi Manna, Steve O’Brien, Lisa Smoot and Eric Chesser.
The Wednesday afternoon event was staged for the first time at The Listening Room downtown. The club laid out complimentary nachos, loaded with the works – cheese, refried beans, ground round, guacamole, sour cream, hot green peppers, salsa and the like.