MercyMe Celebrates Release Of 15th Album, ‘Lifer’

MercyMe previews their album Lifer in Nashville. Photo: Brody Harper

Lifer, the title of CCM band MercyMe‘s 15th album, is an apt label for a band that has been in the industry for 23 years. Also for a band that is as committed to their faith as they are to their music.

MercyMe celebrated Lifer, which is out today (March 31 via Fair Trade Services), with a performance and preview of the album for a select group of industry members and radio winners in Nashville.

The band previewed tracks such as “You Found Me,” “Heaven’s Here,” “Best News Ever” and current single “Even If,” which was inspired by MercyMe lead singer Bart Millard’s 15-year-old son Sam, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 2.

“If you know about chronic illness, you know it never goes away,” said Millard. “You have your good days and bad days. In the midst of making the album, I was having a bad day. We had finished a checkup visit, and it reminds you that it is still there. Even if it is the best checkup, you walk out thinking it’s something he will deal with for the rest of his life unless they find a cure or God heals him.

“I did the math and he has given himself over 37,000 shots in his life,” Millard continued. “It doesn’t bother him anymore because he’s never known anything different. But as a father it kills me, because I can’t fix it.”

MercyMe previews their album Lifer in Nashville. Photo: Brody Harper

As chief lyrics writer for MercyMe’s songs, Millard turned to fellow songwriter Tim Timmons with his concerns.

“Tim lives with cancer every day,” Millard said. “I just unloaded on him, and he was playing piano while I was bearing my soul. I said, ‘I just want to be able to say that I know God can deliver us, but even if he doesn’t, I’m not going to surrender. I want to be like that.’”

Timmons began playing a chorus that he had begun writing with Crystal Lewis about five years earlier. “I fell in love with the chorus, and we finished it,” Millard says of “Even If.” “If Sam does get cured from [diabetes], great, but I tend to think he won’t. Our attitude in our house is that Sam’s going to change the world as a diabetic and that’s ok.”

Though an appropriate album title, Lifer didn’t become the title track of the project until the eleventh hour. The honor previously went to another track, “We Win,” until those plans were changed by certain reactions to the recent election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States.

“We started with this hook, and the entire song was written, recorded, tracked and ready to go to mix by midnight. They didn’t even let me redo the vocal,” Millard recalled of writing and recording “We Win.” The uplifting track details how believers have the hope of good things to come in the next life, despite their present troubles.

“We loved the idea, but then I was watching CNN after Trump became president and they had these hard-core religious fanatics. CNN asked, ‘What do you say about this?’ And they were like, ‘We win! Who cares?’ And I was like, ‘Oh, no.’ So Lifer won.”

“Grace Got You” features rapper John Reuben, who had been signed to Christian label Gotee Records.

“He doesn’t do it much [rapping] anymore, but we started doing shows together a long time ago, so we convinced him that he needed to rap on this song. So he agreed and knocked it out of the park.”

MercyMe previews their album Lifer in Nashville. Photo: Brody Harper

In addition to their new album, the band will soon be the subject of a movie based on Millard’s life.

I Can Only Imagine, slated for release in 2018, is taken from the story behind the band’s 2001 single of the same name. Millard’s father, who had battled cancer himself, died in 1991, when Millard was just 18. Miller would write the words “I Can Only Imagine” on various things that reminded him of his father, but it wasn’t until 1999 that he began putting more words and melodies with the thought.

“Six years ago, someone approached me about doing a movie. They had asked what were some of the bigger songs in Christian music at the time, and I guess someone told them, ‘It’s either “I Can Only Imagine,” or “Shout To The Lord.”’ I guess she was looking for a story behind the songs so she came to us and we told her about my childhood and my father. For about five years, that movie stalled and they turned to different scripts and writers. About a year ago, the Erwin Brothers [Jon and Andrew, who directed faith-based films such as October Baby] got involved and wrote a new script. They filmed it in December and January.”

MercyMe previews their album Lifer in Nashville. Photo: Brody Harper

Millard says the band does not make a cameo in the movie, or sing in the movie. Broadway’s J. Michael Finley plays the role of Millard.

“He sang all the parts himself. It goes from me as a kid, through high school up through the independent days of MercyMe as a band. It’s surreal. There are amazing parts to the story and some it’s hard to relive in a way. The directors just wrote me and said they’ve finished the first cut so hopefully I get to see it in the next few weeks.”

The cast also includes Dennis Quaid (Frequency, The Day After Tomorrow), Trace Adkins (Lincoln LawyerMom’s Night Out), Oscar-winner Cloris Leachman (Young Frankenstein, The Croods), Madeline Carroll (Swing Vote), and Priscilla Shirer (War Room).

MercyMe with members of Fair Trade Services and Brickhouse Entertainment celebrating their Gold Certified Single “Greater” after a show at New York City’s The Town Hall Theater.

Tin Pan South Thursday Photos: Halfway To 26

Pictured (L-R): Kylie Sackley, Donovan Woods, Chris Gelbuda, Abe Stoklasa. Photo:

The 25th annual Tin Pan South songwriter festival is more than halfway over. Thursday (March 30) featured a subdued round at The Bluebird Cafe with Big Yellow Dog writers Abe Stoklasa and Chris Gelbuda with Warner/Chappell writer Donovan Woods and Razor & Tie’s Kylie Sackley.

The liveliest, Gelbuda, featured his seasoned, soulful voice on original titles recently cut by Love and Theft (“On My Way To You”), Lee Brice (“Best Part Of Me”) and Dustin Lynch (“Love Me Or Leave Me Alone”).

Stoklasa also offered similarly impressive, albeit subdued, vocals on the new Charlie Worsham titles “Beginning Of Things” and “Call You Up.” A sync from Oprah’s Weight Watchers commercial was the night’s sing-a-long, “Brand New.” He also offered his first Lady Antebellum cut “Lie With Me,” which he also confessed was his only cut by the group. Of course that excluded his cut by the trio’s lead vocalist, Charles Kelley, “Leaving Nashville,” of which the round was titled. Woods offered up the well-crafted title to close out the show.

Woods softly played through an additional title he and Stoklasa wrote, Tim McGraw‘s “Portland, Maine,” which the Canadian confessed threw his geography after receiving missed calls from that location on his U.S. burner phone.

Sackley, of course, pulled from her impressive cut list to include “Speakers” (Sam Hunt) and “Sunshine and Summertime” (Faith Hill).

Competing early rounds included Keb’ Mo’, Victoria Shaw and Desmond Child at The Listening Room Cafe and Blake Bollinger, Jeff Trott, Phil O’Donnell and Tony Martin for ole’s show at Station Inn. Late shows offered Ty Herndon, JT Hodges, Erik Halbig and Justine Blazer at Whiskey Rhythm among many more.

SESAC also hosted a late night show with recent Americana WagonMaster Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Jim Lauderdale, recent Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame recipient Beth Nielsen Chapman, and GRAMMY-winning songwriter Richard Leigh at 3rd and Lindsley.

Pictured (L-R): Richard Leigh, Jim Lauderdale and Beth Nielsen Chapman.


Pictured (L-R): SESAC’s Creative Service team Cristina Wheeler, ET Brown; songwriters Jim Lauderdale, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Richard Leigh; SESAC’s Lydia Schultz and Shannan Hatch.


Jim Lauderdale. Photo: Libby Oellerich


The Listening Room’s early show with Keb’ Mo’, Victoria Shaw, Desmond Child. Photo: Bev Moser/Moments By Moser


ole’s Blake Bollinger, Jeff Trott, Phil O’Donnell and Tony Martin show. Photo:


Pictured (L-R): Erik Halbig, Justine Blazer, Ty Herndon, JT Hodges. Photo: Bev Moser/Moments By Moser


Pictured (L-R): Erik Halbig, Justine Blazer, Ty Herndon, JT Hodges. Photo: Bev Moser/Moments By Moser

Industry Ink: Spin Doctors, Plowboy Records, URP Music Distributors

Angela Marpoe Named Northeast Regional For Spin Doctors

Angela Marpoe has been named Northeast regional for the Spin Doctors Music Group. Formerly the Promotions Coordinator for the company, Marpoe joined Spin Doctors in 2016 and is a Public Relations graduate of Millersville University of Pennsylvania, with a minor in Criminology. Prior to her employment at SDMG, she had a background in artist booking and radio.


Plowboy Records Celebrates Fifth Anniversary With Special Show

Plowboy Records is commemorating its fifth anniversary with a party at 3rd & Lindsley on April 12. Artists scheduled to perform at the celebration include The Kentucky Headhunters, Blackfoot Gypsies, Bobby Bare, Fuel Injected Legends, Sylvain Sylvain, Eric Heatherly and Buzz Cason.

During the event, the family of Jim Ed Brown will be presented a custom-made CD plaque by Brown’s fellow Country Music Hall of Fame member and Plowboy Records alum Bobby Bare. Plowboy Records released Brown’s final studio album before he passed away in 2015.


Goldmine Inks Distribution Deal

Goldmine Magazine has announced a nationwide distribution partnership with URP Music Distributors, a division of Nashville’s United Record Pressing. The partnership will launch with Record Store Day on April 22. Through the partnership, URP will distribute copies of Goldmine to hundreds of independently-owned and operated record stores.

“We’re excited to have URP Music Distributors as our magazine distributor to independent record stores across the country. As leaders in their field, they’re the perfect match for a publication such as Goldmine — a renowned magazine that has served music collectors for over forty years,” said Goldmine editor Patrick Prince.

Aaron Watson’s Big Label Records Adds Staff Members

Aaron Watson‘s Big Label Records has announced the appointment of several promotion executives. Tony Morreale is named Head/Promotion along with Gwen Foster as the Director of West Coast promotion. Additionally, Brad Helton and Greg McCarn have been hired as contracted consultants. The label staff will report to Gino Genaro, who heads up Watson’s label operations in addition to all facets of his career.

Watson will continue to use Grassroots Promotions as well as Texas Record Chick Promotions’ Tami Millspaugh. Thirty Tigers/Sony RED remains as the distribution partner for Watson’s albums.

Watson was named the 2016 MusicRow Independent Artist of the Year at the CountryBreakout Awards this past February.

Alternative Returns To Nashville


iHeartMedia Nashville announced today the debut of the new ALT 97.5, Nashville’s Alternative station, effective at noon on Friday, March 31.

ALT 97.5 will broadcast music from artists like Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Coldplay, Imagine Dragons, Cage The Elephant, U2 and others. The station will also feature legendary local Alternative Rock on-air personalities Wells Adams, Gabby Sanderson and Battle. Additionally, ALT 97.5 will also serve as the new home for the Nashville Sounds baseball.

“We’re thrilled to bring ALT 97.5 to Nashville’s Alternative Rock fans,” said Rossi, Program Director for ALT 97.5. “ALT 97.5 is an alternative station with Nashville sensibilities. We’re excited to serve the community, which has such a loyal and passionate fan base.”

Full Programming Schedule:

6 – 10 a.m. Wells Adams
10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Rossi
2 – 7 p.m. Gabby Sanderson

10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Battle

Secret Sisters Sign With New West, New Album Set For June 9

The Secret Sisters (Laura And Lydia Rogers) have signed to New West Records and are set to release their first new album in over three years, You Don’t Own Me Anymore, on June 9. The 12-song set was produced by Brandi Carlile and collaborators Tim and Phil Hanseroth.

NPR Music is premiering a new video for the album opener “Tennessee River Runs Low” today which features acclaimed Alabama artist Butch Anthony. The clip was shot on his 80-acre family compound where he hosts the “Doo Nanny,” an annual art/folk micro festival.

The duo’s return to recording follows a dark period for them after the release of their sophomore CD Put Your Needle Down in 2014. They lost their label deal and ultimately found themselves with barely enough money to stay on the road and keep making music.

“It was a nightmare that every day seemed to worsen,” says Laura.  “We went through things we literally never thought we would come out of.”

To make ends meet, Laura took a job cleaning houses and the girls performed when they could, until Brandi Carlile offered to produce their next record. A PledgeMusic campaign raised half of their goal in just 48 hours, with fans coming forward to help them rebuild their career. Pouring their emotions from the struggle into the new project, the resulting songs of You Don’t Own Me Anymore focus on what happens in life when everything you think defines you is suddenly stripped away.

“The only way we could have completely healed was to have written an entire record,” says Laura. “I think we were just in the wrong parts of the machine,” says her sister.  “We feel like we have learned where not to be, and where to go.”

The Secret Sisters will also tour in support of the new album beginning May 13th in their hometown of Florence, Alabama. You Don’t Own Me Anymore will be available digitally, on CD and vinyl, and is available for pre-order via PledgeMusic.

You Don’t Own Me Anymore Track Listing:

1. Tennessee River Runs Low
2. Mississippi
3. Carry Me
4. King Cotton
5. Kathy’s Song
6. He’s Fine
7. To All the Girls Who Cry
8. Little Again
9. You Don’t Own Me Anymore
10. The Damage
11. ‘Til It’s Over
12. Flee as a Bird

Brooke Meris Joins Curb Promotion Department

Radio promoter Brooke Meris has been named Director of Southwest Promotion at Curb Records.

“Brooke’s passion for our artists and their music, as well as a genuine love of country radio make her an ideal fit for Curb Records,” said Curb VP/Promotion Ryan Dokke. “Her incredible background in radio, records, and management make her an asset to our team.  I am confident that Brooke’s unique skill set will not only provide immediate support to our promotion staff but will be a huge resource to our company’s other departments as well as our artists and managers.”

“I am honored and couldn’t be more excited to work with the amazing team and artists at Curb,” said Meris. “It’s an exciting time to be a part of this legendary label, and I’m beyond thankful to Taylor Childress and Ryan Dokke for giving me this opportunity.”

In other department news, Curb Sr. Director of Promotion & Radio Initiatives, Andy Elliott, has resigned to pursue other career opportunities. Concurrently, Director of Southwest Promotion, Samantha DePrez will now shift her promotion duties to the Midwest.


ACM, Westwood One’s Radio Row Hits High Note With New Artist Performances

Mike McVay

This year’s Academy of Country Music (ACM) radio remotes, dubbed Westwood One Backstage at the ACMs, and slated for March 31-April 1, will feature live performances from some of country music’s rising stars each day.

BMLG group Delta Rae launched the event Thursday evening (March 30) with a pre-remote performance while BBR Music Group’s Walker McGuire is slated to perform on Friday (March 31) and a trio of Curb Records artists: Lee Brice, Mo Pitney and Jerrod Niemann will perform Saturday (April 1).

The radio remotes lead into the 52nd annual ACM Awards, which will be held at Las Vegas’ new T-Mobile Arena on Sunday, April 2 and broadcast live on CBS.

Cumulus/Westwood One Sr. VP/Content & Programming Mike McVay sees the performances as a win-win for both radio stations and artists.

“Not only will those artists have their music exposed and heard, but for the stations, it creates more of a showbiz atmosphere,” McVay tells MusicRow. “If you are a station and you are recording live back to your stations, you want the audience to have a feel for what is going on at the ACMs. You want almost that circus-like feeling, so having an artist perform at the end, so that the loud music is not interfering with everybody doing their local broadcasts, I think rewards the stations. It enables them to share with the audience what it feels like to be backstage at the ACMs.”

Stations will be able to use brief portions of the performances on-air if they choose.

Also new for the radio remotes this year is the location, as Westwood One Backstage at the ACMs moves from the MGM Grand to T-Mobile Arena’s Lucky Live Lounge. Meanwhile, the number of participating stations has been cut to 30 stations.

With nearly 100 artists expected to attend the remotes throughout the weekend, McVay says trimming the number of stations was a necessary move.

“It helps make sure we can let the artists have more time with each station,” says McVay. “Too many stations cuts down on the amount of time an artist can spend with each, and it would put an artist in the position sometimes where they would have to eliminate some stations or they would have to leave a station too soon. We didn’t want anyone left out and felt by having fewer stations we could make it a better quality and the stations are generally large market stations.”

Among those stations participating in Radio Row are Westwood One stations, Radio Disney, CBS Radio, and more. Among the artists participating are Keith Urban, Miranda Lambert, Florida Georgia Line, Lady Antebellum, Michael Ray, Maren Morris, Kelsea Ballerini, Rascal Flatts, Trace Adkins, the Backstreet Boys and more.

Westwood One will offer plenty of additional audio content to stations before and after the ACM Awards, including a one-hour red carpet special, a three-hour ACM Awards companion radio segment, and a one-hour post-show wrap-up, all hosted by Shawn Parr and Elaina Smith.

“In the past we have had special remotes. Then, in the evening radio people would be there watching the show. By connecting it, I think we made it more convenient for artists and radio stations, but it elevated the atmosphere,” McVay says.

Darius Rucker’s Backstage Southern Whiskey Debuts

Darius Rucker is launching his own whiskey and bourbon brands, Backstage Southern Whiskey and Forbidden Bourbon. Rucker partnered with 843 to develop Backstage Southern Whiskey, and named the spirit after a long-standing tradition he’s had of collecting band mates, tour mates, and special guests together before each and every show to raise a glass of whiskey and toast to a great night’s show.

“That toast is a vital part of our nightly routine,” Rucker says. “It’s really about celebrating the opportunity to make music together. And Backstage Southern Whiskey is now a part of that important ritual that we can share with fans.”

Tagged with a label that looks like a backstage pass that reads “No curfew tonight – 11 a.m. bus call,” the new whiskey is being distributed by RNDC in Rucker’s home state of South Carolina, with distribution in Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee to follow. Forbidden Bourbon is currently being crafted at Castle & Key Distillery (formerly Old Taylor Distillery) in Frankfort, Kentucky, by award-winning Master Distiller Marianne Barnes.

“I am truly excited about the brands that we are building,” Rucker says. “The product and brand development process has been a lot of fun and I look forward to sharing these great spirits with everyone.”

Weekly Chart Report (3/31/17)

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