Any way you look at it, the Big Machine Label Group is red-hot, and the company proved it at its Country Radio Seminar (CRS) luncheon showcase on Wednesday, Feb. 7.
“Thank you for a great 2017,” label CEO Scott Borchetta said to the assembled radio gatekeepers. The company has brought a slew of new hit makers into country music, and judging by its showcase lineup, it is far from finished.
Scott’s surprise opener was Thomas Rhett, whom he described as “the biggest artist in our music today.” Rhett delivered his current heartache ballad “Marry Me” in a stripped-down, semi-acoustic arrangement.
“Thomas Rhett is so on fire,” said Scott. “He’s been writing with Nick Jonas of The Jonas Brothers. I can’t say enough great things about Thomas Rhett.”
Passionate performer Drake White was next. He did “Livin’ the Dream” and then introduced two new tunes. “All Would Be Right With the World” was a sweet message song. “Girl In Pieces” was a summer-sounding toe tapper about healing a gal’s wounded soul.
Newcomer Tyler Rich performed with just his own guitar accompaniment. “Adrenaline” was a romantic power ballad. His forthcoming single “The Difference” had a lilting, plaintive quality.
In between performers, Scott hyped his label’s new Big Machine Vodka. You can sample and/or buy it at the BMLG store at 120 3rd Ave. S. He’ll feature it in a music fest at Indie’s Brickyard 400 in September.
Brett Young and Midland and Carly Pearce were all brought to the top of the charts with debut singles by the aggressive BMLG team. Brett sang his debut song, the percolating “Sleep Without You,” as well as his two succeeding No. 1 hits. “Like I Loved You” was steadily driving and full of tension. His triple Platinum “In Case You Didn’t Know” was dreamy and swooning. It became the country wedding anthem of last year.
“Thank you for the platform that you give us,” he told the radio folks. “I feel very, very grateful that y’all took a chance on me.”
Former American Idol winner Trent Harmon has been woodshedding as a songwriter in Nashville and was ready to show the results. “Her” was an intense, slow-burning blues. His super-melodic pop tune “I Think You Got ‘Em All” was even better. His powerful vocal delivery of it earned him the day’s only standing ovation.
“This is why we do this, right?” commented Scott about his leather-lunged artist’s stunning reception.
The reunited Sugarland closed the show with a vivacious mini set of its oldies “Baby Girl” (2004), “All I Want to Do” (2008), “Something More” (2005) and “Stuck Like Glue” (2010). The group’s finale was its stirring new single “Still the Same.”
“So many memories are made during this week,” Scott accurately observed.
Prior to the label luncheon, indie artist Kaylee Rutland serenaded the waiting crowd with a spirited set of tunes. She was backed by her tight, five-piece band featuring twin lead guitars.
Mixing and mingling on Wednesday afternoon around the Omni Hotel “campus” of this year’s CRS were Tony Jackson, Scott Hendricks, T.G. Sheppard & Kelly Lang, Drew Bennett, John Schneider, Chuck Aly, Jamie O’Neal, Larry Vincent, Stephanie Quayle, Bob Paxman, Drew Baldridge, Cindy Watts, Daniel Hill, Tom Roland, Ben Vaughn, Chuck Dauphin, Allison Jones and Preshias Harris.