BOBBY KARL WORKS THE ROOM
If you were looking for early-bird country radio conventioneers on Monday, the place to find them was the Listening Room Café.
That’s where MusicRow Magazine hosted its 16th annual “Country Radio Meet & Greet” and “CountryBreakout Awards” fiesta. And, boy, was it packed. Although staged at its largest venue to date, the event continues to be a wall-to-wall schmoozathon.
“We want to give a special thanks to our MusicRow reporters and our MusicRow [chart] promoters,” said owner/publisher Sherod Robertson in greeting the throng.” The awards are based on spins the artists get on the magazine’s panel of reporting stations.
Its chart is widely regarded in the country industry as the one to watch for breaking new artists and records. Its reporting stations are heavily weighted toward secondary markets where new music is easier to launch.
The female winner of this year’s Country Breakout Award was Kelsea Ballerini, earning her second consecutive such honor.
“This is awesome,” she said. “My childhood was defined by the female voices I heard on the radio, and I am truly thankful that radio is playing young female voices. Cheers!”
Florida Georgia Line earned its fourth consecutive Group/Duo award.
“It’s an honor to be up here,” said the superstar duo’s Tyler Hubbard. “We’re lovin’ life, and it’s an honor to do what we love.”
His FGL partner Brian Kelley added, “Thank you, MusicRow. You have believed in us from the very beginning. It’s really inspiring to be part of this creative community.”
Sherod Robertson also presented each FGL fellow with six Challenge Coins for the six No. 1 hits they’ve written to date.
The Male winner was Blake Shelton. Sherod noted that Blake is the first country artist to win People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive honor. “What you may not know, is that he narrowly beat his producer, Scott Hendricks, the Second Sexiest Man Alive.”
“Not!” said Scott when he accepted on Blake’s behalf. “If Blake were here, he’d thank everybody at MusicRow, the songwriters, the publishers and everyone here.”
The Songwriter of the Year was Ashley Gorley, who has co-written an incredible seven No. 1 hits during the past 12 months. He was also ASCAP’s Country Songwriter of the Year for a record-setting fifth time last year.
“Thank you guys for believing in the songs and playing them,” said Ashley. Sherod gave him nine Challenge Coins.
MusicRow chart director Alex Kobrick was attending her first “Country Radio Meet-and-Greet.” “I’m excited to finally meet every one of you,” she said to the radio folks she speaks with via phone each week. She presented the Independent Artist of the Year award to Shane Owens.
“Country radio, you rock,” he said. “They make dreams come true for guys like me. God bless country music.”
The Breakout Artist award went to Luke Combs. “Thanks, you guys, for having me,” he said. “Thanks to country radio and all the stations on the panel.”
Capitol Records won its 14th Label of the Year accolade and its 13th consecutive one. “It’s great to see everyone – a lot of old friends,” said the company’s Bobby Young in accepting. “Thank you so much to everyone for supporting this roster. Now we have to do this for 15 years!”
The magazine’s radio Reporter of the Year honor went to Alex Hardy of KYYK in Texas. “I’ve made amazing friendships with everybody; that’s what makes this special,” she said.
In between the award presentations, the party rolled on. Hit singer-songwriter John Berry and Uncle Si of Duck Dynasty posed for selfies with fans.
Southern Halo, Lucas Hoge, Bailey James, Tony Jackson, April Kry, Rachel Holder, Keith Burns, Amber Hayes, John Schneider, Ashley Barron, Branch & Dean, Terry McBride, Eric Beddingfield, Cowboy Troy, Heidi Raye, Bucky Covington, James Dupree, James Robert Webb, Jagertown, Rick Monroe, Lewis Brice, Irlene Mandrell, The Band Steele, Tim Elliott, Lonely Highway Band, Dallas Remington, Jeff Bates, Harper Grae and many other artists signed up to work the room.
The music was provided by two promising up-and-comers.
“This is an awesome turnout,” said singer-songwriter Michael Tyler as he took the stage. “Look at this crowd.”
Michael favored the mob with a gently rolling, good natured rendition of “Somewhere on a Beach,” the chart-topper he cowrote for Dierks Bentley. He also offered his languid, dreamy “They Can’t See” and his catchy, endearingly boyish current single “Hey Mama.”
Denny Strickland did his rhythmic current tune “California Dreamin,’” the thumping rumbler “Close My Eyes” and an urgent, intense version of “We Don’t Sleep.”
The crowd chowed down on a Mexican buffet and schmoozed like there was no tomorrow. Fabulons working the room included Steve Popovich, Steve Pope, Steve O’Brien, Nancy Peacock, Nancy Tunick, Zach Farnum, Zach Stone, Ron Cox, Michael Knox, Mike Martinovich, Martha Moore, Edie Emery, Sarah Skates, Sam Cerami, Diane Richey, Dennis Banka, Preshius Harris, Susan Niles, Neal Spielberg, Ray Shelide, Andrew Kintz, L.B. Rogers, Woody Bomar, Jenny Bohler, Tim McFadden, Shannan Hatch, Bob Reeves, Troy Stephenson and Teri Brown.
By the way, the sound quality at The Listening Room was a huge improvement over the other venues where this annual event has been staged. At least it was up in the balcony where I sat.