Bobby Karl Works The Room: The 31st Annual MusicRow Awards

Pictured (L-R): Robert K. Oermann, Tenille Townes, MusicRow Magazine Owner/Publisher Sherod Robertson. Photo: Steve Lowry for MusicRow


Chapter 627

MusicRow magazine has been giving awards annually for more than 30 years, but its ceremony took a giant leap forward on Wednesday evening (June 26).

The event moved from the lobbies of BMI or ASCAP to the War Memorial Auditorium. Table sponsorships were offered, and the celebration sold out. Winners’ names were kept secret until they were announced on stage. A cocktail supper was provided. Classy video graphics were added.

There were several new award categories. A new trophy was introduced, designed by artisan Santana Matlock. It is a column of concrete containing earth from the historic sites of Music Row.

Photo: Steve Lowry for MusicRow

One thing that has probably not changed is that the winners are often predictors of what will transpire at the CMA Awards the following fall. Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, Sam Hunt, Kacey Musgraves, Luke Bryan and more have been honored by MusicRow before ascending to CMA glory.

So keep an eye on Wednesday’s big MusicRow winners Luke Combs, Ashley McBryde, Jimmie Allen, Tenille Townes, Hillary Lindsey and Josh Osborne. By the way, McBryde was a double winner.

Here’s something else that was new this year, a celebrity co-host. TV personality and media coach Alecia Davis proved to be a bright and lively foil for MusicRow’s Sherod Robertson as they zipped through a fast-paced awards event.

Pictured: Alecia Davis, Jeremy Bussey, MusicRow‘s Sherod Robertson. Photo: Steve Lowry for MusicRow

Sherod said she gave him advice about the elements that are in play when hosting an awards show. Then they bantered about it.

“Starting tonight, welcome to the Golden Globes of country music,” Sherod quipped. He was referring to the fact that the Globes predict the Oscars and are far more goofy and relaxed. He wants his industry to feel the same about MusicRow’s presentations.

He listed Alecia’s award-show monologue elements, and both of them dismissed most of them. Tell jokes? Nope. Riff on news headlines? Nope. Sing and dance? Nope and nope. Do a selfie? Yes, they did that.

Pictured (L-R): Alecia Davis, Dann Huff, MusicRow‘s Sherod Robertson. Photo: Steve Lowry for MusicRow

How about roasting people? They listed sponsors CAA, Vaden Group/Elliott Davis, Keller Turner Andrews Ghanem, City National Bank, Ram Trucks and Todd Cassetty. So, no roasting. At least not them.

Sherod and Alecia kept up their light-hearted energy throughout the ceremony. First up was the presentation of the 2019 All-Star Musician honors.

“This is the one we all want,” said guitar winner Derek Wells. “Thank you, MusicRow – this is amazing,” said fiddle winner Jenee Fleenor. Her category was a tie with Stuart Duncan and Alison Krauss. “I am happy to split this, because they are my heroes,” she added.

Pictured (L-R): Alecia Davis, Make Wake’s Chris Kappy, MusicRow‘s Sherod Robertson. Photo: Steve Lowry for MusicRow

“I want give a shout-out to all of these up here [on stage] with me and all the other players in the trenches,” said keyboards winner Charles Judge. “We have the greatest gig in the world,” said backup-vocalist winner Russell Terrell. “It’s a blessing beyond belief.”

“It’s amazing to me that I get to stand up here with the greatest musicians in the world,” commented engineer winner Justin Niebank. The other honorees were Nir Z (drums), Jimmie Lee Sloas (bass) and Paul Franklin, plus Russ Pahl (a tie for steel).

Dann Huff returned to the MusicRow stage as 2019 Producer of the Year. He previously won in 2013 and 2006. “I appreciate this very much,” he remarked. “My biggest thanks are to the artists and musicians and Justin and my wife, Sherri, who has put up with my schedule since I started playing guitar at age 18.”

Pictured (L-R): Robert K. Oermann, MusicRow‘s Sherod Robertson. Photo: Steve Lowry for MusicRow

UMG was named Label of the Year. CAA won Talent Agency of the Year. The Breakthrough Songwriter award went to Jordan Reynolds. Publisher Ben Vaughn accepted on his behalf.

“He’s had an amazing year,” said Ben. “He’s had a No. 1 country song (“Tequila,” “Speechless”). He’s had a No. 1 Christian song. He couldn’t be here because he is at a writer’s retreat, and is probably already three songs into it by now.”

At this point, Sherod and Alecia decided they were jealous of the rest of us, making merry and drinking our wine. They asked for somebody backstage to bring them some wine.

The 31st annual MusicRow Awards celebrates the All-Star Musicians. Photo: Steve Lowry for MusicRow

Out came surprise guest Kathie Lee Gifford, famous for her wine imbibing on daytime TV. She has moved to Franklin and has been collaborating on songs with attendee Brett James, among others. She shared her own wine brand with the co-hosts.

“I’m happy,” she said. “It’s this place. Everyone is so loving, and they love my wine. I’m blessed beyond belief. My dream job is what I’m doing right now. I can’t thank you enough for the welcome that I’ve received and the warmth.”

“Nashville is built on relationships, and we’re all here because of relationships,” explained Sherod.

“She’s like a dose of sunshine,” said Alecia.

Pictured (L-R): Alecia Davis, Ben Vaughn, MusicRow‘s Sherod Robertson. Photo: Steve Lowry for MusicRow

Jimmie Allen won Breakthrough Artist-Writer. Josh Osborne won Male Songwriter. Hillary Lindsey won Female Songwriter.

The Song of the Year went to “Girl Goin’ Nowhere,” by Ashley McBryde and Jeremy Bussey. “I knew when I sat down in a room with her that she was something special,” said Jeremy. “It’s the first song we ever wrote together. Thank you to everyone who ever sat in a room with me.”

Sherod announced that a new award was being created and named for MusicRow’s longest-tenured critic. “What do you look for in a new artist?” he asked Robert K. Oermann.

Pictured (L-R): Alecia Davis, BBR’s Sara Knabe, MusicRow‘s Sherod Robertson. Photo: Steve Lowry for MusicRow

RKO referred to his many years of reviewing acts. In so doing, he did a shout-out to MusicRow founder David M. Ross. Then he addressed the question.

“If you are a new artist, I expect you to say something to us in your music,” RKO said. “I expect you to be a student of this business. This is a community—get to know it. Most of all, I expect you to be different. Don’t come here as a clone of a star, because we already have that star. I want you to be you.”

RKO then announced Tenille Townes as the winner of the Robert K. Oermann Discovery Artist award. “This is so cool,” she said. “I respect all of the other nominees, and I consider myself so lucky to do this. When I first came to town at age 14, I made my mother drive me up and down Music Row. I was in awe of all the buildings. To now be a part of that is unbelievable.”

Pictured (L-R): Alecia Davis, Kathie Lee Gifford, MusicRow‘s Sherod Robertson. Photo: Steve Lowry for MusicRow

Bussey reappeared to accept on behalf of McBryde when she was named Breakthrough Artist. “This is one of my favorite people on the planet,” Jeremy said. “She’s the coolest chick I’ve ever met, an awesome, incredible soul. Thank you guys for this. We all know it’s tough to be a woman [in country music] right now.”

The Luke Combs triumph as MusicRow subscribers’ Artist of the Year capped the eve.

Working the room were nominees Kevin Welch, Scott Hendricks, Caylee Hammack, C.J. Solar, Laura Veltz, Tofer Brown, Brad Clawson, Aaron Eshuis, Will Weatherly, HARDY, Sean McConnell, Hailey Whitters, and Bobby Pinson. Also such enduring fabulons as Tom Luteran, Tim Wipperman, Tim Fink, Charlie Cook, Craig Campbell, Martha Moore, Steve O’Brien, Pat Higdon, R.J. Curtis and Dale Bobo.

Aspiring hit makers Julia Still, Morgan Clark and Brinn Black were there. So were Bob DiPiero, James Elliott, Kos Weaver, Josh Van Valkenburg, Brad Peterson, John Ozier, Preshias Tomes, Victoria Shaw, Suzanne Lee, E.T. Brown, Chris Kappy, Becky Harris, and Mike Sistad.

The catering was quite good. We noshed to our hearts’ content on burger sliders, red-pepper hummus, pita bread, shrimp & grits, melted-cheese toast points, exquisitely dressed pasta salad, veggies, hot-chicken sliders, polenta bites with sun-dried tomato and feta topping and many mini desserts.

Photo: Steve Lowry for MusicRow

Cassadee Pope Signs With BMG Music Publishing

Pictured (L-R): Courtney Allen (BMG Creative Dir. A&R), Cassadee Pope, Kos Weaver (BMG Nashville EVP)    Photo: Cody Heckber

Cassadee Pope has signed a worldwide publishing agreement with BMG Music Publishing.

Pope’s career has included fronting rock band Hey Monday and winning Season 3 of The Voice, and she has recorded numerous hits, including the platinum-certified “Wasting All These Tears” from her debut album Frame By Frame which topped the Billboard Country Albums Chart and reached Top 10 on their 200 all-genre chart. She also teamed with Chris Young for the No. 1 hit “Think Of You,” which received a Grammy nod in the Best Country Duo/Group Performance category. This Spring, Pope released her latest critically acclaimed studio album STAGES featuring the singles, “Take You Home,” “One More Red Light” and “If My Heart Had A Heart.”

She has toured extensively with artists like Tim McGraw, Dierks Bentley and Rascal Flatts, performed at London’s O2 arena during the C2C: Country to Country Festival, and earned the distinction of being the only country artist to perform at 2018’s Warped Tour. Most recently, she wrapped a tour with Maren Morris before embarking on her first-ever headlining “CMT Next Women of Country Tour.”

“We are thrilled to welcome Cassadee to the BMG family,” says BMG’s Creative Director A&R, Courtney Allen. “Her talent, hard work, perseverance and commitment to artistic integrity have set her on an incredible path into the next chapter of her career and we are proud to be part of it.”

Cassadee Pope is managed by Fusion Music/Red Light Management, with booking representation by CAA. She is also represented by Austen Adams at Dickenson Wright, PLLC.

Parker McCollum Joins Universal Music Group Nashville Roster

(L-R) Front Row: UMG Nashville’s Chairman & CEO Mike Dungan, Parker McCollum, UMG Nashville’s President Cindy Mabe Back Row: UMG Nashville’s SVP Business & Legal Affairs Rob Femia, Greenberg Traurig’s Jess Rosen, UMG Nashville’s EVP A&R Brian Wright, Red Light Management’s Haley McLemore, Red Light Management’s Enzo DeVincenzo, WME’s Henry Glascock, UMG Nashville’s SVP A&R Stephanie Wright, Red Light Management’s Jacob Knight       Photo Credit: Hunter Berry

Parker McCollum has signed with Universal Music Group Nashville. The Conroe, Texas native joins a roster of award-winning artists including George Strait, Kacey Musgraves, Sam Hunt, Vince Gill and many more.

Compared to John Mayer and Jason Isbell by Rolling Stone, McCollum began building a following in Texas with 2015’s The Limestone Kid. The album track “Meet You in The Middle” became a hit on Texas’ regional radio chart, and the album’s widely-acclaimed followup, Probably Wrong, helped him find national success. McCollum has built a devoted fan base, with his latest 10-track album anchoring a string of sold-out concerts, including a headlining show at Billy Bob’s Texas this past May.

His latest focus track “I Can’t Breathe” is in rotation at SiriusXM’s The Highway, and he recently teamed with Danielle Bradbery on a cover of Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s breakout hit, “Shallow.”

Hailey Whitters Inks Co-Management Deal With Chris Kappy, Matt Graham

Pictured: Chris Kappy, Hailey Whitters, Matt Graham. Photo credit: Kurt Ozan

Hailey Whitters has signed a co-management deal with BRND MGMT’s Matt Graham and Chris Kappy of Make Wake Artists.

“As an admirer of both Matt & Kappy’s approach, I couldn’t have found a more complimentary management partnership to execute my vision and deliver my music to fans,” Whitters says. “I’m thrilled to embark on this next chapter and see the places we’ll go.”

Whitters’ songs have been recorded by Martina McBride (“Low All Afternoon” & “The Real Thing”), Alan Jackson (“The Older I Get”) and Little Big Town (“Happy People”). Beginning this summer, Whitters will open select tour dates for Lori McKenna, Brent Cobb and Maren Morris.

Kappy said, “When I first heard Hailey’s new album, I knew I wanted to be part of the team. The songwriting is second to none, but the delivery and production of the entire work was so well thought out and arranged, that I knew her heart and soul was in this project. When you find that sort of combination, you do everything you can to be a part of it. Matt is a ground up manager, like myself, and when the opportunity presented itself for us to work together on Hailey, I felt we could bring her a team that knows what passionate fans, strategic touring, and great music can do for an artist’s career. Can’t wait to dig into this next adventure with Matt and Hailey.”

Matt says, “Kappy and I plan to continue executing the rollout that Hailey has so brilliantly begun on her own. While we recognize the extreme importance of having a record label partner in country music, we have no intention of slowing her incredible momentum. We want to make sure whoever we choose as a label partner is the perfect fit. In the meantime, we will continue to roll out new music, and are excited to use our relationships and experience to continue to fan the flames of excitement with her fans and wider music industry.”

Kappy worked at Sixthman for 15 years with Artist and Partner relations for their cruise events such as Florida Georgia Line’s “”This is How We Cruise” and Kid Rock’s “Chillin the Most” Cruise, and has been in the business of passionate fan bases for a very long time. After meeting Luke Combs at the 40 Watt in Athens, GA, Kappy packed up his life and relocated to Nashville, TN in 2015 to navigate the managerial waters for Luke’s career. Since then, Luke Combs has released his double platinum-certified debut album This One’s for You in 2017, which has spent a totally of 35 non-consecutive weeks at No.1 on the Billboard Country Albums charts, scored five No. 1 Country radio hits, and is a CMA, CMT, iHeartRadio and ACM Award-winning artist.

Graham got his start with long-time friend Scooter Braun, as SB Projects Senior Manager, before stepping out in 2015 to launch his company, BRND MGMT. BRND has built an impressively diverse roster including country music’s fastest rising stars, Midland. The trio had a huge 2018 with two Grammy nominations, three CMA nominations and won an ACM for New Vocal Group as well as multiple sold-out headline tours. In addition, his roster spans genres including country, dance, alt, pop and hip-hop landing record deals with Big Machine, Atlantic, Republic, Fueled by Ramen and AWAL.

31st Annual MusicRow Awards Winners

MusicRow Magazine revealed the winners for the 31st annual MusicRow Awards Wednesday night (June 26) during a celebration at Nashville’s War Memorial Auditorium.

Winners were celebrated in 11 categories, honoring songwriters, musicians, artists, producers, publishers, labels and talent agencies for their work over the past year. MusicRow Magazine Publisher/Owner Sherod Robertson co-hosted the evening alongside media personality Alecia Davis.

Supporting Sponsors of the event are Vaden Group | Elliott Davis, Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and Keller Turner Andrews & Ghanem, PLLC. Partner level sponsors include Ram Trucks and City National Bank.

The winners for the 31st annual MusicRow Awards are (Winners marked in red):

Producer of the Year
Buddy Cannon
David Garcia
Scott Hendricks
Dann Huff
Jay Joyce
Joey Moi

Label of the Year
BBR Music Group
Big Machine Label Group
Black River Entertainment
Sony Music Nashville
UMG Nashville
Warner Music Nashville

Talent Agency of the Year
Kinkead Entertainment Agency
Paradigm Talent Agency
United Talent Agency

Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year
Tofer Brown
Ben Caver
Brad Clawson
Jacob Davis
Erik Dylan
Ross Ellis
Aaron Eshuis
Jason Gantt
Ben Goldsmith
Mark Holman
Josh London
Chase McGill
Jeff Middleton
David Ray
Jordan Reynolds
Rob Snyder
Will Weatherly
JP Williams
Channing Wilson

Breakthrough Artist-Writer of the Year
Jimmie Allen
Seth Ennis
Morgan Evans
Riley Green
CJ Solar

Male Songwriter of the Year
Ross Copperman
Ashley Gorley
Shane McAnally
Chase McGill
Josh Osborne
Kevin Welch

Female Songwriter of the Year
Jessie Jo Dillon
Nicolle Galyon
Hillary Lindsey
Liz Rose
Laura Veltz
Parker Welling

Song of the Year
“Burning Man”— Songwriter(s): Luke Dick, Bobby Pinson
“Girl Goin’ Nowhere” — Songwriter(s): Ashley McBryde, Jeremy Bussey
“On My Way To You” — Songwriter(s): Brett James, Tony Lane
“Rainbow” — Songwriter(s): Kacey Musgraves, Natalie Hemby, Shane McAnally
“Speechless” — Songwriter(s): Dan Smyers, Shay Mooney, Jordan Reynolds, Laura Veltz
“The Daughters” — Songwriter(s): Karen Fairchild, Sean McConnell, Ashley Ray

Robert K. Oermann Discovery Artist of the Year
Caylee Hammack
Tyler Rich
Tenille Townes
Hailey Whitters

Breakthrough Artist of the Year
Jimmie Allen
Jordan Davis
Russell Dickerson
Cody Johnson
Ashley McBryde
Morgan Wallen

Artist of the Year
Dierks Bentley
Kane Brown
Eric Church
Luke Combs
Dan + Shay
Kacey Musgraves

MusicRow also honored the Top 10 Album All-Star Musicians at the 2019 MusicRow Awards, recognizing the studio players who performed on the most albums reaching the Top 10 of Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart during the eligibility period. The honorees are:

Jimmie Lee Sloas

Nir Z

Justin Niebank

Derek Wells

Fiddle (tie)
Stuart Duncan
Jenee Fleenor
Alison Krauss

Charles Judge

Steel (tie)
Paul Franklin
Russ Pahl

Russell Terrell

Warner Music Nashville Signs Gabby Barrett

Pictured (L-R): Cris Lacy (EVP A&R, WMN); John Esposito (Chairman & CEO, WMN); Gabby Barrett; Ben Kline (EVP / GM, WMN)

Warner Music Nashville has signed Gabby Barrett. SiriusXM’s The Highway has already tapped the singer/songwriter and American Idol alumna as a “Highway Find” artist, and her first single “I Hope” claimed the No. 1 spot on the station’s Hot 30 Countdown.

The song has 35 million on-demand streams to date. Barrett is currently in the studio with producer Ross Copperman working on her debut release. Barrett will join the Warner Music Nashville/WAR radio team and is represented by Red Light Management and William Morris Endeavor.

Country Music Hall Of Fame And Museum Reelects Board Members Steve Turner, Vince Gill

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum has announced that cultural arts activist Steve Turner, founder of Butler’s Run LLC, was reelected as chairman of the museum’s board. Turner has held this position since 2008. The museum’s board of officers and trustees also reelected Country Music Hall of Fame member Vince Gill to an 18th consecutive term as president of the board.

Other appointments made during the museum’s quarterly board meeting, which was held last week, include:

Al Giombetti, who has served as an officer on the board since 2000, was elected as a trustee for a three-year term. Giombetti was also reelected as the board’s executive vice president. Trustee David Ross was elected as secretary.

Trustees Rod Essig, Mary Ann McCready and Turner were reelected for three-year terms. They join trustees Mark Bloom, David Conrad, J. William Denny, Ken Levitan, Ernie Williams (treasurer) and Jody Williams.

Producer Dave Cobb, Managing Director of MarketStreet Enterprises Jay Turner, and Interim Chancellor, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs of Vanderbilt University Susan Wente were named new officers. The new officers join current board members Earl Bentz, Mike Dungan, Randy Goodman, Keel Hunt, Lon Helton, Donna Nicely, Gary Overton, Jim Seabury, Bill Simmons, Clarence Spalding, Chris Stewart, Troy Tomlinson, Marcus Whitney and Tim Wipperman.

CMA CEO Sarah Trahern serves as an ex-officio member. Chris Horsnell, Mike Milom and Molly Shehan of Milom Horsnell Crow Kelley Beckett Shehan PLC continue as the not-for-profit educational organization’s legal counsel.


MusicRow Taps Abstrakt Concrete For MusicRow Award Trophies

MusicRow Magazine is pleased to reveal a new trophy for the expanded 31st Annual MusicRow Awards, presented first at tonight’s (June 26) event at the War Memorial Auditorium. The concrete award was crafted by Santana Matlock at Abstrakt Concrete in Nashville, Tennessee.

Santana Matlock

The concrete trophy will symbolize MusicRow as the cornerstone of the Nashville music industry, and each trophy includes a small sample of soil taken from the grounds of historic Music Row. Matlock is a local artisan who specializes in the custom design and production of concrete countertops, sinks, fire pits, and other products.

Photo: Rachael Fernandez

MusicRow Names Award After Industry Legend: The Robert K. Oermann Discovery Artist Of The Year Award

Robert K. Oermann. Photo: Haley Crow/MusicRow

In its 31st year, the MusicRow Awards has expanded it’s honors to include a total of 11 categories, one of which is the Discovery Artist of the Year award. MusicRow is proud to announce that the Discovery Award has been named the Robert K. Oermann Discovery Artist of the Year Award.

The award’s namesake, Robert K. Oermann, is a legendary music journalist who, during his 40-year career, has written for Billboard, The Hollywood Reporter, Esquire and TV Guide. In the 1980s he became the first country music reporter and critic for USA Today, and spent 12 years with The Tennessean. MusicRow Magazine has featured Oermann’s infamous single reviews and editorial contributions since its inception in 1981.

“It is our sincere honor to name the newly minted Discovery Artist of the Year award after the incomparable Robert K. Oermann,” says MusicRow‘s Publisher/Owner Sherod Robertson. “Oermann’s contribution to this publication and the Nashville music industry is immeasurable. Artists and their industry team members have sought Oermann’s anointing stroke of the pen ever since he published his very first song review in MusicRow magazine in 1981. As a champion of country music for many decades, he has cheered both superstars and newcomers alike and has always been an early adopter of new deserving talent. The respect this industry has for Oermann is tremendous—so naming this award after him is a perfect fit and well deserved.”

Nominated for the inaugural Robert K. Oermann Discovery Award this year is Caylee Hammack, HARDY, Tyler Rich, Seaforth, Tenille Townes and Hailey Whitters. The award will honor a Nashville developing artist who demonstrates significant talent and potential to rise, and will be announced tonight (June 26) at the 31st annual MusicRow Awards.

Sarah Trahern To Receive Spirit Of Music Award At T.J. Martell Honors Gala

CMA CEO Sarah Trahern is being honored with the Spirit Of Music Award at the upcoming 44th Annual T.J. Martell Honors Gala in New York on Oct. 15 at Cipriani 42nd Street.

Michael Kushner, EVP Business & Legal Affairs/General Counsel Atlantic Records, and Mike O’Neill, President & CEO of BMI are also being honored at the event, which will include a cocktail reception, silent auction, seated dinner, and special entertainment. Kushner will receive the Lifetime Music Industry Award, while O’Neill will be honored with the T.J. Martell Foundation Legacy Award.

More information on the upcoming event can be found at