BOBBY KARL WORKS THE ROOM
The faithful flocked to The Listening Room Café on Wednesday morning (Feb. 19) for MusicRow Magazine’s annual radio celebration.
Taking the stage during the two-hour event were such tried-and-true buddies as Ashley Gorley, Bobby Young, Shane Owens and Diane Richey. As always, this event was a mixture of music, schmoozing, breakfast and award presentations.
“Welcome, welcome, to the 18th annual Country Radio Meet & Greet and CountryBreakout Awards,” said MusicRow Magazine owner/publisher Sherod Robertson in greeting the capacity crowd. He reminded the attendees that, “Secondary radio is the heart and soul of contemporary country music.”
The awards are based on the magazine’s CountryBreakout Radio Chart, which largely tracks such stations’ airplay. These broadcasters are relied upon to introduce new talent and offer opportunities to independent artists, as well as major-label acts.
Sherod thanked MusicRow’s reporting panel and the record promoters who work with those stations. He also offered a shout-out to this year’s presenting sponsor, FirstBank.
“FirstBank has been in business since 1906, has $6 billion in assets and ranks in the top 5% of all U.S. banks. We really appreciate our new sponsor this year.” Beaming in the crowd was the institution’s Karen Clark.
Sherod then got right down to business by introducing the day’s first performer, Joe Hanson. He has competed on The Voice and American Idol and is now releasing his first tunes.
Joe worked the stage like a pro and exuded sincerity as he dished out a jaunty, three-song set. He concluded with his debut single, the bopping, charming and hooky “Young Got Old,” urging the crowd to sing along with him.
“Thank you guys so much for having me at this incredible event,” said Joe.
“I’m a big fan,” said Sherod. “You’re going to hear that name for quite awhile, I have a feeling.”
Alex Parry (you probably know her as Alex Kobrick, but she’s wearing a ring now, so get used to it) took the stage to preside over the first batch of MusicRow’s 2020 honorees.
“Thank you all so much for being here – so many radio stations and so many artists – and I love working with every one of you,” said Alex. “Our first award is MusicRow’s Independent Artist of the Year, Smith & Wesley.
“They released three singles in 2019, ‘A Little on the Redneck Side,’ ‘To Be With You’ and their current single, ‘Listen to the Radio.’ They accumulated more spins on the MusicRow chart than any other indie act in 2019.”
“We’ve been coming to this event for five years now,” said the duo’s Scott Smith. “So thank you. We couldn’t do it without you guys.
“Our current single is what it’s all about, ‘Listen to the Radio,’” added his brother and partner Todd Smith.
The MusicRow Reporter of the Year honor went to Steve Shettler of KBOE in Oskaloosa, Iowa. “Steve exemplifies this chart,” said Alex.
“I’ve done this for 15 years, and it’s so fun to be here for the first time,” said Steve. “I encourage all of you to play independent artists and regional artists. Thank you, MusicRow for all the great hospitality.
Duo/Group of the Year was earned by Old Dominion, who accepted via video, since they are on tour in Canada.
This year’s Breakout Artist is Riley Green. BMLG’s Michelle Kammerer accepted and passed the mike to independent promoter Diane Richey.
“You guys heard the music and embraced it,” said Diane. “Thank you, thank you, thank you for your support, all the time.” Riley also sent in an acceptance video.
Sherod re-took the stage to present the Songwriter of the Year honor to Ashley Gorley. This is his third year to win this award.
Ashley had a history-making nine No. 1 hits on the magazine’s chart in 2019. They were “Catch” (Brett Young), “Remember You Young” (Thomas Rhett), “Good Vibes” (Chris Janson), “I Don’t Know About You” (Chris Lane), “Living” (Dierks Bentley), “Rumor” (Lee Brice), “Eyes on You” (Chase Rice), “Love Ain’t” (Eli Young Band) and “What Makes You Country” (Luke Bryan).
“I want to thank MusicRow for all the love they give the songwriting community and Nashville as a whole,” said Ashley.
To no one’s surprise, Luke Combs won the Male Artist award. His manager, Lynn Oliver-Cline, came on stage to accept.
“It’s so cool to be here with all of you,” she said. “It’s gone from here (where he was the 2018 Breakout Artist winner) to the stadiums. So thanks to you.” Luke sent in a video thank you as well.
The Label of the Year winner at the event was Capitol Records. This is the imprint’s 16th time to win the honor and its 15th consecutive one. Its eight No. 1 smashes during the year were earned by Carrie Underwood, Dierks Bentley, Jon Pardi, Luke Bryan and Keith Urban.
“We’re blessed at Capitol to work with some of the most talented artists in this business,” said the label’s Bobby Young in his acceptance speech. He also brought up Diane Richey’s promotion team.
Bobby also accepted on behalf of Female Vocalist winner Carrie Underwood. He read a note she’d written for the occasion. “Thank you to MusicRow and to the entire community,” said Carrie. “I am so proud of all the female artists out there who are doing this for the love of the music.”
The event finale was provided by a sterling show by Shane Owens. “Are y’all ready to get countrified?” he asked the crowd before diving into “Try Them On,” “Country Never Goes Out of Style” and “Hard Luck Girl.”
Shane won the MusicRow Independent Artist of the Year in 2018. His honky-tonk vocal slides were dynamite, and his on-stage warmth was endearing. “God bless country music!” he exclaimed.
Mingling in the mob were such artists as CJ Solar, Joe & Martina, Dallas Remington, Katlyn Lowe, Jesse Labelle, The Voice winner Chevelle (Chevel Shepherd), Dylan Jacobson, Cody McCarver, Shane Runion and Exile’s Sonny LeMaire, Marlon Hargis and Steve Goetzman.
They had competition in working the room from Becky Harris, Preshias Harris, Ann Chrisman, Anne Sarosdy Yarborough, Jerry Duncan, Teri Brown, Mark Logsdon, Dale Bobo, Steve Lowry, Woody Bomar, Sherrill Blackmon, Dennis Banka, Neal Spielberg, Wayne Halper, Regina Raleigh, Chuck Thompson, Martha Moore, Bev Moser, Derek Beck, Tim McFadden and Beth Gwinn.
On one end of the Listening Room was a generous breakfast bar. On the other end was a backdrop for photo ops. Both stayed busy all morning long.