Sony Music Nashville and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum came together Thursday night (Feb. 24) to present “In Harmony: Music and Mission” to an invite-only crowd.
The night celebrated a range of the label’s artists, including CMA Entertainer of the Year Luke Combs, genre-bending songstress Elle King, and country newcomer Nate Smith. The museum also showcased a performance from Annie McNamara, a budding young songwriter from its award-winning flagship education program Words & Music.
Lisa Purcell, SVP, External Affairs for the Hall of Fame welcomed the crowd, saying: “It’s been quite a two-year spread since our last CRS gathering for all of us. [Through it all], country music, country radio, and DSPs have been our constant companion, sharing the joy, beauty, comfort, and perspective of this music that we love and honor in this house. Thanks for all you do.”
McNamara opened up the showcase, performing an original song entitled “Fatherless Daughter.” Based on a true story of a friend whose father was tragically lost in an accident, the 14 year-old singer-songwriter displayed some of the skills she’s been able to hone through the museum’s songwriting program.
“The museum has had the pleasure of helping Annie on her musical journey since she signed up for our summer songwriting camp three years ago. Annie’s love for country music led her from her home in Wilmington, North Carolina, to our camp in 2019,” explained Museum Sr. Director of Education and Community Engagement, Ali Tonn. “Over the past 40 years, Words & Music has helped over 150,000 students share their stories through song. Encouraging young writers like Annie through the country music songbook leads us to more country music listeners and maybe to the next generation of hit writers and top-selling recording artists.”
Chairman and CEO of Sony Music Nashville, Randy Goodman, was on hand to introduce the label’s first artist of the night, Nate Smith, who first gained attention on TikTok for his song “I Don’t Wanna Go To Heaven.” Goodman teased that the track would soon be making its way to radio.
Smith took the stage, immediately jumping in to his unreleased track “You Shouldn’t Have To.” Delivering a handful of masterfully written originals, including the previously released “Sleeve,” “Under My Skin,” and “Raised Up,” Smith couldn’t contain his excitement about getting to open the room.
“It’s an honor to be here. [I just want to give] a huge thanks to Randy and the Sony team. It’s a great thing to be here,” Smith gushed. “I moved to Nashville for the second time in July of 2020 during the pandemic. Sometimes I miss home a lot. I miss my mom and dad, and when life gets busy I have to remind myself of the things that I was raised up on. Sometimes it’s the words they said, sometimes it’s church, so this song is called ‘Raised Up.'”
Later, Smith closed his set with his upcoming single to country radio.
Columbia Nashville’s SVP, Promotion, Shane Allen came on to set the stage for King who has already achieved quite an impressive list of accolades, including No. 1s in four different formats, over 1.7 billion worldwide streams, CMA and ACM wins, and a Grammy nomination for her top ten song “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)” featuring Miranda Lambert.
“What’s interesting about my career, and I don’t know if you guys know much about me because I still don’t know much about me, but I will say that I’ve been given an incredible opportunity that no one in my life or my career has ever tried to put me in a box. I’d like to see them try and make me fit, it would be very difficult,” King quipped with the audience. “I’m very excited for the new music and that you guys are giving me the chance to play these.”
King went on to deliver two originals that are expected on her upcoming country record—”Out Yonder” and “Worth A Shot”—as well her own version of Charlie Daniels‘ “Long Haired Country Boy.” She also showcased her 2014 breakout hit “Ex’s & Oh’s” as well as “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home).”
Combs, the winner of MusicRow‘s 2022 CountryBreakout Male Artist of the Year award, took the stage, giving the audience hit after hit from his decorated discography. Telling the stories behind many of his No. 1 songs, the multi-Platinum songwriter had the crowd singing along to “When It Rains It Pours,” “She Got The Best Of Me,” “Beautiful Crazy,” “Lovin’ On You,” “Hurricane,” and “Forever After All.”
“I appreciate you guys playing this next one. I know it’s slow, but people seem to like it. This is one of my favorite songs, personally, that I’ve ever written,” Combs shared. “I wrote it with Rob and a guy named Drew Parker in the garage at my house. To be candid, we didn’t really have shit to write about and it had been over a year since we had played a show. We ended up just hanging out and talking for a while about all kinds of stuff.” He continued, “We started talking about the things we do in this job, like interviews, and a question I always get asked is what I would be doing if I wasn’t doing this. The light bulb went off in all of our collective heads at that time, or at least it did for me.
“Thank you all so much for playing this song. I know it’s not the up-tempo thing that we all would love to have, but people seem to love it. I hope you guys like it,” he summed before breaking out into his current single, “Doin’ This.”
Combs closed the night with his rock-infused “Beer Never Broke My Heart” with the audience singing along to every word.
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