Pettit Goes To W.A.R.

Warner Music Nashville has announced that Jordan Pettit will join the W.A.R. promotion team as National Director starting next Monday, Oct. 17. Pettit will report to W.A.R. VP Promotion Chris Palmer.

“Jordan is a rare breed; a guy who has the social graces of a Promotion person and the business acumen of a guy with a master’s degree from Vanderbilt (because he has one),” says Chris Stacey, Warner Music Nashville Sr. VP of Promotion. “He understands the strategy and tenacious spirit required to succeed in today’s rapidly evolving music business. He is a passionate lover of music and will be a phenomenal addition to our team.”

Pettit was most recently Director of Midwest Radio Promotion for Show Dog – Universal Records, and his career also includes time as Promotion Coordinator for Columbia Records Nashville.

Starting Oct. 17, reach him here.

EXCLUSIVE: Interview With Actress/ Songwriter Mary Steenburgen

From her Academy Award®-winning performance in Melvin and Howard to her role as an adulteress in the critically acclaimed What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Mary Steenburgen is best known for her brilliant acting talent. She has appeared in over 50 films including Parenthood, Miss Firecracker, Back to the Future III, The Butcher’s Wife, and The Help. Her impressive TV roles include such notables as Joan of Arcadia and Curb Your Enthusiasm. But in recent years, this Arkansas native has embarked on a new creative journey and spoke exclusively with MusicRow to discuss her deep plunge into the world of songwriting.

“I’m going to be really honest with you,” says Steenburgen. “It’s still a bit of a mystery [how I got into songwriting]. Before October 17, 2007, I had never written music nor had I even contemplated writing music. I don’t know exactly what happened and I never will, but on that day, I wrote my first song and saying I became ‘obsessed’ would be putting it mildly. Some people suggest that what I’ve done my whole life, telling stories on a daily basis, is perhaps part of it. My entire life I’ve worked with words. I’ve listened to the best way to make them sound and the truest way to say them.” She is also inspired by stepdaughter and singer Katrina Danson, and is driven to help the younger woman’s career.

After writing between 60 and 90 songs, she made a demo of her best 12 on Martha’s Vineyard with musician Mike Benjamin. He sent out the demo under an assumed name, which eventually resulted in Steenburgen being signed by Monti Olson at Universal Music Publishing Group—Los Angeles.

While writing in LA, someone mentioned the idea of co-writing. She admits she didn’t initially understand the process, “I thought they were saying this because they felt my music wasn’t good enough, and I needed to write with other people to make it better.” Being open to everything and always saying “yes,” Steenburgen agreed to co-write but the appointments always fell through. “It was very frustrating for me because I have a really strong work ethic. I’ve never missed a performance in my life, so I’m sure not going to miss a co-writing session. People said to me, ‘you know, that won’t happen to you in Nashville.’”

She then met Nashville songwriter Darrell Brown. “Darrell spoke about Nashville is such a loving way,” she recalls. “He got to know me and he said, ‘if anybody is going to love Nashville, it’s you. You love the South. You love Southern culture. You love writing as much as anyone.’ So I went to Nashville.” Upon arrival, Universal Music Publishing Group’s Pat Higdon and Whitney Williams were wonderful advisers, introducing her to songwriters on Music Row and helping her navigate the business.

She fell for Music City as quickly as songwriting. “I fell in love with Nashville because it’s a city of poets,” says Steenburgen. “It’s a city that actually truly cares about writing and about music. I’ve described it before as the most effortlessly hip city in America and I really think that’s true. The restaurants, the people…I think it’s the coolest city in America. When I come and go from Nashville, people actually care. When I come and go from LA, nobody notices. And that’s the God’s honest truth. It’s not that you are seen and not spoken to [in Nashville], it’s that you’re seen and understood a little bit. That’s what matters in Nashville.”

Her first two local writing sessions were with Brown. She confesses, “I was so blown away by the talent of these people that I got intimidated and didn’t open my mouth.” The third session was with Danny Orton and Barry Dean, and they collaborated on a song about Steenburgen’s mom, who had passed away two weeks earlier. That day proved to be a very emotional journey. Steenburgen says, “to have two people be so open and brave, brilliant and creative, and to dive in and be willing to experience something so powerful with me—a total stranger. They put aside any part of the fact that I’m an actor. They embraced it, but it wasn’t what was important. What was important, about me to them, was the experience of writing this song together. Literally, this is one of the most important experiences of my life and it just exploded from there.”

Listing the other songwriters she’s worked with reads like the credits of a chart-topping hit: Matraca Berg, Troy Verges, Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and many others. She is quick to point out her enormous admiration for these talented songwriters, “If people call me a songwriter, I am honored to be called that. I’m keenly aware that I’m lucky to get to work with these writers.”

Photo: Jason Merritt – © 2011 Getty Images – Image courtesy gettyimages.com

Steenburgen’s collaborations are already starting to bear fruit. She co-wrote a song called “Fall Again” with Berg, which is on the latter’s new album, Dreaming Fields. She also penned a song with Melissa Manchester called “Rainbird,” that will be featured in a new movie from the Weinstein Company called Dirty Girl. Steenburgen has a couple of songs written for a TV pilot she shot in Nashville recently that includes collaborations with Shooter Jennings, Verges, and Lindsey. She notes that Tim McGraw is recording a song she wrote with Dean and McKenna.

Steenburgen’s passion for writing runs deep. “It isn’t a dabbling or vanity thing,” she explains. “I actually don’t care about performing the music at all. I want the best people to sing the songs I write. If my name were taken off every single song I ever did for the rest of my life, I would still do it. It’s that important for me as a form of expression.”

She loves the fact that every songwriter is completely different; which relates strongly to her acting life. She has worked with everyone from Lasse Hallström to Woody Allen, from Ron Howard to Oliver Stone, and like co-writing, each experience is unique and rewarding. “That sense of walking in a room and opening yourself up to this unique individual and this person’s style and this person’s life and this person’s way of writing and this person’s relationship to music. I love that!” says Steenburgen.

She also finds similarities between her improvisational work and writing, and finds being open to others’ ideas thrilling. She says, “In improvisation, the first rule is that you never say ‘no.’ You never halt an idea within an improvisational. If you do, you kill the improv. I find the same thing in songwriting. I would never say ‘oh that’s a bad idea’ or ‘no,’ you just don’t say that. You don’t even say it inwardly. You just dive in. It’s like jumping in a river that you’ve never been in before. You’re going to stay afloat and see where it takes you.”

Fortunately for us, it took her to Nashville.

• • • •

You can catch Mary Steenburgen this Fri., Oct. 14, at The Hermitage Hotel when she joins her Nashville songwriter friends for a special in-the-round performance. The upcoming show includes accomplished tunesmiths Shawn Camp, Kim Carnes, Trent Dabbs, Kat Danson, Barry Dean, Natalie Hemby, Audrey Dean Kelley, Luke Laird, Lori McKenna, and Troy Verges.

The event corresponds with the Southern Festival of Books & Americana Music Festival and proceeds benefit The Oxford American, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Tickets are $250 per person. Click here to purchase, or call (501) 320-5730.

 

McCreery Leads Sales Charge

For the sales week ended 10-9-2011 Scotty McCreery once again proved the power of TV for exposing and marketing new artists. McCreery, the winner of season 10 of American Idol released his new album, Clear As Day last week (Oct. 4), while celebrating his 18th birthday.

McCreery’s album scanned about 197,000 units according to Nielsen SoundScan allowing it to ride atop the Country album chart and the Top 200 Albums all-genre list. Quite a feat for a newcomer without massive radio support.

Interestingly, McCreery did not show much heat on the digital download tracks chart, ranking No. 15 on the country tracks list and a tepid No. 78 on the all genre tracks chart. Walking in step with digital tracks, his album sales had a smaller-than-average digital percentage, too (18% in digital format). However, it is worth noting that the song, “I Love You This Big,” has already sold over 630,000 downloads giving it Gold status.

Rodney Atkins also drove out onto the sunny sales infield with his newest titled Take A Back Road which scanned almost 35k units (26% digital) earning a no. 3 position on the country albums chart this week.

Next week the American Idol shadow will again be cast over the sales charts as season 10 runner up, lovely Lauren Alaina steps up to launch her album effort.

Graphically speaking: A quick look at our newly updated graph shows that as a result of Scotty and Rodney, country sales bounced back up to a 9.6% YTD lead. However, with 29.63 million YTD units already sold and last year’s total of 43.72 million units it means that we have to scan an additional 14.09 million units in the 12 weeks remaining for 2011. Yes that’s about 1.174 million per week, a pretty tall order.

Hank did it this way?—Not documented on the SoundScan charts was this week’s Hank Williams Jr. free download, “Keep The Change.” The song, written in response to his recent dismissal from ESPN’s Monday Night Football over political comments he made has reportedly been downloaded over 150,000 times in about 24 hours. The song is available at www.hankjr.com and has received placement on other sites such as kidrock.com.

Lauren Alaina’s Debut Release Week

Lauren Alaina released her debut album, Wildflower, earlier this week (10/11) with a nationwide media blitz that includes multiple television appearances. On release day, Good Morning America premiered Alaina’s performance of her upcoming single, “Georgia Peaches.” She is also set to perform on Live! With Regis & Kelley (10/13) and The Ellen DeGeneres Show (10/21). She will wrap up her debut album performances on Oct. 22 at The Grand Ole Opry, which will be televised on Opry Live on GAC at 8 p.m. ET.

Lauren Alaina performs on Good Morning America. Photo: Heidi Gutman/ABC

Interviews with Alaina aired on E! News, Entertainment Tonight/The Insider, CNN, Good Day LA, CMT Insider, GAC On The Streets earlier this month. GAC also premiered a half-hour special Introducing: Lauren Alaina on Oct. 10.

An exclusive album package, which includes Alaina’s debut album, an autographed 8×10 photo, a personalized poster, an instant download of her single “Like My Mother Does” and an entry in to the Ultimate Country Music Association Awards experience that includes a meet‐and‐greet with Lauren, is available for purchase at www.LaurenAlainaOfficial.com.

Swift To Make Wonderstruck Appearances

With Taylor Swift’s signature fragrance, Wonderstruck, arriving in stores, she is preparing several promotional in-store and media stops for October. The Wonderstruck appearances occur in between dates on her Speak Now World Tour, and there’s even a local date on the itinerary.

Swift’s appearances include the following:

Oct. 13 – Good Morning America, Live! With Regis and Kelly, and Macy’s Herald Square in NYC
Oct. 18 – Sephora in Glendale, CA
Oct. 19 – The Ellen DeGeneres Show
Oct. 28 – Belk in Franklin, TN

“I wrote the lyric, ‘I’m wonderstruck, blushing all the way home,’ for the song ‘Enchanted,’ about the first time you meet someone. A fragrance can help shape someone’s first impression and memory of you, and it’s exciting to think that Wonderstruck will play a role in creating some of those memories,” Swift says. She worked with Elizabeth Arden on creating the fragrance.

DISClaimer Single Reviews (10/12/11)

Top-tier country radio stars, the triumphant return of a veteran and a stunning debut album are all ingredients in this week’s audio recipe.

The radio stars in question include Brad Paisley, Craig Morgan, Lee Brice and our Disc of the Day winner, Dierks Bentley.

The comeback belongs to K.D. Lang & The Sis Boom Bang. Their Nashville-recorded Sing It Loud album sizzles with excellence.

The Damn Quails have one of the finest freshman collections I’ve heard all year. It is titled Down the Hatch. The debut single is out now, and the rest of the disc drops on Oct. 25. Brand new band. Brand new label. Brand new sound. The core of the group is a pair of singer-songwriters, Gabriel Marshall and Bryon White. Give those boys a DisCovery Award.

CRAIG MORGAN/This Ole Boy
Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Black River (ERG)

—Sunny, romantic and utterly optimistic. Plus, he still sings his face off.

DIERKS BENTLEY/Home
Writer: Dan Wilson/Brett Beavers/Dierks Bentley; Producer: Brett Beavers & Luke Wooten; Publisher: Chrysalis/Sugar Lake/BMG Rights Management/Chestnut Barn/Big White Tracks, ASCAP/IMRO/BMI; Capitol Nashville (CDX)

—Stirring and uplifting. This manages the tricky task of being patriotic without being jingoistic. In addition to being well written, it is brilliantly produced, with a rumbling, drumming undertow and subtle, judiciously placed chimes.

THE DAMN QUAILS/Fools Gold
Writer: Bryon White; Producer: Mike McClure & Joe Hardy; Publisher: C.P. Sparkman, BMI; 598 (track)

—Refreshing, with a splash of harmonica, a dash of dobro, an acoustic-guitar solo, lightly crunchy rhythm and jaunty, folkie vocals. Oklahoma strikes again.

LEE BRICE/A Woman Like You
Writer: Johnny Buford/Phil Barton/Jon Stone; Producer: Jon Stone & Lee Brice; Publisher: Warner-Tamerlane/3JB/Sixteen Stars/How Bout That Skyline/Songs From Ferry Street/BMG Chrysalis, BMI; Curb

—Charming. She asks him what he’d be like if he hadn’t met her. He rattles off a list that includes poker, fishing, football, golf, poor dietary choices and more. But the payoff is that he’d also be looking for her.

WADE BOWEN/Saturday Night
Writer: Wade Bowen/Lee Thomas Miller; Producer: Justin Niebank; Publisher: House of Sea Gayle/Sparks to Strings/Itchy Baby, ASCAP/BMI; Sea Gayle/BNA

—Very cool. He sings with a lot of heart, and the track is cooking with gas. Best of all, the song is superbly written: He’s alone, out on the town and miserable, so why is everybody in love with Saturday night?

BRAD PAISLEY/Camouflage
Writer: Brad Paisley/Chris DuBois/Kelley Lovelace; Producer: Frank Rogers; Publisher: House of Sea Gayle/Words & Music/EMI April/Didn’t  Have To Be, ASCAP; Arista

—I generally dislike records with crowd cheering/shouting in the track.

COREY WAGAR/I Hate My Boyfriend
Writer: P. Brust/C. Brown/C. Wagar; Producer: Kent Wells; Publisher: none listed; GTR (track)

—It rocks with plenty of percussion and screaming guitars. She wants to go out and party with her friends, but he doesn’t like that, hence the title.

KID ROCK & ANGALEENA PRESLEY/Care
Writer: R.J. Ritchie/M. Young/H. Boone/C. Harris; Producer: none listed; Publisher: RJR/Kobalt/Jo Ray Dean/Sony ATV/Family Three/Universal/Crown Club/Warner-Tamerlane, BMI/ASCAP; Atlantic/Top Dog/Quaterback

—Alas, all the time he’s spent in Nashville has not made him a country songwriter.

ANSON CARTER/One Of Those Days
Writer: Arlis Albritten/Mickey Jack Cones/ Chad Hudson; Producer: Michael Bowen & Anson Carter; Publisher: none listed; Black Gold (track) (www.ansoncartermusic.com)

—It’s a little thin sounding, but he gets the job done vocally.

K.D. LANG & THE SIS BOOM BANG/I Confess
Writer: K.D. Lang/Daniel Clarke/Joshua Grange; Producer: K.D. Lang & Joe Pisapia; Publisher: Bromelain/It All Works/De La Grange, ASCAP; Nonesuch (track) (www.kdlang.com)

—Lang returned to Music City to craft her new Sing It Loud CD, and her new Sis Boom Bang band is comprised of East Nashvillians. The album’s lead-off single has an Orbison-bolero vibe that simmers with sensuous heat. Essential listening.

Mary Steenburgen and Friends In-The-Round Friday

Mary Steenburgen has recruited her songwriting friends for a special in-the-round performance on Fri., Oct. 14 at the Hermitage Hotel.

The Academy Award®-winning actress has been coming to Nashville to write in recent years and has been working with stellar tunesmiths who will join her at the upcoming show including Shawn Camp, Kim Carnes, Trent Dabbs, Kat Danson, Barry Dean, Natalie Hemby, Audrey Dean Kelley, Luke Laird, Lori McKenna, and Troy Verges.

The event corresponds with the Southern Festival of Books & Americana Music Festival and proceeds benefit The Oxford American, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Tickets are $250 per person. Click here to purchase, or call 501-320-5730.

Check MusicRow.com tomorrow morning for an exclusive interview with Steenburgen.

Nashvillians Among American Music Awards Nominees

American Music Awards nominees were revealed today, and the list includes several Nashville artists. The show will be broadcast live from the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live, Sun., Nov. 20 on ABC.

Adele leads with four nominations. Among the artists with multiple nods are Taylor Swift and The Band Perry with three each, and Jason Aldean with two. See Nashville list below.

Country Music
Favorite Male Artist: Jason Aldean, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton
Favorite Female Artist: Sara Evans, Miranda Lambert, Taylor Swift
Favorite Band, Duo or Group: The Band Perry, Zac Brown Band, Lady Antebellum
Favorite Album: Jason Aldean, My Kinda Party; The Band Perry, The Band Perry; Taylor Swift, Speak Now

Contemporary Inspirational
Favorite Artist: Casting Crowns, Tobymac, Third Day

Artist of the Year
Taylor Swift, Adele, Lady Gaga, Lil Wayne, Katy Perry

Sprint New Artist Of The Year
Hot Chelle Rae (Pop/Rock category)
The Band Perry (Country category)
Thompson Square (Country category)

American Music Awards® nominees are selected from both BigChampagne’s Ultimate Chart and Mediabase. For the fifth year, winners will be determined by online fan voting. Details on voting, and complete nominations list at AMA.abc.com.

 

“Footloose” Premiere Pics

The premiere of Footloose has held last week at the Franklin Theatre. The flick starring Julianne Hough and others opens nationwide on Friday (10/14). Catch Blake Shelton performing the signature song tonight (10/11) on the Dancing with the Stars results show on ABC at 8:00 PM CST.

All photos by Alan Mayor.

The cast and director (L-R): actor Miles Teller, director Craig Brewer, actor Kenny Wormald, actress Julianne Hough and soundtrack star Blake Shelton.

 

Big and Rich ft. Gretchen Wilson perform "Fake ID" on the soundtrack

Whitney Duncan contributes "So Sorry Mama" to the soundtrack.

Jason Aldean Delivers

MusicRow staffers and Jason Aldean. (L-R) Back—Jon Freeman, David M. Ross and Sherod Robertson; Middle—Michelle Stephens and Caitlin Rantala; Front—Christie King, Sarah Skates and Jason Aldean.

Jason Aldean stopped by MusicRow’s corporate world headquarters on 17th Ave. S. to say, “Thanks” and deliver a double platinum/2 million units sold plaque for his latest album, My Kinda Party.

“I still remember,” laughed Aldean, “my first-ever award was presented by MusicRow during its CRS party in 2006. It was a CountryBreakout Chart Award.”

Aldean’s star has been exploding. He set attendance records this past summer with his My Kinda Party tour which has been extended into 2012.

Aldean is also tied for the most CMA nominations with five nods for the 45th Annual Awards, including his first ever in the categories of Entertainer of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year. His current Top 20 single “Tattoos On This Town” is the fourth release off his double platinum album My Kinda Party and follows three consecutive platinum-certified and No. 1 hits for the disc. Aldean currently claims the top selling country album of the year.

Aldean’s RIAA Album Awards
Jason Aldean/Gold/11-8-05; Platinum/3-6-07
Relentless/Gold/10-1-07
Wide Open/Gold/6-24-09; Platinum/11-30-09
My Kinda Party/Gold/12-7-10; Platinum/1-14-11; Double Platinum/9-7-11