Musical Chairs: Ben Strain, EJ Bernas

Ben Strain

Ben Strain has joined Sony/ATV Music Publishing Nashville as Creative Manager. Strain spent the last seven years at Sony Music Nashville, serving as Creative Coordinator in the A&R department as well as a Creative Manager for Sony Music. Beginning Sept. 18, reach Strain at 615-726-8300 or [email protected]

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EJ Bernas

MCA Southwest Regional promo rep EJ Bernas will exit his post with the label, as he begins his newly created job as VP Entertainment for Nashville-based Tin Roof Corporation. The company operates six bars including the popular Demonbreun location, with three more in development and construction. He started on Sept. 2 and is currently pulling double duty until he officially departs the label in early October. Reach him at [email protected] going forward.

BMI and HFA Named In InformationWeek 500

The Harry Fox Agency and BMI have both scored spots on the InformationWeek 500, an annual listing of the nation’s most innovative users of business technology. HFA has placed in the top 250 for three consecutive years, landing at No. 183 on the 2011 list, and BMI ranked at No. 74—one of only two media companies inside the Top 100.

“BMI is proud to be included among such innovative and distinguished organizations,” said James King, Senior Vice President of Business Operations and Technology for BMI. “To be selected for the InformationWeek 500, especially to No. 74, is truly an honor and a recognition of our commitment to innovatively and efficiently use technology to better serve the performing rights of the songwriters, composers and music publishers BMI represents. Our information services platform is a critical component in the work we do on behalf of our members.”

HFA’s technologies have allowed the organization to provide innovative rights management solutions to digital music providers, content creators, independent labels and more. As a result, HFA has played an important role in startups such as Spotify, Napster and LyricFind.

“HFA remains committed to meeting the challenges of a constantly changing digital landscape,” said Lou Trebino, HFA’s SVP & CIO. “Technology is fundamental to HFA’s DNA, our constant innovation has enabled us to not only remain relevant, but to remain a fundamental and integral force in an industry where speed, transparency and accuracy ensure customer success.”

The Listening Room Cafe Hosts Benefit Show

Craig Campbell

Country artists Randy Houser, Craig Campbell, Ashley Gearing and Brice Long are hoping for a full house at The Listening Room Café on Wednesday, Sept. 28.

The show, hosted by Suzanne Alexander of GAC, benefits the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and cancer research. Throughout the night, a silent auction will also be held. All proceeds from the concert and auction will be donated to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Doors open at 6:30. For more information and to purchase tickets, please click here.

Free Bill Monroe Tribute Opens Bluegrass Week

This September marks the centennial anniversary of Bill Monroe’s birth, and will be commemorated as the IBMA informally kicks off its World of Bluegrass Week in Nashville with a free outdoor bluegrass concert featuring The Del McCoury Band with special guests.

The concert will be hosted by the non-profit Foundation for Bluegrass Music on the grounds of the Ryman Auditorium Tuesday (9/27) from noon until 2pm as part of the week-long (9/26–10/2) bluegrass conference.

Additionally, The Del McCoury Band will be digitally releasing their Bill Monroe tribute album, Old Memories: The Songs Of Bill Monroe on the day of the concert (9/27).

Monroe is widely known as the “Father of Bluegrass Music” when, in December 1945 in Nashville, a unique combination of Bill Monroe & his Blue Grass Boys debuted with  Earl Scruggs on banjo and his three-finger style of playing electrified the audience of the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium. The new style of music they performed would be so widely emulated by other groups that it would become known as “bluegrass” music, in respect to the band’s name. A Tennessee state historical marker is placed in 2006 at the northwest corner of the Ryman to celebrate this event.

Music Execs Join TN Film, Entertainment & Music Commission

Some of Music Row’s best known execs have joined the board of the Tennessee Film, Entertainment & Music Commission (TFEMC). Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty announced the board appointments this week:

Mike Curb, founder of Curb Records (Chairman of the TFEMC board)

Jay Frank, most recently Sr. VP of Music Strategy for CMT, and author of FutureHit.DNA

Rod Essig, agent CAA

Rivers Rutherford, hit songwriter/producer

Craig Brewer, Memphis-based director/screenwriter
 (Hustle and Flow, Footloose)

David Porter, Grammy winning songwriter from Memphis (“Soul Man”)

Bruce Shine, mediator and arbitrator

Carey Nelson Burch, TV agent for My Own Shingle

Susan Packard, Co-Founder of HGTV

“This distinguished group of industry professionals brings broad experience and unique perspectives to the board and will help us continue to grow Tennessee’s entertainment industry,” Haslam said. “I’m excited to welcome them, and I appreciate their commitment and willingness to serve as we attempt to expand on the incredible industry talent and infrastructure already in place.”

Ending their time on the board are Scott Borchetta, Ken Levitan, Lynsey McDonald, James Alexander and Dean Deyo.

Paisley Pens Book, Reba Returns To TV

Brad Paisley will release his first major book, Diary of A Player, on Nov. 1. Published by Howard Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, the book is Paisley’s salute to the guitar gods of country, blues, and rock & roll who have shaped his life. It is described as a love letter to the guitar from Paisley, whose grandfather gave him his first guitar when he was eight years old. The book is co-written with David Wild, a contributing editor to Rolling Stone and an Emmy-nominated television writer and producer.

Reba McEntire, who had a big hit TV show with her namesake sitcom, could return to acting. She will shoot the pilot to a show called Malibu Country in April 2012. ABC is behind the pilot, and if the network picks it up, full production would start in August 2012. Variety reports it is a comedy about a divorced mother of three who leaves Nashville for a fresh start in Malibu, with plans to give her singing career another go.

Give The Gift of Music Campaign Relaunches

NARM, the RIAA and CMA have teamed to revitalize the “Give The Gift Of Music” campaign. The effort is timed to coincide with the Nov. 9 CMA Awards, which leads into the upcoming holiday shopping season.

Taylor Swift and Chris Young are among the artists who offered new videos about their most memorable music gifts. The videos launched exclusively in a special “Countdown to CMA” section of the website, which also includes previous video contributions from Little Big Town, Rascal Flatts, Martina McBride, Blake Shelton, Kelly Clarkson and Darius Rucker.

The “Give the Gift of Music Campaign” is also holding a contest asking fans to share how a particular 2011 CMA Awards nominee’s music (song, lyrics, performance, etc.) has inspired them. The grand prize winner receives two tickets to attend the CMA Awards and $1,000.


Chris Young – Gifting Memory from NARM on Vimeo.

Mayor Dean Unveils Music Makes Us Education Initiative

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean has announced plans to beef up the music education curriculum in Metro Nashville schools, pledging to make the program the worldwide leader.

Dean unveiled his new approach today (9/15) at a press conference at the Ryman Auditorium, surrounded by industry insiders including Atlantic artist Hunter Hayes.

The new initiative, Music Makes Us: The Nashville Music Education Project, will overhaul the Metro Nashville Public Schools’ music program to include a contemporary curriculum with new technologies that more accurately reflect the diversity of popular music.

Hunter Hayes and Nancy Shapiro, Vice President, Member Services and Regional Management for The Recording Academy, at the Ryman Auditorium for the ‘Music Makes Us’ press conference. Photo: Betsy McHugh

Expected to be added to the curriculum in area middle and high schools are classes in songwriting and composition, rock band and hip-hop performance, and technology-based production such as DJ/Remixing and recording. Traditional music curriculum in band, orchestra and choir will also be enhanced.

“Through Music Makes Us, Music City will become the standard bearer of what music education can be and should be in public education,” Dean said. “Our innovative curriculum will draw in students that may have felt left out in the past. Beginning at a young age, Metro students will be exposed to a wide array of musical styles and influences.”

Metro Schools will now have an Office of Music Education with a full-time director and staff. The current school year will be an organizational period, with private donations, to hire the director and a program coordinator. An audit of the school district’s facilities and equipment will also be conducted.

“Whereas traditional PreK-12 music education programs rely heavily on orchestras, marching bands, and choirs, students in Nashville will start enjoying new outlets for their creativity as soon as the 2012 school year,” said Dr. Jesse Register, director of Metro Nashville Public Schools. “Music Makes Us will promote strong music literacy, appreciation and creativity and will enhance academic learning in other subjects.”

Music Makes Us was formulated over the last two years through the education committee of the Music City Music Council, formerly the Nashville Music Council, in collaboration with the Mayor’s Office and Metro School. Education committee chair Nancy Shapiro helped lead the program’s development.

Bobby Karl Works The Room

Chapter 373—Pt. 2

The Possum Turns 80

Onward. The festivities continued on Tuesday (9/13) with a downtown party to salute the 80th birthday of George Jones. We began at Rippy’s on Broadway in an upstairs dining room packed with reporters, photographers and videographers. The Possum patiently posed and did interviews, one by one.

“You never know when you’re going to pass away or what’s going to happen,” he said philosophically. When I asked him if he had a birthday message for his fans, he added, “I hope everybody lives to be 80 and more.”

Eddy Raven, Jason Michael Carroll, The McClymonts, Richard Young of The Kentucky Headhunters, Whitey Shafer, Ken Mellons, Billy Yates, Guy Penrod, Guy Gilchrist (who draws/authors the Nancy cartoon and writes country songs), Keith Bilbrey, Jimmy Carter, Randy Matthews of The Nashville Music Guide, Doak Turner, Rob Simbeck, Beth Gwinn and more well wishers crowded around the legend.

“You have been much on my mind this week,” I told attendee Travis Tritt. “And you, mine,” he replied. You see, we were together at his house in rural Georgia on 9/11/01. I was there with a CMT crew when the world stopped turning.

The vittles were – what else? – barbecue and fried chicken, plus raw veggies, tortilla chips and (huh?) chocolate cupcakes. Meanwhile, hundreds of fans jammed the main dining room, eager for a glimpse or a snapshot of George.

The birthday celebration continued at the Ryman during the Tuesday night Opry (9/13). It featured Alan Jackson, Joe Diffie, The Oak Ridge Boys, Lee Ann Womack and Jamey Johnson. But we had other fish to fry.

The Opry cheers George Jones' 8oth. (L-R): Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, Eric Lee Beddingfield, George Jones, Joe Diffie, William Lee Golden, and Richard Sterban

Leadership Music Alumni Reunion

Actually, there wasn’t a fish in sight at the Noah Liff Opera Center (9/13). Truth to tell, the schmoozing was so intense at the Leadership Music Annual Alumni Reunion there that I never got near the food table.

Everyone from Chuck Aly to Rolf Zwiep attended. Forgive me for this blur of bold type, but the massive crowd included such notable LM grads as Bill Lloyd, Bill Ivey, Billy Lynn, Peter McCann, Peter Collins, Tom Collins, Tom English, Dave Pomeroy, David Bennett, David Corlew, Ed Theis, Ed Salamon, Eddie DeGarmo, Charles Dorris, John Dorris, John Lomax III, John Beiter, Jonathan Yudkin, Jimmy Gilmer, Jim Photoglo, J. Fred Knobloch (in golf togs), Fred Vail and such other two-syllable stars as Ralph Peer, Ron Cox and Jay Frank.

The triple monikered Ree Guyer Buchanan, Melanie Smith Howard, Denise Stiff Sheehan, Hank Adam Locklin and Brenna Davenport-Leigh mingled with Tamara Saviano, Stacy Widelitz, Sheri Warnke, Deb Varallo, Garth Fundis, Kathleen O’Brien and Kira Florita (who was on her home turf since she’s now the opera’s development director). Bobby Rymer, Bo Thomas, Dale Bobo, Butch Baker, Sherrill Blackmon, Gene Kennedy and Caroline Davis worked the room, too. We congratulated the folks wearing red ribbons, since they represented this year’s LM class.

Meanwhile, Fabulous Superlative Kenny Vaughan was showcasing his new solo CD at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop (9/13). And The Dirt Drifters were celebrating theirs at 3rd & Lindsley (9/13). Are the plates still spinning?

NATD Honors

On Wednesday afternoon (9/14) The Recording Academy held a reception at its office to kick-off its Grammy U program. Singer-songwriter Dave Barnes was the attraction there.

That evening (9/14) at the historic Hermitage Hotel downtown the inaugural NATD Honors banquet was staged. The gala’s genial host Colt Ford described himself as “the best lookin’ 300-pound country singer in the whole wide world.”

Rod Essig called honoree Mayor Karl Dean, “The Music Mayor,” citing such initiatives as Musicians Corner in Centennial Park, the Live on the Green concert series, the Music City Convention Center, the expansion of the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Music City Music Council, Nashville Rising, the National Folk Festival and the fact that Dean is the first mayor to go through Leadership Music. Coming up: a new Nashville amphitheater and the announcement at the Ryman on Friday of a major music-education program in the Nashville school system.

“The music industry is No. 1, because it is the one industry that brings to the city, every day, creative people,” said Dean, “and that is what makes great cities great.”

“One of the things we could do is play more Colt Ford on the radio,” suggested Ford.

The Nashville Association of Talent Directors (NATD) staged its first College of Knowledge program at Murray State in Kentucky this year. On hand were the school’s Sarah Clark and $2,500 NATD scholarship recipient Hannah Rodgers, now an intern on Music Row at The Bazel Group.

Steve Lassiter spoke of honoree Jim Gosnell’s commitment to Nashville. Thanks to his support, the APA office here has expanded from 6 to 17 staffers, from 10 to 40 clients and quadrupled its business. Danny Robinson recalled his 30-year history with Gosnell.

Comedian Lewis Black’s remarks are mostly unprintable. “I’m in this business 40 years and I have NEVER heard somebody call themselves a ‘talent director,’” he barked. “This fake organization! You’re all hired extras!” he added in his trademark, sputtering, on-the-verge-of-a-heart-attack delivery style.

“Now I have a glimpse of what my funeral is going to look like,” said Gosnell. “I accept this on behalf of everyone at APA.”

Pete Weber saluted Barry Trotz. The Nashville Predators honcho becomes the first in the NHL to coach the first 1,000 games in a team’s history. He also led the Preds to the second round of the playoffs last season.

“I’m very blessed that you would honor me to be part of your community,” Trotz said.

Mike Campbell told a funny Tony Conway story involving TNN, the Illinois State Fair, Ricky Van Shelton, a lucky belt and a wayward helicopter. Joe Guercio presented Conway with the Col. Tom Parker Award.

“This award is special to me because I knew Col. Parker, and we were buddies,” said Conway.

Greg Fowler said, “25 years with Alabama was, and still is, the greatest time of my life.” The group’s award was for, “four decades of musical success and timeless philanthropy.”

In accepting, Randy Owen told us that he is a cancer survivor. “We are going on the road for 15 or 20 shows next year, so come see us,” said Jeff Cook. “I’m not too good at looking back,” added Teddy Gentry. “We’re looking forward, so send us some songs.”

The capacity crowd included Kevin Neal, Neal Spielberg, Jeff & Terri Walker, Crystal Gayle & Bill Gatsimos, Moore & Moore, Bernard Porter, Preshus Tomes, Rod Harris, Robert Frye and Fletcher Foster, plus such NATD board members as president Steve Tolman and Bonnie Sugarman, Jeff DeBusk, Josh DeBusk, Ed Bazel, Randi Perkins, Mike Smardak and Philip Lyon.

You wouldn’t think it would take three hours to hand out five awards, but it did. One consolation was the tasty menu. Glen Leven Salad, followed by beef tenderloin au poivre demi glace with buttermilk potato puree, roasted broccolini and garlic comfit with fresh fruit tart or coconut dessert cake prepared to perfection by the elegant, on-site restaurant The Capitol Grille. Don’t be too impressed: There was a card on the table with helpful foodie lingo on it.

People Country Features Lady A And Matraca Berg

Lady Antebellum and Matraca Berg are among the artists highlighted in the latest issue of People Country, now on news stands.

Lady A, who just released their third album, Own the Night, opened up their Nashville-area homes to People Country for an exclusive look.

First time homeowners Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood were thoughtful before taking up occupancy. Scott consulted both her family and her fianceé, drummer Chris Tyrrell, before purchasing her 3,400-sq- ft. bungalow. “It’s my sanctuary, where I come and feel safe and calm and relaxed,” she says. Members Kelley and Haywood invested in slightly smaller spaces. “It’s not too big, so it’s manageable and perfect for us,” Kelley says about his 2,700-sq- ft. colonial. Meanwhile, Haywood’s 900-sq.-ft. urban loft features a windowless bedroom “so when I get off the bus, I can grab a few more hours of sleep in the middle of the day if I need to,” he says.

The trio purchased their homes following the success of CMA Single of the Year “Need You Now.”

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No stranger to CMA Awards, Matraca Berg is enjoying the success of her song “You & Tequila.” The song, now a hit recorded by Kenny Chesney and Grace Potter, was written by Berg years earlier and has earned her a CMA Song of the Year Nomination.

Berg is humble about her recognition. “You don’t think about those things,” says the 2009 Songwriter Hall of Fame inductee. “Growing up around Music Row, that can’t be the reason you do it…I just try to catch moments in a jar, get them right, hope it makes the people singing and hearing the song feel it, too.”

Berg has also written songs sung by Trisha Yearwood, Patty Loveless, Reba McEntire, Martina McBride, Dusty Springfield and Linda Ronstadt. Her songs also appear on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Grammy-winning Will The Circle Be Unbroken, Vol 3.

Berg originally recorded “You & Tequila” on her Dreaming Fields album. The original recording is available here for download courtesy of People Country.