Upcoming Lennon Tribute Has Nashville Roots

Yesterday marked the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s death. The legendary musician, who was returning home after a recording session, when was shot and killed in front of his apartment building in New York City on December 8th, 1980.

Nashville engineer Steve Marcantonio, who recently worked on hit albums including Taylor Swift’s Speak Now and Blake Shelton’s Hillbilly Bone, was one of the audio engineers on that session. He recalls, “I had just left him when he was shot. His death and life had a profound effect on me and the trajectory of my career. Working with him will always be one of the pinnacles of my career.”

Marcantonio is currently wrapping a project—which he has been working on for much of 2010—to pay tribute to Lennon and raise funds for the Nashville Engineer Relief Fund (NERF). The All We Are Saying … project will feature a collection of songs from Lennon’s solo years, sung by Nashville artists handpicked by Marcantonio.

The artists were chosen for their appreciation and passion for Lennon’s illustrious contributions to modern music history through his work with the Beatles and his solo years. Some of the artists involved include Rosanne Cash (“Look At Me”), Rodney Crowell (“Oh My Love”), Foster and Lloyd (“Crippled Inside”), Jeff Hanna and Matraca Berg (“Whatever Gets You Through the Night”) and Gretchen Peters (“Love”). The artists, studios, musicians and engineers all donated their time for this project, for which Marcantonio served as executive producer.

All We Are Saying …
will be distributed worldwide by Sweetwater Sound in early 2011. One hundred percent of the profits will benefit NERF, which supports the audio engineers in the Nashville community. “I’m an engineer who was helped out during some very rough times by this fund, and I wanted to help the organization that assisted me,” Marcantonio said.

“Recording this project reminded me of why I love living and working in Nashville. It is truly about the music, and hopefully our hard work will shine through in these recordings. John had a real affinity for the sound engineer,” Marcantonio recalled. “He was really good to all of us and very respectful of us as we made records with him. He would definitely approve of this project.”

Bandbox Preps 2011 Launch

Nashville company Bandbox hopes to streamline the way fans discover and share music on Facebook. The application would allow Facebook users to share songs from iTunes the same way they share links and photos, then their Friends could listen to and purchase the song without leaving the site.

The company headed by co-founder and CEO Brian Peterson is preparing for a 2011 launch. It recently received a round of seed funding from an investor that allowed it to move out of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center incubator space into its own office. Bandbox has also hired a development team to build and test the product.

Big Loud Shirt Retreat; Sandbox Contact Update

Last week Big Loud Shirt held its 2nd annual Christmas writer retreat, bringing in outside writers to pen Christmas tunes. Last year’s retreat resulted in Dave Barnes’ current single “Christmas Tonight” (a duet with Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott). The song was written by Barnes and Clint Lagerberg.

Pictured first row L-R: Nathan Barlowe, Bart Allmand, Jenn Schott, Craig Wiseman, Whitney Duncan, Lynn Hutton & Rodney Clawson. Back row (L-R): Chris Tompkins, Joey Moi, JT Harding, Joe West & Kendell Marvel.

•••••••••••••

Jason Owen’s Sandbox Entertainment has set up new digs. Reach them at

54 Music Square East
Suite 200
Nashville, TN 37203

(615) 915-5454

Belmont Stands At Credibility Crossroads

Mike Curb

MusicRow’s beat rarely strays from entertainment industry analysis and reporting, but in the case of Belmont’s University’s recent ouster of gay soccer coach, Lisa Howe, we feel compelled to join a growing chorus of press, students and city leaders urging the University with strong music industry ties, to first rehire Ms. Howe, and then amend and update its policies.

Mike Curb has been a strong Belmont supporter. The Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business bears his name as does the Curb Event center. MusicRow spoke with Curb last night (12/7) about his letter [see below] sent yesterday to Andrew Miller, President of the Belmont Faculty Senate which publicly communicated his deep concern over Belmont’s actions. Curb also congratulates the Faculty Senate on its approval of a resolution in support of gay members of the campus community. “The Senate believes that the sexual identity of individuals should not impact that person’s standing on campus,” states the resolution, which was passed unanimously.

Curb’s letter asks the University to go beyond just sexual orientation. “I hope this also means that there can be no discrimination based upon race, religion or sexual orientation,” he says. Not too many years ago Belmont policy made headlines when a Jewish legal professor was asked to sign a statement adhering to “Christian values.” Curb was involved, behind-the-scenes at that time, in helping to get the wording changed to “Judeo-Christian values.” Curb, a Belmont Trustee Emeritus, also notes in his recent letter that although Howe’s dismissal has been characterized as a Board approved decision, he was never contacted about the issue.

“Belmont has to decide whether they want to be a nationally recognized university—particularly with their school of music business—or they want to be a church,” Curb told the Tennessean this week. Curb also publicly supported gay rights in the late ’70s when running for lieutenant governor in California.

Marty Dickens, Chairman of the Metro Convention Center Authority and Chairman of Belmont’s Board of Trustees was recently quoted in the Tennessean saying that Belmont has a strict no sex outside of marriage policy. “We expect people to commit themselves to high moral and ethical standards within a Christian context.” A Facebook page calling for his resignation from the MCCA can be found here. A recent Sports Illustrated editorial by Jeff Pearlman refers to Dickens saying, “One of the greatest things about morality is how those who claim to act on its behalf are often the ones drinking from the emptiest cups.

Tennessean writer Gail Kerr sums the issue nicely in a recent editorial. “Belmont top dogs need to realize that Pandora’s Box is now wide open,” Kerr writes. “They cannot close it by denying this is a big deal. And they cannot continue to pretend to be a ‘progressive’ university, with an emphasis on diversity that they have preached and pushed in fundraising campaigns, and then turn around and fire people for being gay. If their standard truly is not allowing anyone to work there who has extramarital sex, does that mean they will cross-examine every member of the Belmont board of trustees and faculty? Have any of them ever, pray tell, cheated on their spouse? Seduced a student? Or are those sorts of things allowable as long as everybody whispers but doesn’t talk?”

Belmont interim provost Pat Raines said yesterday (12/7), “Belmont University welcomes diverse perspectives and aspires to increasingly engage our local and global communities, creating a culture of inclusion and mutual respect. As an ecumenical Christian university, we value and affirm the worth of every member of our community. At the same time we frequently engage our students in dialogue on the divergent perspectives of important issues, including Christian thinking about human sexuality, an issue being discussed and debated among many faith denominations around the globe. Members of the Belmont community—our students, employees, administration and board—represent a wide array of diverse perspectives on this issue, and we welcome hearing their voices in this ongoing dialogue. As part of its role, the Faculty Senate reviews and provides input on policies and procedures that impact academic matters, general education and the welfare of the faculty. We appreciate the leadership they provide and their commitment to the Belmont mission. We value their input and support their right to craft and advance this resolution.”

Dr. Robert Fisher

When the story broke on Dec. 3, Belmont President Dr. Robert Fisher declined to comment telling Channel 4, WSMV the issue was an “athletics matter.” Dr. Fisher, who Mike Curb describes as a “man with a good heart,” has accomplished a great deal during the last decade. Now as he steers Belmont into a modern era, he is being thrust into a pivotal, decision-making moment. According to Curb, Belmont’s music school is the largest stand alone school in the nation and more than half of Belmont’s students either study music business or music in general. Curb notes correctly, “When our students enter the workforce, they will be entering an industry where gay people have made incredible contributions.”

Nashville’s music community has a vested interest in supporting Belmont University’s Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business which has already contributed a great deal to our industry. MusicRow joins Mr. Curb and many others in urging the University to adopt a comprehensive policy that bans discrimination against students and faculty on the basis of race, religion or sexual orientation—before it is too late.

• • •

Curb’s Letter To Andrew Miller, President of Belmont Faculty Senate

Dear Andrew:
As a Trustee for a number of years and presently a Trustee Emeritus, I would like to congratulate the Faculty Senate for backing the right of professors and staff to not be discriminated against based on their sexual orientation.  I hope this also means that there can be no discrimination based upon race, religion or sexual orientation.  Hopefully, Belmont will offer to re-hire Lisa Howe and hopefully this type of injustice will never happen again.

Belmont’s Curb College is the largest stand alone music business college in the nation and more than half of Belmont’s students study either the music business or music in general.  All of us know that there are gay students at Belmont who are also very concerned.  When our students enter the workforce, they will be entering an industry where gay people have made incredible contributions.

Belmont and the Curb Event Center (where Lisa Howe worked) have become recognized nationally because of the presidential debate with President Obama and Senator McCain and other major entertainment concerts, sports events and forums held at the Curb Event Center.  If we leave an issue like this unresolved, I would strongly doubt that we would ever have an opportunity to compete for major entertainment opportunities at the Event Center in the future.

Even though it’s been reported that the Board has backed this, I can tell you that no one from Belmont or the Board has contacted me regarding this issue.  I will do everything I can to try to get the Board of Trustees to reconsider their position based on the fact that this is a basic civil rights issue.

Sincerely, Mike Curb

Word Launches 25 Live Agency

Word Entertainment has launched the 25 LIVE agency, formerly known as The Breen Agency. In addition to booking The Breen Agency’s artist roster, 25 LIVE will handle touring and live events. The 25 artist roster includes acts Chris August, Phillips Craig & Dean, Point of Grace, Bebo Norman, Sidewalk Prophets, and more.

“We are so thrilled to announce the newly launched 25 LIVE agency, as this step represents the next evolution of our commitment to transforming our business model to meet the evolving needs of consumers and artists,” said Rod Riley, President and CEO of Word Entertainment.

The Breen Agency was founded in 1998 by David Breen who will remain on board. In 2009, Word acquired The Breen Agency, retaining Breen, and agents Dara Easterday and Rann Russell.

The website for 25 Live is www.25LIVE.com.

Nashville Planning Artist Residence

An artist residence for Music City is in the works thanks to a partnership between the Nashville Music Council, Metro Development Housing Authority and Mayor Karl Dean’s office. Several cities across the country have artists residences, offering affordable housing to members of the creative community, and supporting them culturally and economically.

It remains unofficial, but MusicRow has learned that the Ryman Lofts at Rolling Mill Hill will be located downtown on Hermitage Avenue. The 60 apartment complex is being designed by Nashville-based Smith Gee Studio. Construction is set to begin in July 2011, with occupancy planned for Summer 2012. It will offer a floor-plan that is conducive to artistic endeavors, including ample common space. The one- and three-bedroom rental apartments will be easily accessible to downtown and the new greenway currently under construction on the bluff overlooking the Cumberland River.

The Hermitage Ave. location is near the one-time home of Captain Thomas Ryman, who oversaw the 1890s construction of the church which is today the Ryman Auditorium.

More on artist residences here and here.

DISClaimer Single Reviews (12/8/10)

Brad Paisley performs “This is Country Music” at The 44th Annual CMA Awards (11/10). Photo: John Russell

The moment this listening session began, the rest of the platters might as well have packed up and gone home.

As soon as I saw Brad Paisley’s “This Is Country Music” in the stack, I knew what the Disc of the Day was going to be. And it is.

One interesting trend of this edition of DisClaimer was the presence of offspring of famous country families. Both of them, coincidentally, are named Nathan. Nathan Stanley is descended from Opry star Ralph Stanley. Nathan Osmond comes from the clan of Osmonds. He is also the DisCovery Award winner.

JOE HAND/Million Million Years
Writer: Joe Hand; Producer: Joe Hand; Publisher: McHand, BMI; Songsfamous (track) (www.joehand.com)
—Songwriter Hand has cleverly titled his CD Songs Famous People Should Sing. Furthermore, he specifies which artists he thinks each song is suited for. This upbeat, positive love song, he says, would be good for Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, Vince Gill, Lonestar and/or Emerson Drive. It is somewhat wordy, but the chorus is hooky.

STEEL MAGNOLIA/Last Night Again
Writer: Joshua Scott Jones/Meghan Linsey/Hillary Lindsay; Producer: Dann Huff; Publisher: Universal/Kind Vibe/Meghan Linsey/Steel Mag/EMI Blackwood/Raylene, ASCAP/BMI; Big Machine
—Sweetly sexy. They hooked up last night, and both are ready for a repeat performance. The track bops nicely, and their harmony singing is splendid.

MATT BAILIE/Man Behind These Eyes
Writer: Matt Bailie/Donnie Van Zant/Aaron Sherz; Producer: Chip Martin & Matt Bailie; Publisher: MDB True Vibe Entertainment/Shanty Town, ASCAP/BMI; True Vibe (track) (www.mattbailiemusic.com)
—Did you write it with no melody on purpose?

BRAD PAISLEY/This Is Country Music
Writer: Brad Paisley/Chris DuBois; Producer: Frank Rogers; Publisher: House of Sea Gayle/Words & Music, ASCAP; Arista
—I was completely charmed by this when he introduced it during the CMA telecast last month. Evidently, a lot of radio folks were too, for it has become the second song from the awards show that they’ve asked for now (the other being the Jason Aldean & Kelly Clarkson duet). In addition to having the coolest lyric, it boasts an absolutely brilliant guitar solo. This just might be country music’s national anthem.

NATHAN OSMOND/Feels Like Heaven
Writer: Jim Collins/Marv Green/Dean Sams; Producer: Gary Baker & Nathan Osmond; Publisher: Hope N Cal/Living Big/Warner-Tamerlane, BMI; Ntune (track) (801-553-3480)
—Nathan is the son of Alan Osmond of The Osmonds. He’s definitely inherited the family’s musical genes. He sings with plenty of conviction and emotion. The title tune to his CD is a wide-open power ballad with a chorus that leaves him room to cut loose into his upper register. Seven tunes are co-produced with Gary Baker, and the other four are co-produced with Lonestar’s Dean Sams.

ALABAMA/Are You Sure Hank Done it This Way
Writer: Waylon Jennings; Producer: Alabama & Witt Stewart; Publisher: Universal Songs of PolyGram, BMI; Scatter/Big Machine (www.waylonjennings.com)
—This doesn’t stray far from Waylon’s original arrangement. A few lyrics are altered, which irritated me. And, frankly, I missed the swagger and snarl of Waylan’s delivery. It is drawn from a forthcoming tribute album titled The Music Inside: A Collaboration Dedicated to Waylon Jennings.

LUCY BILLINGS/Daddy’s Last Drive
Writer: Lucy J. Billings; Producer: John Jennings; Publisher: none listed; Sassy Time (track) (www.lucybillings.com)
—Producer Jennings is previously noted for his work with the esteemed Mary Chapin Carpenter. Why he chose to work with this bland, wimpy, limp vocalist is beyond me.

THE GRASCALS & DOLLY PARTON/I Am Strong
Writer: Jamie Johnson/Susanne Mumpower-Johnson/Jenee Fleenor; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; BluGrascal (track) (www.grascals.com)
—The Grascals upcoming CD is a Cracker Barrel project that teams the band with various country celebs (Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley, Tom T. Hall, Darryl Worley, Joe Nichols, The Oak Ridge Boys, Charlie Daniels). The package’s single is an empowering anthem that’s far more country than bluegrass. It’s about a child with cancer, and a portion of the album’s proceeds benefits St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

NATHAN STANLEY & VINCE GILL/The White Dove
Writer: Carter Stanley; Producer: Nathan Stanley & Alan Maggard; Publisher: none listed;  NS (track) (615-248-8105)
—Nathan is the 17-year-old grandson of Ralph Stanley. He has a pure and true Appalachian tenor voice, and his My Kind of Country CD indicates that he already has plenty of fans in the country community. His collaborators on it include Gene Watson, Patty Loveless, Marty Stuart & Connie Smith, Ricky Skaggs, John Anderson and Jimmy Dickens, as well as his father and grandfather. This performance with Vince on high harmony is the lovely, mournful bluegrass waltz initially popularized by his forebears The Stanley Brothers.

GURF MORLIX/Blaze Foley’s 113th Wet Dream
Writer: Blaze Foley; Producer: Gurf Morlix; Publisher: Texas Ghostwriters/Bug, BMI; Rootball (track) (www.gurfmorlix.com)
—Blaze Foley was one of the great characters in Texas music. Morlix, noted for his work producing Lucinda Williams and other roots music makers, is releasing an entire album of his late friend’s compositions. It is a listening delight, throughout. This title tune is a witty and wacky outing with Morlix rasping the lyric and strumming dandy twang guitar. On “If I Could Only Fly,” Foley’s best known song, he is joined by Kimmie Rhodes on harmony vocal. Heartily recommended.

Lucinda Williams Sets March Release

Lucinda Williams is prepping for the March 1 release of her new album Blessed, on Lost Highway. For the 12-song project she paired with Grammy Award-winning producer Don Was, and co-producers Eric Liljestrand and Tom Overby.

Williams recruited Elvis Costello for guitar work on the track “Seeing Black.” Also making appearances on the album are Rami Jaffe on keyboards, and Matthew Sweet on vocals. The project contains a new version of “Kiss Like Your Kiss,” which originally appeared on the True Blood: Music From The HBO Original Series – Volume 2 soundtrack. That song was recently nominated for a Grammy for Best Song Written For Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media.

Williams, a three-time Grammy winner, is releasing a deluxe edition of Blessed with bonus material titled The Kitchen Tapes.

Photos: Clay Walker and More

••••Clay Walker performed his hit single “She Won’t Be Lonely Long” on The Fran Drescher Show Friday.

••••New country duo the Cooke Sisters, Ashley and Jenny Cooke, shared some studio time with Veronica Ballestrini recently at James Stroud’s Loud Recording Studio in Nashville. All were in town to record with Tim McGraw’s co producer Darran Smith. The Cooke Sisters’ first single “Indescribable” will be released in early January on Tall Tree Records. Ballestrini’s new single is “In My Room” the Beach Boys classic, also due in early 2011.

L-R: Mike Borchetta, Jenny Cooke, Darran Smith, James Stroud, Ashley Cooke and Veronica Ballestrini

••••Bo Bice made his Grand Ole Opry debut stage on Saturday, December 4, performing “Different Shades Of Blue” and “You Take Yourself With You,” from his current album, 3.

L-R: Bo Bice and Grand Ole Opry's VP/General Manager Pete Fisher. Photo: Chris Hollo


Kennedy Center Honors Haggard, McCartney

Kennedy Center Honorees Merle Haggard, Bill T. Jones, Sir Paul McCartney, Jerry Herman and Oprah Winfrey.

Washington D.C. was glowing with star power on Sunday night, Dec. 5, for the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors. Merle Haggard was among the esteemed honorees, alongside Sir Paul McCartney, Oprah Winfrey, Bill T. Jones, and Jerry Herman.

Vince Gill opened the salute to Haggard, calling him the “poet of the common man.” Willie Nelson narrated Haggard’s video biography before performing with Sheryl Crow as part of the tribute. Also taking the stage were Kris Kristofferson and Miranda Lambert for Haggard’s “Silver Wings,” and Gill and Brad Paisley on “Workin’ Man’s Blues.” Nelson then recruited Kid Rock and Jamey Johnson onstage for “Ramblin’ Fever.”

On hand to salute McCartney were No Doubt, Dave Grohl and Norah Jones, Steven Tyler, James Taylor, and Mavis Staples.

Oprah was honored by Julia Roberts, Sidney Poitier, John Travolta, Barbara Walters, Jennifer Hudson and Chris Rock.

The gala will air Dec. 28 on CBS.