Mitchell Tenpenny Enters The Top Five On MusicRow Top Songwriter Chart

Mitchell Tenpenny. Photo: Matthew Berinato

Singer-songwriter Mitchell Tenpenny moves from No. 7 to No. 4 this week on the MusicRow Top Songwriter Chart. He is a co-writer on his own “Truth About You,” as well as his duet with Chris Young, “At The End Of A Bar.”

Ashley Gorley remains in the top spot this week with eight songs on the country charts, including Dierks Bentley’s “Gold,” Michael Ray’s “Holy Water,” Dylan Scott’s “New Truck,” Cole Swindell’s “She Had Me At Heads Carolina,” Parmalee’s “Take My Name,” Carly Pearce’s “What He Didn’t Do,” Brett Young’s “You Didn’t” and Morgan Wallen’s “You Proof.”

The weekly MusicRow Top Songwriter Chart uses algorithms based upon song activity according to airplay, digital download track sales and streams. This unique and exclusive addition to the MusicRow portfolio is the only songwriter chart of its kind.

Click here to view the full MusicRow Top Songwriter Chart.

BREAKING: BMLG Adds Megan Joyce As Sr. VP, Business & Legal Affairs

Megan Joyce

Big Machine Label Group has announced the addition of Megan Joyce as Senior Vice President, Business and Legal Affairs. She will inherit the responsibilities of BMLG’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel Malcolm Mimms, who will be transitioning into a consulting role for the company after more than a decade of leadership.

“Malcolm Mimms has been part of Big Machine since its very first spark and he helped build and guide the label literally from its birth. He’s been my legal pillar of strength, in many ways, we helped changed the course of the industry in going from physical releases to digital. There were no road maps as the industry changed, and continues to change, at warp speed. He’ll still be on my quick-dial, and watching over us, but I will miss him dearly as he’s part of the DNA of Big Machine,” shares BMLG President/CEO/Founder, Scott Borchetta.

“Malcolm was not going to leave us until he found an exceptional executive to hand off the legal baton of the BMLG. In Megan Joyce, he has done just that,” adds Borchetta. “From our first meeting, Megan spoke our language and she’s jumped right into all things Big Machine. Thank you, Malcolm and welcome Megan!”

Joyce comes to BMLG with 20 years of experience in sales, marketing, and legal executive roles with such companies as Atlantic Records, Warner Music Nashville, Roc Nation, and most recently, Provident Entertainment. A graduate of UCLA and Seton Hall University School of Law, she is a member of the Recording Academy and Leadership Music.

“I’m thrilled to join the world-class team at Big Machine Label Group at such an exciting time for our business,” says Joyce. “I am honored that Scott Borchetta and Andrew Kautz have entrusted me with this role. I know that I have very big shoes to fill.”

Taylor Swift, Ashley Gorley To Be Honored At 5th Annual Nashville Songwriter Awards

Taylor Swift & Ashley Gorley

Taylor Swift will be honored by NSAI as the Songwriter-Artist of the Decade and Ashley Gorley as the Songwriter of the Decade at the 5th Annual Nashville Songwriter Awards.

Presented by City National Bank, the awards will take place at the Ryman Auditorium on Sept. 20, with 20 previously announced performers set to take the stage to honor their favorite writers and award-winners.

Performers newly-added to the growing lineup include Jordan Davis, Little Big Town, Luke Combs, Parmalee, and Alana Springsteen. Previously announced performers include Pat Alger, Tony Arata, Babyface, Kent Blazy, Jacob Davis, Gayle, Hardy, Walker Hayes, Josh Jenkins, Matt Jenkins, Matt McGinn, Thomas Rhett, Matt Rogers, Jenn Schott, Nathan Spicer, Matthew West, and more to come.

Swift’s incredible success between 2010-2019 puts her in the company of previous decade award recipients: Toby Keith (2000-2009) and Vince Gill (1990-1999). This decade honor adds to her long list of NSAI achievements, which includes being named NSAI’s Songwriter-Artist of the Year a record-breaking seven times. Swift has also received three 10 Songs I Wish I’d Written awards (“Lover” in 2020, “Better Man” in 2017, and “Shake It Off” in 2015).

Gorley has earned the title of NSAI’s Songwriter of the Year five times in the past eight years. He recently celebrated another hit with his 62nd No. 1, and he has previously earned nine awards from NSAI including the 2008 Song of the Year award for “You’re Gonna Miss This” recorded by Trace Adkins. Additionally, Gorley has earned three 10 Songs I Wish I’d Written awards (“I Lived It” and “Marry Me” in 2018, and “Dirt On My Boots” in 2017).

“On behalf of City National Bank we would like to congratulate Taylor and Ashley on their Songwriter-Artist of the Decade and Songwriter of the Decade Awards,” note Diane Pearson and Lori Badgett, Co-Heads of City National Bank Entertainment Division, Nashville. “We look forward to an incredible night at the Nashville Songwriter Association Awards featuring performances by songwriters and artists now including Jordan Davis, Little Big Town, Luke Combs, Parmalee, Alana Springsteen and more as we celebrate the 5th annual event!”

In addition to celebrating the aforementioned decade winners, the evening will also honor the 2022 song, songwriter, and songwriter-artist of the year, as well as previously announced recipients Garth Brooks (Kris Kristofferson Lifetime Achievement Award) and Sony Music Publishing Chairman & CEO, Jon Platt (NSAI President’s Keystone Award).

Luke Combs Notches Three Week MusicRow No. 1

For a third week, Luke Combs’ “The Kind Of Love We Make” occupies the No. 1 position on the MusicRow CountryBreakout Radio Chart. In just 8 weeks at radio, he has earned a cumulative 9,845 spins on the CountryBreakout Chart. 

“The Kind Of Love We Make” was written by Combs, Dan Isbell, Reid Isbell, and Jamie Davis.

Combs has partnered with Atlas Experiences and the Wisconsin Lottery to launch the “Living Lucky with Luke Combs” multi-state lottery scratch off and bonus drawing. Through the promotion, Combs will be showcased on lottery tickets. The partnership is a natural fit given the content of Luke’s iconic song “When It Rains It Pours,” which is centered around winning a hundred bucks on a lottery scratch-off ticket.

Click here to view the latest edition of The MusicRow Weekly containing the MusicRow CountryBreakout Radio Chart.

DISClaimer Single Reviews: Tyler Braden Wows With ‘Try Losing One’

Tyler Braden. Photo: Marisa Taylor

Country music has booze on the brain this week.

”What else is new?” you ask. Well, Priscilla Block and Drew Green are having a party time with it, while Parker McCollum and Breland with Lady A are drowning their sorrows. Even more significantly, Dax & Elle King are seriously dealing with the issue of alcoholism.

Neither of our award winners is singing about this theme, however. Tyler Braden earns a Disc of the Day award for just being a vocal sensation. Erin Kinsey is joyously heading for the open road and nailing down a DISCovery Award.

Read on.

ERIN KINSEY / “Just Drive”
Writers: Erin Kinsey/Josh Ronen/Michael August; Producer: Josh Ronan; Label: RECORDS
–The track is bursting with energy and sizzle. On the choruses, the rocked-up guitars almost overwhelm her potent, double-tracked soprano. But overall, this is a commanding performance. Texas-to-Tunetown transplant Kinsey made her Opry debut last month, and it was a dandy.

BRELAND & LADY A / “Told You I Could Drink”
Writers: Charles Kelley/Daniel Breland/Zach Manno; Producers: Sam Sumser/Sean Small/Zach Munno; Label: Bad Realm/Atlantic/Warner
–A slow R&B groove leads to Breland’s hip-hoppy vocal. Lady A’s luscious harmonies kick in on the heartbroken choruses. The group’s dynamic Charles Kelley takes the second verse, pulling us firmly onto country solid ground. In light of his current effort toward sobriety, the lyric seems somewhat ill-timed.

JESSE LABELLE / “My Last Broken Heart”
Writers: Jesse LaBelle/Rob Crosby; Producer: Jesee Labelle; Label: JL
–Labelle’s showcase last Friday at the Listening Room was a home run. He demonstrated full mastery of his craft as a performer—engaging the audience, leading a crackerjack band, commanding the stage and singing his face off. And then there were the songs, as accomplished as anything you will hear in Music City. I’ve liked this guy’s records in the past, and this propulsive new single has rasp, moxie, urgency and fire to spare. It also drove the audience wild. He is totally “ready” and richly deserves a seat at the table. Get on board, A&R reps.

TOBY KEITH / “Peso In My Pocket”
Writer: Toby Keith; Producers: Kenny Greenberg/Toby Keith; Label: Show Dog
–The title tune of Toby’s new album is a good-time stomper, an invitation to a night on the town with “a peso in my pocket and a pepper in my pants/Got a pancho on my shoulder and a cha-cha in my dance.” Snarling guitars and a snarky vocal drive this delightful, south-of-the-border ditty. This total pro shows the kiddies how it’s done, for real. Get well soon, Big Guy. We miss ya.

Writers: Rachel Wammack/Kelly Archer/Tawgs Salter; Producer: Zach Manno; Label: Sony
–This penetrating ballad is a personal statement of purpose, reclaiming her true self instead of trying to please others all the time. Her intimate vocal is terrific, engaging the listener with every breath, every phrase and every falsetto soprano leap. Bravo.

PARKER McCOLLUM / “Handle on You”
Writers: Parker McCollum/Monty Criswell; Producer: Jon Randall; Label: MCA Nashville
–McCollum is on a roll. This thumpin’ heartbreak song finds him drinking away the blues while the band heats up to a slow rolling boil behind him. Every steel-string twang marks this with country authenticity.

DREW GREEN / “This Miller Lite of Mine”
Writers: Drew Green/Brent Anderson/Smith Ahnquist; Producer: Mark Trussell; Label: Sony
–Who could resist this title? Yes, it borrows the tune of “This Little Light of Mine.” And yes, it rocks.

RICHARD MARX / “One Day Longer”
Writers: Richard Marx/Keith Urban; Producer: none listed; Label: RM
–Marx was a big pop/rock hit-maker in the late 1980s (”Hold On to the Night,” “Right Here Waiting,” “Don’t Mean Nothing,” etc.). His forthcoming Songwriter album is meant to demonstrate that he can write country tunes with finesse. This energetic track takes a page from co-writer Urban’s sunny/uptempo playbook. Quite enjoyable.

TYLER BRADEN / “Try Losing One”
Writers: Tyler Wayne Davis/Adam Newman Wood/Tyler Braden; Producers: Adam Wood/Randy Montana; Label: Warner
–This ex-firefighter has been knocking on the door for far too long. Come on, people. Swing it open wide, because this power ballad burns with ferocious power and passion. His vocal range is simply stunning, beginning in a hushed baritone and rising to high tenor, and then higher still. In a word, wow.

PRISCILLA BLOCK / “Off the Deep End”
Writers: Priscilla Block/Martin Johnson/Brandon Paddock; Producers: Martin Johnson/Brandon Paddock; Label: Mercury
–She’s so much fun. This sassy bopper urges us all to go a little crazy every now and then. “The whiskey’s fine, jump in!” she exhorts. I want to party with her. Don’t you?

Writer: Amanda Shires; Producer: Lawrence Rothman; Label: ATO
–Shires new Take It Like a Man album is getting lots of media attention. On this Latin-tinged ballad, the Jason Isbell fiddler/spouse is joined by her Highwomen bandmate Morris on high vocal harmony. Their blend is delicious. Keyboards, strings, guitars and punchy percussion swirl in a fabulous mix.

DAX & ELLE KING / “Dear Alcohol”
Writers: Alex Nour/Daniel Nwosu Jr./Elle King; Producer: Lex Nour; Label: RECORDS
–This is yet another attempt to mash up country and hip-hop. Dax has nothing to do with country music, as his vocal and the electro track make plain. King jumps aboard in support, but the result is still more his music than hers. That said, the lyric’s message is definitely three-chords-and-the-truth, a socially conscious masterpiece that faces the struggle for sobriety head on. The video featuring both artists depicts the stark reality of an AA meeting. Essential listening.

My Music Row Story: Music Health Alliance’s Tatum Hauck-Allsep

Tatum Hauck-Allsep. Photo: Ashley Hybert

The “My Music Row Story” weekly column features notable members of the Nashville music industry selected by the MusicRow editorial team. These individuals serve in key roles that help advance and promote the success of our industry. This column spotlights the invaluable people that keep the wheels rolling and the music playing.

Music Health Alliance Founder/CEO, Tatum Hauck-Allsep, established the music industry’s first non-profit resource for healthcare in 2013, which has gone on to serve over 18,000 industry professionals and saved them over $84 million in healthcare costs. Allsep’s career also includes time with MCA Records, artist management, and the launch of the Vanderbilt Medical Center’s Music Industry Relations Department. In 2021, Tatum was named CMA Humanitarian of the Year for MHA’s COVID Relief efforts. Her additional awards include MusicRow’s Rising Women on the Row, Nashville Healthcare Hero, Women of Music City, Nashville Post’s Top Non-Profit Leader, National Healthcare Innovation Award, and numerous honors from Billboard.

MusicRow: Where did you grow up?

I grew up deep in the piney woods of south Mississippi. I went to junior high and high school in Sumrall, Mississippi. We did not even have a stop light, we had a caution light. We would hang out at The Handy Pantry on Friday nights after football games. It was just a teeny tiny town. It was safe and nobody left.

MCA & Arista promotion teams in 1998

What did you want to become then?

The music industry wasn’t even on my radar. I thought that I wanted to go into medicine. I came to Nashville to go to Vanderbilt in 1993. I focused on medicine and I got weeded out my junior year of college pretty quickly by organic chemistry. It just did not make sense to me. My major at Vanderbilt was Human and Organizational Development.

I had always worked in healthcare in the summers. I worked in an emergency room in Mississippi and volunteered at the children’s hospital at Vanderbilt. When it came time to intern, I thought, “I’m in Music City. I’ll just see what’s happening in the music industry.” I ended up with an internship at MCA Records and I felt like I had found my tribe. I thought, “Oh my gosh. I’ve never felt so at home anywhere. Not in college, not in high school, and not at home in Mississippi. These are my people.”

Did you change your major?

Nope! I stayed Human and Organizational Development and it’s really been an asset. It was psychology combined with sociology combined with business. Having that real, tangible experience in the setting that eventually became my career was invaluable.

The head of my department at Vanderbilt had been a songwriter. He understood that if you stepped out [of healthcare], it would be really hard to step back in. He let me create independent studies every semester, so I was able to intern in every department at MCA and Decca.

What did you do after graduation?

The second semester of my senior year, right before I was about to graduate, I got hired because Scott Borchetta got fired. Who gets to say that? (Laughs) Obviously, he has done just fine. Everybody at MCA loved him and cheered for him, it was just time for him to spread his own wings. When he left, everybody in the department bumped up and I became the receptionist of promotion at MCA Records. I felt like I had arrived.

MCA promotion team with Reba McEntire in 1999

What were your goals for your career then?

I was watching artist managers take risks early. Erv Woolsey took a risk early with George Strait and there were so many stories like that about the greats in our industry. I really thought that I would end up either staying and climbing the ladder at the label or going into management.

I had a starter marriage in the music industry, which I don’t recommend, but it gave me my greatest life lessons of all time. I met my future husband, moved real fast and left MCA. I went to Atlantic for a hot minute with Barry Coburn and then left to build a management company with my starter husband. I got pregnant quick, right after we got married, and got divorced within a year.

In the divorce, I inherited some artists. (Laughs) The Derailers were one of them. I learned a ton and they’re still really good friends. I thought management was phenomenal—I loved the negotiating piece and I loved understanding contracts, but I couldn’t be on the road with twin boys, so I to needed to make another career change.

What happened next?

I went into pre-term labor, and it ultimately led to Music Health Alliance. By that point, I was 26 or 27, so I understood the value of benefits and health insurance. When I left employment with benefits, I made sure the first thing I did was get health insurance. When I went into pre-term labor, I was in the hospital for six weeks on bedrest. The boys were born at 28 weeks, so three months early. They each weighed two pounds and were in the NICU for nine weeks. Fortunately, they are great now, but I left the hospital with two sick babies, a half million dollar bill, and a marriage that was imploding.

I didn’t know that you could negotiate medical bills and I didn’t know that you could challenge decisions by health insurance companies. I liquidated every asset I owned and talked to my grandfather, who was a businessman, and asked him to co-sign a loan with me. He did and it took me 10 years to pay off.

I also learned that my story was not unique. It was happening all over the music industry. Every five minutes there was a benefit where we were passing the bucket for somebody. That really resonated because at my darkest hour, when I was a single mom with infant twins on heart monitors and oxygen, it was the music industry that made me feel so safe and so loved. It was a much smaller industry then, but everybody operates the same way today. This is a really precious family.

Tatum with infant twins, Rex & David, in NICU in 2001

How were you able to move on?

Vanderbilt Medical Center wanted to start their first department of music industry relations. I ended up getting hired for the job. They really wanted to be fundraising and I said, “Everybody goes to the music industry with their hand out. We’ve got to make this medical center valuable to the music industry.” The person I reported to had built a committee of music industry executives—Joe Galante, Kix Brooks and more. One day Kix said, “If you can figure out how to bring health insurance to the music industry, then they’ll come use your facility.”

That’s all I needed to hear. It gave me permission to understand this crazy thing that almost wrecked my life. So I started meeting with health insurance companies. I met with about 17 of them and after every one of the meetings, I felt like I needed a shower. It was so gross. All they saw were big numbers and big money. It was way before the Affordable Care Act had passed, so about 35 cents of every dollar went to commission for health insurance. It was big money at that point. I met a guy who had been in the music industry who was an insurance broker. He wasn’t held captive by any one company. We started what was CMA Sound Healthcare. I left Vanderbilt after three or four years to build Sound Healthcare.

When did you decide to start Music Health Alliance?

The Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010 and that opened up this enormous opportunity for the music industry to have access to healthcare like never before. My whole goal with Sound Healthcare was to build a nonprofit and my business partner did not have any interest in that. He was a businessman, which is totally fine. Sales were his mechanism. We decided to amicably part ways. My family and I moved to Montgomery, Alabama and that was what allowed me to clearly see the path that needed to be taken to build what became Music Health Alliance.

Tatum with with patient, Dalton Waggoner at the 2nd Annual Miles & Music For Kids benefitting Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in 2007. Photo: Susan Waggoner

My husband had been an attorney before he became a professor. One night at 3 in the morning, I woke him up and I was like, “I had this dream! Look at this dissolution agreement. Is there a non-compete?” He was like, “Oh my God. It’s 3 in the morning. There’s no non-compete.” I wrote the entire business plan for Music Health Alliance that night.

I had this dream about what it should look like and insurance had to be a component. It had to be a part of it, but just one small part. In the United States, that’s the primary mechanism to gain access to healthcare: health insurance. But I had to figure out a way to remove the profit motive. With the profit motive, it skews the objectivity. We need to make sure if you walk in and you have a healthcare issue, the payment mechanism that we pick for you is going to be what meets your needs, not my needs.

When did you get to start helping music industry folks?

The first client that called to ask for some help was Cowboy Jack Clement. He had been diagnosed with liver cancer and just needed help navigating it. I hadn’t even come up with the name Music Health Alliance yet, but the whole template of how we navigate came into play when we helped Cowboy Jack walk through his liver cancer. He said, “I’m going to have a living wake. I think it’d be really cool if it benefited this nonprofit you’re building.” That was in January of 2013 and that was our first public facing event where we launched.

How did you start building your team?

Kimberly Dunn was my right hand and sounding board starting Music Health Alliance. Herky Williams was our first development director. When he went on to pursue other things, I looked in MusicRow and I saw that Sheila Shipley Biddy was leaving the label where she was. She had been one of my greatest mentors when I was an intern.

Tatum with Dukes of Hazzard cast at Vanderbilt Children’s 2006

I called her and said, “I don’t know what your next step is, but I’ve started this nonprofit. I can only pay you a half salary for now, but this is what I need: an advocate. Someone who can study and understand Medicare, someone to help us bring organization to this non-profit.” So Sheila became the first full-time, salaried hire and now she’s our CFO. I feel so honored to get to work with her every day and learn from her. I’m a bulldozer and a big picture person. She can take the big picture and help bring the execution to it.

Music Health Alliance became even more life-saving during the pandemic. What was that like?

Overnight, the phone calls went from, “I’ve got a new diagnosis and I need help finding a doctor and navigating medical bills,” to, “I don’t know how I’m going to be able to afford formula, diapers and food.” Because we’ve been able to be nimble, it allowed us to shift gears really quickly and figure out how to meet that need. We went online to try to get gift cards from Walmart, Kroger and Trader Joe’s, but you could buy one gift card a piece. We called our banker at City National Bank, Lori Badgett, who has been a champion for us since the beginning. We said, “We need to come cash a $60,000 check and I’m going go buy gift cards at these stores.” She said, “Alright. Let’s make it happen.” So my son—who served as my bodyguard—went with me into the bank to get $60,000, put it in my little purse, and go to Walmart and buy gift cards. (Laughs)

Pictured (L-R): Hunter Phelps, Hardy, Tatum Allsep (Founder/CEO, Music Health Alliance), Jameson Rodgers, Randy Montana at the inaugural “Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda” event benefitting Music Health Alliance. Photo: Hunter Berry

People would come to us to get gift cards, but then we would talk to them about their secondary needs. Is it help with your rent? Is it help with diapers and formula? Some people would call back for help for a second month, about 40% would call back for a third month, and about 3% to 5% called back for a fourth month. It was amazing to see people figuring out how to navigate it. Our industry is so resilient.

Then it was following the virus. What do all these vaccinations mean? How do we differentiate fact from fiction? So we found the facts and then we would assimilate them out to industry leaders. It wasn’t coming from us, we were just sourcing them so they could see the facts.

What’s your proudest accomplishment at Music Health Alliance?

I didn’t know Beverly Keel—I had just revered her because she is an icon. Somebody called and said, “Beverly’s sister is in liver failure and they’re telling her to go home and get her affairs in order.” The Hippocratic Oath hangs in my office. It says, “I will practice my craft, the art of medicine, not based on profit, but because it is the right thing to do.”

In the U.S., you can’t get on a transplant list if you are not fully insured. I understand that, from the business sense, but not from the human sense. Especially not at a nonprofit, faith-based hospital. We were able to go in and navigate and find loopholes. The transplant gave her five more years. That’s one of the cases that means the most to me.

Terry Hemmings To Exit Provident Entertainment, Holly Zabka Named President

Terry Hemmings

Renowned music business executive Terry Hemmings will exit Provident Entertainment at the end of August. Holly Zabka will succeed Hemmings as President, reporting directly to Randy Goodman, Chairman and CEO, Sony Music Nashville.

Hemmings has played an integral role at Provident Entertainment, signing and building its roster for 20 years. His impact at Provident has expanded the profiles of faith-based artists such as Zach Williams, CAIN, Casting Crowns, Kirk Franklin and more.

Holly Zabka

“Over the last two decades, Terry has played an important part in shaping Provident and we are grateful to him for his commitment to leading the business and supporting our artists, songwriters and creators for so long” shares Goodman. “As Sony Music Nashville continues to work even more closely with Provident, we are committed to strengthening that connection under the leadership of Holly as she further elevates Provident, our artists and our songwriters.”

Hemmings says, “Provident Entertainment and Sony Music have been my home for 20 years. I am grateful for the many inspiring artists, songwriters, and our community at Provident with whom I have had the privilege to work. My career here has been an incredibly special and rewarding part of my life. I wish our entire team at Provident and Sony Music Nashville the very best as I move ahead to explore new elements of my life for which my time here has equipped me. I am excited to see a new generation of leaders take this business forward and further the foundation we have built together.”

Zabka is a 14-year veteran of Provident. With decades of experience in leadership roles across the music industry on both the publishing and creative sides of the business, she most recently served as Senior Vice President, Essential Music Publishing (EMP) and Head of Creative for Provident Label Group (PLG). Since Zabka joined the company, Provident has celebrated more than 60 No. 1 songs and has partnered with top artists and songwriters such as Williams, CAIN, Jason Ingram, Ethan Hulse, Matt Maher, Mia Fieldes, Jonathan Smith, Red Rocks Worship and more.

“For the last 14 years, I have had the great joy of championing an incredible roster of artists and writers at Provident Entertainment,” she shares. “In my new role, I am honored to continue advocating for our creatives and leading an amazing staff in developing our business, writing exciting new chapters for growth and opportunity, and ushering in a vibrant season of significant songs and stories. I am confident that the future of faith-based music and films is Provident Entertainment.”

Pop And Country Great Olivia Newton-John Passes

Olivia Newton-John. Photo: Michelle Day

Grammy and CMA award winning Olivia Newton-John has died at age 73, following a long struggle with cancer.

Husband John Easterling announced her passing on social media yesterday. She died at her Southern California ranch on Monday, August 8.

Olivia Newton-John had seven top-10 country hits, including “Let Me Be There” (1973) and “I Honestly Love You” (1974). Newton-John was the CMA Female Vocalist of the Year in 1974. Her pop smash “Hopelessly Devoted to You” (1978) was drawn from the soundtrack of her much-loved movie musical Grease. “Physical” was No. 1 on the pop hit parade for 10 straight weeks in 1981. She has sold more than 50 million records worldwide.

Olivia Newton-John was born in England in 1948, but her family moved to Melbourne, Australia when she was five. Her parents divorced four years later, and she was raised by her mother. At age 14, she began singing with three female friends in folk and jazz clubs. A year later, her older sister got her a job on a local TV show.

This led to winning a national talent contest. The prize included passage to London and a recording contract. Her debut pop single appeared in 1966. In England, she formed the duo Pat & Olivia with singer Pat Carroll. When Newton-john returned to solo singing, Carroll’s husband John Farrar became her producer.

Her early singles included versions of the American folk song “Banks of the Ohio” and Bob Dylan’s country tune, “If Not for You.” The latter became the title tune of her debut LP in 1971. The record also included versions of Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Help Me Make It Through the Night.”

Executives at her record label decided to market her as a country singer. “Let Me Be There” hit the country top-10 in 1973, became a Gold Record and earned her a country-music Grammy Award. She followed it with the Gold-selling, back-to-back, top-10 country smashes “If You Love Me (Let Me Know)” and “I Honestly Love You” in 1974. The latter won the Grammy as Record of the Year, plus a pop Grammy. She was named the CMA Female Vocalist of the Year.

This created controversy in Nashville. Johnny Paycheck, Billy Walker, Jean Shepard, Bill Anderson, Barbara Mandrell and others objected to Newton-John, John Denver, Marie Osmond, Bonnie Tyler, Pia Zadora and other pop acts being embraced by country radio. Newton-John confessed that when she was told she was being marketed as “country,” she had no idea what that meant.

When the CMA voters chose her over Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton and Tanya Tucker, the pot boiled over. Dissidents formed an anti-CMA organization called the Association of Country Entertainers (ACE) in protest.

“Have You Never Been Mellow” became another Gold Record country smash for the singer in 1975. Olivia Newton-John moved to the U.S. in 1976 and successfully courted Nashville when she recorded in Music City. The totally countrified “Please Mr. Please” became another Gold Record, and she recorded the works of such Nashville songwriters as Mickey Newbury, Dolly Parton, Rory Bourke and Bob Morrison. She also began to write songs, herself.

In 1976, she took Linda Hargrove’s “Let It Shine” into the country top-10. “Every Face Tells a Story” and “Don’t Stop Believin’” also became country hits that year. The latter became the title of her first Nashville-recorded album, as well as her 2018 autobiography.

She was 29 when she was reluctantly cast as teenager “Sandy” in the 1978 movie Grease. It became the most successful movie musical of all time. “You’re the One That I Want” was a duet with costar John Travolta that earned a Platinum pop record. The soundtrack’s ballad “Hopelessly Devoted to You” went Gold and became her last significant country-crossover hit.

She received the prestigious Order of the British Empire in 1979. Thus, she became Dame Olivia Newton-john.

The pop hits “Magic,” “Xanadu” (with the Electric Light Orchestra) and “Suddenly” (with Cliff Richard) emerged from the soundtrack of her 1980 film Xanadu. A year later, the Platinum-selling “Physical” became an aerobics-class staple and the biggest pop smash of her career. Olivia Newton-John’s other pop hits of the 1980s included “Make a Move on Me” (1982), “Heart Attack” (1982), “Twist of Fate” (1983) and “Soul Kiss” (1985). Elton John produced and co-wrote her 1988 single “The Rumour.”

By this time, she had racked up multiple accolades from the American Music Awards, the Academy of Country Music, ASCAP, NARM, the People’s Choice Awards, Billboard, Cashbox and Record World. She became a global touring attraction. Eight of her album earned Gold and/or Platinum certificates. She earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In 1983-92, she and Pat Carroll Farrar operated Koala Blue, a boutique chain selling Australian clothing and other products. She wed actor Matt Lattanzi in late 1984, and they had daughter Chloe in 1986. The couple divorced amicably in 1995.

The star’s commitment to animal welfare and ecological responsibility resulted in her 1990 appointment as the goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Environmental Program. Her 1989 LP Warm and Tender contained lullabies inspired by her daughter. The record was packaged in recycled cardboard and contained tips on how to help the environment.

Olivia Newton-John was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992. After successful chemo, alternative medicine, a partial mastectomy and spirituality, she became a tireless advocate for breast-cancer awareness. She founded a women’s cancer center in Australia. In 1994, she released the album Gaia: One Woman’s Journey, which chronicled her ordeal.

She resumed recording country music in Nashville in 1997. She co-wrote with Gary Burr, Victoria Shaw, Annie Roboff, Chris Farren, Steve Seskin and other Music Row tunesmiths. Her resulting Back With a Heart CD was released the following year. The album’s “Love Is a Gift” won Newton-John a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Song after it was featured on the soap As the World Turns.

She teamed with Shaw, Garth Brooks, Faith Hill, Bryan White, Billy Dean, Neal McCoy and Michael McDonald on 1998’s “One Heart at a Time.” The record was a benefit for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Tis the Season, a Christmas album with Vince Gill, was marketed by Hallmark in 2000. Her 2006 album Grace and Gratitude coincided with the marketing of her line of women’s wellness products, both by Walgreen’s. In 2008 she wed businessman John Easterling via an Inca ceremony in Peru.

Her cancer returned in 2013, but she again persevered. In 2016, she teamed up in a female trio with Nashville’s Beth Nielsen Chapman and Canada’s Amy Sky. The album was titled Liv On. All three singer-songwriters were breast-cancer survivors. Newton-John returned to Music City to sing for Chapman at the latter’s 2016 induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Olivia Newton-John was diagnosed again in 2018, and this time she found that the cancer had metastasized to her back. She withdrew from performing and sought alternative forms of treatment. She advocated cannabis therapy; her daughter established a marijuana farm in Oregon.

In addition to her husband, Olivia Newton-john is survived by daughter Chloe Lattanzi, sister Sarah, brother Toby and 15 nieces and nephews. Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

Ben Vaughn Calls For Cutting More Outside Songs, And He Brings The Receipts (Opinion)

Ben Vaughn

At three separate No. 1 parties recently, there has been a recurring sentiment made by all three artists—“I should cut more outside songs.”

When songwriters Jesse Frasure and Josh Thompson celebrated their outstanding song “Whiskey & Rain,” which is performed by Michael Ray, the artist-writer said, “I love writing songs. I feel like I’m getting into my best years of writing; I feel like I know who I am as an artist, and I know what I want to say. That being said, we wouldn’t have the foundation of Nashville if it wasn’t for songwriters, and I feel like they’re the last person on the totem pole a lot of times.”

Ray added, “When I go back to my heroes—Kenny Chesney, George Strait, Jason Aldean, Lee Brice, and Merle Haggard—they cut outside songs. My heroes cut outside songs. We’re a town that was built on songwriters. It means more to me than y’all know to say that I did not write this song.”

I’ve heard a similar sentiment from Maren Morris, who along with her hubby Ryan Hurd, delivered “Chasin’ After You” to the world. The well-traveled Music Row song and masterpiece written by Jerry Flowers and Brinley Addington rose to No. 1 and became Hurd’s very first chart-topping hit as a recording artist.

At the No. 1 party for “Chasing After You,” Morris said, “Once in a blue moon, an outside cut will go No. 1. I need to listen to this advice, too: artists can write songs, but every once in a while, for God’s sake, can you just let the professionals do it for you?”

As a long-time publisher, I will give a “Hallelujah and an Amen” to that statement.

Nashville is Music City USA—home of the best songwriters in the world. That has always been Nashville’s identity and a big part of Music Row’s legacy—the Songwriter is King & Queen here.

I vividly remember the days of tracks coming together after thousands and thousands of songs were pitched to create the perfect project for that artist. “Best song wins” was a phrase on everyone’s lips. Landing that perfect pitch and listening to the finished record while driving around Music Row was about the best high you could get as a publisher.

If you look at the charts, you’ll see that over the last few years, about 75% to 80% of the singles released in country music were co-written with the artist. Now, obviously Nashville is blessed with tremendous artist-writers that have strong voices and something to say, but it does seem that the ecosystem is out of balance.

To all industry friends—you wanna talk consumption?

Hurd & Morris’ “Chasin’ After You,” written by Flowers and Addington, earned more than 500 million streams. Jon Pardi’s “Dirt On My Boots,” written by Rhett Akins, Jesse Frasure and Ashley Gorley, notched over 800 million streams. Morgan Wallen’s “Whiskey Glasses,” written by Ben Burgess and Kevin Kadish, garnered over 1 billion streams. And of course, the biggest streaming song in country music is an outside song—artfully chosen and performed by one of the best songwriters ever—Chris Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey,” written by Dean Dillon and Linda Hargroves, has achieved over 2 billion streams. Yes, those are billions with a B, and guess what? All of these songs are still racking up impressive consumption numbers years after their initial release.

It’s not easy to make a living as a songwriter these days. You are depending on your words and your music only—there are no ticket sales, merchandise or sponsorships providing you with income like an artist has.

If you really want to think about what it’s like to be a songwriter, imagine that every day when you show up for work you are tasked with creating something completely original… every damn day. The men and women that unlock this mystery are some of the most uniquely gifted human beings walking this planet. Period. End of sentence.

Cody Johnson understands. He was effusive in his praise of the Ben Stennis and Matt Rogers-penned mega hit “‘Til You Can’t.”

“Thank you for writing it,” Johnson said at the No. 1 party. “There are thousands of people out there that it’s changed. I realize that I got to be the microphone for it, but it’s changed me. It changed who I am at my core—the way I view my stress, the way I view my anxiety or whatever is going on in my career.”

Michael, Maren, Ryan, Cody and their teams, thanks for digging deep and finding these great songs. The Songwriters and Publishers of Music City appreciate you.

*Streaming Data from Luminate of total On-Demand + Programmed Audio Streams

Luke Combs Remains At No. 1 On MusicRow Radio Chart

Luke Combs continues his reign on this week’s MusicRow CountryBreakout Radio Chart with “The Kind Of Love We Make.” This is his second No. 1 of 2022 following “Doin’ This” which peaked in March. 

This also marks his fifth multi-week No. 1 following “Cold As You,”“Forever After All,” “Lovin’ On You,” and “Even Though I’m Leaving” which each remained on top for two weeks. He also had a two week No. 1 as a songwriter for Carly Pearce and Lee Brice’s single “I Hope You’re Happy Now.”

“The Kind Of Love We Make” was written by Combs, Dan Isbell, Reid Isbell, and Jamie Davis.

Click here to view the latest edition of The MusicRow Weekly containing the MusicRow CountryBreakout Radio Chart.