Carly Pearce Invited To Join The Grand Ole Opry

Carly Pearce on stage at The Grand Ole Opry. Photo: Chris Hollo

Carly Pearce has been invited to be the latest Grand Ole Opry Member by the iconic Opry Member Dolly Parton. The invite happened off the Opry stage late last week, and the public announcement was held until Pearce’s Opry appearance last night (June 22) so she could experience the moment on the hallowed stage.

It was a full circle moment for the CMA and double ACM Award winner, who cut her teeth as a performer at Dollywood when she was a teenager. When the invitation was extended as seen in the video, Pearce though she was taping a promotion for the theme park. This is the first time Parton has asked someone to become a member of country’s longest running institution.

After the invitation video played for the packed Opry House, the crowd stood in applause as Carly expressed, “Truly this is the most precious place and the most precious family I could ever be a part of. I’ve experienced so many wonderful things in my career so far, but this takes the cake!”

“When one of ours has a special moment, it’s an honor to be part of that,” Parton said. “Carly is a real songwriter and bright heart – and I loved getting to ask her to do something so very special.”

Dolly Parton, Carly Pearce. Photo: Alexa Campbell

For Pearce, who has played the Grand Ole Opry 85 times, it was a moment she will never forget.

“[The Opry has] been the greatest love of my life since I was a young girl listening with my grandparents. All of the greatest writers, legends and pioneers have been on that stage, and I feel them in my bones anytime I walk in the stage door… To actually be asked to join the Opry family, there are no words,” Pearce said.

“Carly Pearce and the Opry have enjoyed a most special relationship since even before she made her Opry debut,” said Opry Executive Producer Dan Rogers. “We’ve loved every minute of watching her star grow over the past few years and are thankful she reveres the Opry after more than 80 appearances even more than she did on her first night with us. Every night she plays the Opry, I try to make my way back to her to thank her for taking the time to visit us. Every single time she replies, ‘It’s my favorite place to be.’ Here’s to the Opry being Carly’s favorite place to be for the rest of what will no doubt be a long, successful career.”

Pearce will be officially inducted on Tuesday, Aug. 3.

Acclaimed Nashville Songwriter Ross Copperman Finds Artist Voice Again [Interview]

Ross Copperman. Photo: Gus Black

With 30 No. 1 country songs to his credit, Ross Copperman is a well-known name on Music Row. He’s been a part of massive country hits with Kenny Chesney, Dierks Bentley, Keith Urban, Darius Rucker and more. He’s earned numerous songwriter awards, including two CMA Triple Play Awards and an ACM Songwriter of the Year win. Additionally, Copperman’s production work has garnered him several Grammy nominations.

While his work in the country space has no doubt kept him busy, Copperman’s musical story started in 2006 as an artist signed to the UK-based Photogenic Records—where Natasha Bedingfield was signed at the time. While he had success with pop-rock songs “As I Choke” and “All She Wrote,” Copperman felt the pull to something different.

“I did a lot of touring and making records—I did my time in the UK and I got burned out on being an artist when I was younger. I didn’t know what I was doing,” Copperman tells MusicRow.

With a need for a new direction, Copperman returned home to the United States and headed to Music City. “I knew that I was a songwriter first and I knew that Nashville was the Mecca of songwriting. I also knew that the way I wrote songs was in a very Nashville-style way of writing songs. So I came here and was embraced by the community immediately. I found people that loved songwriting as much as I did. I fell in love with it like everyone else that comes here and falls in love with it.”

Now, with nearly 20 years of success as a hit songwriter under his belt, Copperman is returning to the artist spotlight.

“That desire was always there. It never went away, I just buried it for a long time,” Copperman says. “The pandemic happened and I was like, ‘If I’m going to do it, this would be the time to do it.’ It gave me the time to be able to focus on it, and I found a team that believed in me and my music. That was a huge part of it, finding people that actually believed in what I was doing.”

Copperman signed with Photo Finish Records, and in May released his first EP in years, Somewhere There’s a Light On. The five-track project features piano-driven pop songs, with lyrical concepts that nod to Copperman’s country repertoire.

“I started writing these songs years ago, I’ve really always been writing these songs. I had the session with Ed Sheeran and we wrote ‘Electricity’ and ‘Therapy’ in the same day. I fell in love with those two songs, I was secretly hoping nobody would cut them. A year and a half passed and I played them for every artist in town because I was so excited,” Copperman says. “It just didn’t fit in country music. I finally asked Ed for his blessing to put them out myself and he was so gracious and supportive. That was a huge turning point for me.”

The title track for the project is an ethereal pop ballad with a fascinating bass drop, and finds Copperman singing the comforting message: “Take your time, feed your soul, if you ever find yourself alone, and you need a place that feels like home, somewhere there’s a light on.”

“The message behind that song is everything I stand for as an artist, reminding people that there’s good out there and no matter how hard your day is, somebody else is experiencing the same thing somewhere. Somewhere there’s a light on for you”

“Alex Mendoza, who co-produced this record with me, really helped me find my sound. My having produced so many albums, I felt like I needed that outside voice to help guide me. I wanted to be the artist in this scenario, I didn’t want to be producing myself, ” Copperman says of the project’s unique sound. “Alex brought perspective and was able to see it from 30,000 feet, whereas when you are the artist and you’re making music, it’s hard to see it from a different perspective. He brought a young energy to it, which really suited the songs. And he just brought perspective for me to be like, ‘Let’s do a drop here after this chorus.’ That’s my dream, to do songs with drops–I know how to make a country drop, but I don’t know how to do a legit pop drop.”

While Copperman admits he is a songwriter first, he’s excited to return to his own artistry.

“My dream is to ultimately play theaters, to get to that point where I can do theaters. I’m going to continue to just put out songs, I have more lined up to come this year,” Copperman sums. “I just want to continue to grow it and to give it all I have with a new sense of grounding.”

Copperman’s Somewhere There’s A Light On, his first collection of original music released in 10 years, is out now.

Luke Bryan Peaks On MusicRow CountryBreakout Radio Chart


Luke Bryan earns his first No. 1 of 2021 on the MusicRow CountryBreakout Radio Chart with “Waves.” In April, the single swept that charts as the most added and highest debut for its impact week, debuting at No. 35 on the MusicRow CountryBreakout Radio Chart.

Writer credit for “Waves” goes to Zach Crowell, Ryan Hurd, and Chase McGill. The song also appears on the deluxe version of Bryan’s album Born Here Live Here Die Here.

Bryan has announced several gigs for 2021, the Proud To Be Right Here Tour kicking off in July and The 2021 Farm Tour in September. Planning ahead in 2022, he also announced the return of Crash My Playa for January and a Vegas residency for February.

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

DISClaimer Single Reviews: Thomas Rhett & Rhett Akins, Pryor & Lee, Shy Carter & Friends

Country music can rock you, touch your heart, or tickle your funny bone, and all three of those are in today’s DisClaimer.

You wanna rock? Let Shy Carter and his buddies show you how. If sentiment is what you crave, settle in with Pryor & Lee. As for humor, may I introduce you to today’s goofy DisCovery Award winner, Toby T. Swift?

My dad has been gone for several years, but Thomas Rhett’s is still very much with us. In fact, they played the Opry together last weekend. So as a sweet salute to Father’s Day, play his Disc of the Day winner, “Things Dads Do.”

DIRT REYNOLDS / “Battleship Chains”
Writers: none listed; Producer: Ryan Dishen; Label: Ditto
— This is a Nashville country-rock band. The song is a Georgia Satellites goldie. It rocks, but could use some production polish.

CHRIS YOUNG / “Rescue Me”
Writers: Matt McGinn/Chris Young/Christian Stalnecker/Josh Hoge/Mark Holman; Producer: Chris Young/Mark Holman; Label: RCA Nashville
— I’m not sure I understand the reasoning behind taking a singer this strong and doubling the vocal track, but the sound is intriguingly “different” for him. The ballad pleads for her hand in a novel way. Toward the end, we do get to hear his vocal phrasing unadorned by production. I remain a fan.

PRYOR & LEE / “Good Ol’ Dogs & God”
Writers: Adam Wood/Doug Johnson/Elvie Shane/Trent Fisher; Producer: Doug Johnson; Label: Black River
— Pryor Baird and Kaleb Lee are dog lovers. Next Wednesday (June 23), they are doing a virtual concert for 130 animal-rescue organizations nationwide in conjunction with this single release. The gist of the ballad’s dobro-laced lyric is unconditional love, which is what you can count on from both your dog and your God. “Best friends, amen,” they sing. These two singers were roommates when they competed individually on The Voice. As a duo, they pack a punch.

THOMAS RHETT / “Things Dads Do”
Writers: Thomas Rhett/Rhett Akins/Matt Dragstrem/Chase McGill; Producer: Dann Huff/Jesse Frasure; Label: Valory Music Co.
— Sunday is Father’s Day, and who better to have a tender papa ballad than this guy? Singer-songwriter dad Rhett Akins launched one of our most consistent contemporary country hit makers. No wonder Thomas has crafted something so well written and perfectly produced. An emotional bullseye.

LUKAS NELSON & PROMISE OF THE REAL / “Perennial Bloom”
Writers: Lukas Nelson; Producer: Dave Cobb; Label: Fantasy
— This jangly country rocker is the single from the band’s new album, A Few Stars Apart. The record’s release party is at the Basement East on Wednesday (June 23). Lukas has papa Willie’s high, reedy tenor tone, but with a tougher edge. And he seems to be gaining strength with each new release. Americana programmers also take note.

GABBY BARRETT / “Footprints On The Moon”
Writers: Gabby Barrett/Jon Nite/Zach Kale; Producer: Ross Copperman/Zach Kale; Label: Warner Music Nashville
— This uber-produced, empowering, pop-rock banger says that anything is possible for you. After all, there are human footprints on the moon. Gabby goes for a three-peat.

TOBY T. SWIFT / “Cicada Love Call”
Writers: Toby T. Swift; Producer: none listed; Label: TTS
— Totally dumb and totally hilarious. He compares an ex-wife to a 17-year cicada who has come back to bug him. I love his oafish delivery as well as his flat-footed melody. Ya gotta love the lyric. Essential listening.

ZAC BROWN BAND / “Same Boat”
Writers: Zac Brown/Ben Simonetti/Jonathan Singleton; Producer: Ben Simonetti/Zac Brown; Label: Warner Music Nashville/Home Grown Music
— A summer jam, for sure. The bouncy tempo, upbeat hippie message and band vocal harmonies are all back, as strong as ever. Bop along.

RESTLESS ROAD / “Bar Friends”
Writers: Geoff Warburton/Jordan M. Schmidt/Kyle Clark/Tyler Filmore; Producer: Jared Keim; Label: RCA Nashville/1021 Entertainment
— This catchy thumper is a rousing celebration of buddy drinking. It’s such a toe tapper that it’s hard to sit still while it unspools. The trio continues to show promise.

JASON ALDEAN / “Heaven”
Writers: Bryan Adams/Jim Vallance; Producer: none listed; Label: BBR
— Aldean has been singing this classic Bryan Adams ballad in his concerts for years. Now the studio version is an Amazon exclusive. It’s a reminder that he really can sing, which isn’t always evident in his rock-’em-sock-’em performances.

SHY CARTER, COLE SWINDELL, DAVID LEE MURPHY / “Beer With My Friends”
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Label: Warner Music Nashville
— It’s a rowdy, shout-along, gang performance of a barroom banger that sounds exactly like a party. Raise a glass, turn it up and sing with them.

KAMERON MARLOWE / “Tequila Talkin’”
Writers: Dan Isbell/Kameron Marlowe/Ray Fulcher; Producer: Dann Huff; Label: Columbia Nashville
— I still dig his Southern-fried singing voice with its hints of r&b. This slow-burn romance tune simmers like a steamy summer afternoon. The video debuts today on YouTube.

Kenny Chesney Announces Here And Now 2022 Stadium Tour

Kenny Chesney. Photo: Allister Ann

Eight-time Entertainer of the Year Kenny Chesney will finally return to the road for his Here And Now 2022 Stadium Tour.

After his 2020 tour was forced to pause because of the pandemic, Chesney held out on rescheduling due to concern about who would not be able to attend sold-out stadium shows, last minute changes in protocols and the challenges of mounting stadium-sized concerts week-after-week with shifting local crews.

“When we hit pause on our 2020 tour, I never thought we would go much past the fall, let alone into 2021,” says Chesney. “The idea that it would be three years before I would stand in the end zone of Gillette Stadium, where No Shoes Nation was born, wasn’t something any of us could conceive.

“I still can’t really believe it,” he continues. “But in the middle of all of this, I know it’s true… and I know how much I miss being out there, being in the thick of the most passionate place in the world: No Shoes Nation. Anywhere they plant their flags, bring their passion, their friends and their will to rock, it reminds me that to be in the moment is everything No Shoes Nation is about!”

At long last, the 19-date Here And Now Tour kicks off April 23 in Tampa, Florida at Raymond James Stadium and closes with two shows at at New England’s Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts on Aug. 26 and 27. Chesney will hit Nashville’s Nissan Stadium on May 28.

The lineup will be revealed in the coming months, and all current ticket holders remain in the seats they’ve already purchased for Here And Now 2022.

Blue Chair Bay Rum Presents Here And Now 2022 Fueled by Marathon dates:
April 23 – Raymond James Stadium – Tampa, Fla.
May 7 – Busch Stadium – St. Louis, Mo.
May 14 – American Family Field – Milwaukee, Wis.
May 21 – Mercedes-Benz Stadium – Atlanta, Ga.
May 28 – Nissan Stadium – Nashville, Tenn.
June 4 – AT&T Stadium – Arlington, Texas
June 11 – Heinz Field – Pittsburgh, Pa.
June 18 – Lincoln Financial Field – Philadelphia, Pa.
June 25 – Soldier Field – Chicago, Ill.
July 2 – GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium – Kansas City, Mo.
July 9 – Bobcat Stadium – Bozeman, Mont.
July 16 – Lumen Field – Seattle, Wash.
July 23 – SoFi Stadium – Inglewood, Calif.
July 30 – Empower Field at Mile High – Denver, Colo.
August 6 – U.S. Bank Stadium – Minneapolis, Minn.
August 13 – MetLife Stadium – East Rutherford, N.J.
August 20 – Ford Field – Detroit, Mich.
August 26 – Gillette Stadium – Foxborough, Mass.
August 27 – Gillette Stadium – Foxborough, Mass.

In This Issue: MusicRow’s Artist Roster Features Clint Higham & Ebie McFarland, Rachel Whitney, More

Nashville music industry publication MusicRow Magazine has released its 2021 Artist Roster print issue, featuring ASCAP songwriters and Arista Nashville band Old Dominion on the cover.

This year’s edition features exclusive editorials including a chat with industry stalwarts Clint Higham and Ebie McFarland who continue to serve as cutting edge leaders in our industry. Higham and McFarland discuss lessons learned from the pandemic, “cancel culture,” TikTok and NFTs, and more.

This issue also highlights the National Museum of African American Music which is now part of our Nashville landscape serving as the only museum dedicated to preserving and celebrating the many music genres created, influenced, and inspired by African Americans. “Education is a big part of who we are and what we do,” says NMAAM’s President & CEO H. Beecher Hicks III of the institution. “We think that educating young people, educating the community to understand how significant African American music and African American culture is in middle Tennessee not only will draw more tourists, but also better train our community and our population to take the jobs that are coming our way as our community grows.”

Spotify’s Head of Editorial for Nashville, Rachel Whitney, discusses the art and administration behind curating some of country music’s biggest playlists. Spotify maintains over 100 different country playlists and aims to have something for everyone. “We cover a ton of ground in terms of trying to meet people where they are and creating the soundtrack to whatever they might be doing or whatever they might be looking for,” Whitney says.

Elsewhere in Artist Roster, Sound Healthcare & Financial CEO/Founder R.J. Stillwell talks about the last 15 years of his healthcare advocacy and insurance organization that helps artists, songwriters, musicians, and other creative types navigate the healthcare and insurance systems. Finally, with music always traveling in tandem with technology, this issue covers the basics of non-fungible tokens, commonly referred to as NFTs.

Additionally, Artist Roster contains five company directories complete with client rosters: Label, Management, Talent Agents, Publicity, and Artist Services (Business Management/Financial/Insurance, Digital Music, Legal, Marketing, Radio Promotion, and Organizations). This edition also offers a summarizing Artist Grid, which has become an indispensable tool connecting artists to their team members in each category.

Single copies of MusicRow’s 2021 Artist Roster print issue are available for purchase for $45, and are included with yearly MusicRow subscribed memberships.

On The Cover: MusicRow’s Artist Roster Issue Features Old Dominion

Reigning CMA and ACM Group of the Year Old Dominion graces the cover of MusicRow Magazine’s 2021 Artist Roster issue, out now.

Old Dominion has emerged as one of the hottest bands out of Nashville, fusing clever lyrics and an infectious sound. The ASCAP songwriters’ lyrical wit and hook-heavy songwriting has certainly proved a winning method. Since breaking onto the music scene in 2014, the band has notched eight No. 1 singles at country radio, surpassed one billion on-demand streams, earned several Platinum and Gold single certifications, and headlined arenas and amphitheaters around the globe.

Comprised of lead singer Matthew Ramsey, lead guitarist Brad Tursi, multi-instrumentalist Trevor Rosen, bassist Geoff Sprung and drummer Whit Sellers, the Arista Nashville act has earned numerous awards together. Most recently, Old Dominion earned their fourth consecutive Group of the Year win at the 56th Annual ACM Awards. At the 2020 CMT Awards, the band took home their first win for Group Video of The Year. The group also notched two nominations for the 2020 CMAs including Vocal Group and Album of the Year for their self-titled 2019 studio album, nominations for Top Country Duo/Group and Top Country Song for the 2020 Billboard Music Awards, as well as a Favorite Duo/Group – Country nod for the 2020 American Music Awards. In 2020, the band received their first two Grammy nominations for Best Country Duo/Group Performance and Best Country Song, for their hit single “Some People Do” which is featured on their third studio album.

Over the course of their career, the band has also been notably named ACM New Group of the Year, ACCA Breakthrough Group of the Year, AIMP Songwriter Artist of the Year, MusicRow Breakthrough Artist of the Year, and in 2016, front man Ramsey was ASCAP’s Artist of the Year. The band has also received nominations for CMT Awards, American Music Awards, Billboard Awards, and iHeart Radio Awards.

In May of 2021, Old Dominion debuted their newest single “I Was On a Boat That Day.” Of the new track, Ramsey said, “When you listen to ‘I Was On a Boat That Day’ you are hearing us in the full joy of making music together. From the moment I counted the band off we were smiling from beginning to end. The tequila was flowing, the laughter was loud, and we knew in that moment we were creating something that would bring people as much joy as it was bringing us.”

Single copies of MusicRow’s 2021 Artist Roster print issue are available for purchase at musicrow.com for $45, and are included with yearly MusicRow subscriptions.

Loretta Lynn, Joe Galante, Luke Combs, More To Be Celebrated At 14th Annual ACM Honors

The Academy of Country Music has revealed the recipients of the Special Awards for the 56th ACM Awards. The honorees will be celebrated during the 14th Annual ACM Honors on Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021 at the Ryman Auditorium.

Off-camera categories to be feted at ACM Honors include Studio Recording Award winners, the Songwriter of the Year Award, and more. Additionally, SRA (Studio Recording Awards) and Industry Award winners from 2020’s 55th ACM Awards will also be celebrated during this year’s ACM Honors. The eligibility period for this year’s ACM Honors was Jan. 1, 2020 – Dec. 31, 2020 and the eligibility period for 55th ACM Awards was Jan. 1, 2019 – Dec. 31, 2019.

Joe Galante and Rascal Flatts have been chosen to receive the ACM Cliffie Stone Icon Award this year. This award is presented to a country music artist, duo/group, or industry leader who throughout their career has advanced the popularity of the genre through their contributions in multiple facets of the industry such as songwriting, recording, production, touring, film, television, literary works, philanthropic contributions, and other goodwill efforts. Lady A and Ross Copperman have been chosen to receive the Gary Haber Lifting Lives Award, which is presented to a country music artist, duo/group, or industry professional who is devoted to improving lives through the power of music, has a generosity of spirit, and is committed to serving others, voted on by the ACM Lifting Lives Board of Directors.

Luke Combs will be honored with the ACM Gene Weed Milestone Award. This award is presented to a country music artist, duo/group, or industry leader for a specific, unprecedented or outstanding achievement in the field of country music during the preceding calendar year. Dan + Shay has been chosen to receive the ACM Jim Reeves International Award, which is presented to an artist or industry leader for outstanding contributions to the acceptance of country music throughout the world.

RAC Clark has been chosen as the recipient of the ACM Mae Boren Axton Service Award, which honors an outstanding country music artist, duo/group, or industry leader in recognition of years of dedication and service to the Academy of Country Music. Toby Keith has been chosen for the ACM Merle Haggard Spirit Award, which is presented to a singer-songwriter who is continuing the legacy of country legend and 20-time ACM Award winner Merle Haggard by following his/her own path, crafting great songs and epitomizing Merle’s spirit through genuine performances and great storytelling.

Loretta Lynn, Gretchen Peters, and the late Curly Putman (posthumously) have been chosen as recipients of the ACM Poet’s Award. This award goes to a country music songwriter for outstanding and longstanding musical and/or lyrical contributions throughout their career, with special consideration given to a song or songs’ impact on the culture of country music.

Ken BurnsCountry Music documentary has been chosen to receive the ACM Tex Ritter Film Award. This award recognizes an outstanding television movie, series, or feature film released during the preceding calendar year which prominently features country music.

Hillary Lindsey has been chosen as the recipient of the ACM Songwriter of the Year for the second year. This award is presented to an individual known predominately as a songwriter, selected by a professional panel of judges composed of songwriters, publishers, producers, and performing rights organization representatives.

56th ACM Awards (2020 Studio Recording Award Winners):
Bass Player Of The Year: Tony Lucido
Drummer Of The Year: Aaron Sterling
Guitar Player Of The Year: J.T. Corenflos (Awarded Posthumously)
Piano/Keyboards Player Of The Year: Dave Cohen
Specialty Instrument(S) Player Of The Year: Ilya Toshinskiy
Steel Guitar Player Of The Year *Tie In Category*: Dan Dugmore & Mike Johnson
Audio Engineer Of The Year: F. Reid Shippen
Producer Of The Year: Jay Joyce

 

The ACM will also be celebrating the 55th ACM Awards Industry and Studio Recording Award winners along with newly announced winners of the Studio Recording Awards for the 56th ACM Awards. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Industry Awards were not given out during this cycle.

Previously Announced Winners (Industry Awards Not Given In 2020 Due To Pandemic):

55th ACM Awards (2019 Industry Award Winners):
Casino Of The Year – Theater: The Joint: Tulsa – Tulsa, OK
Casino Of The Year – Arena: MGM Grand Garden Arena – Las Vegas, NV
Fair/Rodeo Of The Year: Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo – Houston, TX
Festival Of The Year: Tortuga Music Festival – Fort Lauderdale, FL
Club Of The Year: Joe’s Live – Rosemont, IL
Theater Of The Year: The Beacon Theatre – New York, NY
Outdoor Venue Of The Year: Red Rocks Amphitheatre – Morrison, CO
Arena Of The Year: Madison Square Garden – New York, NY
Don Romeo Talent Buyer Of The Year: Gil Cunningham – Neste Live!
Promoter Of The Year: Brian O’Connell – Live Nation

55th ACM Awards (2019 Studio Recording Award Winners):
Bass Player Of The Year: Jimmie Lee Sloas
Drummer Of The Year: Miles McPherson
Guitar Player Of The Year: Rob McNelley
Piano/Keyboards Player Of The Year: Gordon Mote
Specialty Instrument(S) Player Of The Year: Jenee Fleenor
Steel Guitar Player Of The Year: Paul Franklin
Audio Engineer Of The Year: Justin Niebank
Producer Of The Year: Busbee (Awarded Posthumously)

Rhett Akins, Brad Paisley, Shania Twain Among 2021 Nashville Songwriters Hall Of Fame Nominees

The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame (NaSHOF) has announced the 12 nominees for the class of 2021. Eight of these nominees are for the Songwriters category, while the remaining four are for the Songwriter/Artist category.

Nominees in the Songwriters category are Rhett Akins, Buddy Cannon, Larry Cordle, Carl Jackson, Mary Ann Kennedy, David Malloy, Frank J. Myers, and Tia Sillers. Nominees in the Songwriter/Artists category are Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, Shania Twain, and Phil Vassar.

All nominees experienced their first Top 20 song at least 20 years ago. Two songwriters and one songwriter/artist will be elected in these categories by their professional songwriter peers and members of the Hall of Fame. In addition, two more will be named to the Class of 2021. A separate body of veteran voters will elect a veteran songwriter and a veteran songwriter/artist, both of whom experienced their first Top 20 song at least 30 years ago. As part of that process, nominees in those categories are not announced.

The new group will be among those honored at the “50/51” Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Gala on Monday, November 1, 2021, at the Music City Center alongside the organization’s previously named Class of 2020: Steve Earle, Bobbie Gentry, Kent Blazy, Brett James and Spooner Oldham.

“We were forced to postpone our 50th Anniversary celebration last year, so this will be our ‘50/51’ party—celebrating two years and two classes in a special double-sized event,” says NaSHOF Executive Director Mark Ford. “We congratulate all of this year’s nominees and look forward to next month, when we will announce those who will be inducted as members of the Class of 2021.”

 

ABOUT THE NASHVILLE SONGWRITERS HALL OF FAME 2021 NOMINEES:

Category 1 – SONGWRITERS
RHETT AKINS
Valdosta, Georgia, native Rhett Akins began his professional music career as a performer at San Antonio’s Fiesta Texas theme park. In 1992, he made the move to Nashville. Initially a performer at Opryland theme park, he also worked as a demo singer, later signing a recording contract with Decca Record. As an artist, Akins topped the charts in the mid-1990s with “Don’t Get Me Started” and his signature song, “That Ain’t My Truck.” By the later 2000s, he was writing songs for other artists, including “Put A Girl In It” by Brooks & Dunn, “What’s Your Country Song” by Thomas Rhett, “All About Tonight” by Blake Shelton and “Boys ’Round Here” by Shelton with Pistol Annies & Friends. Akins also wrote “All Over Me” by Josh Turner (the 2011 BMI Country Song of the Year), “Honey Bee” by Shelton (the 2012 ASCAP Country Song of the Year), “Take A Back Road” by Rodney Atkins (the 2012 BMI Country Song of the Year) and “It Goes Like This” by Rhett (the 2014 ASCAP Country Song of the Year). Akins was named BMI Country Songwriter of the Year in 2011 and 2014. He was the 2017 ACM Songwriter of the Year and the 2019 ACM Songwriter of the Decade.

BUDDY CANNON
Buddy Cannon was born in Lexington, Tennessee. He began his diverse career as a songwriter, singer, musician, publisher, producer, and label executive in the early 1970s as bass player in Bob Luman’s band, later making the jump to play in Mel Tillis’ band and write for his publishing company. During their 11 years together, Tillis recorded several of Cannon’s songs, including the chart-topping “I Believe In You.” Throughout his career, Cannon’s keen song sense has served him well in the studio, helping select and record hit songs for artists ranging from Shania Twain to Kenny Chesney to Willie Nelson, with whom he has written regularly since 2008. His credits as a songwriter include “She’s Not Cryin’ Anymore” by Billy Ray Cyrus, “Look At Us” by Craig Morgan, “I’ve Come To Expect It From You” by George Strait, the Vern Gosdin hits “I’m Still Crazy,” “Set ’Em Up Joe” and “Dream Of Me,” as well as the Sammy Kershaw hits “Anywhere But Here” and “If You’re Gonna Walk, I’m Gonna Crawl.” “Give It Away” by Strait was named the 2007 ACM Song & Single of the Year and also the 2007 CMA Song of the Year.

LARRY CORDLE
Larry Cordle was raised in eastern Kentucky, where he began playing guitar and writing songs at a young age. He scored his first hit in 1983 when Ricky Skaggs topped the charts with “Highway 40 Blues.” Two years later, Cordle moved to Nashville and began creating a catalog that includes “Heartbreak Hurricane” by Skaggs, “Honky Tonk Crowd” by John Anderson, “Mama Don’t Forget To Pray For Me” by Diamond Rio, “Against The Grain” by Garth Brooks and “Hollywood Squares” by George Strait. “Lonesome Standard Time,” by his band of the same name, was the 1993 IBMA Song of the Year, as well as a country hit for Kathy Mattea. “Murder On Music Row,” also by Lonesome Standard Time, was the 2000 IBMA Song of the Year and the 2001 SPBGMA Song of the Year. The following year, the country version by Strait & Alan Jackson was named the 2001 CMA Song of the Year. “If I’d Have Wrote That Song” by Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers, was named the 2018 IBMA Song of the Year. He was named the 2001, 2019 and 2020 SPBGMA Songwriter of the Year. In 2015, Cordle was inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame.

CARL JACKSON
Carl Jackson was born in the small town of Louisville, Mississippi. By age 8, he was well on his way to being an accomplished musician, and by age 14, he was invited to play banjo in Jim and Jesse McReynolds’s band. Five years later, Jackson joined Glen Campbell’s band. During that time, he began to concentrate on songwriting. Among his diverse catalog of songs, Jackson has bluegrass hits such as “Comet Ride” by Ricky Skaggs and “Run Mississippi” by Rhonda Vincent; Gospel hits such as “It’s Not What You Know (It’s Who You Know)” by The Whites; and country hits such as “(Love Always) Letter To Home” by Glen Campbell, “No Future In The Past” by Vince Gill, “Put Yourself In My Place” by Pam Tillis, “Breaking New Ground” by Wild Rose and his own “Dixie Train.” “Little Mountain Church House” by Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver was named the 1990 IBMA Song of the Year. “Where Shadows Never Fall” by Campbell & Kelly Nelon Thompson earned the 1991 GMA Dove Award for Best Southern Gospel Song. Jackson was named the 1998 and 2000 SPBGMA Songwriter of the Year. He was inducted into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame in 2006.

MARY ANN KENNEDY
Mary Ann Kennedy hails from Muskego, Wisconsin, where she grew up singing in school choirs and performing in her family’s band. After college graduation, she taught junior high school choral music for two years before deciding to move to Nashville in 1978. A few years later, she was signed to a record deal as part of the all-female group Calamity Jane and also saw her first hit as a songwriter – 1982’s “Ring On Her Finger, Time On Her Hands” by Lee Greenwood (later a hit for Reba McEntire in 1996). By 1983, Kennedy and frequent co-writer Pam Rose left Calamity Jane to form Kennedy Rose. The duo recorded a pair of albums for Sting’s Pangea Records label and toured with him in the early 1990s. Beyond the duo, Kennedy’s catalog includes songs such as “Dixie Road” by Greenwood, “Me Against The Night” by Crystal Gayle, “Safe In The Arms Of Love” by Martina McBride, “You Will” by Patty Loveless, “A Little Bit Closer” by Tom Wopat and “He’s Letting Go” by Baillie & The Boys. Janie Fricke hit with “Somebody Else’s Fire” and “The First Word In Memory Is Me.” “I’ll Still Be Loving You” by Restless Heart was named the 1988 ASCAP Country Song of the Year.

DAVID MALLOY
California native David Malloy moved with his family from Los Angeles to Nashville at age 13. The son of an award-winning recording engineer, Malloy took his first guitar lesson at 15 and immediately knew that he wanted to write and produce music for a living. After a pair of early singles by Sammi Smith and Carmol Taylor, his first major success as a songwriter came through his collaboration with Eddie Rabbitt and Even Stevens. Together, the trio wrote and produced classic chart-topping hits for Rabbitt such as “Drivin’ My Life Away,” “I Love A Rainy Night,” “Step By Step,” “Someone Could Lose A Heart Tonight,” “Gone Too Far” and “You Can’t Run From Love.” Rabbitt’s “Suspicions” (also a hit for Tim McGraw in 2008) was BMI’s 1980 Country Song of the Year. “Love Will Turn You Around” by Kenny Rogers was named ASCAP’s 1983 Country Song of the Year. Other hits from Malloy’s catalog include “Real Love” by Dolly Parton & Rogers and “One Honest Heart” by Reba McEntire.

FRANK J. MYERS
Frank J. Myers grew up in Dayton, Ohio. His father, a champion fiddle player and singer, taught Myers to play the guitar. By age 14, he had formed a band with his brother and was featured on Porter Wagoner’s TV show. In 1981, Myers moved to Nashville, where he was hired by Eddy Raven as a guitar player – later becoming Raven’s band leader and road manager. During that time, he co-wrote 10 Top 10 singles for Raven, including “Bayou Boys,” “I Got Mexico” and “Sometimes A Lady.” In 1982, Myers’ “You And I” became a hit for Eddie Rabbitt and Crystal Gayle. Other hits from his catalog include “My Front Porch Looking In” by Lonestar, “Come In Out Of The Pain” by Doug Stone and “Once Upon A Lifetime” by Alabama. The John Michael Montgomery version of “I Swear” earned a slew of awards — the 1994 Grammy for Best Country Song, 1994 ACM Song and Single of the Year, 1994 CMA Single of the Year, 1995 ASCAP Country Song of the Year, and 1994 NSAI Song of the Year — with the All 4 One version topping the pop chart for 11 consecutive weeks. “I’m Already There” by Lonestar was the 2002 ASCAP Country Song of the Year and the 2002 BMI Country Song of the Year. “Tomorrow” by Chris Young was the 2011 SESAC Country Song of the Year.

TIA SILLERS
Growing up in Nashville, Tia Sillers became hooked on songwriting as a high-school student when she attended her first songwriters round. Years later her first publishing deal yielded “Lipstick Promises” by George Ducas in 1995. Also that year, Kenny Wayne Shepherd made her “Deja Voodoo” a Top 10 rock hit. Three years later, Shepherd delivered a No. 1 rock hit with “Blue On Black,” which earned the 1998 Billboard Music Award for Rock Track of the Year. The song was re-recorded in 2019 by Five Finger Death Punch with Shepherd, Brantley Gilbert & Brian May. In 2008, Sillers’ co-written “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack with The Sons of the Desert became a chart-topping multi-genre smash that earned the 2000 Grammy for Best Country Song, as well as the 2000 ACM Song and Single of the Year, the 2000 CMA Song and Single of the Year, the 2001 ASCAP Country Song of the Year, the 2001 BMI Country Song of the Year, and the 2000-2001 NSAI Song of the Year. Other notable songs from her catalog include “Land Of The Living” by Pam Tillis, “There’s Your Trouble” by the The Chicks, “I Cry” by Tammy Cochran, “That’d Be Alright” by Alan Jackson, “A Joyful Noise” by Jo Dee Messina and “Heaven, Heartache And The Power Of Love” by Trisha Yearwood.

 

Category 2 – SONGWRITER/ARTISTS
TOBY KEITH
Oklahoma native Toby Keith received his first guitar at age eight. After high-school graduation, he worked in the oil fields by day and played with his band at night. In the early ’90s, one of his demo tapes found its way to producer Harold Shedd, who signed him to a deal with Mercury Records. In 1993 Keith’s solo-written debut single, “Should’ve Been A Cowboy,” reached No. 1 on the country chart and would go on to become the most played country song of the 1990s. As an artist, he has placed 45 self-penned Top 20 songs on the Billboard charts, including 16 No. 1 songs and 17 more in the Top 10. Among those compositions are “You Ain’t Much Fun,” “How Do You Like Me Now?!,” “You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This,” “Beer For My Horses,” “I Love This Bar,” “American Soldier,” “A Little Too Late,” and “God Love Her.” “As Good As I Once Was” was BMI’s 2006 Country Song of the Year. Among his many awards, he was named BMI’s 2001 Songwriter of the Year, 2004 Writer/Artist of the Year and 2006 Songwriter of the Year. He was NSAI’s 2003, 2004, 2006 Songwriter/Artist of the Year, as well as that organization’s Songwriter/Artist of the Decade (2000-2009). In 2015, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in New York.

BRAD PAISLEY
Brad Paisley was born and raised in Glen Dale, West Virginia. He received his first guitar from his grandfather, who taught him to play at eight years old. At age 13, Paisley wrote his first song, which he performed publicly and eventually led him to an eight-year stint performing on Wheeling’s Jamboree USA. After high-school graduation and two years at West Liberty State College, he was awarded a fully paid ASCAP scholarship to Belmont University in Nashville where he majored in music business. A week after graduating from Belmont, Paisley signed as a writer with EMI Music Publishing. Following cuts by David Kersh, David Ball, and Tracy Byrd, he signed with Arista Nashville and soon began to record his own songs. As an artist, he has placed 33 self-penned Top 20 songs on the Billboard charts, including 15 No. 1s and 14 more in the Top 10. Among those compositions are “He Didn’t Have To Be,” “Alcohol,” “I’m Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin’ Song),” “Celebrity,” “Ticks,” “Letter To Me,” “Then,” “This Is Country Music,” “Water,” and his duet with Carrie Underwood “Remind Me.” Paisley was ASCAP’s 2004 Country Songwriter/Artist of the Year. He was NSAI’s Songwriter/Artist of the Year in 2002 and 2005.

SHANIA TWAIN
Shania Twain was born in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. When she was two, she moved with her family to Timmins, Ontario. During high school, she began writing songs and fronting a local cover band. After graduation, she toured Ontario with another band before returning home in 1987 to care for her younger siblings after their parents died in a car accident. A few years later she was signed to Mercury Nashville. Since the release of her debut album in 1993, Twain has placed 22 self-penned Top 20 songs on the Billboard charts, including 7 No. 1 songs and 8 more in the Top 10. Among those compositions are “You’re Still The One” (1998 Grammy for Best Country Song and 1999 BMI Country Song of the Year), “Come On Over” (1999 Grammy for Best Country Song) and “Forever And For Always” (2004 BMI Country Song of the Year), along with “You’ve Got A Way,” “(If You’re Not In It For Love) I’m Outta Here!,” “Love Gets Me Every Time,” “No One Needs To Know,” “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!,” “From This Moment On” and “That Don’t Impress Me Much.” Twain was named NSAI’s 1998 Songwriter/Artist of the Year, as well as BMI’s 1999 Country Songwriter of the Year and 2000 Country Songwriter of the Year. She was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2011.

PHIL VASSAR
Phil Vassar was born in Lynchburg, Virginia. During his college years, he began playing piano and singing in local clubs. Moving to Nashville to pursue music, he found the going slow for several years until 1997 when some of his initial songs were recorded by BlackHawk, Skip Ewing, and The Sons of the Desert. Then in 1998, Vassar’s songs started gaining traction as singles for a variety of artists. During the next two years, he garnered six chart-topping hits from Collin Raye, Alan Jackson, Jo Dee Messina (including the No. 1 “Bye, Bye”) and Tim McGraw (including the No. 1 “My Next Thirty Years”). During that time, he was named NSAI’s 1998 Songwriter of the Year and ASCAP’s 1999 Country Songwriter of the Year. In late 1999, he signed a record deal with Arista Nashville. Released the following year, his debut album generated the self-penned hits “Carlene,” “Rose Bouquet,” “Six-Pack Summer,” “That’s When I Love You” and “Just Another Day In Paradise,” Vassar’s first No. 1 as an artist. Propelled by that success, he was named ASCAP’s 2001 Country Songwriter/Artist of the Year. Other hits by Vassar as an artist include “American Child,” “In A Real Love” and “Last Day Of My Life.” He was named NSAI’s 2006 Songwriter/Artist of the Year.

River House Artists Ups Zebb Luster To VP/General Manager

Zebb Luster. Photo: Acacia Evans

River House Artists (RHA) has announced the promotion of Zebb Luster to VP/General Manager, effective immediately.

River House Artists is a Nashville-based label, publishing, management and artist development company led by industry veteran Lynn Oliver-Cline and boasts a roster including Luke Combs, Ray Fulcher, Nicolette Hayford, Drew Parker, Jameson Rodgers, Jordan Rowe, Southerland, Driver Williams, Billy Strings and more.

Luster, who previously served as creative director, has been with the company since 2017 and was RHA’s first hire. In Luster’s newly created role, he will be responsible for assisting CEO Oliver-Cline in label services and overseeing the company’s artist development, management and publishing roster.

“I am so grateful to find an executive like Zebb who is as passionate about River House and our amazing artists and writers as I am. He not only super serves them, but is there for our young and talented team every day as well,” shares Oliver-Cline. “Thank you, Zebb, for believing. Congrats on being the first employee four years ago, to now accepting your new role as the VP/GM!”

Originally from Fort Myers, Florida, Luster moved to Nashville in 2015 and started the lifestyle and apparel brand YNOT, morphing into the largely successful songwriters round YNOT Wednesday. Luster joined River House Artists as a publishing manager in 2017 before being promoted to creative director/A&R in 2019. Luster has helped grow the RHA roster by helping sign songwriters like Hayford, Williams, Parker, Rowe, Neil Medley and more.

“When I moved to Nashville six years ago, being a music executive was my dream. I had the drive and the passion, but I couldn’t have even dreamt up the path God had planned for me. I owe everything to Lynn Oliver-Cline because she saw something in me early on and gave me an unmatched opportunity to learn and grow,” shares Luster. “The RHA team works harder than anyone I know and we are all following Lynn’s ‘super serve’ mentality that has proven to be successful. Being at River House has been a dream come true for me and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store.”

Luster can be reached at [email protected].