Niko Moon Earns First No. 1 On MusicRow CountryBreakout Radio Chart

Niko Moon notches his first No. 1 on the MusicRow CountryBreakout Radio Chart as an artist with “Good Time,” adding an additional 171 spins this week for total of 1,742 spins and 47 radio stations playing the single. Last week, he earned a No. 1 credit as a songwriter on Dierks Bentley’s “Gone.” “Good Time” was written by Moon, Anna Moon, Joshua Murty, Jordan Minton, and Mark Trussell

Last week, “Good Time” earned a Platinum certification by the RIAA.

“I can’t believe ‘Good Time’ is Platinum, y’all! I feel such an overwhelming sense of gratitude right now, to everyone from the country music fans who have embraced me, to country radio and streaming platforms who have given me the opportunity to connect with listeners all across the country,” said Moon of the certification. “I’m so grateful for my teams at RCA, Make Wake and CAA. It truly does take a village and I’m so inspired that so many people believe in the music that I am making. It’s my calling in life to make people happy through country music, so thank you everyone for letting this Georgia boy live out his dream. Let’s keep the GOOD TIMES rolling!”

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BREAKING: Nominees Announced For 56th ACM Awards

The Academy of Country Music revealed the nominees for the 56th ACM Awards Friday morning (Feb. 26). The 56th ACM Awards will broadcast live from Nashville on Sunday, April 18 (8:00-11:00 PM, live ET/delayed PT) on the CBS Television Network and will also be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+, ViacomCBS’ upcoming global streaming service.

Kelsea Ballerini and Brothers Osborne appeared live today on CBS This Morning to announce this year’s nominees for Entertainer of the Year, Female Artist of the Year, Male Artist of the Year, Duo of the Year, Group of the Year and Single of the Year.

Maren Morris and Chris Stapleton lead with 6 nominations each. Miranda Lambert garners five nominations, continuing her streak as the most nominated female artist in Academy history with 68 lifetime nominations.

For the first time in ACM Awards history, four Black artists are nominated for awards in a single year including Jimmie Allen, Kane Brown, Mickey Guyton and John Legend.

Additionally, for the first time in ACM Awards history, every Single of the Year nominee is a female artist. Notably, no female artists are represented in the Entertainer of the Year category.

Producer Jay Joyce leads the Studio Recording nominations with four entries. Dann Huff receives three nominations, and busbee posthumously earns two.

John Legend receives his first-ever ACM Awards nomination for Video of the Year for his duet with Carrie Underwood on “Hallelujah,” while Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton received a nomination for Music Event of the Year for their duet, “Nobody But You,” marking Stefani’s first ACM Award nomination.

14 artists and industry creators received their first-ever ACM Awards nominations, including: Legend, Stefani, Tenille Arts, Spencer Cullum, Travis Denning, Kris Donegan, Alicia Enstrom, Jason Hall, Gena Johnson, P!nk, Steve Mackey, Benmont Tench, Chris Tomlin and Kristin Wilkinson.

The full list of nominees for the 56th ACM Awards are below:

GROUP OF THE YEAR:
Lady A
Little Big Town
Old Dominion
The Cadillac Three
The Highwomen

DUO OF THE YEAR:
Brooks & Dunn
Brothers Osborne
Dan + Shay
Florida Georgia Line
Maddie & Tae

FEMALE ARTIST OF THE YEAR:
Kelsea Ballerini
Miranda Lambert
Ashley McBryde
Maren Morris
Carly Pearce

MALE ARTIST OF THE YEAR:
Dierks Bentley
Eric Church
Luke Combs
Thomas Rhett
Chris Stapleton

ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR:
Luke Bryan
Eric Church
Luke Combs
Thomas Rhett
Chris Stapleton

SINGLE OF THE YEAR [Awarded to Artist(s)/Producer(s)/Record Company–Label(s)]:
Bluebird – Miranda Lambert
– Producer: Jay Joyce
– Record Label: Vanner Records/RCA Records Nashville

I Hope – Gabby Barrett
– Producers: Ross Copperman, Zach Kale
– Record Label: Warner Music Nashville

I Hope You’re Happy Now – Carly Pearce & Lee Brice
– Producers: busbee
– Record Label: Big Machine Records / Curb Records

More Hearts Than Mine – Ingrid Andress
– Producers: Ingrid Andress, Sam Ellis
– Record Label: Warner Music Nashville

The Bones – Maren Morris
– Producer: Greg Kurstin
– Record Label: Columbia Nashville

NEW FEMALE ARTIST OF THE YEAR:
Ingrid Andress
Tenille Arts
Gabby Barrett
Mickey Guyton
Caylee Hammack

NEW MALE ARTIST OF THE YEAR:
Jimmie Allen
Travis Denning
HARDY
Cody Johnson
Parker McCollum

SONG OF THE YEAR [Awarded to Songwriter(s)/Publisher(s)/Artist(s)]:
Bluebird – Miranda Lambert
– Songwriter(s): Luke Dick, Miranda Lambert, Natalie Hemby
– Publishers: Emileon Songs; Little Louder Songs; Pink Dog Publishing; Songs of Universal, INC; Sony ATV Tree Publishing; Wrucke for You Publishing

One Night Standards – Ashley McBryde
– Songwriter(s): Ashley McBryde, Nicolette Hayford, Shane McAnally
– Publishers: Canned Biscuit Songs; Smackworks Music; Smack Blue, LLC; Smackstreet Music; Tempo Investments; Warner Geo Met Ric Music; Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp

Some People Do – Old Dominion
– Songwriter(s): Jesse Frasure, Matt Ramsey, Thomas Rhett, Shane McAnally
– Publishers: Carrot Seed Songs; EMI Blackwood Music INC; Smackville Music; Songs of ROC Nation; Telemitry Rhythm House Music; Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp; Smack Hits; Tempo Investments; Warner Gro Met Ric Music

Starting Over – Chris Stapleton
– Songwriter(s): Chris Stapleton, Mike Henderson
– Publishers: I Wrote These Songs; Straight Six Music; WC Music Corp

The Bones – Maren Morris
– Songwriter(s): Jimmy Robbins, Maren Morris, Laura Veltz
– Publishers: Big Machine Music, LLC; Extraordinary Alien Publishing; International Dog Music; Oh Denise Publishing; Round Hill Songs; Warner-Tamerlane
Publishing Corp.

ALBUM OF THE YEAR [Awarded to Artist(s)/Producer(s)/Record Company–Label(s)]:
Born Here Live Here Die Here – Luke Bryan
– Producers: Jeff Stevens, Jody Stevens
– Record Label: Capitol Records Nashville

Mixtape Vol. 1 – Kane Brown
– Producers: Andrew Goldstein, Charlie Handsome, Dann Huff, Lindsay Rimes
– Record Label: RCA Nashville

Never Will – Ashley McBryde
– Producer: Jay Joyce
– Record Label: Warner Music Nashville

Skeletons – Brothers Osborne
– Producer: Jay Joyce
– Record Label: EMI Records Nashville

Starting Over – Chris Stapleton
– Producers: Chris Stapleton, Dave Cobb
– Record Label: Mercury Nashville

VIDEO OF THE YEAR [Awarded to Producer(s)/Director(s)/Artist(s)]:
Better Than We Found It – Maren Morris
– Director: Gabrielle Woodland
– Producers: Sarah Kunin, Jennifer Pepke

Bluebird – Miranda Lambert
– Director: Trey Fanjoy
– Producer: Heather Levenstone

Gone – Dierks Bentley
– Directors: Wes Edwards, Ed Pryor, Travis Nicholson, Running Bear and Sam Siske, with animation by Skylar Wilson
– Producer: David Garcia

Hallelujah – Carrie Underwood and John Legend
– Director: Randee St. Nicholas
– Producer: Greg Wells

Worldwide Beautiful – Kane Brown
– Director: Alex Alvga
– Producer: Christen Pinkston

MUSIC EVENT OF THE YEAR (Tie Within Category Increased Nominees) [Awarded to Artist(s)/Producer(s)/Record Company–Label(s)]:
Be A Light – Thomas Rhett featuring Reba McEntire, Hillary Scott, Chris Tomlin, Keith Urban
– Producer: Dann Huff
– Record Label: The Valory Music Co.

Does To Me – Luke Combs featuring Eric Church
– Producer: Scott Moffatt
– Record Label: River House Artists/Columbia Nashville

I Hope You’re Happy Now – Carly Pearce & Lee Brice
– Producer: busbee
– Record Label: Big Machine Records / Curb Records

Nobody But You – Blake Shelton featuring Gwen Stefani
– Producer: Scott Hendricks
– Record Label: Warner Music Nashville

One Beer – HARDY featuring Lauren Alaina & Devin Dawson
– Producers: Derek Wells, Joey Moi
– Record Label: Big Loud Records

One Too Many – Keith Urban, P!nk
– Producers: Cutfather, Dan McCarroll, Keith Urban, PhD
– Record Label: Capitol Records Nashville

SONGWRITER OF THE YEAR:
Ashley Gorley
Michael Hardy
Hillary Lindsey
Shane McAnally
Josh Osborne

STUDIO RECORDING AWARDS:

BASS PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Jarrod Travis Cure
Mark Hill
Tony Lucido
Steve Mackey
Glenn Worf

DRUMMER OF THE YEAR:
Fred Eltringham
Evan Hutchings
Derek Mixon
Jerry Roe
Aaron Sterling

GUITAR PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
J.T. Corenflos
Kris Donegan
Jedd Hughes
Ilya Toshinskiy
Derek Wells

PIANO/KEYS PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Dave Cohen
David Dorn
Charlie Judge
Mike Rojas
Benmont Tench

SPECIALTY INSTRUMENT PLAYER OF THE YEAR (Tie Within Category Increased Nominees):
Alicia Enstrom
Jim Hoke
Danny Rader
Mickey Raphael
Ilya Toshinskiy
Kristin Wilkinson

STEEL GUITAR PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Spencer Cullum
Dan Dugmore
Mike Johnson
Russ Pahl
Justin Schipper

AUDIO ENGINEER OF THE YEAR:
Jeff Balding
Jason Hall
Gena Johnson
Vance Powell
F. Reid Shippen

PRODUCER OF THE YEAR:
Buddy Cannon
Dave Cobb
Dann Huff
Jay Joyce
Joey Moi

On The Row: Heath Sanders Puts Years Of Work In The Oil Fields Into Song

Heath Sanders. Photo: Ford Fairchild

Heath Sanders spent almost a decade working in natural gas in Arkansas before he found himself taken on a whirlwind journey via his music.

He grew up in a single-wide trailer in Marshall—a small town in a region of Arkansas called the Ozarks that is characterized by terrain encompassing mountains, caves, rivers and hot springs. His father logged in the winter and built fencing in the summer, as well as milked cows year round.

“I just had a good, solid, blue-collar start to life. I had an amazing grandpa that was really involved in music and always loved music,” Sanders told MusicRow in a recent virtual visit. “He was putting a guitar in my hands when I was six months old. I don’t know how I didn’t learn to play it until I was 21, but he sure tried.”

The day Sanders turned 18, he was offered a job in the oil fields. He enjoyed it when he started because of the unlimited hours he could rack up. “You could work a hundred hours a week if you wanted to,” he said.

When gas prices fell in 2017, Sanders hours were cut back to 40 per week. “Being the money man that I was, I was living way past my 40-hour means, so it really set me back substantially as far as finances go,” Sanders said. “So I decided to pick up a side gig and the only thing that made sense to me was that I could play some songs on the guitar and get by.”

Sanders started playing bars and restaurants to make some extra money. “I never really saw myself as anything more than just the guy sitting over in the corner, playing a song or two while everybody ate their steaks.”

Pictured (L-R, top row): Big Machine Label Group’s Erin Burr; MusicRow’s LB Cantrell, Sherod Robertson; (L-R, middle row): MusicRow’s Alex Parry; Heath Sanders; MusicRow’s Haley Crow; (bottom row): Big Machine Label Group’s Rachel Wendler

In September of 2017 Sanders made a Facebook page to promote his artistry and book gigs. Shortly after, a friend dared him to post a cover of Chris Stapleton’s “Either Way.”

The video went viral. With the validation he got from the success of the video, Sanders decided to try something he had never done before: writing a song.

“I had never really written a song before. I had learned three chords back in my early twenties and I would sit down and try to write some songs. They were terrible, so I just put the pen away and never really tried.

“I picked up my pen on a Sunday morning and I sat down to write. It took me all day to write a verse and a chorus. That song ended up being ‘Bloodline,’ which ended up being my first single. But the crazy thing is, I’m sitting there with my pen in my hand and my guitar in my lap, writing my first song ever, and the phone goes off and it’s Bobby Bones.”

Bones, a fellow Arkansas native, invited Sanders to come play on his morning show, and told him to bring in an original song to play. “I panicked,” Sanders joked. He finished the song with his buddy, Jamie Jones, and played it shortly after on The Bobby Bones Show.

“Needless to say, after I walked out of the studio, my entire life changed.”

After his performance on the radio show, Nashville music executives started calling. The now Valory Music Co. artist found a partnership with Scott Borchetta‘s Big Machine Label Group.

“I was really fortunate,” Sanders said. “A lot of people come to town and work their tails off for 10 or 15 years before anything really happens for them. I just feel blessed. I feel like I cheated the system a little bit, but everything happens for a reason.”

Sanders co-wrote all four songs on his recently released EP, Common Ground.

Sander’s first single, “Old School’s In,” celebrates his upbringing and officially arrives for adds at country radio on March 8. “Time still crawls, the flag still flies / Mama still cooks and God won’t die / Dogs still hunt, men man up / A little bit of red just runs in your blood,” Sanders sings in the tune.

Common Ground‘s affecting title track spreads a message of unity and acceptance in spite of differences. “We’re all findin’ our own way / We’re all livin’, we’re all learnin’ / From the cradle to the grave / We’re all weak, we’re all strong / We’re all right, and we’re all wrong / And when time runs out / We all end up /In common ground,” Sanders sings.

“I have to share a little perspective here, or to share a little story here on what this opportunity to see the world has done to to my world view and my perspective. Three years ago, I’d never been north of Missouri. I’ve never been west of Texas and I’ve never been in south Louisiana. As soon as I signed up with the label, they shipped me off to Cancun.

“Being from where I’m from, an old dirt road there’s obvious stereotypes you put on people in cities and stuff. Being able to travel and see places like Chicago and going out to California, gladly I’ve realized that there are as good of people in those cities as the old men sitting in their overalls, drinking coffee in the morning at the gas station. There’s good people everywhere. And I think we all really want the same thing: we all just want to pursue life, liberty and happiness. We just want to live our lives. I’m really proud of this song, it’s one of those songs that you step back from and you’re like, ‘Golly, I just can’t believe I had a hand in writing that.'”

Lainey Wilson Shows Off Her Kaleidoscope Of Colors On Charming New Album [Interview]

Lainey Wilson. Photo: Alex Berger

Lainey Wilson‘s many colors are on full-display on her recently released album, Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’.

The album is decidedly country, with a fun ’70s flare here and a ’90s-esque hook there. Wilson grew up listening to a wide variety of musicians, from Lee Ann Womack and fellow Louisiana native Tim McGraw, to Bob Segar, to Patsy Cline, Buck Owens and Dolly Parton. The latter Wilson tributes in the song “WWDD”—or ‘what would Dolly do?’

Of all of her influences, the 23-year-old says that ’90s country “shaped her.”

“I love everything ’90s country. Growing up, country music was more than just a genre of music. I’m a sucker for a great story and I feel like during that time, incredible stories were being told,” Wilson tells MusicRow.

Wilson booked her “bucket-list producer” for her album, Jay Joyce (Eric Church, Miranda Lambert). “He brings something so fresh and unique to the table. I knew that, because my stuff is so country, I knew that he could put a little fairy dust on it and bring it to life in a way that has not been done. And that’s exactly what he did.”

Joyce highlights Wilson’s crystal clear twang on the charming groove of “LA,” through the sensual vibe of “Dirty Looks,” and along the ride of the Tanya Tucker-esque party anthem “Neon Diamonds.”

Wilson’s writing chops shine on tunes like the Jordan Schmidt and Matt Rogers co-write “Keeping Bars in Business,” where she paints the picture of bar patrons celebrating the highs and mourning the lows, all at the corner pub. She sings: “If you’re on cloud nine or you’ve been knocked down / There’s a neon light on the edge of town / So if the world just keeps on spinnin’ we’ll be keeping bars in business.”

“I grew up writing. I started writing songs when I was nine years old. Honestly, I was writing about tequila and cigarettes before I even knew what that meant, I just knew that’s what country music artists sang about,” Wilsons says. “It was one of those things that I could not escape. It just became a part of me.”

The Sony Music Publishing Nashville writer co-wrote every song on the 12-track album.

Wilson delivers heartache in her beautifully tender voice on “Rolling Stone.” On the sharply written tune, Wilson sings to the lover trying to tie her down: “Think you’re the one that’s gonna turn me around, give me a ring and settle me down,” and ends with the crushing blow, “You don’t give a rock to a rolling stone.”

“That song, I feel like it’s timeless,” Wilson says. “I’m from a town of 300 people and this song really tells my story. I moved up here knowing that I was going to have to let some things go and I was going to have to let the only thing I’ve ever known go—my town, 300 people. I knew I had to let some people go and that’s hard to do, but I’ve always been the kind of person that I know what I want and I wouldn’t let anything hold me back. I’ve just always had stars in my eyes.”

“Things A Man Oughta Know” launched Wilson to commercial appeal with its 42-plus million streams. The BBR Music Group/ Broken Bow Records artist was part of MusicRow‘s Next Big Thing Artists Class of 2021, and has been named to watch lists from Spotify, Pandora, CMT, and more.

“This song just kept raising its hand [to be the lead single]. Whether I was playing writers nights, whether I was playing shows, this is the one that people would talk about, the one that people would post about, or the one people would walk up to me and say ‘I’m going through a divorce,’ or whatever was their story. People could just relate to it.

“It’s not about whether you can change a flat tire and start a fire or turn a wrench,” Wilson continues. “This is a song about having character. That’s something that we all need to know. This is a song about treating people the way that you want to be treated. Especially here in times like today, we’ve got to figure that out.”

The album has some rowdy moments to compliment deeper songs like “Things A Man Oughta Know,” including a song full of drinking euphemisms, “Straight Up Sideways,” and a tune about the morning after reminiscent of Johnny Cash/Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down,” called “Sunday Best.”

A Luke Dick and John Pierce co-write, “Pipe,” points to Wilson’s sly, unbridled nature that she can’t wait to show live. “I just love that song. I like to call it my ‘redneck rule book,’ and I think the crowd is really going to love it. I think it’s going to be fun to play. Actually, if you listen real close to the last few seconds of it on the track, Jay Joyce has these two big, 150 pound Great Danes and he got his dog barking at the end of the song. It’s gonna be pretty fun.”

With its party songs, heartache tunes, and clever ditties, Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’ is a 360-view of Lainey Wilson’s kaleidoscope.

Triple Tigers Records Promotes Laura Hostelley To VP, Marketing

Laura Hostelley. Photo: Courtesy Triple Tigers Records

Laura Hostelley has been promoted from Director to Vice President of Marketing at Triple Tigers Records.

Hostelley joined the label in 2016 and reports to President and Partner Norbert Nix. Triple Tigers Records is a joint venture with Sony Music Entertainment in partnership with Nix, Thirty Tigers, and Triple 8 Management.

“Laura is a proven leader with boundless energy and drive,” Nix says. “She is a keen observer, creative thinker, and fearless when it comes to advancing the careers of the artists we work with at Triple Tigers. Everything she has accomplished has been from the ground up—and now the sky’s the limit.”

“I am excited to keep pursuing opportunities to connect artists with fans in new and creative ways,” says Hostelley. “Norbert Nix has always encouraged innovation, and I am thankful to him for this opportunity to keep growing Triple Tigers and our incredible artist’s brands.”

Hostelley joined Triple Tigers Records in 2016 soon after the label was created. In 2017 she was elevated from Promotion Coordinator to Product Manager, and then to Director of Marketing in 2019. During her tenure, Triple Tigers Records has signed a boutique roster of critically acclaimed singer-songwriters including Scotty McCreery, Russell Dickerson, and Cam, who joined the label in a first-time partnership with RCA Records New York.

Before her time at Triple Tigers, Hostelley worked as a freelancer for Sounds Like Nashville and Taste of Country. She is a graduate of Belmont University, and while in college she interned at MusicRow Magazine, Sirius XM Radio, Country Aircheck, and the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce.

Reach Hostelley at laura@tripletigers.com.

Rising Artist Nick Wayne Signs With EMPIRE Nashville Publishing Division [Exclusive]

Pictured (L-R): Sarah-Beth Gerlecz (Counsel, EMPIRE), Eric Hurt (VP of A&R, EMPIRE), Heather Vassar (VP of Marketing, EMPIRE), Nick Wayne, William Dyer (Product Manager, EMPIRE), Janine Ebach (CEO, Ebach Entertainment), Leslie Roberts (Executive Director, Creative, BMI). Photo: Steve Lowry

Nashville artist and writer, Nick Wayne, has signed with EMPIRE Nashville’s publishing arm. Formerly with Black River Entertainment, Wayne has had his songs recorded by Keith Urban, Tim McGraw, Lady A, and more. EMPIRE and Janine Ebach‘s Ebach Entertainment will concurrently work with Wayne in the country market, while expanding his presence in the pop/R&B world as a songwriter and artist.

Wayne’s musical influences of classic country, soul, and the blues can be heard across the Nashville native’s projects of Two Sides, Coffee Black, and Bourbon Neat. His three-song EP AMERICAN ORIGINAL[s], released in June 2020, delivers a blend of traditional and southern rock influence along with his own soulful delivery as he celebrates one-of-a-kind girls who make their own rules.

Wayne began to creatively release songs under his Coffee Black and Bourbon Neat projects in March of 2019. Coffee Black includes “Maybe I Do,” “I Knew It Was You,” and “I Love You More”. Bourbon Neat consists of “Drink,” “Til the Wine’s All Gone,” and “Drunk Again (feat. Hannah Ellis)”. Wayne’s acoustic cover video of “If The World Was Ending,” now at 6 million views, amassed 1 million views in only three weeks.

Weekly Register: Taylor Swift’s Re-recorded “Love Story” Tops Country Songs Chart

Taylor Swift. Photo: Beth Garrabrant

Taylor Swift‘s re-recorded version of her 2008 hit “Love Story” is the top country debut, at No. 1 on the country song streaming chart and No. 10 overall. The track, which is the first released from her recently announced Fearless (Taylor’s Version), garnered 12 million streams this week.

Morgan Wallen‘s “Wasted On You” shifts down to No. 2 this week. His “Sand In My Boots” (No. 3 ) and “Somebody’s Problem” (No. 5) also appear in the top five. Luke Combs “Better Together” stays at No. 4, earning 7 million streams this week.

Wallen maintains his grip on the top country albums chart this week, with Dangerous maintaining the top position (93K in total consumption) for the sixth week, and If I Know Me sitting at No. 4. Combs’ What You See Is What You Get maintains the No. 2 spot and his This One’s For You takes No. 5.

Florida Georgia Line‘s fifth studio album Life Rolls On debuted at No. 3 on the country albums chart and No. 21 overall this week. The project generated 20K in total consumption (8.4K album only/12.5 million song streams).

Country Newcomers Entertain At Virtual CRS New Faces Show

Elaina Smith, host of CRS New Faces of Country Music

Five country up-and-comers took the stage on Friday (Feb. 19) to close out the four-day CRS 2021: The Virtual Experience.

Formed in 1970, the annual New Faces of Country Music Show is one of the most anticipated events at CRS, and has featured some of the format’s biggest acts in their early days. Each of the 2021 New Faces have had some traction at country radio, and were voted on by the industry to perform.

Westwood One’s Elaina Smith served as the host for the evening, sponsored by the Academy of Country Music and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

First to perform was Big Loud Records artist HARDY. Both Smith and HARDY shook off the awkwardness of being in person for the first time in a while, before the singer-songwriter expressed how grateful he was to be chosen as a New Faces performer. “I’m honored that country radio has my back,” HARDY said.

HARDY

His rocking four-song set started off with a bang, as he played his rock ‘n roll influenced “Boots.”

Next up was HARDY’s collaboration with Lauren Alaina and Devin Dawson that rose to the pinnacle of the country charts, a place he had been before as a songwriter, but his first time as an artist. “This was my first No. 1 as a country music artist, and that’s because of you guys,” HARDY said before launching into his Platinum-certified “One Beer.”

The country rocker continued on with his next official single at country radio, “Give Heaven Some Hell.” Penned by HARDY with Ashley Gorley, Ben Johnson, and Hunter Phelps, the song is an emotional tribute to a lost friend. A white church steeple displayed on the video screen in the background as HARDY sang: “Hide your beer, hide your clear from the man upstairs, Crank it loud, hold it down ’til I get there / And when I do I hope you got some new stories to tell, ‘Til then, give heaven some hell.”

The Mississippi native’s twangy voice shined on his redneck revelation “Unapologetically Country As Hell.”

Next up was RECORDS Nashville/Arista Nashville artist Matt Stell. His set started out with an introduction video of him on a date that is not going well, until the woman in his passenger seat hears his song on the radio, that is.

Matt Stell

The singer-songwriter started the music with his next country radio single, “That Ain’t Me No More.” Stell surprised fans with the uptempo heartbreaker earlier in February.

The 6’7″ Stell commanded the stage, next performing his latest No. 1 “Everywhere But On.” His voice shined on the Gold-certified track. Stell then transitioned to his first No. 1, the Platinum-certified track “Prayed For You.”

Another video moment featured the Arkansas native writing a letter to his mother, which she read on camera. Stell expressed his gratitude for her and her support, and let her know he had paid off her horse trailer. “Thank you country radio,” an emotional Stell said as the video ended.

19th & Grand Records artist Tenille Arts was up next.

A fringed-jacket clad Arts started off her set with a fun small-town romp, “Everybody Knows Everybody.” Notably during Arts set, viewers were able see a Zoom grid of spectators in front of Arts.

Arts did a shot with the viewers to feel a little closer given the circumstances, and to promote her new song “Give It To Me Straight,” which she released on Friday.

Tenille Arts

The singer-songwriter sat down in a chair and got comfortable for the next song, a story of her journey to Nashville. “I was so hopeful but so terrified at the same time,” Arts said. Her gorgeous voice sparkled on a new song she wrote about her one bedroom apartment that she chased her dreams in, “a song kind of like a letter to the next dreamer that moves in.”

The Canada native closed her set with her breakout hit, “Somebody Like That,” with an infectious smile on her face.

Mercury Nashville Recording artist Travis Denning hit the stage next, after a hilarious introduction video where he compared having a hit at country radio to fishing. “I found a lot of parallels in trying to have a big hit at country radio and tryin to catch a big fish,” Denning said as he broke down his fishing struggles.

Denning began with a new country burner that had him singing about his country lifestyle. “Call it what you want, we just call it country,” the charismatic artist sang.

Travis Denning

Denning announced that “ABBY,” a funny breakup song that’s title is an abbreviation for “any body but you,” is his next country radio single. “I’ma call her Abby, that’s anybody but you / She’ll have a bad little body, be the life of the party, Drink a cold beer too / She won’t make me go crazy, like you-know-who, And her name is Abby, that’s anybody but you,” Denning sang with a grin.

“This is an absolute honor to be here,” the Georgia native said before playing a new song titled “I’m Gonna Love You,” with a piano accompaniment.

The talented musician closed with his first No. 1, “After A Few,” that ended with an awesome guitar solo.

Warner Music Nashville treasure Ashley McBryde closed out the showcase, leaving CRS viewers with a treat.

“It’s a huge thing for my name to be next to Miranda and Eric,” McBryde said as she started her set.

The Grammy-nominee opened acoustically with a chill-invoking “Girl Goin Nowhere.” Although attendees were watching through screens, it felt as if McBryde was reaching out personally to each person watching.

Ashley McBryde

She then played her breakout Gold-certified single, “A Little Dive Bar In Dahlonega,” with emotion in her eyes.

The singer-songwriter had a little fun covering Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere.” She put her own spin on the song by changing the second verse to include all the different beers brands she likes.

McBryde’s award-winning, Gold-certified single “One Night Standards” was up next. The song appears on the Arkansas native’s Grammy nominated album Never Will, as well as the song McBryde closed with, “Martha Divine.”

The rocking murder song will appear on her recently announced six-song EP Never Will: Live From A Distance. The masterful communicator proved that she can successfully deliver any and all subject matter with a full range of captivating performances in her star-making CRS New Faces set.

Dierks Bentley Hits No. 1 On ‘MusicRow’ CountryBreakout Radio Chart

Dierks Bentley graces the top of the MusicRow CountryBreakout Radio Chart this with with his single, “Gone.” The single was written by Nicolle Galyon, Ben Johnson, and Niko Moon.

In his weekly DISClaimer, Robert K Oermann described the single as “Stompin’ on heartache and misery with the emphasis on a shouted chorus that is super catchy. Nicely produced and sung with believability. Dierks strikes again.”

The music video for “Gone” finds Bentley hitting rock bottom as his life plays out before him through some of his favorite TV shows.

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Black River Entertainment Signs Hitmaker Ray Fulcher

Pictured (L-R, back row): Terry Wakefield (Universal Music Publishing), Gordon Kerr (Black River), Abby Miller (Black River), Zebb Luster (River House), Doug Johnson (Black River), Neil Mason (Badlands Management), Lynn Oliver (River House Publishing), Ray Fulcher, Mike Wilson (Black River), Rick Froio (Black River), Austin Mullins (WME), Dawn Delvo (Black River), and Chris King (King Business and Financial Management). (L-R, front row): Tali Canterbury (50 Egg), Ron Stuve (Universal Music Publishing), Rebekah Gordon (Black River), Emily Hungate (Black River), Lauren Kilgore (Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP), Bill Macky (Black River), Tanya Schrage (Black River), Jordon Petty (270 Media Co), and Jonathan Singleton (Producer).

Black River Entertainment has signed hit songwriter and artist Ray Fulcher, who brings a loyal fanbase which has streamed his music more than 30 million times.

He shared news of the label signing with his fans first, saying, “Fans are the reason I write songs. They are the lifeblood of our industry, and without them, this wouldn’t be possible, so it’s only right for them to know first.”

Fulcher is a frequent collaborator of Luke Combs with writing credits on Combs’ No. 1 singles “When It Rains It Pours,” “Even Though I’m Leaving,” “Does To Me” ft. Eric Church, and “Lovin’ On You.”

Signed to Black River Entertainment in 2021, Fulcher is working with producer Jonathan Singleton and is set to support Combs this fall on the What You See Is What You Get Tour.

Black River joins Fulcher’s team including WME, Universal Music Publishing, River House Publishing, and Badlands Management.

“What a great day for all of us!” said Black River’s President and CEO Gordon Kerr. “What an impressive team we are now partnered alongside. Most importantly, what an artist! We are honored to step into this already impressive journey and can’t wait to see what is in store for Ray!”

Fulcher shared, “I always knew I didn’t want to sign anywhere unless they really believed in our music and vision as much as we did ourselves. They had to really get the songs and what we wanted to do with them and believe that I was the guy to carry them to the masses. With Black River, we have gotten all that and more…and the more I’ve gotten to know the people, the more I see what a great group of not just professionals they are, but humans. Just felt like a real easy decision.”

Growing up in Harlem, Georgia, Fulcher’s biggest influences were Alan Jackson, Keith Whitley, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Eric Church, and George Strait. He moved to Nashville to pursue songwriting after graduating from the University of Georgia in 2014. Soon after, he signed his first publishing deal with River House Publishing. Fulcher has released the EPs Here We Go Again and Somebody Like Me.

Black River Entertainment’s President and CEO Gordon Kerr and Ray Fulcher.