SESAC Announces Date For Nashville Music Awards

SESAC has announced that its Nashville Music Awards will be back in person this year for the first time since 2019. The invitation-only event will take place at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on Sunday, Nov. 6, kicking off CMA week in Nashville.

At the annual awards, SESAC will be honoring the Song of the Year, Publisher of the Year, and Songwriter of the Year, as well as performance activity awards for both country and Americana music. Previous award winners include Jimmie Allen, Hillary Scott, Matt McGinn, Lee Brice, Blanco Brown, Lance Miller, Margo Price, Niko Moon, Justin Ebach, Alex Kline, Jon Nite, Hayes Carll, and more.

“We can’t wait to celebrate our songwriters and publishers in person this year,” shares Shannan Hatch, Vice President of Creative Services. “Our writers have made some incredible music over the past few years, and we are thrilled to have a night honoring all their amazing achievements.”

Nashville Sound Creator Anita Kerr Passes

Portrait of Anita Kerr from 1956 by Walden S. Fabry. Photo: Courtesy of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Anita Kerr, who was a key figure in the development of The Nashville Sound, has died at age 94. She passed away on Monday (Oct. 10).

Kerr worked as an arranger and producer, often not credited, on many of the records that transformed Nashville into Music City. Her group, The Anita Kerr Singers, sang on the international pop hits of Brenda Lee and Roy Orbison, as well as on dozens of country classics.

The triple Grammy Award winner backed such Country Music Hall of Fame members as Red Foley, George Jones, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Bill Anderson, Patsy Cline, Ray Price and Willie Nelson. At her peak, Kerr was singing on a quarter of the singles produced on Music Row.

She was born Anita Jean Grilli in Memphis on Oct. 31, 1927. She began playing piano at an early age and formed The Grilli Sisters singing group. They broadcast on her mother’s local radio show on WHBQ. She became Memphis station WREC’s staff pianist at age 14.

Kerr formed The Anita Kerr Singers, who were hired to sing on WSM’s “Sunday Down South” radio show in Nashville in 1948. The group began singing backup harmonies on records in 1950 and signed to record for Decca in 1951.

In addition to lead soprano Kerr, the group coalesced to become tenor Gil Wright, alto Dottie Dillard (1923-2015) and baritone Louis Nunley (1931-2012). In 1956, they competed and won on the national TV competition Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts and became regulars on the show from New York. But they continued to record prolifically in Nashville.

Along with Owen Bradley and Chet Atkins, Anita Kerr was instrumental in smoothing the rough edges of “hillbilly music.” Kerr has been credited with introducing string sections on country records. She crafted arrangements that emphasized strings and creamy background harmony singing while downplaying such instruments as the banjo and the steel guitar. This trend, dubbed The Nashville Sound, resulted in huge country “pop-crossover” records.

Among the many big hits featuring The Anita Kerr Singers were “My Special Angel” and “Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms (1957), “I’m Sorry” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee (1960), “Only the Lonely” and “Running Scared” by Roy Orbison (1961), “Make the World Go Away” by Eddy Arnold (1965), “Detroit City” by Bobby Bare (1963), “The Three Bells” by The Browns (1959) and “He’ll Have to Go” by Jim Reeves (1959). Billed as The Little Dippers, the group scored its own top-10 pop hit with “Forever” in 1960.

In 1961, Chet Atkins hired Kerr to work for RCA. She conducted and supervised sessions for the label’s stars, including Dottie West, Porter Wagoner, Don Gibson, Hank Snow, Waylon Jennings, Charlie Rich, George Hamilton IV and Hank Locklin.

She wrote the string arrangement for Floyd Cramer’s “Last Date” of 1961. Later that year, she produced and arranged “The End of the World” for Skeeter Davis. It became a massive country and pop hit in 1962. She co-produced the ensuing Davis LP with Atkins, although he was quick to give her the principle credit. This made her likely Nashville’s first female record producer.

In addition to country acts and Nashville’s homegrown pop talents (such as Sue Thompson, Johnny Tillotson, Pat Boone and The Everly Brothers), Kerr backed such pop visitors as Perry Como, Duane Eddy, Burl Ives, Esther Phillips, Ronnie Hawkins, Bobby Vinton, Jack Scott, Al Hirt, Brook Benton, Lorne Greene and Ann-Margret.

Her group also recorded hundreds of ad jingles and radio-station spots. In 1964, The Anita Kerr Singers were part of the ground-breaking RCA package tour of Europe, along with Atkins, Reeves and Bare.

She and her vocal ensemble continued to make records, too. Billed as Anita & The’ So-and-So’s, they made the pop charts in 1962 with “Joey Baby.” Recording for RCA, they earned Grammy Awards for the 1965 Nashville albums We Dig Mancini (in pop) and Southland Favorites (in gospel, with George Beverly Shea).

By the time those Grammy Awards were presented, Anita Kerr had moved from Music City to Los Angeles. There, she became a pre-curser of “new-age” music via her collaborations with poet Rod McKuen on the million-selling albums The Earth, The Sea and The Sky in 1967-68. She created the San Sebastian Strings. She was also hired as the choral director for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour TV show in 1967.

She earned her third Grammy Award in 1966 for her group’s performance of “A Man and a Woman.” In addition, she continued to create an abundance of easy-listening, “mood music” albums.

She moved to Switzerland with husband/manager Alex Grob in 1970. She conducted orchestras, composed soundtracks for films (as a female pioneer in this field), built a recording studio and made four devotional albums for Word during the next two decades. In 1992, she received a Governor’s Award from The Recording Academy.

Anita Kerr returned California in 1979. Eventually, she moved back to Memphis.

Kerr is survived by her husband; daughters, Kelley Kerr and Suzanne Trebert; five grandchildren; and two great-granddaughters.

Details regarding memorial services have not yet been announced.

Top Five Hold Strong On The MusicRow Top Songwriter Chart, Zach Bryan Leads The Pack

Zach Bryan

This week, all things remain steady on the MusicRow Top Songwriter Chart as the top five writers keep their respective places.

For a third consecutive week, Warner Records’ Zach Bryan seals the No. 1 spot as the sole writer on his three currently charting songs. His credits can be found on “Something In The Orange,” “Oklahoma Smokeshow” and “Burn, Burn, Burn.”

Ashley Gorley (No. 2), Morgan Wallen (No. 3), Ernest Keith Smith (No. 4) and Bailey Zimmerman (No. 5) round out the top five.

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.

MusicRow’s Publisher Issue Features ‘State Of The Union’ Panel, A Look Into Catalog Sales, More

MusicRow Magazine has released its 2022 Publisher Issue print edition, with Mercury Nashville’s Maddie & Tae on the cover.

This annual resource includes the 2022 Publisher Directory, listing Nashville’s top publishing companies, as well as organizations and services available for songwriters.

Inside the issue, MusicRow brings back its State of the Union roundtable, this time featuring UMPG’s Cyndi Forman, Sony Music Publishing’s Josh Van Valkenburg, Endurance Music’s Michael Martin, Warner Chappell’s Jessi Vaughn Stevenson, and Tape Room Music’s Kelly Bolton

The five publishers sat down with MusicRow to discuss returning from the pandemic, multi-genre success in Nashville, “interpolation fever” in the songwriting community, and more.

“There’s a wider range of talents that we can base our decision on now,” shares Van Valkenburg when asked what attracts him to signing a new songwriter. “I still go back to lyric and melody—it’s still the most important part of the song. That being said, we can’t deny the fact that the producer-writer faction has come along strongly. There are songwriter-producers that are simply creating productions that cannot be replicated. That’s a very special talent that has to be paid attention to, even if they may not be the strongest lyricist.”

Elsewhere, MusicRow taps entertainment attorney Jess L. Rosen to explain the recent uptick in catalog sales. “If you do the calculations of what the money in your pocket now would be worth 10 or 15 years from now even at a modest interest rate, there’s a great value of having that working for you now,” Rosen shares.

The Publisher Issue also features an opinion piece on cutting outside songs from Ben Vaughn, President & CEO of Warner Chappell Nashville.

“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,” Vaughn writes. “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.”

Additionally, music industry veterans Clay Bradley, Jody Williams and Suzanne Lee look back on the history of a well-loved Nashville tradition: No. 1 parties.

This issue also offers a glimpse into Prescription Songs’ multi-genre success. “It’s called Music City, it’s all genres and all types of music,” shares Prescription Songs Nashville’s Head of A&R, Katie Fagan. “My hope is that one day people aren’t going to feel like they have to go to a different city to have success, and I’m hoping that we’re helping to change that.”

NSAI’s Bart Herbison helps explain the recent royalty rate change, boiling down what that means for songwriters. Reel Muzik Werks’ Teri Nelson Carpenter discusses the journey to starting her Nashville office.

MusicRow’s 2022 Publisher Issue also highlights the work and careers of some of Nashville’s most in-demand songwriters, including Sony Music Publishing’s Elle King, 50 Egg Music/UMPG’s Shane Minor, Big Loud’s Jamie Moore, BMG’s Emily Landis, Boom Music Group/Warner Chappell’s Chris Tompkins and SMACK’s Josh Jenkins.

Single copies of MusicRow’s 2022 Publisher Issue are available for purchase at musicrow.com for $45, and are included with yearly MusicRow subscriptions.

Carly Pearce Celebrates Third No. 1 ‘Never Wanted To Be That Girl’

Pictured (L-R): Producer Josh Osborne, Big Machine Records’ Clay Hunnicutt, Carly Pearce, Big Machine Label Group’s Scott Borchetta and Allison Jones, Big Machine Records’ Kris Lamb, ASCAP’s Mike Sistad. Photo: Alexa Campbell

Industry members gathered at the Virgin Hotel on Music Row this week to celebrate another No. 1 hit for the reigning CMA Female Vocalist of the Year, Carly Pearce.

Hosted by ASCAP’s Mike Sistad, the party commemorated the success of “Never Wanted To Be That Girl,” a duet between Pearce and Ashley McBryde that the two co-wrote with Shane McAnally. McBryde and McAnally were not able to attend, but McAnally’s co-producer on the track, Josh Osborne, filled in for them.

Sistad got things started by listing off some of Pearce’s hard-won accomplishments that she’s celebrated over the last two years. On top of being the reigning CMA Female Vocalist, she also holds the equivalent honor at the ACM. “Never Wanted To Be That Girl” was her third No. 1 song.

“We are so proud to have you as part of the ASCAP family, you know that. We’re so happy for all the good things that are happening for you. We love you,” Sistad said.

Altadena’s Daniel Lee was the first of the publishers to say a few words. Lee recognized the song’s co-writers, co-producers, the musicians and the engineers on “Never Wanted To Be That Girl.” He thanked Scott Borchetta, Big Machine Label Group and the promotion staff, as well as BMG, SMACK, Jody Williams Songs and Warner Chappell.

Lee made sure to speak about Altadena founder and one of Pearce’s first champions, the late busbee.

“I have to acknowledge busbee. He’s missed, he’s loved, he will never be forgotten,” Lee said, before turning his attention to Pearce. “You are the gold standard for artists. You spoil all of us and you actually are cut from the same cloth as Loretta Lynn.”

Pictured (L-R, back row): ASCAP’s Mike Sistad, Big Machine Records’ Kris Lamb and Clay Hunnicutt, Big Machine Label Group’s Scott Borchetta and Allison Jones, Big Machine Records’ Erik Powell; (L-R, front row): BMG’s Chris Oglesby, SMACK Songs’ Jeremy Groves, Producer Josh Osborne, Carly Pearce, Altadena’s Daniel Lee, Warner Chappell Music’s Ben Vaughn and Spencer Nohe, Jody Williams Songs’ Jody Williams. Photo: Alexa Campbell

BMG’s Chris Oglesby was next up to speak. He said that when Carly Pearce comes to mind, he thinks of three things: work ethic, her reverence for the history of the country music community, and her gift of songwriting.

“She writes what she knows and she writes from the heart,” Oglesby said. “She surrounds herself with creatives who do that same thing and help her paint the pictures that help us all deal with the emotions that we have.”

Label head Borchetta said a few words about his superstar artist, as well. He also had three points he wanted to make: team, song and elite.

Borchetta recognized his team members on getting the song up the charts, as well as his entire staff on Pearce’s stellar 29 project. When speaking about the song, Borchetta highlighted the magic of the demo of “Never Wanted To Be That Girl.”

When he turned his attention to Pearce, he equated her to the elite of the genre.

“I’ve had the amazing great fortune to work with what I think is more female vocalists of the year than anyone else,” Borchetta said, listing off the female greats he’s worked with, such as Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Reba McEntire, Patty Loveless, Martina McBride, and more. “I’ve gotten to work with the elite. Now I’m getting to work with one of the members of the next elite in Carly Pearce.”

The Big Machine team then presented Pearce with a Gold plaque for both “Never Wanted To Be That Girl” and “What He Didn’t Do.”

Next up to speak was co-producer Josh Osborne.

“Writing is something I’ve done most of my life. Production is something I’m not as confident in, but when you hear songs like this, they just make sense instantly,” Osborne said.

“Shane and I are getting a lot of kudos for the production but I can just tell you that Carly is just as much a part of that if not more than we are. She is the driving force behind this. When you hear a great Carly Pearce record, she is the reason it is a great Carly Pearce record.”

Next it was time to hear from the star of the hour. She made sure to thank her whole team, from Sistad, the person who first believed in her, to Borchetta, Oglesby, Lee, her co-creators, her band and crew, and her new manager Narvel Blackstock.

“It takes people in the beginning to say yes,” she said. “It’s been a magical two years for me. I’ve grown up in this town with a lot of you. I moved here at 19 only thinking about one day being someone who mattered in country music. I understand that you have to support the other people around you and I feel so held and so supported. I’m so grateful for that.”

Thomas Rhett Reigns On MusicRow CountryBreakout Radio Chart

Thomas Rhett and Riley Green hold the No. 1 position on the MusicRow CountryBreakout Radio Chart this week. Despite a loss of -44 spins, “Half Of Me” still holds a +30 spin lead over Luke Bryan’s “Country On.”

Rhett wrote the single with Rhett Akins, Will Bundy and Josh Thompson. Rhett is ranked No. 12 on the Top Songwriter Chart with Thompson following at No. 12. Bundy ranks No. 34 and Akins No. 42.

Rhett is currently on his headlining “Bring The Bar To You Tour” with Parker McCollum and Conner Smith through October. The tour was also extended to include 10 Canadian dates, which will take place in February 2023. Jordan Davis and Kameron Marlowe will serve as support on the Canadian leg.

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

My Music Row Story: UMPG Nashville’s Missy Roberts

Missy Roberts

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.

As Vice President, A&R for Universal Music Publishing Group Nashville, Missy Roberts represents a catalog of writers that include Brandi Carlile, Ingrid Andress, Caitlyn Smith, Paul DiGiovanni, Justin Ebach, Jamie Paulin, Derrick Southerland, Shane Minor and more. After an internship in marketing at Sony Records, Roberts was hired by the A&R department as assistant to industry vet Tracy Gershon.

She launched her publishing career at Island Bound Music. From there, she moved to Disney Music Publishing where she helped start the Nashville office. Since then, Roberts has held posts at Stage Three Music and EMI Music Publishing, before joining UMPG Nashville in 2012. She was promoted to her current position at UMPG in 2021. Roberts has been a part of numerous cuts and No. 1 hits throughout her career, including “The Climb” (Miley Cyrus), “The Truth” (Jason Aldean), 2014 ASCAP Song Of The Year “It Goes Like This” (Thomas Rhett) and 2020 CMA Song Of The Year Nominee and MusicRow Song Of The Year award winner “More Hearts Than Mine” (Ingrid Andress).

Roberts will be honored as part of the current class of MusicRow’s Rising Women on the Row on Oct. 20. For more details about the class and the event, click here.

MusicRow: Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a little town called Downs, Illinois, which is right outside of Bloomington. 500 people, corn and beans. I hated it as a kid but I’m very thankful for it now. It was a really great way to grow up.

Photo: Courtesy of Missy Roberts

Were you musical?

I was not musical, but always very drawn to music. My uncle on my mom’s side, who I’m still really close with, did lighting and sound in the ’80s for all the big arena rock bands like Rush, Damn Yankees and Bad Company. I was very drawn to and connected to him. If he was on tour within three to four hours driving distance of where I grew up, my mom would take me and drop me off with him at the venue and I would run around with him all day. I became so fascinated by what is it about songs that get a person to connect to an artist or get a crowd to react.

Did you know you wanted to be in the music business from then on?

I did. I have said since I was a kid that I was going to do music business, but I ended up getting really active in sports. That really took over, especially from junior high into high school. I toured the country playing softball and ended up getting a scholarship for it. So I thought that was my path for a while, though I was still very drawn to music. I was the kid in school that everybody came to for new music. If I wasn’t practicing softball, I was in front of a radio just taking in music and making mixtapes.

Photo: Courtesy of Missy Roberts

How did that shift from softball back to music business?

I had gotten a scholarship to play softball and was majoring in sports psychology. A year into it, my family went down to Florida where my uncle was for Christmas break. He was running The Wildhorse Saloon that was at Disney. The whole Christmas break, I hung out with him at the Wildhorse. I was hanging out with the bands and just back in in that world. I thought, “What am I doing? This is what I’ve always said I was going to do from the time I can remember talking.” But who would be crazy enough to tear up a scholarship and this whole plan that you’ve established? Who would be crazy enough to give all that up and walk away? Two days before I was supposed to go back to school, I sat down with my parents and said, “I’m not going back. I quit.” That was not easy. I think they thought I was having a midlife crisis. [Laughs]

I gave up the scholarship. I went to Southern Illinois University, and worked two full-time jobs and a part-time job. Southern Illinois, at the time, had a music business program, but it was half of a true music degree and half of a business degree. It wasn’t really music business. I ended up going to one of my professors and said, “This isn’t really music business. There’s a whole side of the industry where people don’t play instruments and they don’t do recitals. That’s what I’m looking to get into.” I ended up creating my own curriculum of marketing and music business. They gave me a professor as a point person and before every semester, I would go and present to them what classes I thought I should take and why.

Photo: Courtesy of Missy Roberts

How did that lead you to Nashville?

Stan Marczewski, who is at Broken Bow now, was a year ahead of me at SIU. He had just gotten a job at a management company and had stayed in touch with the recording engineering professor. Stan called in one day and said, “I’d love to help somebody from SIU. Do you have a student that would be interested in internship?” The next day the professor told me, so I cold called Stan and we talked on the phone. I came down for my spring break that year and spent time helping him at the management company. My classes ended on Thursday, so I’d drive the three hour drive from SIU to Nashville. I’d help out at Mission Management on Fridays, I’d go out and meet people on Saturday, and then I’d drive back to SIU on Sunday nights and go back to being regular college student for four days.

The summer going into my senior year, he helped me get an internship at Sony in marketing. About a month into that, my supervisor in marketing had been begging me all day to come see this band that she was friends with. She was trying to get Tracy Gershon, one of the heads of A&R, to come out and see them. I’d been out with the interns the night before and all day I was like, “I can’t do anything else. I’m so tired.” At the last minute, I changed my mind. Tracy came with us and when we were driving to the show, Tracy said, “I don’t know I’m going to do. My assistant just told me she’s quitting. She gave me two days notice.” I made it a point to make a connection with her that night. As soon as she got in the office the next morning, my little intern desk phone started ringing and it was her. I went and sat down in her office and she said, “I sent an email out this morning asking the staff if there’s an intern that I should hire since I’m in such a pinch for somebody. There’s only one name that came back from everybody in the building and it was yours. Do you want a job?” Two days later, I was working for Tracy Gershon in A&R.

Photo: Courtesy of Missy Roberts

When did you decide you wanted to be in publishing?

Tracy was so, so great. My desk was outside of her office and she would leave her door open, so as publishers came in and met with her, I got to sit outside of her office and just take all of that in. I remember one day sitting outside of her office going, “Wait a minute. So these publishers come in here with songs that they love and they play them for her and tell her why she should love them? Because I was that kid in high school. Everybody piled in my car on Friday nights. It was me with my mixtape and a captive audience going, “Here’s why you need to like this song. Check out this artist; this is why they’re great.”

When Sony merged with RCA, Tracy left and went to Warner Bros. and couldn’t take me with her. That’s when I got into publishing and I’ve been in it ever since.

What was your path from that point?

I went to a really small publishing company here in town for about a year called Island Bound Music. The only writer that they had at the time was Steven Dale Jones. They closed that down and turned it into day-to-day management, so I was back in the management thing where I first interned and just not where I was supposed to be. I found out that Disney Music Publishing was starting an office in Nashville. Philip White, who was a really good friend of Steven Dale Jones, was in our office one day writing with Steven. He was like, “You should call Disney and see if there’s a position open.”

I helped start the Nashville office from scratch [with Lisa Ramsay]. Disney had never had a Nashville publishing company before, so there was no design of how it works. We had this blank slate. Lisa was really great about trusting me to figure it out. That accelerated my learning way more than it would have if I were to stay where I was.

Photo: Courtesy of Missy Roberts

Next I went to a company called Stage Three. It was me and Tim Hunze. I was there for five years and had a really great run. BMG bought us and then Ben Vaughn called me. He had just started running EMI. I went to EMI and got to work very closely with Ben and learned a lot in that process. That was a pretty scary, big change. All my publishing experience to that point was indie, small publishing companies where you’re really close with your writers. You see them every day and you talk to them every day because you’ve got the time to. That’s the foundation of how I learned publishing and getting thrown into a major for the first time is a major learning curve.

What got you to UMPG?

I was at EMI for two years and we sold to Sony. When we merged with Sony, there we now had like 180 writers. In my head I was going, “This just isn’t for me. This isn’t how I learned publishing.” I was looking to make a move back to the indie world.

Then Kent Earls called me. He had just taken over UMPG Nashville. When I met with Kent, I realized how different Universal is. We operate so differently from the other majors. It really is about time and intention—it’s an indie mindset for a global company with global access. I’ve been here for 10 years now. Troy Tomlinson has been an incredible addition because he is an amazing leader, but he’s kept all the great things about it and just made better some of the things that needed to change. It’s been the perfect blend.

Photo: Courtesy of Missy Roberts

When do you feel most fulfilled in what you do?

When I feel like there’s been an impact made, whether I’ve had an opportunity to make an impact on a songwriter or an artist, or if somebody’s made an impact on me. That’s truly what fulfills me. At this, this point in my career, I have been very blessed that I’ve pitched or facilitated number ones and some songs of the year and helped artists get record deals. But the whole thing is for me, did that help somebody? Did that make their life better? Did that help a dream of theirs come true? That’s what motivates me. That’s what moves me.

You will be honored at MusicRow’s Rising Women on the Row breakfast on Oct. 20. What are you most proud of when you look back on your career so far?

I’m most proud that 18 out of my 19 years in town have been with what, to me, is the foundation, root and lifeline of this business: the songwriter. Getting to work with them every day is something that I’m really proud of.

LAST DAY FOR TICKETS: ‘Rising Women On The Row’ Tickets Close Tomorrow

Tickets for MusicRow‘s Rising Women on the Row breakfast will close tomorrow (Oct. 7) at 5 p.m. The annual event will take place Oct. 20 at the Omni Nashville Hotel, beginning at 8:30 a.m.

Presenting sponsors for this year’s Rising Women on the Row are City National BankLoeb & Loeb, and Tri Star Sports & Entertainment Group.

The ninth annual celebration will honor the next class of Rising Women on the Row honorees: Jen Conger (FBMM, Business Manager), JoJamie Hahr (BBR Music Group/BMG, Sr. VP), Mandy Morrison (City National Bank, Vice President/Senior Relationship Manager), Missy Roberts (Universal Music Publishing Group, VP, A&R), Jennie Smythe (Girlilla Marketing, CEO) and Stephanie Wright (UMG Nashville, Senior VP, A&R).

Pictured (L-R, top row): Rising Women Jen Conger, Jennie Smythe, JoJamie Hahr; (L-R, bottom row): Mandy Morrison, Missy Roberts, Stephanie Wright

Warner Music Nashville Co-President Cris Lacy has been tapped as the featured speaker for this year’s event. Attendees will be treated to insights from Lacy during an on-stage interview with MusicRow Publisher/Owner Sherod Robertson.

Tickets are now closed. They will not be sold at the door. Previous ticket holders who had purchased their tickets/tables in 2020 have been emailed a reminder and confirmation of their seats.

Supporting Sponsorship Tables of 10 include premium seating, company logo included on full-page ad in MusicRow‘s Touring/Next Big Thing Issue (December/January), and company logo included in event program.

For any questions regarding the event, contact LB Cantrell at [email protected].

On The Cover: MusicRow’s Publisher Print Issue Features Maddie & Tae On Cover

MusicRow Magazine has released its 2022 Publisher Issue print edition. Mercury Nashville’s Maddie & Tae are featured on its cover.

Maddie & Tae first broke out in 2013 with their brilliant counter to bro-country, the Platinum-selling smash, “Girl In A Country Song,” which skyrocketed to the top of the charts and established them as only the third female duo in 70 years to top the Country Airplay charts. They took home Group/Duo Video of the Year (“Woman You Got”) at the 2022 CMT Music Awards, and were nominated a seventh time for Vocal Duo of the Year at the 55th CMA Awards. They have earned trophies from the Radio Disney Music Awards and CMA Awards, along with ACM, Billboard and CMT Award nominations. Maddie & Tae have received widespread praise from Associated Press, Billboard, Entertainment Weekly, NPR, The Tennessean, The Washington Post, Glamour and others. The duo has toured with country music’s hottest stars including Carrie Underwood, Dierks Bentley, Brad Paisley, and Brett Young. They are currently headlining the “CMT Next Women of Country Tour Presents: All Song No Static Tour in 2022,” hitting major markets coast-to-coast.

The award-winning duo channel their unbreakable bond, honest songwriting and “some of the tightest harmonies on Music Row” (Rolling Stone) into their new collection of songs Through The Madness Vol. 2. Together as longtime friends and music collaborators, Maddie Font and Taylor Kerr co-wrote each of the project’s tracks, as well as all 8 songs on Through The Madness Vol. 1, including their most recent single, “Woman You Got,” plus fan-favorite song “Strangers.” The pair drew praise for their No. 1 debuting The Way It Feels album, including the Double Platinum-certified No. 1 hit, “Die From A Broken Heart.” With “Die From A Broken Heart” topping the country airplay charts, Maddie & Tae became the first and only female twosome with multiple No. 1s.

Inside, MusicRow‘s annual Publisher Issue includes the 2022 Publisher Directory, listing Nashville’s top publishing companies, as well as organizations and services available for songwriters.

“Not unlike Leonardo da Vinci creating the Mona Lisa, our own Nashville tunesmiths create masterworks of art. Our annual Publisher print edition is dedicated to this segment of our industry: the masterful songwriters who write the stories, and the publishers and team members who stand with them,” says MusicRow Magazine Owner/Publisher Sherod Robertson of the issue.

For the 2022 Publisher Issue, MusicRow brings back its State of the Union roundtable, this time featuring UMPG’s Cyndi Forman, Sony Music Publishing’s Josh Van Valkenburg, Endurance Music’s Michael Martin, Warner Chappell’s Jessi Vaughn Stevenson, and Tape Room Music’s Kelly Bolton. Elsewhere, MusicRow taps veteran attorney Jess L. Rosen to explain the recent uptick in catalog sales.

Also featured in this issue is an opinion piece from Ben Vaughn on cutting outside songs, a glimpse into Prescription Songs’ multi-genre success, and a look back at Nashville’s history of No. 1 parties. Additionally, this issue also offers conversations with NSAI’s Bart Herbison and Reel Muzik Werks’ Teri Nelson Carpenter.

MusicRow’s 2022 Publisher Issue also highlights the work and careers of some of Nashville’s most in-demand songwriters, including Sony Music Publishing’s Elle King, 50 Egg Music/UMPG’s Shane Minor, Big Loud’s Jamie Moore, BMG’s Emily Landis, Boom Music Group/Warner Chappell’s Chris Tompkins and SMACK’s Josh Jenkins.

Single copies of MusicRow’s 2022 Publisher Issue are available for purchase at musicrow.com for $45, and are included with yearly MusicRow subscriptions.

Kelsea Ballerini Masters Vulnerable Songwriting On ‘Subject To Change’ [Interview]

Kelsea Ballerini. Photo: Daniel Prakopcyk

For her fourth studio album, multi-Platinum singer-songwriter Kelsea Ballerini found herself reflecting on a season of change in her life.

Her third studio album, Kelsea, was released March 20, 2020, just as the world began to feel the thundering start of the pandemic, which put a damper on the project’s release. Though the record performed well, debuting at No. 2 and 12 on the Top Country Albums and Billboard 200 charts, respectively, and spawning four official singles, such as “Hole in the Bottle” and “Half of My Hometown,” Ballerini was open about her disappointment in the timing of the release.

With the pandemic raging on through 2020 and 2021, Ballerini did what a lot of creatives did: took some time to herself, reflected on her life, and wrote songs. She emerged with 15 new songs and a sharp creative vision for her fourth studio album, Subject To Change.

Ballerini and her label Black River introduced the project with her currently climbing country radio single, “Heartfirst,” a flirty track combining ’90s country with Ballerini’s signature country-pop songwriting. Subject To Change was released in its entirety in September.

The sound of the record reflects that of “Heartfirst,” with various ’90s references throughout, although Ballerini says it wasn’t necessarily intentional.

Faith Hill, Trisha Yearwood and Shania Twain are obvious references for this album, but it also was Sixpence None The Richer and Sheryl Crow,” Ballerini tells MusicRow. “But I didn’t necessarily set out to make a ’90s-sounding record, it’s just naturally influenced by what I was listening to.”

For the creation of Subject To Change, Ballerini did set out to make a cohesive project with a clear through-line, for which she tapped producers Shane McAnally and Julian Bunetta. Jesse Frasure and Alysa Vanderheym are credited as producers for the album, as well, for their work on the last track on the record, “What I Have.”

“My last album was such a quilt. Every song had its own identity as far as the songwriter group and the producer group. Each song was its own moment. I’m proud of [the Kelsea album] because it was the first time that I allowed myself the freedom and the confidence to play around. This time, I really wanted to go back to making a streamlined record,” Ballerini says. “I still wanted it to push boundaries, but I wanted it to feel like a cohesive story. It was really important to me to have production that really helped bring a vision to life and streamline it through the whole project.

“Shane and Julian not only produced it, but oversaw the whole thing. They were able to give me outside perspectives on songs they weren’t a part of writing. They brought it to life in such a beautiful way that honors country music, but also honors everything else I’m influenced by.”

While McAnally and Bunetta’s production is polished and interesting, it doesn’t get in the way of the star of Subject To Change: Ballerini’s songwriting.

For this album, Ballerini started the writing with one of the record’s gut punches—a solo write called “Marilyn” that’s based on Ballerini’s new familiarity with the struggles of the beautiful but tragic life of Marilyn Monroe. The singer-songwriter has made it a tradition to include one solo write on all her albums. For her debut, it was “The First Time.” For Unapologetically, it was “High School.” For Kelsea, it was “LA.”

“It just holds me accountable, to be honest,” she shares of the practice. “Songwriting is my favorite part of what I do. I still crave being in the room with people like Shane, Hillary Lindsey or Nicolle Galyon who sharpen me as a writer. In the same breath, I want to honor myself and trust myself to be able to take an idea all the way through and not always rely on other people. Doing one solo write on each record is just my way of holding myself accountable to that.”

The song that set the tone sonically for Subject To Change was one of the more ’90s-country sounding tracks, “Love Is A Cowboy.”

“‘Love Is A Cowboy’ was the first song that I wrote with other songwriters with the intention of writing for an album. It felt like a direction that really honors my songwriting evolution and feels sonically different than anything that I’ve done before. That really interested me,” Ballerini shares.

A highlight of the 15-track project is “What I Have.” The tune, written alongside Vanderheym and Cary Barlowe, is extremely country and shows off Ballerini’s honeyed vocals and sharp ability to convey a message.

“I was on a writing retreat. Alyssa and Cary were working on doing harmonies for [another song] ‘The Little Things’ and I was staring out the window at the ocean. I was just having a moment of reflection,” Ballerini recalls. “One of the things so many people have learned over the past couple of years is to take inventory of your life. We’re constantly changing and that’s such a theme of this album. I was just having a moment to myself, taking inventory of how my life looked in that moment and how it was the simpler things that were making me the happiest.

“I said, ‘Hey guys, can you stop the track on “Little Things?”‘ They stopped and I literally sang the chorus to ‘What I Have’ in the room. We ended up pausing on ‘The Little Things’ and wrote ‘What I Have’ in about 30 minutes,” Ballerini says. “It fell out of the sky. The record is the original demo. We tried to re-record it and it just didn’t capture the honesty and the pureness of the magic of how we wrote it.”

Like “What I Have,” many of the tracks on Subject To Change convey a growth and acceptance in Ballerini. Her “Doin’ My Best” finds her grappling with things in her life that are hard to face—such as growing apart from a friend or being called out on social media. In “Walk In The Park,” she sings about being complicated. In the title track, Ballerini puts out a big disclaimer that she, as well as all of us, are ‘subject to change’ at any time.

“Every record of mine has bookmarked two years of my twenties. This one is from 26 to 28. There’s a lot of growing up that happens in those years, but also I sat still for the first time since I’ve been in my twenties,” Ballerini says, adding that she’s learned in therapy that her coping mechanism is business.

During the pandemic, Ballerini was able to sit with her feelings, work on herself, and evaluate her relationships—which is clearly reflected in the maturity of the songwriting on the project.

Kelsea Ballerini. Photo: Catherine Powell

“I started processing my life differently. Having that time really allowed me to go deeper and have more time to work on myself, my friendships and relationships. As well as my songwriting and writing in general. I got to write a book. All those things really helped me accelerate growing up.”

Throughout her time in the public eye, Ballerini has managed to stay pretty vulnerable with her fans as her audience grows, while also holding some parts of herself close and protected.

“It’s a dance. I’m in a season of life right now where I’m re-figuring that out,” she admits. “I do feel a responsibility to not just show the glittery parts of my life and ‘job.’ That would be really easy to do, but it’s just not real. I feel responsibility as someone that some people look to to be more authentic, even if it’s a little bit uncomfortable sometimes. I definitely don’t tend to do it right all the time and I’ve had a messy journey with social media, but I’m constantly doing my best.

“That’s where I’m at with everything in my life,” Ballerini sums. “I’m showing up the best I can.”

Ballerini has taken Subject To Change on the road for a 10-night-only tour. She hits Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre on Thursday night (Oct. 5) with four shows following. Click here for more details.