Kelli Turner Exits SESAC, Scott Jungmichel Appointed President/COO, Sam Kling Promoted, Shannan Hatch Returns [Exclusive]

Pictured (clockwise from top left): Shannan Hatch (VP, Creative Services, SESAC Performing Rights), Scott Jungmichel (President and COO, SESAC Performing Rights), Kelli Turner (outgoing President and COO of SESAC), Sam Kling (Chief Creative Officer, SESAC Performing Rights)

John Josephson, Chairman and CEO of SESAC, announced today (Sept. 8) the departure of Kelli Turner, President and COO of SESAC, as well as several recent promotions within SESAC Performing Rights. Turner is leaving SESAC to pursue a new opportunity outside of the music industry.

“Kelli and I joined SESAC at the same time, and I want to say how grateful I am to her for all that she has done to help shape and build SESAC over the past seven years. Her departure will of course be a loss for SESAC, but it’s a tribute to her leadership and hard work that we feel confident about the future. She has helped us build a strong, seasoned management team, and together we will continue on the successful path that SESAC has followed for many years,” says Josephson, “We wish her all the best in her future endeavors.”

Scott Jungmichel, previously EVP, Royalty Distribution and Research Services and CIO, has been appointed President and COO of SESAC Performing Rights. During his 28 years with the company, Jungmichel has been responsible for all Royalty Distribution and Research Services, as well as SESAC’s technology infrastructure and IT operations. Scott will continue to be based in Nashville.

Sam Kling, who previously served as SVP, Creative Operations, has been appointed Chief Creative Officer of SESAC Performing Rights. Since joining SESAC in 2014, Kling has created an effective client services operation across the New York, Nashville, London and Los Angeles offices, as well as elevated the company’s affiliate roster by collaborating with some of the industry’s most significant songwriters, music publishers and managers. Kling will continue to be based in Los Angeles.

Additionally, Shannan Hatch has returned to SESAC Performing Rights as VP, Creative Services, where she will lead the Nashville-based creative services team in supporting the company’s affiliated songwriters and publishers. Hatch previously worked in this role until September 2019.

Ashley Gorley Spends Eighth Consecutive Week Atop MusicRow Top Songwriter Chart

Ashley Gorley. Photo: Josh Ulmer

Ashley Gorley is spending his eighth consecutive week at No. 1 on the MusicRow Top Songwriter Chart. Gorley is a co-writer on the following charting songs: “Beers On Me” (Dierks Bentley, Hardy & Breland), “Country Again” (Thomas Rhett), “Give Heaven Some Hell” (Hardy), “Sand In My Boots” (Morgan Wallen), “You Should Probably Leave” (Chris Stapleton), and “Good Things” and “Steal My Love” (Dan + Shay).

Hunter Phelps and Jonathan Singleton remain at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively.

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.

Charlie Worsham: ‘Life’s Been Really Great Here Lately’ [Interview]

Photo: Jason Myers

Beloved musician Charlie Worsham is in a sweet season of life. In April, he and his wife Kristen welcomed their first child, son Gabriel Thomas; and in July, Worsham released his anticipated new EP, Sugarcane. The project follows Worsham’s 2017 album, Beginning of Things, which received critical acclaim across the board.

“Life’s been really great here lately. In the midst of this pandemic, I’ve been so excited to be able to continue to work. The session work that’s happened in the last year has been a godsend, and getting to be around Kristen during the pregnancy was amazing,” Worsham beams.

The sweetness shines through on Worsham’s Warner Music Nashville release, Sugarcane. Produced by Jay Joyce, the six-song release finds the singer-songwriter marveling on endearing romance (“Sugarcane,” “Half Drunk”), frustrating disappointment (“Fist Through This Town”), hope (“Believe In Love”), and what really matters in life (“For The Love,” “Hang On To That”).

Worsham wrote the title track on the flight home from his honeymoon. “I’m the one person who brought a guitar to his honeymoon,” Worsham quips.

“Kristen had gone out to get some coffee or something and I was messing with little riff. I put in my phone, as we do, and I didn’t think anything of it. On the last full day there, we signed up for this tour of a farm on a mountain side. We rode horses, pet the chickens, and tried cheese that they make and all this stuff. At the end of the tour you got to take a strip of sugarcane and use this hand crank to get the juice out of it.

“These things all got planted in my brain and on the flight home, I started writing the song. I think it’s representative of the full set of tunes because of everything that has happened for me since the last time the world heard from me. The last time the world heard from me I was sandwiched between Sam Hunt and Kip Moore on tour and I was not in a good place, I was very angry. That’s where ‘Fist Through This Town’ comes into the story. But eventually I stopped writing songs for everybody else and I started writing songs for this one person. I was trying to get Kristen to laugh or to get her to think I was sweet. That’s where these songs started happening.”

Worsham’s muse is the subject of a few songs on the project, another being “Half Drunk.”

“I first told Kristen that I loved her outside the Station Inn after my Beginning of Things album release. It was April, 2017. The week before the record came out, my day-to-day manager quit management, my publisher had dropped me and I owed him 10 copyrights, and I could feel in my gut already that this record wasn’t going to be my Gambler like it was for Don Schlitz. But I was in love with this girl and I worked up the courage to tell her. That’s where the song comes from.

“The title is actually from a line of dialogue and an episode of Twin Peaks, which we binged early in the pandemic. The line was ‘half drunk, half joking and half crazy.’ I wrote it with Jay Knowles.”

“Believe In Love,” co-written by Worsham and Jimmy Bell, tells the musician’s guiding life principles. “I believe our better days are up ahead and not behind / I believe we’ll have our struggles but they’ll get sweeter with time,” Worsham sings.

“It’s my story of the roadmap that I was raised and sent away from home with for how to live and love. And then of course the future that I’m building now with my wife.”

Worsham’s romantic, hopeful and wise EP Sugarcane is available everywhere now.

Dynamic Duo Lauren Alaina & Manager Trisha McClanahan Prep For A Busy Fall Season [Interview]

Lauren Alaina with manager Trisha McClanahan. Photo: Chris Hollo for Grand Ole Opry

Since her introduction into entertainment as the runner-up on season 10 of American Idol, country singer-songwriter Lauren Alaina has captured the hearts of fans and industry members alike with her powerhouse vocals and genuine and relatable persona. The singer-songwriter has earned three No. 1 hit singles in just under three years with her smash “Road Less Traveled” (2017), the now 6x Platinum “What Ifs” (2018) with Kane Brown, and most recently, “One Beer,” (2020) with Hardy and Devin Dawson.

Her manager, Trisha McClanahan, got her start in the music business in the late ’80s and went on to join Reba McEntire’s Starstruck Entertainment in 1990, where she remained for 20 years. During her tenure at Starstruck, McClanahan worked in concert promotions, sponsorship facilitation, touring, and public relations. She rose to VP of Marketing at Starstruck and helped to develop product extensions for McEntire that included a clothing line, shoe line, bed and bath line, and home goods—as well as promoted books, movie, a TV sitcom, a Broadway show, and multiple albums. In 2010, McClanahan left the Starstruck umbrella to form McClanahan Management.

The dynamic duo, who have been together since 2014, have an impressive list of projects coming up this fall.

Building on the success of her two critically-acclaimed EPs released in 2020, Getting Good EP and Getting Over Him EP, Alaina will release her new album, Sitting Pretty On Top of the World, tomorrow (Sept. 3) This is her third full-length album for Mercury Records Nashville and undoubtedly shows the singer at her most vulnerable and tender—with Alaina co-writing 14 of the 15 tracks alongside award-winning songwriters Liz Rose, Lori McKenna, Hillary Lindsey, Emily Weisband, David Garcia, Ben Johnson, and more.

“I am the happy, go-lucky, goofy girl, but this album shows a different side of me,” Alaina says of the project. “I wanted to show that there was more to me than just being the girl who can make you laugh.

“The Road Less Traveled album changed my life,” she continues. “It was really an album about becoming a woman. This album is about being a woman. Road Less Traveled really helped set up my brand of loving myself and loving others and Sitting Pretty On Top of the World is all about me continuing to love myself even when others may not. Every girl goes through her breakup album and this is mine.”

In addition to the album, Alaina will star in a Hallmark Channel movie, Roadhouse Romance, premiering on Sept. 11. Starring alongside Tyler Hynes, Alaina plays Lieutenant Callie Jackson who returns home after a military tour to find her late grandfather’s BBQ restaurant is struggling and her high school sweetheart has moved on. Alaina’s character meets Hynes’, a television director visiting town, and he teaches her how to keep looking forward instead of looking back.

“The Hallmark team came into town two or three years ago and we sat down with them at CAA. They had an interest in Lauren and had followed her career. They came to us with this concept and this script, which was so perfect for her,” McClanahan says. “It has a lot of family values in it, she plays someone in the military and her farther was in the military, and it allows her to sing.”

This isn’t Alaina’s first time on the silver screen. In addition to her role on American Idol, she was a contestant on the 28th season of Dancing With The Stars, even making it to the final round. Alaina is also slated to star in an upcoming episode of CBS Television’s Secret Celebrity Renovation.

Although Alaina hasn’t acted much, she says it does come naturally to her. “It feels like another way to entertain and I love it. I like anything that we can do as an extension of the music,” Alaina says. “Music is always the number one priority. My character is not a singer but she likes to sing. We always have to have a little bit of Lauren Alaina in anything that we do.

“Everything boils down to the music for us,” Alaina continues. “It all has to make sense with the music and what our ultimate goal is.”

Alaina will also release her new book, Getting Good At Being You, on Nov. 23. The book, like Alaina’s new album, is soul-baring, with Alaina sharing stories about everything from lost loves to getting a nose ring to battling an eating disorder to grieving a loved one’s death.

“Approachability is part of Lauren’s brand,” McClanahan says. “She is the girl next door and people can relate to that. She has been famous since she was 15 and has continued to allow America in to who her heart is. That’s what the book addresses.”

Alaina adds, “We are in such a time of chaos and hurt. All of the projects that are coming out from us are about healing. A Hallmark movie makes everyone feel good. This book is about overcoming obstacles, my own personal growth in my faith, and my growth in my self-worth. And the album is all about healing.”

With the new album, her new book, and her movie, Alaina is about to have a busy—and likely very prosperous—fall season. “It’s the fall of Lauren Alaina!” McClanahan quips.

Alaina’s album Sitting Pretty On Top of the World is out everywhere Sept. 3. Her Hallmark movie, Roadhouse Romance, premiers on Sept. 11 and her book, Getting Good At Being You, will be available on Nov. 23.

Bonnaroo 2021 Canceled Due To Weather

Bonnaroo 2019. Photo: Charles Reagan Hackleman

This weekend’s Bonnaroo music festival has been canceled due to the waterlogged festival grounds resulting from the massive amounts of rain middle Tennessee has received due to rains from Tropical Depression Ida. Earlier this week, Bonnaroo’s organizers announced they were reducing camping capacity at the festival.

According to a Tweet from the official Bonnaroo account, “the ground is incredibly saturated on [their] tollbooth paths, and the campgrounds are flooded to the point that [they] are unable to drive in or park vehicles safely.”

The festival, which was slated to run Thursday, Sept. 2 through Sunday, Sept. 5, was to include sets from Foo Fighters, Megan Thee Stallion, Lizzo, Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, Tyler The Creator, Lana Del Rey, Breland, Niko Moon and more.

All tickets purchased through Front Gate Tickets will be refunded in as little as 30 days to the original method of payment. For more information about refunds, click here.

Warner Music Nashville Promotes Four Senior Staff Members

Pictured (clockwise from top left): Tim Foisset, Brooke Hardesty, Shane Tarleton, Victoria Mason

Warner Music Nashville has promoted four of its senior staff members.

Tim Foisset, formerly VP of Streaming, rises to SVP Commercial Partnerships and former Sr. Director Interactive Marketing, Brooke Hardesty, has been upped to VP Interactive Marketing. Shane Tarleton, formerly SVP Artist Development, rises to EVP Artist Development, and Victoria Mason rises from VP Strategic Marketing to SVP Strategic Marketing & Analysis.

In his role, Foisset will be charged with maximizing marketing opportunities and revenue potential with Warner Music Nashville’s partners in streaming, digital retail, e-commerce, D2C and more. Foisset began his career in 1998 at Burly Bear Network and later joined Fuse Networks as the Manager of Consumer Marketing. He moved to Razor & Tie in 2005 as Director of Digital Marketing, where he managed the label’s relationships with digital partners and oversaw online marketing initiatives. He will report to EVP / GM Ben Kline.

“Tim’s knowledge of the marketplace is best in class,” says Kline. “In this expanded role, he will have an even greater impact on the success of our artists and their music.”

With Tarleton at the helm, the Artist Development department comprises marketing and creative services as well as Mason’s full team. Tarleton began his career at Titley / Spalding Artist Management, after which he spent six years in the art department at RCA Label Group working on imaging and branding for country music superstars including Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley and Martina McBride. Following a period in Las Vegas producing events for MGM properties, Tarleton joined Warner Music Nashville as Creative Director in 2010.

“Shane has earned love and respect within the country music community that is unmatched anywhere,” Kline says. “His passion for the artists and their creative vision continues to help drive our decision making at the highest level.”

Mason oversees audience and fan development strategy via the touring, brand partnerships, analytics, interactive marketing and video strategy teams. Warner Music Nashville welcomed her to the team in 2011 after three years of experience at Nielsen. She graduated with a degree in marketing from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.

Of Mason, Tarleton says, “Torie is a boss, simply put! She has diligently constructed a fan-focused interactive team that is world class and will lead our artists to new heights.”

Hardesty, who reports to Mason, leads a team of five to create tailored digital experiences ranging from live event activations to social media campaigns. Her previous roles include radio promotion at CCM record label Word Entertainment and account services at J&A integrated thinking beginning in 2011. She graduated with Honors from Belmont University with a BBA in Music Business.

“Brooke has built a bright, bold, passionate team over the past few years, and it’s truly been an honor to work alongside her,” says Mason. “Her work ethic, creative prowess and killer marketing instinct continue to serve our artists each and every day.”

UMPG Nashville Promotes Missy Roberts To Vice President, A&R

 

Missy Roberts

Universal Music Publishing Nashville has promoted Missy Roberts to Vice President, A&R. She will continue reporting to Troy Tomlinson, chairman/CEO of the company’s Nashville division.

An 18-year industry veteran, Roberts represents notable UMPG songwriters including Ingrid Andress, Justin Ebach, Paul DiGiovanni, Brandi Carlile, Derrick Southerland, Cole Taylor, Caitlyn Smith, Shane Minor, Jamie Paulin and Jeff Middleton. She joined the company in 2012 and previously served as Senior Director, A&R.

Prior to joining UMPG, Roberts held A&R roles at Sony Music Nashville, Disney Music Publishing Nashville, Stage Three Music and EMI Music Publishing.

Tomlinson says, “I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Missy and watching her grow as a leader over a number of years. Her thoughtful approach when signing songwriters and setting up collaborations make her an absolutely excellent example of what A&R should look like. Missy’s voice on our team and within the Music Row community position her well for this leadership role.”

“Universal Music Publishing is home to the absolute best-in-class creators, leadership and culture. Everything we do is designed to make sure songwriters are always first. None of us succeed or grow without belief. Universal Music’s belief in me is inspiring and humbling at the same time, and I want thank Troy for this opportunity,” says Roberts.

Roberts is part of the 2020 class of MusicRow Magazine’s Rising Women on the Row.

Touring Veteran Randy “Baja” Fletcher Passes

Randy “Baja” Fletcher at the Touring Career Workshop in 2016. Photo: Courtesy Chris Lisle

Touring industry veteran and tour production manager Randy “Baja” Fletcher passed away today (Aug. 27), MusicRow has confirmed. Fletcher recently fell at a show site and was critically injured.

Fletcher worked as a Production Manager for ZZ Top, Waylon Jennings, Randy Travis, Brooks & Dunn and most recently with Keith Urban. He was honored with the first-ever CMA Touring Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual CMA Touring Awards in 2017 for all of his contributions.

Fletcher started his near 50-year career in Virginia Beach, Virginia when he was 17. With Bill Deal and the Rhondels, Fletcher traveled with the band up and down the East Coast on solo dates. He also worked with shows of the era that included pop and Motown artists.

In 1978 Feltcher started a 10-year run with Waylon Jennings. During this time he also toured with Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Willie Nelson, and many more. In 1988 he began working with Randy Travis on his first headlining tour, whom he would continue with for five years. In 1992 Fletcher started working with Brooks & Dunn, where he served as the duo’s production manager for 18 years.

In 2011 Fletcher took his current role as production manager for Keith Urban.

After being awarded with the CMA’s first-ever Touring Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017, he was awarded Production Manager Of The Year in 2019 among other industry honors.

Fletcher served in the United States Army, and did a tour of Vietnam.

Memorial details have not yet been announced.

DISClaimer Single Reviews: Keith Urban, Hannah Dasher, Laci Kaye Booth

Hannah Dasher, Keith Urban, Lacy Kaye Booth

This is a star-packed edition of DisClaimer that features a dazzling number of country A-listers.

Leading the pack is Keith Urban, who wins the Disc of the Day award with fantastic competition from Kane Brown, Kenny Chesney, Chris Janson, Morgan Wallen and Cody Johnson. All are worth your spins.

We also have two splendid duets today. They come from spouses Rose Falcon & Rodney Atkins and from old buddies Jeannie Seely and Willie Nelson. The female vocal performance du jour is unquestionably by Hannah Dasher.

The DisCovery Award goes to BMLG newcomer Laci Kaye Booth.

HANNAH DASHER / “You’re Gonna Love Me”
Writers: Hannah Dasher/Thomas Archer/Andy Albert/Gordie Sampson; Producer: Brandon Hood; Label: Sony Nashville
— She says it best, “I’m a bad Mamajamma,” on this feisty, hooky, rhythm-happy slab of sound. She drawls in all the right places, the thumpy backbeat is killer and the lyric is a stone delight. A fiery hillbilly romp that deserves a place in the sun.

KANE BROWN / “One Mississippi”
Writers: Kane Brown/Jesse Frasure/Levon Gray/Ernest K. Smith; Producer: Dann Huff; Label: RCA Nashville
— His vocal is warm and intimate on the verses, then shouted and urgent on the soaring choruses of this rocking anthem of tipsy passion. Breezy and engaging.

TRAVIS DENNING / “Dirt Road Down”
Writers: Will Weatherly/Cole Taylor/Taylor Phillips/Travis Denning; Producer: Jeremy Stover; Label: Mercury Nashville
— Somewhat tuneless, over produced, thematically backroads generic.

KENNY CHESNEY / “Beautiful World”
Writers: David Lee Murphy/Tom Douglas/Tony Lane; Producer: Buddy Cannon/Kenny Chesney; Label: Blue Chair/Warner Nashville
— Relaxed and laid back, this settles into his sunny-outlook vibe with all the ease of a swaying hammock. It has a simple, catchy melody that I can imagine his stadium crowd singing along to.

CODY JOHNSON / “Let’s Build a Fire”
Writers: Chris Janson/Mitch Oglesby; Producer: Trent Willmon; Label: CoJo/Warner Nashville
— Furiously rocking, but his solid, Texas-accented country singing remains the big draw. A wild ride with plenty of heart.

KEITH URBAN / “Wild Hearts”
Writers: Keith Urban/Eric Paslay/Brad Tursi/Jennifer Wayne; Producer: Keith Urban/Mitch Furr; Label: Capitol Nashville
— His best in ages. It has a steady groove that is undeniable and an uplifting lyric about chasing your dreams, no matter what. Wonderful listening. This is exactly why he is a superstar.

JEANNIE SEELY & WILLIE NELSON / “Not a Dry Eye in the House”
Writers: Dallas Wayne; Producer: Don Cusic; Label: Curb Records
— What’s not to love? Steel soaked, with beautifully accented keyboard notes and an eloquent, fiddle-accompanied Willie guitar solo. Slow and sad, this classic-sounding weeper features both veterans singing splendidly.

ROSE FALCON & RODNEY ATKINS / “Being Here, Being There”
Writers: Rose Falcon/Rodney Atkins/Phil Barton/Seth Mosley; Producer: Seth Mosley/Rodney Atkins; Label: Curb Records
— His gritty country voice contrasts nicely with her lilting pop soprano on this charming outing. The crunchy, bopping track is delightfully ear catching and the reassuring, romantic lyric is heart warming. I totally dig this. It’s about time this doubly talented married couple became a recording duet. I would welcome an entire album with songs this dandy.

LACI KAYE BOOTH / “Shuffle”
Writers: Derrick Southerland/Laci Kaye Booth/Sam Ellis; Producer: Dann Huff/Jimmy Harnen; Label: BMLG Records
— Attractive and clever. She has a slightly hushed, sensual vocal style that is wed to a steady thumping track. She name-checks country oldies since her heart’s playlist is on “shuffle” because she’s so smitten.

CHRIS JANSON / “Bye Mom”
Writers: Chris Janson/Brandon Kinney; Producer: Zach Crowell/Chris Janson; Label: Warner
— Achingly lovely. We all know that one day we will lose our moms, but that doesn’t make it any less painful when we do. Always a masterful communicator, Janson taps into this universal truth with this lump-in-throat song. A lilting, gentle production lifts the whole thing upward. I remain an immense fan.

MORGAN WALLEN / “Sand In My Boots”
Writers: Ashely Gorley/Joshua Shaun Osborne/Michael Wilson Hardy; Producer: Joey Moi; Label: Big Loud/Republic
— He’s such a terrific singer. This heartbroken ballad is a mini country masterpiece, packed with evocative images and intense emotion. Performed solo on piano with fierce conviction, this works on every level.

RANDY TRAVIS / “Ain’t No Use”
Writers: Randy Travis/John Lindley; Producer: Kyle Lehning; Label: Warner
— The 35th anniversary of the landmark Storms of Life LP is being celebrated with a deluxe reissue featuring tracks originally recorded for the collection, but never released before this. This peppy toe tapper is one of them, and it’s a face-slap reminder of what a great country vocalist this Hall of Famer is.

Martina McBride Talks The RCA Days, Bold Songs & Her Lasting Legacy [Interview]

Martina McBride. Photo: Joseph Llanes

Few have impacted the country music genre like Martina McBride. The powerful singer and bold communicator has seen monumental success throughout her 30-year career, including selling more than 23 million albums to date and earning 14 Gold, 9 Platinum, 3 Double Platinum and 2 Triple Platinum certifications. But her legacy is far greater than her powerful selling power.

Martina started performing as a child in Kansas, playing in her family’s band, the Schiffters. As she got older she started performing in rock bands around Wichita, where she met recording engineer John McBride, who she married in 1988.

Martina remembers the night she knew it was time to move to Nashville and pursue a career in country music.

“[My family] had never entered any kind of contest, but for some reason we entered this battle of the bands and Dad asked me if I’d come back and sing with them. My husband, John, engineered the show and he recorded it on a cassette. During the break we went out to our car and listened to the cassette and it just hit me. I was like, ‘This is what I want to do.'” Martina recalls. “I love to sing all kinds of music. And up to that point, I had been singing all kinds of music, but that was the moment that I knew that this is where I wanted my focus to go. It feels like home to me and it was always my dream as a kid. That moment was a realization that this is what I wanted to do: I wanted to pursue a career in country music.

“I went back inside the building and told my mom that night, and we ended up moving to Nashville a few months later,” Martina says.

John started working as a sound engineer on concert tours and became production manager for a booming artist on the rise, Garth Brooks, in 1991. Martina soon started selling t-shirts for Garth.

All the while she was hustling, trying to get a five-song demo to the record labels in Nashville in hopes of a record deal.

To get past RCA Records’ strict rules about submitting new material unsolicited, she wrote “REQUESTED MATERIAL” in large letters on a bright purple package, even though RCA had not asked for the tape.

“I was singing demos, waiting tables and selling t-shirts for Garth at the time and I had heard from a friend of mine at a publishing company that RCA was looking for a female artist to sign and they had three contenders,” Martina says. “Another friend of mine had said that they don’t take any unsolicited material, so you can’t just walk in and drop your tape off. He said a little tip is when you drop your envelope off at the front desk, write ‘requested material’ on it. That’ll get it past the front and get it to the A&R person. So I did that. I went to Kinko’s and got a bright purple envelope and my husband wrote ‘requested material’ with a phone number. About two weeks later we got a phone call that they had heard the demo and they wanted to have a showcase.”

Martina’s plan worked and she signed her deal in 1991.

Martina McBride receiving a RIAA plaque for the Gold-certified The Way That I Am album. Photo: MusicRow Magazine’s December 1994 issue.

With a label deal secured, it was time for her to make her first record. “I wanted to be a really traditional country artist [on that record]. I wanted to be like the female Alan Jackson or something.”

Martina released her debut album, The Time Has Come, in May of 1992. The album earned Martina critical accolades, but it wasn’t until the release of her second album, The Way That I Am, that she began achieving commercial success. “My Baby Loves Me” reached No. 2 on Billboard’s country charts, becoming Martina’s first hit. But her “Independence Day,” an empowering anthem about escaping domestic abuse written by Gretchen Peters, catapulted Martina into stardom.

“Independence Day” was named Song of the Year in 1995 and Video of the Year in 1994 by the CMA—but had trouble at some radio stations at first because of its serious subject matter.

“I was so passionate about the message in the song. It really touched me. So, I went to my radio promotion guys and I said, ‘What’s happening?’ They said ‘Well these stations won’t play the song. They think it’s too controversial. They think the video is controversial.’ I was like, ‘Well, can you give me their numbers? Can I talk to them?’ I don’t think they’d ever had that happen before,” Martina says with a laugh. “I can remember sitting in the office at the studio and calling each of these guys one by one and just saying, ‘Talk to me about this. What is your hesitation?’ I argued my point and I did turn some of them around. Some of them did end up playing it.”

The industry, and country music fans, embraced Martina’s boldness. The Way That I Am crossed the million-seller threshold in May 1995, beginning a streak of Platinum albums that stretched into the 2000s.

“Independence Day” started a path for Martina of cutting songs that dealt with real life, even if it wasn’t pretty. She would follow her “Independence Day” up with other career songs like “A Broken Wing,” “Concrete Angel,” and “This One’s For The Girls.”

“I have to credit Joe Galante because he never, ever gave me any kind of pushback on recording those songs or releasing them as singles,” Martina admits. “It was really his idea to release them as singles. He never shied away from that. As a matter of fact, he wanted ‘Concrete Angel’ to be the first single off my Greatest Hits record and I was like, ‘Joe, it’s summer!’ But he was really passionate about those songs and about my vision as an artist.”

Martina became one of country music’s most acclaimed stars of the ’90s and 2000s, with four CMA Female Vocalist of the Year awards, three consecutively (1999, 2002-2004), and three consecutive ACM Top Female Vocalist honors (2001–2003). In November 1995, she became a member of the Grand Ole Opry, just four years after signing her record deal.

Since then she has been an outspoken advocate for women in country music. But she remembers the ’90s being more fair.

“We can rattle off a list of 12 to 15 female artists that were doing well then. We had a moment where it was equal—and it was awesome. When you look at country music, you have the golden era of the George Jones, Tammy Wynette, and Patsy Cline. Then we have the late ’90s and early 2000s, which is another highlight era of country music. It was really diverse and there were so many songs about so many different topics.

“When we talk about females getting played on the radio next to some of the bro country, it’s really hard because sonically, we can’t really make song after song that has that lyric content or even sounds in the same vein as that musically. But back then I could release a record like ‘Concrete Angel’ and it was up next to maybe a Rascal Flatts record or an Alan Jackson record. From the standpoint of record production, it was so varied and so rich.”

Martina’s “This One’s For The Girls” has become an anthem of sorts for those working towards equality in country music.

“It’s a really well-written song and it’s a great record. Paul [Worley] and I made a great record on it. It’s so relatable—but I need to add another verse for the 55 year olds. There’s basically three generations that can relate to it and it’s so empowering. What I loved about it was it’s an uptempo song and it’s really hard to find an uptempo song that has some lyrical substance. That is always what I look for in a song.”

Martina McBride at the opening celebration for Martina McBride: The Power of Her Voice at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Photo: Jason Davis/Getty Images for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

In 30 years, Martina has become a pillar of the story of country music and an inspiration to women and girls everywhere. Her career is being celebrated with an exhibit at the Country Music Hall Of Fame.

“When I started this career, I had two goals: longevity and respect. I do feel like I’ve achieved those two things, which is really amazing. To be respected and accepted as an artist and as a singer was always really important to me,” Martina says. “With the new Country Music Hall Of Fame exhibit, I feel like it’s such a sign of respect. That’s really cool and it makes me feel like I did what I set out to do.”

Martina’s exhibit, The Power of Her Voice, is open now through Aug. 7, 2022. She has also recently released special edition vinyls–Martina McBride Greatest Hits: The RCA Years and is currently on the road with Alabama and Blake Shelton.