Garth Takes Show ‘Off The Rails’ At Nissan Stadium

Garth Brooks returns to Nissan Stadium on Friday, April 15, 2022. Photo: MusicRow

Garth Brooks returned to Nashville this weekend after his original July 31 stop at Nissan Stadium was postponed due to bad weather and then later, cancelled due to the rise of Covid-19 cases at that time.

His return to Nashville included two shows, packing the stadium each night, on Friday (4/15) and Saturday (4/16) with the Friday night show only being announced three weeks ago.

On Friday night, Brooks was quick to confess he was taking this show “off the rails” with an unplanned and unscripted show. And in a way that only Brooks can do, he was able to immediately connect with fans on a one-on-one and personal level despite performing a stadium show.

Early into Friday’s performance, Brooks talked directly to people in the audience who were holding up signs and messages for the iconic singer. He added, “This is like request night. I like this!”

In March 2019, he launched The Stadium Tour, which has consistently broken stadium attendance records. Brooks confessed that the night was about being grateful and shared that the 2-night visit to Music City was bringing a record 71,000 fans together that weekend.

Garth Brooks returns to Nissan Stadium on Friday, April 15, 2022. Photo: MusicRow

“We’re going to treat this less like a concert and more like a party,” proclaimed Brooks and the fans were there for it.

Among his many hits played during his two-hour set, he performed many fan-favorites including Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Fishin’ in the Dark,” Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love,” “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” “The Thunder Rolls,” “Rodeo,” “The River,” and many others.

An emotionally charged Brooks professed, “This will be a night I never forget,” before performing his Billy Joel penned tune, “Shameless.” The thunderous ovation led him to praise the Friday night crowd by instructing them to tell anyone they knew that was coming to the next day’s show, “They better pack their fucking lunch if they’re going to beat this crowd here!”

That fueled the exuberant fans to an even higher escalation confirming Brooks wasn’t lying.

Garth Brooks returns to Nissan Stadium on Friday, April 15, 2022. Photo: MusicRow

Earlier this month, Brooks announced he will open a new entertainment concept and bar in Nashville at 411 Broadway and will take over a 3-story, 40,000+ square foot property that he purchased in December of last year. He gave a subtle nod to that announcement on Friday by introducing his 1990 hit, “Friends in Low Places,” saying, “Let’s see if we can play a song that may be the name of a bar.”

He played his proclaimed favorite song “The Dance,” written by Tony Arata, which is from his self-titled debut album, before offering an acoustic encore with just him and a guitar. During the encore, he sought out fans holding signs asking him to play particular songs and spoke directly to them before performing it.

He then made reference to a very young kid holding up a sign that read, “Shallow.”

After singing the first verse of the song, originally performed by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper from the movie A Star Is Born, the full band returned to the stage, and so did his wife and country music artist Trisha Yearwood to join him on the duet. The enthusiastic crowd convinced her to stay for another song and she did, with a flawless performance of “Walkaway Joe.”

Brooks is the first and only artist in history to receive nine Diamond Awards for the now nine Diamond-certified albums at over 10 million album sales each. And this night was evidence of why he remains the No. 1 selling solo artist in U.S. history, certified by the RIAA with over 157 million album sales.

For the last song of the evening, the country superstar performed “Standing Outside The Fire,” which perhaps embodies the inspiration we all needed to hear that night after having come through the storms of a pandemic… life is not tried, it is merely survived, if you’re standing outside the fire.

Garth Brooks returns to Nissan Stadium on Friday, April 15, 2022. Photo: MusicRow

The following evening, Brooks created an Opry celebration to open his Saturday (4/16) Nissan Stadium show.

Opry members Lauren Alaina, Larry Gatlin, Jeannie Seely, Trisha Yearwood, Chris Young, and special guest Chase Rice all performed, and WSM Radio personality Bill Cody served as announcer.

Young opened the show with his hit “Gettin’ You Home” before stepping into a host role and welcoming Rice to the stage for two songs. Yearwood performed her smash debut single “She’s in Love with The Boy” and was joined by Alaina, who she officially inducted into the Opry in February.

Young and Brooks collaborated on Brooks’ smash “Papa Loved Mama” before everyone including, Gatlin and Seely, gathered on stage to sing the Opry anthem “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.”

As the performers took the stage at Nissan Stadium, the Grand Ole Opry simultaneously took place at the Opry House and was heard around the world on WSM Radio and online with performances by Opry members John Conlee, Carrie Underwood, Sam Williams, and more.

Eric Paslay: ‘I’ve Always Considered Being A Songwriter & Being An Artist The Same Thing’ [Interview]

Eric Paslay. Photo: Rachel Deeb

Platinum-selling, Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Eric Paslay has been a familiar face in the Nashville songwriter and artist community for many years.

Since his first No. 1, Jake Owen‘s “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” topped the charts in 2011, Paslay has had a hand in writing some of Nashville’s biggest hits, including Eli Young Band‘s “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” Charles Kelley‘s “The Driver,” Rascal Flatts‘ “Rewind,” Love & Theft‘s “Angel Eyes,” and Keith Urban‘s “Wild Hearts,” among countless others. He’s also had success as an artist with songs such as 2014’s “Friday Night” and “She Don’t Love You.”

Now, as an independent artist, Paslay is putting his own spin on some of his biggest hits as he releases the third and final installment of Even If It Breaks Your Barefoot Friday Night. The project marks the first time he has recorded many of the songs made famous by his contemporaries, and also features some of his own tunes revisited.

With a busy spring ahead of him as he gears up for a trek across the UK with The Shires and the third release in his cutting-edge NFT series, Paslay recently caught up with MusicRow to discuss his new projects, upcoming plans, and his outlook on being a true singer-songwriter.

MusicRow: How did you first get into writing? When did you know that’s what you wanted to do professionally?

I grew up in Texas loving music and I’ve always been drawn to songs. I always thought that every singer wrote what they sang, so if I wanted to be a singer, I thought I needed to write songs. At 15, I got my first guitar and started writing, which led people to say, “Oh, you can sing and you can write songs? You could pull a Willie Nelson and have other people record your music.”

To me, though, I just pictured being a singer and a writer as the same thing. From the moment I started creating music, playing and performing, I’ve just written and have gotten really lucky that other people have recorded my songs.

When did you first get to Nashville and really immerse yourself into the songwriting world?

I moved to Murfreesboro in 2003 and finished up school for music business at MTSU. Brian Gowen was a guy that lived in my hometown that had a deal on Curb and his wife worked for DreamWorks. They were my inside look into realizing that this is a hard business, but [they told me] that I was really good at singing and writing. They encouraged me to find a reason to stick around.

Eric Paslay. Photo: Rachel Deeb

I went to school for music business so that way if I was on the creative side, that’s great, but if I’m not, then I would still be working with music. I was trying to find any way that I could stick around and it worked out that I got to sing and write.

A fun thing that people don’t know is that I actually had a record deal before I ever had a cut. I was signed to Capitol before I ever had a song recorded, which is crazy. “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” went No. 1 before I had “Friday Night” go No. 1. Most people think I rode the coattails of being a songwriter, but I actually had a record deal first.

You’re about to release the third installment of Even If It Breaks Your Barefoot Friday Night. What made you want to embark on this project and put your own spin on these songs?

Thanks to Jake [Owen], Eli Young Band, Rascal Flatts, Love & Theft and Charles [Kelley], I know how much goes into getting a song to No. 1. It takes hard work, luck, the stars, God, and everything else lining up at once—and a pocket book.

I get to play five No. 1s every night, and fans of mine have always asked, “Why don’t you record a studio version of ‘Barefoot’ or ‘Breaks Your Heart’?” I just decided to do it. The timing was now and I was able to legally re-record songs that I’ve recorded in the past. It sounded like a challenge, too. I play those songs the same way every night so I wanted to see if I could change it up a little bit. Mitch Furr, who produced the album, did amazing. He’s incredibly talented. I love him, I love the project, and I love how all the songs turned out. We didn’t recreate them too much but we didn’t copy them exactly either.

Do you consider yourself an artist or a songwriter first?

I’ve never considered them separate. I feel like I can get stuck in the, “You’re such a great songwriter. Oh, you sing too? That’s great! Anyway, what about your songs?” I’ve had hits as a singer, but I’ve always considered being a songwriter and being an artist the same thing. If you’re a singer, you’ve got to have something to sing, and I definitely put my time into trying to be as good of a writer as I can be.

People ask, “Man, why didn’t you cut ‘Barefoot?’” But the reality is that even if I did, and I recorded the exact same way with the exact same voice, it still might not have been heard because the stars didn’t line up. Maybe the team wouldn’t have been right or who knows. I mean, Lady A cut “Friday Night” and that was never singled, but I did and it worked out.

You’ve started releasing your own series of NFTs, the last of which comes out April 20. What do you think the future of that endeavor looks like?

It’s been really cool learning about that. With blockchain technology, the most simple way I can say it is that it’s an undeniable receipt. In the world of music, with ticket sales and all of that, I’m looking at mine as the never ending ticket.

With the first one, there were 100 of them. It’s $25 for private concerts from me. It’s the cheapest, best ticket I’ve ever sold. In a way, they’re a fan club. I’m trying to add never ending value to that and, hopefully, it’s worth a whole lot of money someday but no one will ever want to sell it because it’s too much fun to be in the club.

For the second one that we did, I built 10 lights out of antique string ball holders and used the black walnut base from a tree that fell from a tornado that hit us a couple years back. I actually gave one of them away and auctioned off the other nine.

Eric Paslay. Photo: Rachel Deeb

With the third NFT drop, which is ridiculous and I’m probably way ahead of legal things and losing a fortune, I’ll be the first country artist to ever sell parts of my album. We’re auctioning off 10% of the net profits from the album. There’ll be 10 of those so people are literally getting an album with five guaranteed No. 1, two Grammy-nominated songs, a couple of CMA nominated ones and a couple ACM nominated ones.

Are there any plans for new music from you as an artist in the works? Is that something you’re interested in?

We’re already working on music before this one’s even been released. I’m definitely in the mindset of create, create, release, release while I’m able to do that independently. I don’t have a deal on a major right now, but if that occurs, I know that it’s more difficult to put out music, so right now I’m building a catalog of released music.

It’s fun because I keep my head down, write, and go perform. Last week I wrote with Charles and Dave [Haywood] from Lady A and Corey Crowder. We wrote an amazing song. That day I was writing with Lady A in mind, but if they don’t want to record it, then maybe I’ll record it someday or [someone else will.] That’s where the magic is. I love being able to create because there’s endless possibilities for a song. It has forever to be heard. In 200 years some kid on Mars might hear my song and go, “Wow, what an amazing song.” I love music because of that. I love getting to create it, whether I’m recording it or writing it.

Walker Hayes Earns Second MusicRow No. 1

Walker Hayes. Photo: Robert Chavers.

Bouncing off the success of “Fancy Like,” Walker Hayes earns his second MusicRow CountryBreakout Radio Chart No. 1 with “AA.” The single was penned by Hayes alongside Shane McAnally and Luke Laird, and produced by “Fancy Like” collaborator Joe Thibodeau.

“At the end of the day, we are all just doing the best we can,” Hayes says of the track, “and what I really mean to say with this song is just that I’m trying to stay the course. I’ve struggled with alcohol abuse and sometimes I wish I didn’t need AA, but I do. I think a lot of people can relate to that. I’m just trying to be the best dad and husband I can be. It’s not easy all the time, but my wife smiles a lot and my kids are growing up with more than I had, and that’s a really good thing.”

Hayes currently sits at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, No. 13 on the Mediabase chart, and No. 14 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart with “AA.”

His “Fancy Like” Tour will wrap on April 30 in Louisville, Kentucky after a stop at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on April 29.

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

Now Open: Applications For MusicRow’s 2022 Annual Artist Roster Issue

Applications for MusicRow‘s upcoming Artist Roster print issue are now being accepted through Friday, April 22, 2022 with the official form below. Previously included companies will be solicited separately.

This ultimate artist resource book includes the Artist Roster company directory, featuring contact information and artist rosters for Nashville record labels, managers, publicists, lawyers, talent agents, publicity and artist services companies (business managers, digital music, legal, marketing, radio promotion, and organizations).

To apply for your company to be listed in MusicRow‘s 2022 edition of Artist Roster, click here to complete the application form.

For advertising opportunities in the Artist Roster print issue, email Sherod Robertson at [email protected]. Rate card information is available here. For questions regarding directory, please email LB Cantrell at [email protected].

My Music Row Story: Essential Broadcast Media’s Ebie McFarland

Ebie McFarland. Photo: Jon Paul Bruno

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.

Raised just 90 miles outside of Nashville in the small town of Waverly, Tennessee, Ebie McFarland, a Vanderbilt University grad, founded award-winning PR company Essential Broadcast Media, LLC in 2007. Since then, she has helped launch the careers of critically acclaimed artists such as Ashley McBryde, Caitlyn Smith and Whiskey Myers, as well as earned the trust of discriminating artists such as George Strait, Kenny Chesney and Eric Church. She has retained longtime clients such as Ryman Hospitality, Darius Rucker and Hootie & the Blowfish, further reinforcing McFarland and her team understand and execute the growing importance of telling one’s story with passion, grit and perseverance.

In addition to being a publicist and owner of Essential Broadcast Media, McFarland is highly involved in various organizations. She is Vice President of the ACM Board of Directors, and sits on the CMA Board of Directors, the ACM Lifting Lives Board, the Vanderbilt University Project on Unity and American Democracy Advisory Board, and the Millions of Conversations Advisory Council. She has been honored as part of Nashville Business Journal‘s 40 Under 40 list (2012), MusicRow’s Rising Women on the Row (2014), the CMA SRO Publicist of the Year (2015), CMA Publicist of the Year (2017, 2019), and with the Nashville Business Journal‘s Women in Music Award (2017).

Ebie alongside management with clients Kenny Chesney and Michael Franti at SoFi Stadium. Photo: Allister Ann

MusicRow: Where did you grow up? How did you get into music?

I grew up in Waverly, Tennessee. It’s an hour and a half west of Nashville. That’s why I ended up executive producing the Loretta Lynn “Hometown Rising” benefit concert, because that was my hometown that flooded last year. Until she retired, my mom was a psychiatric nurse practitioner. She and my dad met while camping and going to art experiences in Kentucky, years and years ago. My dad was always a painter, but grew up up on Joe Cocker, Tina Turner, and The Rolling Stones. I don’t remember this, but my first concert was Talking Heads when I was two years old. The first concert I really remember was Jon Bon Jovi.

I graduated high school in ’99 and went to Vanderbilt University. They did not have a music program at that time, so I did a bachelor of science. I have a cognitive studies major and a child development and women’s studies minor. It comes in handy working with artists because the best ones are a little crazy. Understanding and getting to the root of the origin story is probably the most exhilarating part of my job. If it is Ashley McBryde and “Girl Goin’ Nowhere,” and that moment that fueled that chip on her shoulder. If it’s anything Eric Church offers up, I always feel like there’s a “why” with him. In working with new artists, like Caitlyn Smith and Walker Hayes, it’s understanding what stories to lean into that really connect and having that conversation with them that helps drill that down.

What happened after graduation?

I started working entry level at a PR firm that’s now defunct. I was at Webster & Associates for four years. I made $8 an hour so I also worked at a tanning bed and I bartended on weekends. I remember not being paid until every other week from one of the jobs and having to put an IOU for toilet paper [so I could take some] home until I could buy toilet paper and then pay them back. (Laughs)

It was dark days in PR early on. Even around the holidays, you weren’t guaranteed to make your paycheck because so many artists took the holidays off and it wasn’t tour season. I remember the looming threat from my boss at the time was, “We’ll see if we can keep the lights on this Christmas or if we need to light more candles.”

Pictured: Team Ashley McBryde at the Ryman after one of her AIMP wins. Selfie courtesy of Ashley McBryde.

You started your own PR firm in 2007. How did that come to be?

It’s truly a 10 year town. I started my company in 2007. Darius Rucker had signed with UMG and he was doing a “Hootie Homegrown Tour.” [At the time] I had all the rock acts. I had Sister Hazel, Hootie & the Blowfish, Van Zant, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kid Rock, and Hank Jr. When I found out Darius had signed, I started thinking it might be a good time to go out and super-service one or two clients and try to do this on my own. So I started the company when I was 26 years old. I very naively thought, “I can do this.”

I’m glad I bet on myself, but at the same time, when you have mentors helping you along the way, you learn so much faster. I’m super grateful for the mentors that were and still are there for me, including Doc McGhee and Joe Galante. I’m very fortunate, looking back, on the people that took time out of their days to help me.

How did you grow your roster from there?

After working with Darius for a few years, I started working with other management firms. I started working with Q Prime on Little Big Town. They left and went to Jason Owen, so Q Prime asked if I could work on Eric Church on the Carolina record. So Eric was my next big one as far as signing, and somebody that I’ve been with the longest. I started working with George Strait in 2012, ahead of Cowboy Rides Away, and did everything from the strategy on the announcement through the two-year tour into Vegas, then subsequently these stadium shows that he’s doing. I’ve been with George for 10 years now, and Kenny Chesney since 2014. I started working with Caitlyn Smith and Chase Rice around then, too.

I had been working with Miranda [Lambert] on the touring side for a few years, so I was very honored when she called. That’s a big change anytime an established artist makes a PR change. I thought I was going over to the office to talk about the tour, and I sat down with her and Marion [Kraft] and [they asked me to do] Palomino and everything from Miranda, with Mutt Nation, the forthcoming announcements that she has, and strategizing the Las Vegas announcements. It’s been a blessing to work with so many in-charge people who know who they are and know what they stand for. They know what they want to do.

Pictured: Comedian Sebastian Maniscalco and Ebie ahead of his four 2019 Madison Square Garden shows. Photo: Brian Samuelson

Because you were young when you started your company, did you have to fight for people to take you seriously?

Yes and no. Enthusiasm goes so far. When the artist is fired up about an idea that I come to them with, then everybody else doesn’t really have a chance to undercut me. Being a little bold in that sense, as long as you really thought it out, [paid off]. Scott McGhee used to always say, “Is it important, is it urgent and is it interesting?” If it checks those three boxes, it’s worth taking to the artist. So I always try to answer those reasons before I take something to someone.

When do you feel most fulfilled in what you do?

Definitely at the live shows. When it’s all together and the fans gravitate toward a song; they have their phones up and they’re FaceTiming other people because they want to be in that moment with even more people, that’s the most fulfilling.

The happiest I get for an artist is when I hear a song that fulfilled the life it should have had. The saddest thing is when I hear a song and it never gets to reach that moment. There are so many hidden gems on albums that I don’t know why those songs were never smashes.

What’s some of the best advice you’ve ever gotten?

To truly listen more. [I listen] in meetings when artists are talking. I feel like the access we’re given has pretty unparalleled insights. So in the moment, I try to be as present as possible, absorb it all, and then come back with, “Hey, here’s some ideas because I heard you when you said this.”

Galante is always saying use your voice and speak up in meetings, in the sense of CMA Board meetings. That’s why I probably volunteer so much. I sit on [a lot of boards]. That’s like a full time job, in addition to doing the job. (Laughs) I wish more industry members and artists had the time to dedicate to that because I think that’s where you can really impact real change—systemic, generational change.

Pictured: Ebie and George Strait

What are some things that you think are really great about our industry and what are some things that we could work on?

We can always be working on how we communicate. Working in communications, knowledge is power. There’s still folks that want to retain that power so they hold back on that knowledge. That doesn’t really help anyone. I get it, but at the same time, we as an industry could do a better job telling the story of what we are doing on a foundational level.

Country music is the soul of America. I’m very proud of our songwriters and the songwriting community. Anything we can do to further elevate their voices and their roles in the industry is important. Something that everyone on our roster, including the comedians, have in common is that they’re all storytellers. Every single one of them, even the Ryman. I mean, name a better stage; her story is insane. When we move too fast, we don’t do the story justice. If we could all just take a little bit more intention and time to do that, then we’ll all benefit.

What is a moment that you have had that your little kid self would think is so cool?

There was a moment on the George Strait tour where afterwards I went on George’s bus. We were recapping the weekend and he was playing some music. It wasn’t his music, he just had music on in the background. He and Martina [McBride] went into this moment of singing back and forth on the bus. For whatever reason, I jumped up and was singing with them. (Laughs) I will never forget it. I caught myself and was like “Oh, I can’t even sing!” I was just in the moment having so much fun. I remember George laughing and patting me on the shoulder. I got so carried away in the moment that I jumped in and crashed George Strait and Martina McBride singing. My younger self would’ve kicked myself off the bus. (Laughs)

Luke Bryan, Keith Urban, Jason Aldean, Gabby Barrett, More To Play CMA Fest

CMA Fest has announced the initial lineup for this year’s in-person festival taking place June 9-12 in downtown Nashville following a two-year postponement due to the pandemic.

“We’ve been waiting two years to host country music fans from coast to coast and every corner of the world,” says Sarah Trahern, CMA Chief Executive Officer. “Now we’re two months out and the excitement is palpable! We can hardly wait to bring the country community back together in June.”

Taking the nightly Nissan Stadium stage this year are Jason Aldean, Kelsea Ballerini, Gabby Barrett, Dierks Bentley, Kane Brown, Luke Bryan, Luke Combs, Russell Dickerson, Alan Jackson, Lady A, Parker McCollum, Carly Pearce, Thomas Rhett, Darius Rucker, Cole Swindell, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Lainey Wilson, Zac Brown Band and more.

The Chevy Riverfront Stage returns with a slate of talent that will keep fans moving each day with performances by Lauren Alaina, Jimmie Allen, Ingrid Andress, Tenille Arts, Priscilla Block, Danielle Bradbery, Breland, Blanco Brown, Callista Clark, Easton Corbin, Jessie James Decker, Travis Denning, Lindsay Ell, Ernest, Morgan Evans, Tyler Farr, Larry Fleet, Hardy, Home Free, Ryan Hurd, Lanco, Chris Lane, Jon Langston, Locash, Maddie & Tae, Kameron Marlowe, Scotty McCreery, Niko Moon, Parmalee, Michael Ray, Tyler Rich, Jameson Rodgers, Dylan Scott, Elvie Shane, Matt Stell, Mitchell Tenpenny, Tenille Townes, Drake White and Lainey Wilson. The full lineup and stage listings can be found below.

Fans can access a limited number of four-day passes, plus newly-announced single night tickets, for the Nissan Stadium nightly concerts at or through the CMA Box Office. A portion of ticket proceeds will be invested in high-quality music education programs throughout the U.S. via the CMA Foundation.

Erin D. D. Burr Rises To VP, Communications At Big Machine Label Group

Erin D.D. Burr. Photo: Katie Kauss

Big Machine Label Group has announced the advancement of Erin D.D. Burr to Vice President, Communications.

Since joining Big Machine nearly twelve years ago, some of Burr’s achievements include helping to revitalize Reba McEntire’s presence in pop culture and earn the icon a Grammy Award for her first gospel album in 2018, and positioning ACM & CMA Awards Female Artist/Vocalist of the Year Carly Pearce as one of the format’s leading women. She was key in the development of Florida Georgia Line‘s initial press strategy, and has contributed to opportunities for highly acclaimed artists Sheryl Crow and Ray Wylie Hubbard. Burr eagerly seeks out placements for Tyler Rich, Eli Young Band, The Cadillac Three and Riley Green, as well as helps to introduce newcomers Laci Kaye Booth and Heath Sanders.

“Erin Burr’s commitment to creating and executing media campaigns is unmatched,” shares BMLG’s Senior Vice President of Communications, Jake Basden. “Her tireless work ethic and love for the music has greatly impacted Big Machine Label Group and its roster of artists for over a decade. This incredibly deserving promotion to Vice President is a nod to the past and a celebration of a bright future.”

“I am grateful for the opportunity to have learned from some of the most charismatic and talented creators throughout my time at Big Machine,” says Burr. “Thank you to Scott Borchetta for the space to discover career-defining moments with iconic artists, those leading a new generation and all who dream beyond genre boundaries. Let the adventures continue!”

Now based in Washington, D.C., Burr graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan College and previously worked at Special Promotions Inc. and NSAI before joining BMLG in 2010.

Reach Burr at [email protected].

Jason Aldean & Carrie Underwood Celebrate Chart-Topping Duet Alongside Songwriters

Pictured (L-R): Kurt Allison, Tully Kennedy, Jason Aldean, Carrie Underwood, John Morgan, Lydia Vaughan. Photo: Steve Lowry

Music City songwriters, publishers and other music business professionals gathered in the BMI lobby on Thursday (April 7) to celebrate the award-winning and chart-topping duet, “If I Didn’t Love You.”

Sung by country hitmakers Jason Aldean and Carrie Underwood, the track is Aldean’s 26th career No. 1 and Underwood’s 28th. “If I Didn’t Love You” was written by Kurt Allison, Tully Kennedy and first-time chart-toppers John Morgan and Lydia Vaughan.

BMI’s Clay Bradley hosted the celebration. Bradley recognized the magnitude of two country superstars joining forces for the hit duet. “[They are] taking their place in the country music history books as one of the greatest duets of all time, alongside Tammy and George, Conway and Loretta, Tim and Faith, Dolly and Kenny, and Johnny and June,” he said. “‘If I Didn’t Love You’ will live on forever.”

Cornman Music’s Nate Lowery was on hand to speak about Vaughan. He spoke about her skill, spirit and work ethic—as well as her love for snacks at the publishing office. “When you first hang out with her, you realize how special she is,” he said. “She’s talented, smart, and humble.”

BMG’s Chris Oglesby got up to speak on Allison and Kennedy, the best friends, co-writers, and bandmates in Aldean’s band. “Kurt and Tully,” Oglesby addressed the songwriters, adding that calling them “Tully and Kurt” wasn’t the correct order. “It’s been an honor to be a small part of your success since BMG came alongside to become a partner and watch you guys work. Your ability to balance road work, producing, writing, and family is exemplary.”

Pictured (L-R): Jason Aldean, Carrie Underwood. Photo: Steve Lowry

Aldean put on his publisher hat to speak about his Triple Play writer, Morgan—who is also signed to Aldean’s BBR label imprint, Night Train Records.

“This publishing thing is pretty easy, I’m like two for two,” Aldean joked. “One of the main reasons Kurt, Tully and I decided to start Triple Play was meeting John Morgan.

“From the time I heard his voice and the stuff he was writing, I knew I wanted to create something for [Kurt and Tully] and for him,” he said. “This being his first cut, first single, and first No. 1…You’ve only got one way to go from here, my man.”

BBR head Job Loba recognized Aldean’s partners at Maverick, WME, and Green Room PR, as well as BBR’s entire label staff, making sure to call out many unsung departments in addition to his stellar radio promo team. He let the crowd know that Broken Bow Records was the No. 3 most played imprint in 2021. “You guys crushed it last year, you’re already crushing it this year,” he said.

“Jason and Carrie,” Loba continued. “There is a reason you two are the icons you are. There’s many reasons, but at the base, it’s your uncompromising attention to great songs.”

Pictured (L-R): MusicRow’s Sherod Robertson, Kurt Allison, Tully Kennedy, Jason Aldean, Carrie Underwood, John Morgan, and Lydia Vaughan with their MusicRow No. 1 Challenge Coins, MusicRow’s LB Cantrell. Photo: Steve Lowry

Next up to speak were the “If I Didn’t Love You” co-writers. Allison kicked things off, thanking Aldean and Underwood, his co-writers, team-members and family.

“I don’t ever want to lose sight of the thankfulness and the gratefulness that I have. I play guitar for a living, I get paid to do that. I go around with my best friends. It’s absurd,” Allison said. “I write songs with some of my best friends—and they’re going to be my best friends for life. Music brought all of us together and made us friends, but now we’re friends that get to make music together.”

Kennedy echoed Allison’s thanks. “I look around the room, and we are so blessed to have been surrounded by the same faces for our entire career. This is a family.”

Vaughan spoke about the gravity of a Aldean-Underwood cut being her first hit. “Jason and Carrie, thank you guys so much for hearing the song, believing in it, and putting your voices on it. You guys have given the song its absolute best life,” she said. “12-year-old Lydia is 100% freaking out knowing that Carrie Underwood and Jason Aldean recorded a song she was a part of.”

Morgan concluded the writers’ speeches, specifically thanking Aldean for believing and investing in him. “Being a songwriter is a tough gig, there’s a lot of instability that comes with the industry. I’m so thankful I got in with the people I did when I did.”

Next, industry members got to hear from the hitmakers themselves, Aldean and Underwood.

Aldean told the story of the song’s journey from him hearing it to Underwood recording with him. He thanked Underwood, all of his team members and the writers. “Thank you so much to everyone who worked on the song, believed in it, and made it what it is. Like Clay said, I do think this will go down as one of the biggest duets in country music,” he said. “I’m really proud to be a part of it.”

Underwood recounted her experience hearing the song for the first time—noting that seeing a female as a writer on the track intrigued her and led to more opportunities for Vaughan.

“In this case, the old cliche ‘it all starts with a song’ is exactly how it happened,” she said. “The stars lined up so quickly to make this happen, it was all meant to be. Thanks to everyone who helped give this song the light it deserves, it’s been really fun to be part of it.”

BMI’s partner in No. 1 parties, Pinnacle Bank, made a donation on behalf of the song to St. Jude Children’s Hospital in honor of Aldean, and to Underwood’s C.A.T.S. Foundation.

Jason Aldean Has No ‘Trouble’ Reaching MusicRow Radio Chart Peak

Jason Aldean. Photo: Brian Higbee

Jason Aldean hits No. 1 on the MusicRow CountryBreakout Radio Chart just a few weeks ahead of releasing the second half of his double album, Macon, Georgia, on April 22.

“Trouble With A Heartbreak” appears on the Georgia half of his album and features Kurt Allison, Brett Beavers, Tully Kennedy, and John Morgan as writers.

Aldean was the recipient of the 2022 Artist Humanitarian Award presented by the Country Radio Broadcasters at this year’s CRS Honors ceremony. His “Rock N’ Roll Cowboy Tour” will launch in June with support from Gabby Barrett, Dee Jay Silver, and John Morgan, who recently signed to Night Train Records, Aldean’s imprint within BBR label Group.

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

DISClaimer Single Reviews: Willie Nelson Gives Breathtaking Performance On Newest Release

Diversity is the name of the game today at DISClaimer.

You’ll find soul singing, gospel energy, country ballads and pop boppers on the menu. Four Black performers and four women are here to defy country music’s white-male dominance.

Stars like Brett Young, Miranda Lambert and Thomas Rhett are mixed with the newer sounds of Karley Scott Collins, Fancy Hagood and our DISCovery Award winner, Jelly Roll.

The Disc of the Day goes to living legend Willie Nelson. If you’d rather give the honor to a different, authentically country Texan, you couldn’t do any better than Wade Bowen.

JELLY ROLL / “Son of a Sinner”
Writers: Ernest Keith Smith/David Ray Stevens/Jason Deford; Producers: Ilya Toshinskiy/Ernest Keith Smith; Label: Stony Creek/BBR
–Very compelling. He’s gripped by substance abuse, but still has a grasp on righteousness. The vocalist’s hoarse, urgent delivery grips you by the throat while the echoey, suppressed boil in the production creates an emotional undertow. This is magnetic, star-making stuff.

Writers: Jon Randall/Luke Dick/Miranda Lambert; Producers: Jon Randall/Luke Dick/Miranda Lambert; Label: Sony
–This new track finds our female superstar indulging in some real audio creativity. The spare, loopy track wobbles in echo and twang while she drawls the artfully crafted lyric of rebellion. If this is any indication, her upcoming Palomino album is shaping up to be a monster. Anticipation builds.

Writers: Fancy Hagood/Alysa Vanderheym; Producer: Alysa Vanderheym; Label: Concord
–Don’t be put off by the acoustic, underproduced beginning. As the band kicks in, he muses about all the things we do to keep from facing our realities. We might lose our way, but there’s always a way to come back. Nashville has a large recovery community, and this could be its anthem.

Writers: Brandon Campbell/Chris Sligh/Derek Campbell/Paul Wrock; Producer: none listed; Label: TKG
–Finger snaps and bluesy accompaniment are the underpinnings of this groove-soaked, semi-humorous heartbreak tune about numbing your pain with you-know-what. This twin-brother duo from the Blue Grass State continues to impress. Keep it coming, guys, I’ve loved all three tracks I’ve heard so far.

WILLIE NELSON / “Tower of Song”
Writer: Leonard Cohen; Producer: Buddy Cannon; Label: Legacy
–Beautiful and haunting. Cannon’s production is exquisite: A bass thumps softly, an electric guitar twangs gently and Mickey Raphael’s harmonica blows mournfully as the master vocalist unspools this stunning Leonard Cohen ballad. This poetic, breathtaking performance will stop you in your tracks. The album it is drawn from, A Beautiful Time, will be out on April 30, the date of Willie’s 89th birthday.

Writers: Karley Scott Collins/Brock Berryhill/Brett James; Producer: Nathan Chapman; Label: Sony
–Her burlap-and-velvet voice has a deliciously husky quality. This power ballad is punctuated by a searing electric-guitar solo, but it’s her riveting delivery of the scarred-by-love lyric that you’ll remember.

BRELAND & THOMAS RHETT / “Praise the Lord”
Writers: Daniel Breland/David Garcia/Jacob Durrett/Jessie Jo Dillon/Julian Bunetta/Kyle Fishman/Michael Hardy/Rocky Block/Thomas Rhett; Producers: Julian Bunetta/Kyle Fishman/Jacob Durrett; Label: Bad Realm/Atlantic/Warner
–Gospel energy abounds here. The burbling, hand-clapping track is a joyous banger, and Breland’s performance bursts with youthful exuberance. Rhett comes in with just as much enthusiasm.

CARL RAY / “Moments Like This”
Writers: Jacky Jack White/Carl Ray; Producer: Greg Cole; Label: Sucarnochee
–Previously noted for his “I Can See Clearly Now” tribute to his Houston mentor Johnny Nash and for his album Play That Country Music Black Boy in 2021, Carl Ray (Williams) offers a poignant ballad here. Steeped in steel guitar, it has a traditional country vibe, yet his performance has an unmistakably modern edge. The sweet, super-positive lyric is about savoring love, family and serenity.

Writers: Ashley Cooke/Matt Roy; Producer: Jimmy Robbins; Label: Big Loud
–Wonderfully romantic. This was previously an Ashley solo track, but the addition of Young lifts it into the stratosphere. Their vocal blend is extraordinary. The swirling song could easily find its way into wedding celebrations.

Writers: Valerie June/Jennifer Decilveo; Producer: Jennifer Decilveo; Label: Fantasy
–The dreadlocked, genre-defying Valerie June mixes Memphis soul, jaunty pop, New Orleans brass and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” country quotes on this dazzling outing. She earned an Americana Grammy nomination last year, and this sounds like it could be on the same path. Marvelously eclectic.

WADE BOWEN / “Phones Don’t Work”
Writers: Wade Bowen/Aaron Raitiere/Rhett Akins; Producer: Paul Moak; Label: Thirty Tigers
–Here is a steadfast, real-country Texan I’ve always admired. This rolling, yearning track finds him on a quest to find someplace in the great outdoors where she can’t get to him. I got lost in its many pleasures. A perfect performance. Wade’s sold-out showcase last month in Nashville’s Exit/In featured guests Miranda Lambert, Leroy Parnell, Rhett Akins and Charlie Worsham. The rest of you need to get on board, too.

JAMESON RODGERS / “Porch With a View”
Writers: Jake Mitchell/Brent Anderson/Hunter Phelps/Jameson Rodgers; Producers: Jake Mitchell/Chris Farren; Label: Sony
–This track from Jameson’s album Bet You’re From a Small Town is a country boy’s dream of buying a place in the country. As always, he’s as country as grits.