On The Row: Ian Munsick Brings The West To The Rest

Ian Munsick

Warner Music Nashville’s Ian Munsick is on a mission to bring back western influenced country music. With his recently released debut album, Coyote Cry, the Wyoming native describes the project as “a firm handshake of the cowboy and the hippy, the traditional and the contemporary.”

Munsick grew up on a ranch, playing country and western music with his family band, The Munsick Boys.

“Modern western culture is one that is extremely underrepresented in today’s country music. Most people think that cowboys only existed in that age of the 1800s, but cowboys are still out there,” Munsick told MusicRow in a recent virtual visit. “They’re still out there doing work and being model Americans. They’re honest, hard-working people that you want as your neighbor and as your friends.”

He counts a wide array of musical artists as influences. “Being in the generation that I was born in, we’ve had access to Spotify, MTV, Apple and just everything. But growing up in Wyoming, we never had artists come through our state. The only ones were Chris LeDoux and more of that cowboy western [music]. I just remember as a young kid—probably eight years old was when it started—I was glued to MTV and to music videos, taking in all this music from System Of A Down to Eminem, to just everything that I could get my hands on.”

The 27-year-old’s access to music discovery via multiple platforms and his varietal taste in music inspired him to start producing his own music.

“That opened up the whole new world of hip-hop, pop, and rock music,” Munsick said. “Then trying to incorporate that into a country feel that I feel most connected to has been what I’ve been trying to do for the last few years. I think that this album is a strong interpretation of how modern the west is.”

He came to Warner Music Nashville with Coyote Cry fully formed, and made his WMN introduction with the dreamy, strikingly visual “Long Haul.” The tune will be his first single to country radio.

The 10-song project also includes a stomping romp about confidence called “Humble,” a Fleetwood Mac cover of “Dreams,” and a slow burner, “Come Home To You,” among other unique songs.

Munsick is signed under a co-management deal with The Erv Woolsey Company and his wife’s Caroline Rudolph Munsick / Not A Public Figure Management. After moving to Nashville in 2012 to attend Belmont, the singer-songwriter met Caroline, who was looking to start her own management company. They released an EP in 2017 and worked hard to establish a fully-formed brand with cohesive imagery.

“[The EP] started to grow some legs and we started to figure out our brand and how to capitalize on it. We decided that it was time to make a new album and went into the studio at the beginning of 2018,” Munsick said. “Once we had the project all done, Caroline and I were like, ‘Hey, this album deserves as much help as we can get.’ So Caroline and I reached out to Allen [Mitchell] and Erv [Woolsey].”

A few months later the team partnered with Warner Music Nashville.

“I’m definitely glad that we waited to form the right team around us because, as you guys know, the artist is only as good as the team around us. Our team is awesome and I’m very grateful to be with them.”

Pictured (L-R, top row): The Erv Woolsey Company’s Allen Mitchell, Warner Music Nashville’s Victoria Chaitoff, MusicRow‘s Haley Crow; (L-R, middle row): MusicRow‘s Sherod Robertson, Not A Public Figure Management’s Caroline Rudolph Munsick, Ian Munsick; (bottom row): MusicRow‘s LB Cantrell

BREAKING: CMA Fest Is Canceled For 2021

CMA CEO Sarah Trahern announced today (March 2) that CMA Fest will not take place in 2021, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter to CMA Members, Trahern said: “We are deeply disappointed that yet another summer will pass without seeing so many of you who help bring country music to our fans around the world. While we are optimistic with the pace at which COVID-19 vaccines are becoming more widely available, we still face several challenges that prevent us from bringing our many artists, crew members and fans together safely for the full CMA Fest experience we know everyone has come to expect.”

Passes will be honored at CMA Fest 2022 for fans who purchased four-day passes for CMA Fest 2020. Refunds will also be available.

CMA Fest 2022 is slated for June 9-12, 2022.

Read the CMA’s statement below:

Taylor Swift Enters Top Five On MusicRow Top Songwriter Chart

After releasing her re-recording of “Love Story,” Taylor Swift finds herself at No. 5 on the MusicRow Top Songwriter Chart this week. The tune, which she solely penned, was originally released in 2008.

Josh Osborne remains at the No. 1 on the chart this week, with co-writer credit on Darius Rucker’s “Beers And Sunshine,” Morgan Wallen’s “Sand In My Boots,” Rascal Flatts’ “How They Remember You,” Sam Hunt’s “Breaking Up Was Easy In The 90’s,” and Carly Pearce’s “Next Girl.”

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.

EMPIRE Nashville’s Eric Hurt And Heather Vassar Talk Early Success [Interview]

Eric Hurt, Heather Vassar

EMPIRE was formed in 2010 by Ghazi Shami. The San Francisco-based company has been instrumental in launching the careers of multi-Platinum, Grammy Award-winning artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Cardi B, DRAM, and Anderson.Paak.

In 2018, EMPIRE tapped former Black River Publishing executive Eric Hurt to start the Nashville office, which serves as an independent label, distributor, and publisher. Hurt had helped to secure a publishing deal at Black River for Willie Jones, who was signed to EMPIRE proper.

“Willie’s manager connected me with Ghazi, we actually met at SXSW,” Hurt, now VP of A&R, tells MusicRow. “We hit it off and then Ghazi just started talking his goals and desires of opening up a Nashville branch and getting more into country music and into Nashville.”

Ghazi was intrigued by the way country fans consume music.

“It started off with Kane Brown. EMPIRE released his first EP and it blew up, the numbers were great. So they were like, ‘What’s going on over here?’ Kane went on to do what he did and they signed Willie Jones to develop that out more,” Hurt says. “A lot of what this town is built on is radio, which serves a big purpose in our market and I don’t want to downplay that at all, but with that comes a lot of waiting. EMPIRE is really about content and super serving the fans first, getting things out on a digital level, rolling it out quickly, moving quickly and building up the value on that digital level first, and then going to radio when the time is right.”

Heather Vassar joined EMPIRE Nashville as VP of Marketing early in 2020. Vassar came to EMPIRE from Universal Music Group Nashville, where she most recently led Strategy and Research. She oversees day-to-day artist strategies and development, marketing and digital initiatives, as well as partner relationships with sales and streaming services for EMPIRE’s Nashville roster.

Now, country/hip-hop artist Jones, country up-and-comer Tenille Arts, singer-songwriter Waylon Payne, and newly-signed songwriter Nick Wayne make up the EMPIRE Nashville roster.

EMPIRE Nashville structures their deals a bit differently.

“To understand how our deals are structured, especially for the Nashville office, we very rarely put those tent poles down of like, ‘You’re just a distribution artist,’ or anything like that. It’s not defined that way. We’re super serving the town and investing in the town,” says Vassar. “We bring [the artist] into the family, then the goal is to essentially grow the family and grow all of the tent poles with them.”

Arts has a top-15 hit, “Somebody Like That,” was named part of the CMT Next Women of Country Class of 2021, and just performed as part of the prestigious CRS New Faces of Country Music Show. Last week, she was announced as a nominee for the ACM’s New Female Artist of the Year.

“Obviously radio is a huge player for her and have been big advocates for her. But it’s such an old school mentality, thinking you have to wait on one [single],” Vassar says. “We just dropped her most recent track, which will be her Canadian single. That will go for adds in a couple of weeks over there. [Our strategy is] being able to establish the U.S. single, but then also feeding the fans content and making sure the DSPs have content and music that doesn’t hinder the radio single, but instead adds value to it.”

Singer-songwriter Payne released his Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, to critical acclaim in late 2020. It hit the iTunes No. 2 spot on the country albums chart and No. 3 on the all genre albums chart upon release.

Payne is the son of country artist Sammi Smith and guitarist Jody Payne, who played for Willie Nelson.

“We rolled out his project pretty differently than we rolled out any other ones. We did it in four acts to help tell his story. He has such a compelling story with the narrative of his past and his life. I mean, Waylon Jennings as his godfather? There are so many layers there,” Vassar says.

“We’re all about trying new things, pushing the boundaries,” Vassar says. “It’s all the way from digital strategy, marketing, roll-out strategy, and then playlist placements, making sure that [Waylon] is in the conversation and that his story is being told in the way that they want it to be told.”

Genre-bending Jones caters to country and hip-hop fans with the release of his debut album, Right Now. Alongside his new record, Jones partnered with the newly opened National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) to launch the #IHaveAnAmericanDream initiative to coincide with the release of his single “American Dream.” Donations to the initiative ran through Black History Month, and went to the museum.

He was named to Spotify’s Hot Country Artists To Watch list, and currently hosts his own Apple Music show, The Cross Roads Radio, which serves as a sounding board for fellow production fanatics interested in how country and rap music intertwine.

Vassar says that the marketing strategy behind Jones crosses genres. “Willie is so authentic to both [country and hip-hop] that to only focus on one genre would just be a disservice to who he is at his core. To be able to captivate both audiences is definitely always at the forefront.

“It would not be authentic to Willie if we tried to say, ‘This is only who you are and this is it.’ In telling the story of who he is and maintaining that narrative, it opens up more doors in that realm. If it make sense, [we will pitch him] for a hip-hop playlist or a workout playlist,” Vassar says.

EMPIRE Nashville joins a handful of Nashville companies whose parent company’s success is rooted in hip-hop and R&B music, including Reservoir and Roc Nation’s Rhythm House. Hurt says that burgeoning lane is a testament to Nashville’s talent.

“I love seeing these kind of companies making an investment in Nashville,” Hurt says. “I think that it shows a lot of respect for the level of talent of the artists and songwriters that Nashville has to deliver. All genres are recognizing that there’s a lot to pull from here in this town that can spill over into other genres.”

 

Big Machine Music Taps Peermusic To Sub-Publish Catalog Outside U.S.

Pictured (L-R): Mike Molinar, General Manager, Big Machine Music; Nigel Elderton, President, Europe & Managing Director, peermusic U.K.

Big Machine Music and peermusic have entered a long-term sub-publishing agreement for peermusic to represent the music copyrights controlled by Big Machine Music in all ex-US territories. Big Machine Music will continue to administer itself within the U.S.

Through the deal, peermusic will work with BMM’s catalog of over 12,000 songs and three dozen chart-toppers, including the recent five-week country No. 1 “Better Together” (written and recorded by Luke Combs,) Laura Veltz’s “The Bones” (recorded by Maren Morris) and Jessie Jo Dillon’s “10,000 Hours” (recorded by Dan + Shay and Justin Bieber), which holds the highest streaming first-week in country music history. Named to Billboard’s Year End Top Ten Hot 100 Publisher Corp and Hot Country Publisher Corp from 2017-2020, BMM’s current roster also includes Brett Young, Brandy Clark, Eric Paslay, Ryan Hurd, Justin Moore, Maddie & Tae, Tyler Rich, Benjy Davis, Callista Clark, Laci Kaye Booth, Daniel Ross, Lauren Weintraub, Kenton Bryant, and Reid Isbell.

“We see in peermusic a reflection of our own independent spirit and dedication to delivering personalized service to our songwriters,” said Mike Molinar, General Manager, BMM. “The international team under the guidance of Nigel shares our business and creative values and we look forward to working with their team.”

Nigel Elderton, President, Europe & Managing Director, peermusic said: “Mike, Alex Heddle, and the Big Machine Music team put their service to their clients first and foremost—we share that ethos. What the Big Machine Music team have built in the past eight years is phenomenal. They are exceptional music publishers that have developed a rich catalog, overflowing with hits. We are thrilled to partner with them for global sub-publishing.”

peermusic has a network across the globe of 38 offices in 31 countries, offering a unique place for publishers seeking sub-publishing representation. The company’s reputation for first-class global administration services have led the industry’s top publishers to flock to peermusic for sub-publishing (including Anthem, Concord, Beggars, BMG, Big Deal, Disney, Kobalt and Sugar), with income collected for clients growing 12% year-over-year. peermusic recently licensed its proprietary copyright/royalties system IRIS to Synchtank, which in turn is licensing it to other music publishers. Thanks to its origins in peermusic, IRIS has been running at global scale for over 10 years, is fully integrated with more than 60 Collective Management Organizations (CMOs), is configured for over 1,000+ income sources, and has processed hundreds of millions of dollars of royalties.

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

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

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

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

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

BREAKING: Nominees Announced For 56th ACM Awards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STUDIO RECORDING AWARDS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heath Sanders. Photo: Ford Fairchild

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lainey Wilson. Photo: Alex Berger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Triple Tigers Records Promotes Laura Hostelley To VP, Marketing

Laura Hostelley. Photo: Courtesy Triple Tigers Records

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reach Hostelley at [email protected].