DISClaimer Single Reviews: Jameson Rodgers, Tenille Townes, Nate Smith

Jameson Rodgers. Photo: Matthew Berinato

With five contenders this week, the folks at Sony are on fire.

Drew Green, Willie Nelson and Tenille Townes all have worthy new tracks.

The label group also chimes in with the Disc of the Day by Jameson Rodgers, as well as the DISCovery Award winner, Nate Smith.

NATE SMITH / “Raised Up”
Writers: Nate Smith/Trannie Anderson/Jonathan Smith; Producer: Joel Bruyere; Label: Sony
—This guy’s resonant voice grabbed me from the very first note. The track begins simply, with just stark piano accompaniment, then gradually builds its punchy, oomphy instrumentation to match his soulful vocal emoting. The power ballad is about looking to the roots of your values whenever you lose your way. Promising in the extreme.

Writer: Paulette Carlson; Producer: Mark Capps; Label: The Orchard/CDX
—Noted in the 1980s for her lead singing in Highway 101 on Warner and solo work on RCA, Carlson is still singing with throaty distinction. This mid-tempo outing has a nicely rumbling production, but she needs a stronger song for a comeback.

DENNIS QUAID / “Heartbeat”
Writers: Dennis Quaid; Producer: Chris Lindsey; Label: DQ
—The beat of her heart is an ocean in which he drowns. Not exactly a metaphor I understand, but his singing on this lovely waltz is steady and strong. The clear, eloquent production is exquisite. I think I can finally forgive him for his dreadful portrayal of Jerry Lee Lewis in the 1989 feature film Great Balls of Fire.

Writers: George Harrison; Producer: Willie Nelson/Steve Chadle; Label: Legacy
Willie’s new album, which drops Nov. 19, is a family affair wherein children Micah, Amy, Paula and Lukas, plus sister Bobbie participate. Lukas takes the lead on this sweet, gentle revival of the George Harrison pop classic. Willie softly harmonizes while Mickey Raphael’s harmonica sighs in sympathy.

RANDALL KING / “You in a Honky Tonk”
Writers: John King/Matt Rogers/Brandon Day; Producer: Bart Butler/Ryan Gore; Label: Warner Music Nashville
—Drenched in steel guitar, neo traditionalist King is turned on by seeing his gal in a roadside dive. Whatever floats your boat….

MICHAEL RAY / “Higher Education”
Writers: Derek George/Frank Rogers/Jeremy Bussey/Monty Criswell/Tim Montana; Producer: Frank Rogers; Label: Warner Music Nashville
—“Learnin’ how to rock, learnin’ how to roll,” in the school of hard knocks, that’s Ray’s “Higher Education” according to this rousing romper. Lee Brice, Kid Rock, Tim Montana and Billy Gibbons provide hearty guest vocals. A good-time vibe, for sure.

CLARE DUNN / “Holding Out for a Cowboy”
Writers: Clare Dunn/Whitney Phillips; Producer: Clare Dunn; Label: Big Yellow Dog
—This is a powerful performance, full of soulful vocal licks that range from dark, chesty tones to soaring high-end dramatics. Her own electric guitar passages are the icing on this tasty cake. Very cool, indeed.

Writers: Hunter Phelps/Smith Ahnquist/Jameson Rodgers; Producer: Chris Farren/Mickey Jack Cones; Label: River House/Columbia
—Since their breakup, he’s missing one of his Eagles records she took, missing cigarettes and missing his own heart. The thumping, heartbeat tempo is cool. The furious guitars are cooler. His scintillating vocal performance is coolest of all. I love this record. It pulses with passion.

LEA SWEET / “Can I Kiss Away a Broken Promise”
Writers: Jeff Silverman/Lolita Lea Sweet; Producer: Lea Sweet/Jeff Silverman; Label: LS
—I love it that her album is called The Black Queen of Country Music. The single from it demonstrates that she has the vocal chops to back up that claim. A promising disc debut.

TENILLE TOWNES / “Villain in Me”
Writers: Tenille Townes/Alex Hope; Producer: Alex Hope; Label: Columbia
—Kinda dark, intimate and personal, and wholly involving. This woman is consistently excellent. Another building block in a star-making career.

THOMAS RHETT / “Slow Down Summer”
Writers: Thomas Rhett/Rhett Akins/Sean Douglas/Jesse Frasure/Ashley Gorley; Producer: Dann Huff/Jesse Frasure; Label: Valory
—Now that he’s back at home in country music, he’s going from strength to strength. This is a wonderfully well written bit of wistful romance—they were so madly in love that they wanted time to stop moving. Sincerity shines here.

DREW GREEN / “Dirt Boy”
Writers: Drew Green/Kelley Lovelace/Lynn Hutton; Producer: Mark Trussell; Label: RCA
—Instead of “hillbilly” “hayseed” and “hick,” they called him “dirt boy” because he was a farm kid. Now he’s proud of it, and singing about it with gusto. Sing on, bro.

‘Yellowstone’ Music Supervisor Talks The Show’s Vibrant Country Music Landscape [Interview]

Pictured: Yellowstone main character John Dutton, played by Kevin Costner. Photo: Courtesy ViacomCBS

Yellowstone, the Emmy-nominated Paramount Network television series about the chronicles of the Dutton family, has taken the nation by storm. With Oscar-winner Kevin Costner playing the lead character John Dutton, the patriarch of the family, Yellowstone captures the grit and drama the Dutton family face while controlling the largest contiguous cattle ranch in the United States. There are shifting alliances, murders, romance, family loyalty and much more in the three seasons of Yellowstone that have played out so far. The fourth season of the show, co-created by Academy Award nominee Taylor Sheridan and John Linson, premieres this Sunday (Nov. 7).

With the stunning imagery of scenes that play out in picturesque Wyoming, Montana and Utah, the music in Yellowstone has proved to be just as captivating, garnering a cult-like following itself. The music featured on Yellowstone can usually be regarded as Americana, southern rock, and country. With music from Americana stylists such as Sturgill Simpson, Tyler Childers, and Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, to modern country acts like Chris Stapleton, Jon Pardi and Kacey Musgraves, Yellowstone is a vibrant picture of the many threads that make up country and Americana music.

Andrea von Foerster

Fans of the music on Yellowstone have co-creator and screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (Wind River, Hell or High Water and Sicario) and music supervisor Andrea von Foerster to thank for their wide and compelling swath of country music on the show.

“Taylor and Andrea do an amazing job ensuring every note of music placed in the show serves a purpose. Along with Brian [Tyler], they have created a distinct sound that not only allows for an immediate connection with fans of the show, but partners like Spotify and Apple Music as well,” says VP Creative Music Strategy, ViacomCBS, Sabrina Del Priore. “Their dedication to authenticity provides a tremendous opportunity for artist discovery, which is always important to us at the network.”

In her 20+ year career, Andrea has worked on films such as (500) Days of Summer, Fantastic Four, Begin Again, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, Chasing Mavericks, Devil’s Due, and more; as well as music documentaries such as The White Stripes Under Great White Northern Lights and Butch Walker: Out Of Focus. In addition to Yellowstone, her television work includes Daybreak, Dollhouse, Don’t Trust The B In Apt. 23, Modern Family, Queen Of The South, and much more.

For Yellowstone, Andrea works closely with Taylor to bring music that fits the grim, western landscape of the show.

“We tend to use red dirt country a lot, so artists from Texas and Oklahoma, as well as Americana, and country rock,” Andrea explains.

While Yellowstone definitely doesn’t include samplings of pop country, current major label artists like Brothers Osborne and Lainey Wilson have had music featured on the show. Andrea discovered Wilson, who has had three songs featured on the series, on a scouting trip to Nashville after the first season of Yellowstone.

“We don’t get to use a ton of female artists because of the masculine landscape that we have, but when we do, we like to have bold women. So she fits the bill. She’s just amazing,” Andrea says.

Being featured on Yellowstone‘s massive platform is an enormous opportunity for exposure, which translates to new fans and streams. After having three songs featured in Yellowstone, southern rock band Whiskey Myers were invited to come on the show and play during a bar scene. The music was met with a fervent audience, who subsequently propelled three of the band’s albums to the Top 10 of the iTunes Country Album Chart after the show aired.

“Obviously I have artists pitched to me from labels, publishers, managers and agents,” Andrea explains of the discovery process. “But I also go down massive Twitter and YouTube rabbit holes, that’s how I find artists that aren’t as well-known.

“Whiskey Myers was a Taylor Sheridan find, I found Zach Bryan,” Andrea says.

Pictured: Whiskey Myers perform during an episode of Yellowstone. Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Network

Red dirt artist Zach Bryan, whose song “Condemned” was featured on Yellowstone, also saw an enormous gain in exposure from the show, as well as some other benefits.

“I saw him on YouTube and Twitter. I reached out to him on Twitter and said ‘Hey, I’m the supervisor on Yellowstone. I’d love to use your stuff.’ But his record was very lo-fi—I think it was recorded in an Airbnb so it didn’t quite sound how we needed it to for the show.

“I asked Zach if I could pair him with a colleague of mine, Dave Cobb,” Andrea says. “His management got him to Nashville, he recorded with Dave Cobb, and we used ‘Condemned’ at the end of one of our episodes.”

With fans awaiting the fourth season, Andrea is constantly on the hunt for new talent for the stunning musical landscape Yellowstone has created.

“We have such a solid fan base that really loves the music. I always want to keep introducing everyone to new artists or local artists that they know and love,” Andrea sums. “We certainly don’t overlook major label artists, we love Chris Stapleton like no other, but it’s nice to give a leg up to the up-and-coming folks.”

After much anticipation, season four of Yellowstone will premiere with a two-hour special event on Sunday, Nov. 7 on Paramount Network. The series is available to binge exclusively on Peacock. View the trailer for season four below.

Nashville Songwriters Hall Of Fame Inducts Two Classes During Special Gala

Pictured (L-R): NaSHOF Board Chair Sarah Cates; Inductees Rhett Akins, Toby Keith, Buddy Cannon, Amy Grant and John Scott Sherrill; NaSHOF Executive Director Mark Ford. Photo: Bev Moser

The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Classes of 2020 and 2021 were officially honored Monday night (Nov. 1) during NaSHOF’s 50th and 51st Anniversary Hall of Fame Gala. The musical contributions of the 10 new inductees were celebrated through star-studded performances of some of their biggest songs for the capacity crowd at Nashville’s Music City Center.

Honored for the Class Of 2020 were Kent Blazy and Brett James in the songwriter category; Spooner Oldham in the veteran songwriter category; Steve Earle in the songwriter/artist category; and Bobbie Gentry in the veteran songwriter/artist category. Those recognized in the Class of 2021 were Rhett Akins and Buddy Cannon in the songwriter category; John Scott Sherrill in the veteran songwriter category; Toby Keith in the songwriter/artist category, and Amy Grant in the veteran songwriter/artist category.

“This year we’re belatedly celebrating our Golden Anniversary—more than 50 years of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame,” said Sarah Cates, Board Chair of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Foundation. “Though we were unable to gather last year, we’re making up for lost time by honoring two stellar classes. It’s gratifying to have these legendary songwriters join us at last!”

Pictured (L-R): NaSHOF Board Chair Sarah Cates; inductees Brett James, Kent Blazy, Steve Earle, Spooner Oldham; NaSHOF Executive Director Mark Ford. Photo: Bev Moser

Trisha Yearwood kicked off the evening honoring inductee Bobbie Gentry in a performance of the hit “Ode To Billy Joe,” a global smash that was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. Gentry did not attend the event, and instead NaSHOF member Gretchen Peters spoke on her behalf. Thomas Rhett performed his father’s signature hit “That Ain’t My Truck” as a special tribute to inductee Rhett Akins, then NaSHOF member Byron Hill presented him. Carrie Underwood performed her mega-hit “Jesus Take The Wheel” to honor inductee Brett James, accompanied by co-writers Hillary Lindsey and Gordie Sampson. James was presented by NaSHOF member Rivers Rutherford.

Kenny Chesney honored inductee Buddy Cannon with a performance of the Cannon-penned Vern Gosdin hit, “Set ’Em Up Joe,” before NaSHOF member Bill Anderson presented Cannon. Toby Keith was honored by NaSHOF member Ronnie Dunn, who performed Keith’s 1993 No. 1 hit, “Should’ve Been A Cowboy,” a song that would go on to become one of the most played country song of the 1990s. Hall of Fame member Mac McAnally presented Keith.

NaSHOF member John Anderson was on hand to honor John Scott Sherrill with a performance of his 1982 Sherrill-penned hit “Wild And Blue,” before Hall of Fame Board member and industry journalist/historian Robert K. Oermann presented Sherrill. Jason Isbell honored inductee Spooner Oldham with a performance of “I’m Your Puppet,” and NaSHOF member Dickey Lee inducted him.

Emmylou Harris honored inductee Steve Earle with a performance of his song “Pilgrim.” Hall of Fame Board member and host of The Songwriters public television show Ken Paulson presented Earle.

Vince Gill also paid tribute to wife Amy Grant during the special evening with a performance of her song, “Breath of Heaven,” and Garth Brooks took the stage to honor inductee Kent Blazy and also perform their hit “If Tomorrow Never Comes” with him, which was named NSAI’s Song of the Year in 1989.

Pictured (L-R): Thomas Rhett and inductee Rhett Akins. Photo: Bev Moser

Pictured (L-R): Bill Anderson, inductee Buddy Cannon, Kenny Chesney. Photo: Bev Moser

Pictured (L-R): Trisha Yearwood, inductee Kent Blazy, Garth Brooks. Photo: Bev Moser

Pictured (L-R): Robert K. Oermann, inductee John Scott Sherrill, John Anderson. Photo: Bev Moser

The Academy Of Country Music Leases Office Space In Nashville

The Academy of Country Music (ACM) has leased office space at the Nashville Warehouse Company in Nashville, Tennessee, MusicRow has confirmed. This will be the first time the ACM has occupied a permanent presence in Music City. A spokesperson for the ACM says that more details will be revealed in the spring.

“We are excited to officially welcome the Academy of Country Music to Wedgewood Houston, and we are honored that they chose Nashville Warehouse Company to be the organization’s first-ever office location in Music City,” says AJ Capital Partners Pres. Eric Hassberger.

The Academy of Country Music was founded in Los Angeles in 1964. Performer Tommy Wiggins, songwriter Eddie Miller and club owners Mickey and Chris Christensen teamed up with other performers, radio and record label executives to establish the Country and Western Music Academy, and to promote country music in the western states.

The ACM Awards were originally staged in Los Angeles with the first event held in 1966. The ACM Awards left Southern California for the first time in 2003 and settled into Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino Events Center before moving to the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The 50th anniversary of the ACM Awards was held at the AT&T Stadium in Texas in 2015 with the Academy returning back to Las Vegas the following year.

In 2020 and 2021, the ACM moved the show to Nashville due to the pandemic, and broadcasted from three of Music City’s iconic venues: Grand Ole Opry House, Ryman Auditorium and The Bluebird Cafe. The 2022 ACM Awards will take place in Las Vegas, once again.

Mandy Barnett Talks The Road To Her Grand Ole Opry Induction [Interview]

Mandy Barnett. Photo: Jiro Schneider

Grammy-nominated vocalist Mandy Barnett has been steeped in the world of country music for much of her life.

Growing up just over 100 miles outside of the Music City lines, in Crossville, Tennessee, she listened to the weekly broadcasts of the Grand Ole Opry, which recently celebrated its 5,000th live broadcast.

At a young age, Barnett realized her innate vocal ability and quickly found herself infatuated with singing, though not so interested in becoming a star.

“I’ve always been more interested in singing than trying to become a celebrity. That’s always been my thing: I love to sing,” she shares with MusicRow. “I love the technical aspects of singing. If you have the technical aspects of singing down then you don’t have to worry about the emotional aspects, but it’s a craft. You have to work on it and keep your vocal cords lubed up and agile.”

She continues, “Over the years, I’ve just tried to roll with the punches, keep my voice fairly agile and keep it from aging too much… Whether it’s singing live or in the recording studio, I’ve been singing since I was a little kid so I enjoy both aspects.”

Mandy Barnett Photo: Chris Hollo

Barnett enjoyed early acclaim, working with famed producer Jimmy Bowen (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Reba McEntire, Kenny Rogers) at the age of 12 and signing deals in her teenage years with MCA and Capitol. However, shortly after moving to Nashville, she was dropped by her label.

Around the same time, a new “jukebox” musical named Always… Patsy Cline was slated to hold its residency at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium. After auditioning, an 18-year-old Barnett landed the lead role of the iconic Cline, a role she would become known for for the rest of her career. Barnett appears on the original cast album and remains the only actress to have played the title role on the same stage where Cline’s legendary career began.

“To be able to portray someone that I admired so much was just really a dream come true,” she gushes. “It was so amazing to do that and to work with Gaylord, the Ryman, and all of the great musicians and people that came together for it. We really assembled a great group of people,” Barnett explains.

“I wasn’t coming to Nashville to become the star of a musical theater piece. I was coming to Nashville to make records and do concerts,” she clarifies. “It was just the timing, where I was in my life, and who it was about. All those things matter and all those things came together to be the perfect fit for me.”

In addition to her time in the theatrical space, Barnett has released eight studio albums and worked with some of the who’s who in Nashville’s creative world, including award-winning musicians, songwriters, and producers like Owen and Harold Bradley.

She built her reputation on her powerful voice and devotion to classic country, R&B, and popular standards, which is evident on albums such as her 2020 A Nashville Songbook record, which honors iconic country and pop standards. Barnett’s most recent album, Every Star Above, tributes her hero Billie Holiday. Barnett developed the album alongside the late jazz legend Sammy Nestico and recorded it with a 60-piece orchestra.

“When you’re able to have those roots with people like that, it really means a lot. One of the things that I treasure more than anything are the years that I spent working with some of the greatest musicians, producers, and songwriters ever,” she shares. “[Another one of my favorite parts of my career has been] being able to work at the Grand Ole Opry all these years with the legends.”

After giving over 500 performances on the Grand Ole Opry stage throughout her 30-year career, Barnett has finally earned her coveted spot as a member of the famed country music show.

Connie Smith Mandy Barnett Photo: Chris Hollo

On Sept. 28–which is also Barnett’s birthday–Opry legend Connie Smith invited her to be the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry.

“I was totally clueless about all of it,” Barnett says. “I really had no clue when Connie came back to read my birthday card until she started breaking up a little bit. I thought, ‘Oh no, is she getting ready to ask me this? Because I’m not prepared for it and I may just hit the floor,'” she laughs.

“They made it so special… I have a very long history with the Grand Ole Opry since my years of Always… Patsy Cline, and I’m just very grateful that they invited me to become a member. I’m so proud of it,” Barnett offers.

Barnett’s long-awaited Opry induction ceremony is set to take place tomorrow night (Nov. 2) at the Grand Ole Opry House. She will also be featured in a handful of shows in the Opry’s debut production of “Opry Country Christmas” this holiday season.

When asked what makes the historic Grand Ole Opry stage so special to her and what sets it apart, Barnett quickly sums: “It’s just a special stage in general and it’s the oldest radio show in the world. All the people that I have loved and admired have played on that stage… It’s special to me because I’ve spent the majority of my life trying to get there. It’s really been an amazing journey and well worth the wait.”

Scott Clayton Exits WME

Scott Clayton

Agent Scott Clayton has left WME, MusicRow has confirmed.

Clayton was Partner at WME and Co-Head of the agency’s Music Division, responsible for leading the team of agents representing the biggest names across all genres of music. He also served as co-head of WME’s Nashville office, overseeing daily operations and guiding a diverse team of agents who work across divisions including music, books, TV, film, digital, endorsements and more.

Clayton has guided the touring careers for clients such as Zac Brown Band, John Mayer, Dead & Company, Train, My Morning Jacket, Kings of Leon, Michael Franti, Rodrigo y Gabriela and many others. Based in Nashville, Clayton previously served as the Co-Chair of the city’s prestigious Music City Music Council.

“We appreciate all of Scott’s contributions to the agency over the past four years and wish him all the best,” WME said in a statement.

It is reported that Clayton has joined UTA. The agency did not respond to request for comment.

Elvie Shane’s Debut Album ‘Backslider’ Offers An Honest Look At His Personal & Musical Journey [Interview]

Elvie Shane. Photo: Jeremy Cowart

Rising country artist Elvie Shane took the country music industry by storm with his No. 1 hit “My Boy,” which tells the emotional story of Shane’s bond with his stepson. After the track went viral on social media in 2018, Shane caught the attention of many, earning him a publishing deal and eventually his record deal with BBR Music Group. He was also named as part of MusicRow‘s Next Big Thing Class of 2021.

Today (Oct. 29), Shane is releasing his debut album Backslider via BRR’s Wheelhouse Records.

The album features 15 songs, all of which were co-written by Shane, about his love for his family, friends and his journey thus far. The album is an authentic country record that isn’t scared to show off Shane’s other influences like southern rock, R&B and gospel.

“I started writing the record about five years ago with ‘My Boy,’ and then I signed my record deal thinking I had a whole record put together. They told me right after we signed that they only thought I had one song, and that was ‘My Boy,'” says Shane. “So every other song has been written after February of 2018. The last few years, we’ve just been digging in and trying to write some honest songs. We took a look at where I’ve been, where I come from, where I’m at now and tried to put it all in a story with some music behind it.”

Shane, a Kentucky native, enlisted songwriters Derrick Southerland, Russell Sutton, Lee Starr, Nick Columbia and many more for the project. The summer after signing his record deal, he was writing with many Nashville songwriters and was learning a lot about his craft.

“It was awesome. I went through a phase right after my deal where I just wrote with everyone in town. I was in a room with people that I shouldn’t have been in the room with, that were well above me as writers. But it was awesome to be able to be in there and learn from them about how to approach writing more efficiently.

“It was really cool to just go through the process and find the people who were really interested in what I was trying to say and help me say it in a way that was true to me. And I think we put a great team of writers together, for this project in particular. I’m excited to continue writing with those folks. But also watch that team grow throughout the years.”

The record has some familiar Shane originals like “County Roads” and “My Kinda Trouble.” But the opening track, “I Will Run,” is a fantastic showcase of Shane as a singer and gives insight on his journey. The song, written with Doug Johnson and Adam Wood, is about how Shane has always felt on the run and has never stopped moving. Now, as he gets older, he’s trying to run to the things and the people he loves. The song sets the stage for the rest of the record.

“I feel like I’m always on the go, I’m definitely born to run. There’s a lot of things in life that I have run from and now that life is better than it ever has been, there’s a lot of things I feel like I’m running to now.

“I was like, ‘Let’s start at the end. This is where we are now, but what got us here?'” Shane says of writing the song. “I went through the things that I’ve run from in my life, like the recklessness of youth, the love loss, the love found, the mistakes made, and how often we take it for granted.”

Along with writing for the album, Shane loved the creativity he and his studio band had when recording the album.

Elvie Shane. Photo: Jeremy Cowart

“I really enjoyed so many different aspects of [making the album]. I love going into my producer’s [Oscar Charles] studio, when it’s just me and him and we’re trying to figure out what we hear behind just me and a guitar. That’s always a lot of fun to create those parts together and go in and play it for the studio band,” says Shane. “I think the thing that I love most about all of it was just seeing these players have fun doing what they’re doing. They get to be that kid again that was 10 or 12 years old and decided they wanted to play an instrument. I’m super proud of the band.”

The one song that Shane is most proud of and is most excited for fans to hear is the last track on the record, “Miles (With Mama).” He originally wrote it as a tribute to his father who was a truck driver. He set out to be extremely honest when writing about his father, with his faults and all. During this process he reflected on himself and his struggle of being on the road constantly, which led to him discovering a new-found empathy for his father. What also makes the song special is he had the chance to sing it with his mother, who was the foundation for his love for music.

“For a lot of these songs, I tried to approach them with as much honesty as I possibly could. But that song in particular is 100%, from beginning to end, a very vulnerable and honest song,” says Shane. “I got to have my mother sing on that song with me, one of my very first inspirations as a singer. She sings harmonies with me. So that song is very close to my heart.”

Shane’s debut album, Backslider, is filled with honesty, great musicianship and tells his story the way he wanted to tell it.

“Throughout the record there’s an order of things that starts with my youth, my Sunday mornings, and my running around as a teenager. Then you get to ‘My Kinda Trouble,’ ‘Saturday Night Me’ and ‘My Boy.’ That’s what I like to call the Mandy years in the record, from when I met my wife and how she turned my life around. Then my Nashville years start after that, with not only stories about myself, but songs that we wrote as a tribute to country music and what I love about it,” Shane sums. “Everything [on the album] are things that I’ve ran from and ultimately led me to run right back into them, just from a different perspective.”

Jordan Davis Claims No. 1 On MusicRow CountryBreakout Radio Chart

Jordan Davis earns his fifth No. 1 Challenge Coin this week as his single, “Buy Dirt,” hits the top of MusicRow‘s CountryBreakout Radio Chart. The single, which features Luke Bryan, was also certified Gold by the RIAA this week and it received a nomination for Musical Event of the Year for the upcoming 55th Annual CMA Awards, marking the first CMA nomination in Davis’ career.

“Buy Dirt” is the title track to Davis’ latest EP released in May of this year. The single was co-written by Davis, Jacob Davis, Josh Jenkins, and Matt Jenkins.

Davis is currently on his Buy Dirt Tour through December with support from MacKenzie Porter and Seaforth.

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

DISClaimer Single Reviews: Wade Bowen, George Strait, Muscadine Bloodline

Music City’s major labels yield to feisty, independent artists this week.

Despite the presence of strong singles by George Strait, Jon Langston, Maddie & Tae, Kassi Ashton and The Cadillac Three, the Lone Star State’s perennially popular Wade Bowen nails down the Disc of the Day award.

Also coming from indie left field is our DISCovery Award winner, the duo Muscadine Bloodline.

MUSCADINE BLOODLINE / “Dispatch to 16th Ave.”
Writers: Charlie Muncaster/Gary Stanton; Producer: Charlie Muncaster/Gary Stanton; Label: MB
— The duo sings of a country hopeful on Music Row who fails because he wouldn’t make conformist music. The harmonies are tight, and their band sounds sprightly. Recommended.

KASSI ASHTON / “Heavyweight”
Writers: Kassi Ashton/Luke Laird/Hillary Lindsey; Producer: Luke Laird/Kassi Ashton; Label: MCA Nashville/ Interscope
— Sultry and moody. She says she can take whatever heartbreak he wants to dish out. She won’t cry. She’ll fight. She’s tough. The whole thing is kinda cool, in a pop-country way.

THE CADILLAC THREE / “Devil’s Lettuce”
Writers: Jaren Johnston/Neil Mason; Producer: The Cadillac Three; Label: Big Machine
— In a word, strange. Is there such a thing as country psychedelia? This choppy, wacky, rhythm-soaked ditty waxes enthusiastic about homegrown weed. It’s more spoken than sung, and the drum track is more prominent than anything else. I have no idea what to do with this.

JON LANGSTON / “When You’re Lonely”
Writers: Jon Langston/Jody Stevens; Producer: Jody Stevens; Label: EMI
— This toe-tapping country rocker rolls along righteously as Langston unspools his bitter yarn. She calls him at 3 AM when she’s got nobody else to love her…. even though she already told him they have no future together. Radio ready.

JETT HOLDEN / “Taxidermy”
Writers: Jacques Landell Holden; Producer: none listed; Label: JH
— The arty lyric meanders somewhat on this wordy, passionate, heartbreak ballad. He sings with immense, intense fire. Vocally promising, but the songwriting needs to get tighter.

GEORGE STRAIT / “The Weight of the Badge”
Writers: George Strait/Bubba Strait/Dean Dillon; Producer: Chuck Ainlay/George Strait; Label: MCA
— Today is National First Responders Day. King George has the commemorative song, a lustrous ballad in a lovely production that mixes sighing fiddles and aching steel with heartfelt singing. Meditative and memorable.

WADE BOWEN / “When Love Comes Around”
Writers: Wade Bowen/Eric Paslay/Heather Morgan; Producer: Paul Moak; Label: Thirty Tigers
— This dirt-road Texas honky-tonker can always be counted on for country excellence. What he doesn’t usually do is upbeat, happy love tunes. Well, he does that here, and the result is splendidly uplifting, joyous and clap-hands catchy. Get up and twirl around the room.

MADDIE & TAE / “Madness”
Writers: Maddie Font/Taylor Kerr/Jessie Jo Dillon/Zach Kale; Producer: Jimmy Robbins/Derek Wells; Label: Mercury
— Airy and wafting, this audio dreamscape is about the enduring power of true love. Relaxing and gentle. Caressed by their sweet, close vocal harmonies.

JIMMY YEARY / “Angeline”
Writers: Jimmy Yeary/Billy Droze/Chris Myers; Producer: none listed; Label: RBR Entertainment
— Yeary is a big hit songwriter via such accomplishments as “I Drive Your Truck” (Lee Brice), “I Called Mama” (Tim McGraw), “I’m Gonna Love You Through It” (Martina McBride), “Till It’s Gone” (Kenny Chesney) and more. He’s also the lucky devil who’s married to the divine Sonya Isaacs. As if that’s not enough, he is a dandy bluegrass record maker. This frothy, lickety-split, dobro-laced, scampering-fiddle ditty is a hillbilly delight.

RAY STEVENS / “Hoochie Coochie Dancer”
Writers: C.W. Kalb, Jr.; Producer: Ray Stevens; Label: Curb
— The master of the novelty single is back with a charming outing about getting mugged after falling for a carny gal. Loved the backup ooohs and the talking-blues delivery. Cute and amusing.

ABBY ANDERSON / “Bad Posture”
Writers: Abby Anderson/Anna Vaus; Producer: Marshall Altman; Label: AA
— She’s singing with more guts than ever on this stately saga of a survivor: “Since you’ve been gone, I stand up straight.” In the ebb-and-flow production, the rippling piano notes are gradually augmented by an echoey, marching rhythm track. Definitely ear catching.

LILLI LEWIS / “My American Heart”
Writers: Lilli Lewis; Producer: none listed; Label: Louisiana Red Hot Records
— She sings marvelously, with a pleading soprano that can dip to a throaty, chesty tone. The wordy, well-meaning song wanders around in search of a hook.

Music Row Power Couple, Beth & Luke Laird, Celebrate 10 Years Of Creative Nation [Interview]

Luke and Beth Laird. Photo: Spencer Combs

When Luke Laird, a young songwriter with a new publishing deal, met his future wife Beth at the receptionist counter at BMG Nashville in 2005, it was the start of a long and beautiful partnership.

It was Beth’s first real music industry job out of college, and she was worried that a relationship with a songwriter would be unprofessional. Lucky for them, she soon moved to Windswept to be a song-plugger before landing at BMI, where she would remain for the next five years. The two then began dating and were married a few years later in 2010. They now have two children, Jake (8) and Mack (5), and a successful 10-year old publishing company, Creative Nation.

“It’s been exciting because from the very beginning, with him having no cuts yet and me literally being at my first day on the job, we’ve gotten to grow in the music business together. We’ve been through the highs and lows together, that’s really been fun,” Beth says.

Beth and Luke Laird in 2010. Photo: Courtesy Beth Laird

The two say they never dreamed of starting a publishing company together. The idea came about at a meeting with the couple’s business manager, when Luke was nearing the end of a publishing deal.

Once the wheels were turning, Beth and Luke were able to take their experiences as a songwriter and a music publishing professional and design a company that they would want to work at. “The main thing that we knew we really wanted that we weren’t really feeling at that time in the music business was a publishing company that was really creative and really writers first. [We wanted to build a company] where you felt like the writers were the bosses of their careers and the publishers came alongside them to help fulfill their dreams and to help them along their path,” Beth says.

Luke adds, “When I first signed a publishing deal, and I think this is probably a similar story for a lot of writers at that time and years before, writers were looked at as ‘we are hiring you to do a job,’ but really that’s not how those contracts work. In reality, the publisher works for the writer. You can have ideas and plans for a writer, but you’re in a partnership. That’s one thing I want our writers to know is we, as a publisher, work for you. So what are your goals?”

Goal-setting is a paramount part of the business ethic at Creative Nation, which now boasts a roster that includes lauded songwriters Lori McKenna and Barry Dean, as well as country hitmaker Casey Brown, artist-songwriters Steve Moakler and Kassi Ashton, and more.

When new writers come in, the staff at Creative Nation help them make a goal sheet for themselves, which becomes a big part of the plan for success for each writer. Any one writer’s goals can range from having a No. 1 country hit, getting nominated for a song of the year award, or getting a cut from a specific artist. “If what we’re doing does not serve your goals, then we shouldn’t be doing it,” Beth says. “That is the basis of where to start. It lets them be the CEO of their career and their business, and it feels more like we are helping manage their business, but we’re not in control telling them what to do.”

In addition to putting writer’s goals first, Creative Nation also makes the family-owned aspect of their business part of the company culture.

Luke says, “We are so involved with our families. A lot of times the music business almost feels like two separate things, but we like to have things like a Creative Nation pool day where everyone can bring their kids. We hope that our staff and writers feel that we value more than just what they can do for our business.”

Pictured (L-R): Jody Williams, Luke Laird, Del Bryant, Beth Laird, Clay Bradley at the 59th Annual BMI Country Awards in 2011. Photo: Jason Kempin for BMI / Courtesy of Beth Laird

Their writer and staff-friendly environment has proved fruitful for Creative Nation. Since getting started in 2011, the company has worked with some of country music’s biggest performers, including Kacey Musgraves, Luke Bryan, Thomas Rhett, and Eric Church, and has released more than 20 No. 1 songs and 60 radio singles, including Sam Hunt’s “Hard to Forget” and Harry Styles’ “Watermelon Sugar.”

Beth says there are two moments from the beginning of Creative Nation when she felt most validated. The first being when she went to her first pitch meeting as Creative Nation and pitched “Pontoon,” which became a blockbuster hit for Little Big Town. The second is when they received their first BMI publisher award, presented to them from Beth’s former BMI boss, Jody Williams.

“At BMI, I was the one that had handed up the awards to Jody to hand out to publishers, so when I got to go up and Jody handed me one, it was like ‘You’re a real publisher. You’re getting an award on stage,'” Beth says. “Even now it makes me feel emotional because it made me feel like a real publisher.”

Moments like those, and the many more that have followed as Creative Nation has become a flourishing indie publisher, have made the risk of going out on their own worth it for the husband and wife team.

As for the next 10 years, the Lairds are most concerned with maintaining the creative, relational, and positive environment they’ve established at Creative Nation.

“One of my ultimate goals sounds generic, but it’s to love what I do and to love who I’m working with. I actually really value every Monday morning when I wake up; I get excited to come to work,” Beth shares. “I’m never bored. I’m always excited about the next songwriter. I’m always excited about the song that’s going to come in today or getting to strategize with my team. My goal is to always make sure I keep that spark and that we are constantly surrounded by good people who are creative.”