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MusicRow Magazine, Nashville’s leading music industry publication, is proud to reveal rising country newcomers Michael Tyler (Reviver Records) and Denny Strickland (Red Star Label Group) as performers for the 2018 MusicRow Country Radio Meet & Greet and CountryBreakout Awards.
The industry-only event will be held in February for subscribed members of MusicRow, country radio broadcasters, and magazine affiliates ahead of the 2018 Country Radio Seminar (CRS). Invitations will be distributed in the afternoon on January 9.
“We are thrilled to announce two outstanding performers in Michael Tyler and Denny Strickland for our annual CountryBreakout Awards this year,” says MusicRow Owner/Publisher Sherod Robertson. “The MusicRow reporting panel represents the best country stations in secondary markets and MusicRow subscribers are invited to have a front row seat to see which artists were most-played on the CountryBreakout Chart for the previous year, in addition to honoring an exemplary MusicRow Chart reporter and giving nods to the songwriter with the most No.1s.”
The gathering will reveal the 2018 CountryBreakout Awards winners, tallied from chart performance on the MusicRow Chart in 2017. Those categories include Male Artist of the Year, Female Artist of the Year, Group/Duo of the Year, Breakthrough Artist of the Year, Independent Artist of the Year, Label of the Year, Songwriter of the Year, and the selected Reporter of the Year.
Additionally, MusicRow will reveal its 2018 Country Radio print issue, which will also highlight the CountryBreakout Awards winners among other exclusive radio-pertinent edit. Complementary copies of MusicRow‘s Country Radio print issue will be available at the Meet & Greet and CountryBreakout Awards and throughout the CRS conference. Subscribers will receive their print copies by mail. Additional issues will be available for purchase at musicrow.com or at the publication’s 17th Avenue headquarters in Nashville.
To receive your invitation to the 2018 MusicRow Country Radio Meet & Greet and CountryBreakout Awards, subscribe at musicrow.com.
ABOUT THE 2018 MUSICROW COUNTRY RADIO MEET & GREET AND COUNTRYBREAKOUT AWARDS PERFORMERS
Denny Strickland (Red Star Label Group): Denny Strickland’s love for West Coast culture uniquely blends with his Arkansas country roots to create music that feels like a throwback and an examination of modern romantic expression. On the road from the age of five years old showing horses, Strickland taught himself to play the guitar and write songs after studying at Arkansas State University. With the same veracity that made him a champion rider, he soon began to play regional gigs and caught the eye of The Statler Brothers’ longtime manager (and Bass player for Johnny Cash), Marshall Grant. Grant’s passing in 2011 set the wheels in motion for Strickland’s move to Nashville, reigniting his music career on the MusicRowCountryBreakout Chart with the debut hits “Swerve On” and most recent hit “We Don’t Sleep,” featuring a video co-produced by Strickland. Strickland has hosted the syndicated television show Country Fix, enjoyed sold-out shows during CMA Music Festival week and featured in multiple online video series that have broken through to over one million views. Strickland co-produced and has writing credits on seven of the 10 tracks on his debut album, California Dreamin, which was released August. 1 with Red Star Label Group. Look for his next single in 2018.
Michael Tyler (Reviver Records): Since the fifth grade Michael “MT” Tyler has been influenced by music. He made his first major industry connection at age 13 with powerhouse producer Michael Knox (Jason Aldean). Just a few years later he would earn several notches on his songwriter belt, including Jason Aldean’s “Laid Back” and Dierks Bentley’s Platinum-selling “Somewhere On A Beach.” Influenced by Johnny Cash, Alabama, Mel McDaniel and similar singers while living at home in Thayer, Missouri, Tyler began learning the guitar and contributing to family jam sessions while memorizing writers credits watching videos on CMT. He wrote his first song at age 12 and relocated to Nashville at age 17 after heeding advice from Knox to write at least one song a month. Tyler earned a nomination for Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year at the 2017 MusicRow Awards and has writing credits on all 11 tracks on his debut album for Reviver Records, 317. With the 2017 project, Tyler stepped forward with variety and depth, offering stirring small-town memories over thundering backbeats. His debut single, “They Can’t See,” opened the door toward romance while his endearing, current single “Hey Mama,” plants the first seeds of lifelong love.
WME recently announced the promotion of four new agents in the Nashville office. Those who advanced to agent are Brian Carothers, Chris Hrovat, Adi Sharma and Hayley Warner.
Carothers began his career with WME in 2013 and most recently assisted in booking large venues and festivals in the West territory. Carothers will join the Development team as a booking agent in the Southwest.
Hrovat began his career at WME in 2013 and has assisted in booking fairs and festivals as well as venues in the South Central territory. Most recently, he has worked directly with several of the artists on WME’s roster. Hrovat will be a multi-genre development agent, working with both country and non-country artists.
Sharma began his career in the agency’s Beverly Hills office in 2014 and transferred to the Nashville office in 2016. Most recently he has worked on national touring for several headlining artists on WME’s roster. Sharma will be leading a new team that specializes in large venue touring.
Warner is a 2012 graduate of Purdue University. Warner most recently assisted in booking clubs in Texas and Oklahoma. She will be joining the Development team as a booking agent in the Midwest.
The promotions follow a string of new artists and executives joining WME, including Scott Clayton, Buster Phillips, Brandi Brammer, Matthew Morgan, and artists Train, My Morning Jacket, Kings of Leon, and more.
Carrie Underwood has signed with Brad Cafarelli at PMK BNC for publicity services, MusicRow has confirmed. Underwood was previously represented for publicity by Nashville firm Schmidt Public Relations, which also represents Luke Bryan, Easton Corbin, the Grand Ole Opry, Cole Swindell and Eric Paslay.
Underwood continues to be managed by The HQ and repped by CAA.
The signing follows last year’s label shakeup, when Underwood left longtime label home Sony Music Nashville and signed with Universal Music Group. She is in the studio working on her first album for UMG and recovering from a 2017 fall that reportedly left her with an injured wrist and face stitches.
She also previewed a new song, “The Champion,” on Saturday (Jan. 6) during the NFL playoff matchup between the Los Angeles Rams and the Atlanta Falcons.
Check out something special from Carrie Underwood that aired tonight during halftime! #SBLII #TheChampion
Posted by Sunday Night Football on NBC on Saturday, January 6, 2018
Sony/ATV Music Publishing and Facebook have entered a multi-territory, multi-year licensing agreement that allows Sony/ATV songwriters to earn royalties from the use of their music on both Facebook and Instagram. The deal is the second major publisher to sign with Facebook and the first agreement made with the social media giant and Sony/ATV, which oversees a catalog of more than 3 million songs.
Under the agreement, users can upload and share videos on Facebook, Instagram, and Oculus that contain compositions licensed from Sony/ATV’s catalog, as well as personalize their music experiences with songs from the catalog.
Sony/ATV Chairman and CEO Martin Bandier said, “We are thrilled that in signing this agreement Facebook recognizes the value that music brings to their service and that our songwriters will now benefit from the use of their music on Facebook. We are looking forward to a long and prosperous relationship.”
Sony/ATV’s contemporary roster includes The Chainsmokers, Drake, Pink, Ed Sheeran, Sia, Sam Smith, Taylor Swift, Kanye West and Pharrell Williams, while it also represents the songs of legends such as The Beatles, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Michael Jackson, Carole King and Queen, the Jobete catalog of Motown songs and standards including “Over The Rainbow,” “Moon River” and “Singin’ In The Rain.”
Tamara Hrivnak, Head of Music Business Development and Partnerships, Facebook said: “We’re excited to work with the largest music publisher in the world to bring amazing songs which deepen connections between friends and fans. Sony/ATV is a true leader and an absolute champion of writers in the digital space, and we’re thrilled to work with them as they grab new opportunities by the horns across all of our platforms.”
Following the announcement of Sugarland’s return with an upcoming album to be released jointly via UMG Nashville and Big Machine Label Group, the duo has announced it will hit the road this year with 48 tour stops, including a stop in Nashville. Other cities on the tour include Atlanta, Anaheim, Dallas, Seattle, and more. Specific dates for each city have not yet been announced.
Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush recently returned to country radio with the new single, “Still The Same,” marking their first radio offering since 2011’s “Tonight.”
The duo has sold nearly 10 million albums domestically, and earned Platinum-certified singles including “All I Want to Do,” “Stay” and the 2x Platinum “Stuck Like Glue.” During their career, the duo has also earned several accolades including CMA Vocal Duo of the Year (2007-2011), five ACM Awards (including Song of the Year and Single of the Year) and Grammy honors for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, and Best Country Song, for “Stay.”
The duo’s reunion comes after both Nettles and Bush released solo projects in recent years. Nettles released the solo album, That Girl, in 2014 via Mercury Nashville. Her second solo album, Playing With Fire, released via Big Machine in 2016. Meanwhile, Bush released the solo album Southern Gravity as a solo artist in 2015 with the now defunct Streamsound Records before signing with BBR Music Group’s Wheelhouse Records. There, he also produced Lindsay Ell’s The Project, released in August on the label group’s Stoney Creek Records.
Sugarland 2018 Still The Same Tour Stops
Daytona beach, Fla.
Des Moines, Iowa
Grand Island, Neb.
Grand Rapids, Mich.
Green Bay, Wis.
Niagara falls, Ontario
Rapid city, S.D.
San Diego, Calif.
Santa Barbara, Calif.
Sioux falls, S.D.
St. Paul, Minn.
Sugar Land, Texas
The power of music is undeniable. It brings out our joy. It brings out our sadness. And it unifies us by fading away our differences and shining a spotlight on our common humanity. Although society sometimes has a way of focusing so much of our attention on our differences, music helps us remember– and perhaps offers its most important revelation– that in our truth, we really are all the same.
Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee and 21-time Grammy award-winner, Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter has been a dominant force in popular culture. With multiple businesses and accolades across the recording industry, he has become one of the most influential hip-hop artists and entrepreneurs of our generation. Likewise, Thomas Rhett is known for pushing the boundaries in country music with pop hooks, R&B grooves and rock. A husband and father of two, he identifies himself as someone who embraces his truth and is not afraid of expressing it, as reflected on his latest album, Life Changes. Publisher, Songwriter and Producer Jesse Frasure, with over 60 cuts in the christian, country and pop worlds, is not defined by any genre. He consistently pushes the limits of his creative talents, breaking down boundaries along the way.
These three creative powerhouses recently connected over a phone conversation to discuss how music and songwriting transcends our differences and allows us to live solidly in our truth.
With the division we see in today’s social fabric on topics such as gender, race, religion and politics, how can the power of music and songwriting transcend our differences and unite us?
Jay-Z: Music has been coined the universal language, right? This has been happening in music since the beginning of time. It’s just for society to emulate what’s happening in music. We have lines of division, you call it country music, you call it rap music, you call it whatever. I think it was a way for advertisers to identify their audience. But as far as music goes, it’s been crossing lines all over the world since the beginning of time.
Rhett: I definitely agree. I grew up in a musical family. And at a very young age I was introduced to literally every different kind of music. Whether it was bluegrass or hip hop or heavy metal or whatever. Music was always a huge part of my life and it was the thing that brought me close to a lot of friends. We all gathered and socialized over all different kinds of music. What I’ve noticed is that genre is just a word these days. It’s more like good music versus bad music rather than it is hip hop or reggae or country music. Great songs can transcend boundaries like never before. And that’s really cool to see happen in music today.
Why do you think that has happened?
Frasure: Technology was a big part of it. Genres started based on regions and now have access to more genres of music in more places. Some of it was just evolution. I think our industry focuses on genre a lot more than the actual listener does.
Jay-Z: I agree with what you’re saying. I think that streaming really enhanced it. If you think about it, Quincy Jones was playing jazz festivals back in the 50’s. They couldn’t even go to the south. They were bigger internationally than they were in the states– because the music was accepted everywhere else. They didn’t understand the idea of racism outside of America. But now with these streaming services, you get to see everyone’s musical tastes.
No one says, “I only listen to country music.” Everyone listens to all sorts of music. It’s almost like a chef. Yeah, I’m a chef. I’m strong at making Italian food, but I can make any kind of food. I’m a musician. I just use different instruments. Thomas uses a guitar, you [Jesse] uses a drum machine. It’s all the same thing. When you get to the heart of it and dig a bit deeper from just the instruments being used, it’s all about love, disappointment and fear. It’s like all these things that we all go through that is beyond color, beyond gender– when you strike that chord everyone relates to it.
Rhett: Yeah, and I do think it is amazing to see how similar a lot of genres actually are, because behind every great song, first of all, is a story. And I think the stories have been told in music since the beginning of time. The more vulnerable you can be as the artist, that’s what draws the fans to you ultimately– at least for me. When I made my first record, I didn’t talk about anything personal. There was nothing vulnerable on it really at all. And then, once I found out my fans really wanted to hear my life and what I was happy about, what I was sad about, I started to put that on my records. That’s our job as songwriters to tell our story and tell our truth– and hopefully it can resonate with somebody sitting in that arena too.
Frasure: Jay, this [4:44 album] is a completely honest and raw record for you. And Thomas is at a point in his career where he’s talking about real life aspects. For both of you guys, is that something that is a scary venture when you start getting into vulnerable topics of your life and subject matter? Did that truth just evolve to that stage or is it something you think about doing?
Rhett: For me, telling my story was the only way I was gonna go from that point forward. Even when I sit down and write songs today– it’s really hard for me to write something I don’t know about. You know what I’m saying? Even if I’m writing a song about heartbreak and even if I’m not personally experiencing a heartbreak or whatever in my relationship, I have before. And I think taking from your past experiences and writing about things you face has definitely helped me be the songwriter I am today. And especially, for this record, it was just talking about how graphic life has completely changed. When you add babies– I know you know this Jay– when you add babies to the mix of trying to still be a touring artist and working in the studio and having kids, that changes your life completely. Talking about that on my record was definitely the only way that I was gonna go.
Jay-Z: And it’s great to see it celebrated, because I think a lot of times the fear with artists, you get to a certain point in your life and you start trying to make something that’s popular– as opposed to making something that’s true, and making something that’s vulnerable, and something that’s honest. We gonna to find out that the truth is forever. We gonna find out that there’s no time limit on the truth. It is what it is, what it is– across generations– even if they try to hide it. We see that with a play like Hamilton. The guy behind the guy, now is the star. That’s how powerful the truth is. That the guy, who was really writing it, finally got discovered a hundred years later! It’s never gonna go away. The truth is the truth is the truth.
And I think with the success of Thomas and the success of this album 4:44 this year, I think it’ll give more artists the– not saying that we’re the first to do it, obviously– but it’ll give more people that confidence to be like, “Oh man, just being yourself!” Being yourself and not chasing things like you just said– things that you don’t know about. Writing songs that are not true to you. We can hear it. We can feel it. We can feel when it’s not authentic. We’re fans of music too. We feel it. We’re like, “Ahhhh.” It makes you cringe. It’s like, I see what you’re doing. I would rather not sell any records than live on my truth, ’cause I believe that truth, whether it happens now, whether this album was successful this year or 20 years from now. It was gonna be successful, because it was honest. And it was true.
With each of you sharing the importance of creating in your truth, are you concerned about how that truth is being received?
Rhett: I do think there are definitely times when the truth coming off of your end can be a little bit misinterpreted. Especially when it comes to God, politics, and all that kind of stuff. My first record I released was a song called “Beer With Jesus.” And that song was written with every bit of honesty and integrity of what I thought I would ask Jesus if I got the opportunity to talk to him face to face. That song got destroyed by people. I think a lot of it is what stage you’re at in your career. Nobody knew who I was when I released that song and they’re probably sitting there going, “Well, what is he talking about? Is he talking about trying to get drunk with Jesus!?” I think if I had released that song today, it would have had a whole different impact, because people have had time time to get to know what you as an artist stand for.
Do you think the industry is partly to blame for putting up limitations?
Jay-Z: I think that’s the world.
Frasure: From my standpoint, I think the last couple of albums with Thomas have been pretty progressive, style-wise. You grow up with different backgrounds and different styles of music come into play. In our world there is a lot of pushback in different ways. Whether it’s sonically or topically, there’s definitely things we think about regarding boundaries. You want to be as truthful as possible, whether it’s the way you want to sound or something you want to say. But yes, we still would have to deal with the boundaries. Mainly, because in our genre, terrestrial radio is a huge aspect of it. And the pushback it seems is still dictating “this is country” or “this is not country.” But when we create, we don’t think about that as much.
Jay-Z: And I think it’s society. Country music or hip hop– it’s just like a microcosm of society. There’s certain issues that are deemed to be taboo, but as an artist you have everything on the table. And if we’re being honest with each other, until we’re having those conversations that are uncomfortable and difficult, that’s the only way we’re gonna move forward. We can’t just pretend certain things don’t exist. Or challenge certain things in society and religion. That’s how we get to a place of understanding. Had we not challenged the notion of Christopher Columbus discovering America, we wouldn’t know the truth. That was actually being taught in school to kids, in textbooks, and it was a lie.
You have to challenge certain things that you’re being told and question certain things to get to that place of wanting to know what’s out there– asking yourself, “Do I want to have a beer with Jesus?” These topics are how we grow. When we sit and have a discussion is how we come together. Because now I understand a bit more about you, you understand a bit more about me and then you start realizing that we have more similarities than differences.
Rhett: Why do we feel like we have to put a label on everything? You know what I’m saying? Where did that even begin?
Jay-Z: Everything is accumulation of everything else, right? Even people. Go on ancestry.com or one of those crazy sites and see how many different groups you’re made of. The thing that you’re saying you are, you’re actually not. You’re a mix of a bunch of different things. And so is country music. It’s a mix of blues, it’s a mix of this. And hip hop is a mix of that. We’re all a mix of different things. We all have been influenced by different people. I love Prince and Kenny Rogers. I’ve been influenced by Frank Sinatra, who influenced this person who influenced… everyone is a mix of different things. No one is just one thing.
Frasure: Was there ever push back when you incorporated samples like Hard Knock Life or other collaborations with rock influences?
Jay-Z: Not from the people. The people are gonna like it if it’s good. They like those sort of things. It’s really the gatekeepers. It’s the gatekeepers who want to keep things in a certain place. You know the Glastonbury story of “this is rock, we don’t want a hip hop person to headline this.” That wasn’t coming from the people. They came. There was like 180,000 people there. It was just the noise that was being created by people who don’t want things to change. The fear of change. Change is always good. We have to grow. We have to evolve and we have to take in new information. For your question, I think that’s why people received Hard Knock Life the way they did. It was my biggest album at the time.
Rhett: Are you co-writing a bunch, Jay? Do you do most of your writing by yourself or do you enjoy being in a room with other people to bounce your thoughts off of?
Jay-Z: I’m a great collaborator. I love it. Even when I’m creating by myself, there’s a lot of people around. You know, I love the discussion. This discussion that we’re having right now– I have all the time in the studio. I love discussing these sort of topics.
What do you think about that segment of people who hang so tightly to the definition of a particular genre?
Rhett: Yeah, that’s been my whole career. I’m probably one of the biggest, most second-guessing people on the planet. I will ask a 100 people what their opinion is before I finally make a decision. But since the beginning I’ve always enjoyed blurring the lines. Whether it’s from what I’m wearing to songs I’m singing ‘cause what I do is definitely not traditional country music. But, I think Jay was alluding to this earlier, it’s like every 20 years I feel we repeat a little bit and we kinda do something that’s been done before, just in a different way. And I think people that are defining what country music is sort of forget that people were slamming what country music was 20 years ago as well. People say, “We need real country music like Merle Haggard and all those outlaws.” Well, the reason they were called outlaws is because they were doing something that wasn’t the standard in country music. I guess you can call me an outlaw in a way, except for the fact that I wear skinny jeans and Vans.
Jay-Z: And I think that voice is needed. I have a friend who is always like, “You can’t do that. It has to be more like hip hop.” And I know where he’s coming from. He’s holding onto something that he loves and that’s good. Just make sure that whatever we do, while we’re blurring these lines, that we still gotta be authentic. And that person keeps that little thing in your ear– so you’re like, “Okay, I’m not just gonna go out and do something, ’cause somebody’s selling a lot of records and make this mash collaboration.” That’s messy. That’s what sets the whole thing back. So, you need that voice. And if you use it the correct way and you listen the right way and keep that in your heart, then what you make will be greater than the parts.
Throughout this conversation, you all have spoken a lot about telling the truth. But I also know that telling the truth can be hard.
Jay-Z: Yeah. It’s very difficult. It’s difficult for a lot of reasons. You don’t want to be vulnerable in front of the world. You feel naked– for the whole world to judge what you’re saying and judge your truth. Yes, it’s a song, but this is my real life. It’s difficult, but in the end there’s a payoff– the payoff to you as an artist as someone who’s super credible and someone who really cares about their craft. The payoff far outweighs the difficulties in getting to that point.
Rhett: That’s a very scary thing because a lot of artists become these people that fans look up to and then when they know what that artist is like– if they ever release songs that make them think anything differently of them– it’s a scary spot to be in. But at the same time, I’d rather have them saying the hard core truth rather than floating in this fairytale land that nothing’s ever wrong. It’s a scary place but you do feel kind of naked and you do feel vulnerable at the same time.
Frasure: It’s weird when you’re in the middle of it and watching the evolution of an artist. It’s one thing to be behind the scene doing different stuff on topics that are raw and more authentic and songs that are different. But, to me, there’s an anxiety that comes. You have a part in collaborating on this project that’s very different for this artist. It’s about to gain new fans, lose other fans, whatever’s gonna happen, it’s going to change.
At what point in your career do you get brave enough to put it all out there?
Jay-Z: I think as an artist you have to live in your truth. My first album had a song called “You Must Love Me” that I can’t listen to today. No one knew who I was. They didn’t know the characters. There was no backstory. But there was a song about my mother, my brother and all the hardships that we went through that’s so raw, it’s hard for me to listen to. Those are the songs that made me the artist that I am today. Those are the things that people held onto about me. So I think an artist has to establish that right out the gate.
Do you think our society is particularly hungry for music to bring everybody together?
Frasure: I think as a consumer, people listen to music to escape and make themselves feel better. I think the bottom line is everything that we’re doing is trying to make music that reaches somebody, that touches them, that makes them feel better, makes them forget about their jobs, forget about their heartbreak.
Jay-Z: And it’s happening. You go to the concert. That’s where it stops. That’s where all the differences stop. People all unified singing a song. I think sports may be the only one that can compete but it’s a far second to music. Go to a concert. There’s no separation. Everyone’s locked into this song. And we’re all singing it very loud. And we’re all very happy. And for this second, we don’t have to think about our differences and our politics and all the things that separate us. This is the great unifier. Music. The universal language. That’s powerful.
Rhett: Being with that many people who are just as pumped to hear that favorite song as you are and singing that song back to you. That really is one of the most amazing feelings in the world– or even just being at a concert. Being up in the nosebleeds. Or in high school being with the girl that you love, being with your friends.
Just like Jay said, music is the universal language.
Big Machine Music and The Valory Music Co. have signed Tyler Rich to both publishing and recording deals. The California native began working with the label group early in 2017, and is on the road with Dustin Lynch’s The Ride or Die Tour.
The Valory Music Co. GM George Briner comments, “Tyler Rich is a great performer and his talents shine through in quick fashion. He’s already built a strong social following and we’re excited for everyone to hear why all of us at The Valory Music Co. are over the top about Tyler.”
Tyler officially joins The Valory Music Co. imprint’s roster, which includes Brantley Gilbert, Thomas Rhett, Reba McEntire, Justin Moore, Eli Young Band and Delta Rae.
“When I moved to Nashville, I could have never dreamed that working with this hard-working label would even be possible. I can’t imagine a better team and stronger force behind me than Scott Borchetta, George Briner and my entire Valory family,” said Rich. “I’m just beyond words and so excited for what’s to come as an artist and also a songwriter on Big Machine Music. To my fans, I can’t wait to share what we’ve been working on with all of you, LETS GO!”
Tyler is managed by L3 Entertainment in Nashville.