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Don’t miss ACM and Grammy-nominated producer/songwriter Corey Crowder on The Producer’s Chair Christmas Show, Thursday, Dec. 7 at World Music Nashville at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased here.
By: James Rea
Another Georgia boy, producer/songwriter Corey Crowder is killin’ it on both fronts, which comes as no surprise considering the journey that led him to co-producing his first major label artist, Chris Young, in 2014. All three singles from Young’s album I’m Comin’ Over went to No. 1, two of which Crowder wrote with Young and Josh Hoge, including the title track. Next came Young’s Christmas record released in Oct. 2016, followed by his recently-released album Losing Sleep, which debuted at No. 1 on the country albums rankings and Top 5 over all genres. The single “Losing Sleep” released in May, has sold over 130,000 copies to date. Crowder’s production discography now includes Eric Paslay, Seth Ennis (Sony), Cassadee Pope (BMLG), A Thousand Horses (BMLG), Jamie Lynn Spears, Cale Dodds (Warner Bros.), Canadian Jess Moskaluke, Tim Hicks, Lit and James Otto.
“We’re right in the heat of the Cale Dodds record and the Cassadee Pope record and I’m super-excited about that stuff,” Crowder says. “Cassadee is fun because she comes from the rock world too, so Cass and I get to blend this new school country thing with our love for the rock scene.”
Now couple that with Crowder’s songwriting accolades, including two No. 1 hits with Young, multiple ASCAP awards and a significant run of cuts with Jon Pardi, Justin Moore, Cole Swindell, Michael Ray, Chris Janson, Jerrod Niemann, Ennis, Kane Brown, Dodds, The Cadillac Three and Kenny Rogers, multiple Canadian chart-topping singles with Moskaluke and Hicks and continued success with film/TV placements on shows like ABC’s Nashville and CMT’s Gainesville, for which he wrote the theme song.
And it all began with a guitar that Crowder’s father bought him at a pawn shop.
But even after a couple of years worth of lessons at the pawn shop, guitar was barely a hobby, until Crowder started playing in church around 15, which is when he also started singing in high school, and later doing originals at George College open mic nights, while recording his songs on his Guitar Center beginner recording kit, in his bedroom and putting his music on MySpace. Though Crowder wasn’t interested in being on the show, they used his music in almost every show for the next five seasons, which was when Crowder realized he could make a living with music.
Because his songs were on TV, people were actually interested in seeing him so he started booking himself on tour (sometimes by himself and sometimes with a band) and every time he would have another 10 or 12 song placements on the reality show, he’d put them out as records, which eventually led to his first record deal in Nashville on a Christian label, Tooth n Nail Records, and his first publishing deal with EMI. When that didn’t work out for Crowder, he found himself back at home playing in bars, a little discouraged. But shortly thereafter, a rep from Sony Nashville was scouting talent at the UGA Music Business School and found Crowder through a mutual friend and took him to Nashville to play for Sony, who signed him at 26 to his second record deal ‘on the spot’, in 2009, which subsequently led to a pub deal with Universal. This brought Crowder back to Nashville, but this time, writing with Nashville’s best writers, because he had a deal. As Corey tells it, “I skipped the entry-level portion of it.”
Crowder eventually left Sony, and some of those hit writers stopped writing with him but, a lot of them had become friends and they and Crowder kept writing … and his writing career took off and his producing career blossomed. Crowder had produced his own records before coming to Nashville, but now he was in the studio producing demos “the Nashville way” and it wasn’t long before people started raving about his productions, which led to his first production credits with Spears and Moskaluke.
He got his first songwriter cut while he was with Universal. The Cadillac Three singled “Tennessee Mojo” in Europe, where they have a huge audience. Then, after three and a half years with Universal, Crowder wrote for Liz Rose for four years until just recently signing a new deal with Tree Vibez Music, which was founded by Florida Georgia Line’s Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard, in 2015.
The Producer’s Chair: Was there a moment in time when you decided that you didn’t want to pursue an artist career anymore?
Crowder: When I got dropped by Sony, I went through the panic of “I’ve always done this” and the idea of starting over was a little overwhelming. I kind of half-assed tried but that was the moment when I had the revelation of … hey, I’m just going to be a writer. What I love is writing and being in the studio. I don’t love being on stage. I don’t crave it, I don’t miss it, I dread shows, I get nervous … I’d just rather be in the studio and writing.
How did you and Chris Young meet?
In the writing room. Josh Hoge is a good friend of mine and a good friend of his. Chris got cancelled on so Josh called me and said Chris Young is available to write tomorrow, would you like to join, so I did. I spent time on the demo and Chris loved it. Then he wanted to write again, it was a real easy day. So we wrote a couple more times and we had drinks one night and Chris said; “Man, I want my records to sound like that.”
This is cool … Chris and I went into the studio but, he didn’t tell the label. He believed that I was the right producer, so much so that he was willing to risk his own money and we went in and cut six songs and then he brought the label in to listen and said, if the label doesn’t like ‘em, I’ll eat the money. I believe that you’re the guy to produce this with. And the label loved it and said, “Go finish the record.”
How has producing changed your perspective on the music industry?
It has definitely made me analyze data more and really pay attention to what tempos and topics thrive at radio. If you’re mixing for radio it’s different than if you’re mixing to make an art piece. I think it’s made me more hyper-aware of things like that and you start paying attention more.
When you go into the studio, what is your #1 goal, going in?
To make a record that the artist is proud of first and foremost … something they can stand behind because they have to sing it for the rest of their life, ideally. I think that’s where my artist career kicks in. I think I kind of produce like an artist.
Who is your engineer of choice and your A-team?
Nick Autry, the studio manager over at Sound Stage has been engineering for me for a long time. The guys who have played on about 90 percent of my records are Derek Wells, Miles McPherson, Tony Lucido, Dave Cohen, Carl Miner, Justin Shipper and recently I’ve used Dave Dorn, Rob McNally, Jody Canaday and Justin Ostrander. I tend to gravitate to guys my own age because, they listen to the same records I do and it’s easier to reference parts and tones. I also have a production assistant, Alyson McAnally, who is Mac McAnally’s daughter. She’s amazing and keeps me in order and looks after all things Corey Crowder Productions.
Does being a singer make you a better producer?
I don’t know if it makes me better. I do feel like it helps though. I think of parts that maybe someone that’s not as musical, or doesn’t sing, doesn’t think of. Sometimes it’s guitar lines that I can sing or hear in my head, as a singer. I definitely put more focus on the vocal than I do on anything else. That’s one thing that I would hope that I’m known for.
Are you developing new artists?
Since I did Chris, I get approached a lot by publishing companies who need a producer. And I love working with new artists. I’ve just got to be really careful that, if I pick an artist to work with, I don’t wanna do it for money, I wanna do it because really believe in it because it is so time-intensive. When I first started producing, Derek Wells and I had drinks one night and he said, “Make sure you believe it, before you do it.” … And I’ve always done that.
I understand you’ve been working with Morgan Myles in development. How did you meet?
I’ve known Morgan for many years. The same guy, Duane Hobson, that brought me to Sony from Athens, Georgia, works with Morgan too, so this is our full-circle moment, with Morgan. She’s really neat—kind of like an Amy Winehouse approach to country. It’s like country lyrically (based on a hook) and it kind of has some of those elements and she has this massive swagger to her voice and volume and control and she’s kind-of like a Janis Joplin kind of performer where she’s just kind of wacky on stage and I think people are really going to dig her. She’s really cool and I’m excited about it.
What do you look for when choosing and artist to produce?
You know this is cheesy but, there is an X-Factor thing, where you just buy it … I don’t know why … you just buy it. There were times when I thought that I was the only champion for Cale Dodds. I just always saw him as a star, certainly having a good voice. I like to work with singers. Everyone who I work with is a great singer.
Have you known Cale Dodds for a long time?
Cale’s band opened for me when he was 14. He and his brother Chase have been close friends of mine. They’re like family to me. His mom and dad are like second mom and dad to me. I was a big part of helping Cale get a record deal. I championed him around town for years. I wouldn’t be surprised if he called me in two seconds. We talk on the phone every day.
What advice would you give to new producers on how to get started?
Start writing with the artist and ‘crush’ every demo you produce. Take every demo that seriously and make ‘em sound like records. And pick some artists that you believe in that no-body knows about yet and develop it and do it for free, just to get some stuff under your belt so that, when a Chris Young or somebody comes along and you get to write with them, they go … damn, I love this guy’s stuff.
How did you feel when you were nominated for a Grammy?
God, I don’t know. I think I drank a bottle of whiskey that night … Really great. And because I worked with Cass too, it was cool to share that with Chris and Cass. It was Chris’s first time being nominated and his first time as a producer too, so we got to share that as well.
You came to Nashville in 2010. It’s only taken you seven years to find both songwriting and producing success. That’s really fast … What do you attribute your meteoric rise to?
I think being the good guy goes a long way and it provides you with opportunities because, you root on people you like and people like doing business with people they like.
But the other side of all of that is … I work my ass off. I don’t take any days off. When holidays come around and when everybody takes off, I’m workin’, cause it’s a chance to get a leg-up. So I think work ethic for sure and just plain ole luck—right place, right time.
Looking back … If you made any mistakes, what were they?
I don’t look at it that way. Every mistake I made, wound up leading to something good. For example, when I had my record deal, I kind of let everybody dictate what I should sound like and I didn’t really push to sound like I wanted to. That was a mistake but, I’m really thankful because I love where I’m at right now because, if I’d kept my record deal, I’d be on the road and maybe I wouldn’t have my kids. I’m glad I make mistakes, if I made ’em.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing your future?
I think they’re the same challenges facing our entire industry’s future. We have to fix the way songwriters are paid or music as we know it will die. We have to change legislation or there’ll be 10 percent of us making money and the rest of us will all die. It’s a challenge facing us all. I went to DC with NSAI this year once and I’m really supporting Lee Miller’s run for congress and I’m really supportive of NSAI because that affects everything in our whole business. It affects me as a producer and it affects me as a songwriter. We have to fix that, so I’m super-passionate about that. I saw Bart Herbison the other night at the ASCAPs and he was the most optimistic I have ever seen him. He said we’re really close on this bill. So I’m really excited and trying my best to just wave the flag on that one.
Scott Clayton has joined WME as Partner and Co-Head of its Nashville office. Clayton will also lead the agency’s Rock division, working across WME’s global music team to identify and support rock artists and bands. Clayton was previously with CAA since 2000.
Clayton joins WME’s Nashville Co-Heads Rob Beckham, Joey Lee, Greg Oswald and Jay Williams in overseeing the daily operations for the Nashville office.
“Scott is unquestionably one of the most respected executives in the live music industry, having identified and worked with many great rock artists,” said WME’s Head of Music Marc Geiger. “We are seeing many different genres of music thriving out of Nashville right now, and with Scott’s addition we are in a great position to take advantage of the market opportunities available to us.”
“We have long admired Scott as a competitor, and are proud to now call him our colleague,” said Jay Williams, Co-Head of WME’s Nashville office. “His understanding of where the business is heading and how WME can provide even greater services to its clients make him an ideal fit. We look forward to bringing his leadership and insight to our colleagues and clients.”
“Over the course of my career I’ve been proud to watch the music community in Nashville grow into a global force,” said Clayton. “Overseeing the rock business from this city speaks to its importance and the city’s continued expansion. WME has demonstrated a strong commitment to Nashville and the rock genre, and I look forward to working to create new opportunities for all of our clients.”
During his career, Clayton has worked with some of the biggest musicians and bands in the world, including John Mayer, Dead & Company, Kings of Leon, Train, and Zac Brown Band. He is also Co-Chair of the Music City Music Council, alongside Mayor Megan Barry and Vice Chair Sally Williams of Opry Entertainment.
This announcement follows news last month that Joey Lee and Jay Williams joined Beckham and Oswald as Co-Heads of the Nashville office.
The entertainment world is mourning the passing of Mel Tillis today.
Following a lengthy struggle to regain his health, the Grand Ole Opry favorite and Country Music Hall of Fame member passed away early this morning (Sunday, Nov. 19) at the Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Florida. Tillis battled intestinal issues since early 2016 and never fully recovered. The suspected cause of death is respiratory failure. Tillis was 85.
Mel Tillis has left a legacy as a singer, comedian, TV and movie personality, stage entertainer, music publisher, bandleader and superlative songwriter. If he had done nothing but write “Detroit City” and “Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” his place in music history would be assured.
But his catalog includes more than 500 other titles and dozens of major hits, including such standards as “Mental Revenge,” “I Ain’t Never,” “Heart Over Mind,” “Burning Memories,” “All the Time” and “Emotions.” He is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. He has 18 songs with BMI awards.
As a recording artist, Tillis placed 77 titles on the country charts between 1958 and 1990. He had 35 top-10 hits.
He was a humorous screen presence in such films as W.W. & The Dixie Dancekings (1977), The Villain (1979), Smokey & The Bandit II (1980), The Cannonball Run (1981), Beer for My Horses (2008), Cannonball Run II (1984) and Murder in Music City (1979). Using his trademark stutter for comedic effect, he was a favorite on TV talk shows.
Born Lonnie Melvin Tillis in 1932, he was a native of central Florida, brought up in Pahokee, Dover, Plant City and other communities near Tampa. He contracted malaria at age 3 and often thought that might have been the cause of his stutter. He learned to play guitar in high school and was soon performing in theaters and talent contests. He discovered that his stammer vanished whenever he sang.
Tillis enlisted in the Air Force in 1951. This is when he began writing songs. While serving in Japan as a military cook, he joined a country band called The Westerners.
Following his discharge in 1955, he returned to Florida. He worked as a house painter, a fireman on the railroad, and a strawberry picker. He also continued to write. He first brought his songs to Nashville in 1956. Songwriter Mae Boren Axton (“Heartbreak Hotel”) got him an audition at Cedarwood Publishing.
The following year, Cedarwood co-owner Webb Pierce had a big hit with the Mel Tillis tune “I’m Tired,” so Tillis moved to Nashville. During the next five years, Pierce would also score hits with the songwriter’s works “Honky Tonk Song,” “Holiday for Love,” “Tupelo County Jail,” “A Thousand Miles Ago,” “I Ain’t Never,” “No Love Have I,” “Take Time,” “Crazy Wild Desire,” “Cow Town,” “Sooner Or Later” and “How Come Your Dog Don’t Bite Nobody But Me,” frequently putting his name on the songs as Tillis’s “co-writer.”
Based on his success as a songwriter, Mel Tillis was signed to Columbia Records as a recording artist in 1958. None of his singles for the label were successful. Deeply in debt because his royalties were tied up in litigation, he briefly returned to Florida and worked as a truck driver.
But success as a writer continued. He created the rockabilly classics “Bop-a-Lena” and “Rock the Bop” in 1958 for Ronnie Self and Brenda Lee, respectively. His late-1950s songwriting hits included “Why, Why, Why” and “”Ten Thousand Drums” for Carl Smith, “The Violet and a Rose” for Jimmy Dickens, “Mary Don’t You Weep” for Stonewall Jackson, “Little Dutch Girl” for George Morgan and “All the Time” for Kitty Wells.
Still wishing for singing success, he went on the road with the touring shows of comedians The Duke of Paducah and Minnie Pearl. The latter encouraged him to talk on stage and use his stuttering to comedic affect.
Tillis had dreamed of being a recording star since he was a youngster. He persevered in this direction by signing with Decca in 1962, then Kapp Records in 1966. Despite a few sporadic hits, sustained recording success continued to elude him throughout the 1960s. Although only a modest sized hit, his 1966 single “Stateside” provided the name for his band. One bright spot during this period was a 1967 album he made with the legendary Bob Wills.
Another step up was becoming a regular on TV’s The Porter Wagoner Show in 1967. As Wagoner’s opening act on the road, Tillis was forced by the star to form his own band. This evolved into The Statesiders, one of country music’s greatest concert groups. One graduate of that band is Music Row producer/songwriter Buddy Cannon. Other alumni include fiddler Rob Hajacos, steel guitarist Paul Franklin and bass player Ernie Rowell.
Back at home, Nashville songwriter Wayne Walker took Tillis under his wing and mentored him. As a result, Tillis’s songs improved in structure and sophistication.
Ray Price scored with his “One More Time” and “Heart Over Mind,” plus the Tillis/Walker song “Burning Memories.” In 1961, Tillis hit a songwriting home run with Brenda Lee’s pop smash “Emotions” and also had pop success with The Everly Brothers singing his “Stick With Me Baby.” Patsy Cline recorded the Tillis tunes “Strange” and “So Wrong,” which proved to be evergreens.
Then came the 1963 Bobby Bare pop-crossover mega-hit “Detroit City,” which Tillis co-wrote with Danny Dill. Faron Young (“Unmitigated Gall,” 1966)), Waylon Jennings (“Mental Revenge,” 1967) and Kenny Rogers & The First Edition (“Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” 1969) kept Mel Tillis’s songwriting at the forefront.
Superstar Charley Pride launched his recording career in 1966 with the Tillis tune “Snakes Crawl at Night.” In 1967, Jack Greene revived “All the Time,” and Tom Jones had an international hit with his remake of “Detroit City,” which foreshadowed the many other times Tillis songs would renew as hits.
Others who had success with Tillis songs during the 1950s and 1960s included Wanda Jackson, Johnnie & Jack, Margie Bowes, Billy Grammer, Johnny Darrell, Lefty Frizzell, Linda Ronstadt, The Stonemans, Burl Ives, Dean Martin, Jean Shepard and Ernest Tubb.
Mel Tillis became a semi-regular on the network TV series The Glen Campbell Good Time Hour. Around this same time, Tillis finally broke through into the country top-10 in 1969-71.
He had signed with MGM Records, where his hero, Hank Williams, had recorded. His own version of “Heart Over Mind” plus “Commercial Affection” both became self-penned hits. Ironically, the other hits he sang at the time were written by others – “These Lonely Hands of Mine,” “Heaven Everyday,” “The Arms of a Fool,” “Brand New Mister Me” and his duets with Sherry Bryce “Take My Hand” and “Living and Learning.”
This turned out to be a typical pattern during the next decade. Mel Tillis had 25 top-10 hits during the 1970s. He had his first No. 1 hit with a remake of “I Ain’t Never” in 1972. Apart from that, 1973’s “Sawmill,” 1974’s “Memory Maker” and his 1977 revival of “Burning Memories,” all of his biggest chart hits of that decade proved that he was as great an interpreter of others’ material as he was a writer.
His mellow baritone croon was equally effective on ballads, toe tappers and novelty songs. The Mel Tillis ‘70s hit streak included “Neon Rose” (1973), “Midnight, Me and the Blues” (1974), “Stomp Them Grapes” (1974) and “Woman in the Back of My Mind” (1975).
He signed a lucrative contract with MCA Records, and the hits continued — “Good Woman Blues” (1976), “Heart Healer” (1977), “I Got the Hoss” (1977), “What Did I Promise Her Last Night” (1978), “I Believe in You” (1978), “Ain’t No California” (1978), “Send Me Down to Tuscon” (1979) and “Coca Cola Cowboy” (1979).
Those last two were from the soundtrack of Clint Eastwood’s 1979 movie Every Which Way But Loose, in which Tillis had a small role. Burt Reynolds had given him a small part in 1977’s W.W. & The Dixie Dancekings, then featured him more prominently in 1980’s Smokey & The Bandit II and 1981’s The Cannonball Run, both big box-office hits. Tillis eventually worked in more than a dozen feature films and/or TV movies.
The novelty of a stuttering comic who was so surprisingly mellifluous as a vocalist soon made him a TV favorite, too, just as Minnie Pearl had predicted. He was booked on such mainstream television programs as The Tonight Show, The Dean Martin Show, The Love Boat, The Dukes of Hazzard, Tony Orlando & Dawn and Love, American Style, plus the talk shows of Merv Griffin, Dinah Shore, David Letterman and Mike Douglas.
He also became a favorite on the game shows Hollywood Squares and The Match Game. In 1978, he briefly had his own summer show on ABC-TV, Mel and Susan Together, co-hosting with Susan Anton. Now, he and The Statesiders were booked into the big hotel-casinos of Las Vegas and Atlantic City. In 1976, the CMA voted him its Entertainer of the Year. Also during the decade, he won Comedian of the Year awards from Music City News in 1971 and six consecutive times in 1973-78. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1976.
While continuing to write for Cedarwood, Tilis formed his own song publishing companies, Sawgrass (BMI), Sabal (ASCAP) and Guava (SESAC) to promote the songs of others. He acquired Cedarwood’s catalog in 1983, for a reported $3 million. He also bought radio stations in Amarillo, TX and Mobile, AL
With the assistance of writer Walter Wager, he published his autobiography, Stutterin’ Boy, in 1984. He and Roy Clark formed a movie production company and co-starred in their own 1986 feature, Uphill All the Way. This was not a success. Tillis sold his publishing companies to Universal in 1989. He also made a significant profit when he later sold his radio stations.
On disc, Mel Tillis moved to Elektra Records and had 1980s hits with “Blind in Love,” “Lying Time Again,” “Your Body Is an Outlaw,” “A Million Old Goodbyes,” “Southern Rains,” “One Night Fever,” “In the Middle of the Night,” “New Patches” and a remake of the Bob Wills favorite “Stay a Little Longer.” He sang duets with Nancy Sinatra and Glen Campbell.
As a songwriter, he enjoyed a renaissance with Ricky Skaggs’s 1984 hit “Honey Open That Door.” Skaggs also revived “I’m Tired” in 1987. Gail Davies and Holly Dunn brought back “No Love Have I” in 1978 and 1992, respectively. Juice Newton re-recorded “Emotions” in 1987.George Strait revived “Thoughts of a Fool” in 1992. “Detroit City” and “Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town” have been recorded by more than 30 artists, apiece.
During the 1980s, daughter Pam and son Mel Jr., known as Sonny Tillis, both became singer-songwriters on Music Row. Between 1984 and 1999, Pam Tillis scored more than 15 top-10 country hits as a recording artist. She inducted her father into the cast of the Grand Ole Opry in 2007, the same year he was made a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
In 1998, Mel Tillis formed The Old Dogs with fellow country veterans Waylon Jennings, Jerry Reed and Bobby Bare. They recorded critically acclaimed and CMA nominated music for Atlantic Records.
Tillis opened his own, $23 million, theater in the tourist mecca of Branson, MO in 1994. It was the largest venue in the town. He performed there on a daily basis until 2002. He was scheduled to return to Branson this year, but health issues intervened.
Mel Tillis songs have endured into modern times, thanks to such artists as Mandy Barnett (2001’s “Strange” and “So Wrong”), Jon Langford & The Pine Valley Cosmonauts (2002’s “Snakes Crawl at Night”), Justin Trevino (2001’s “All Right, I’ll Sign the Papers”), Jamey Johnson (2010’s “Mental Revenge”), Jason & The Scorchers (2002’s “Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town”), Guy Clark (2002’s “Honky Tonk Song”), Dolly Parton (2008’s “The Violet and a Rose”), Dale Watson (2007’s “I Ain’t Never”), Buddy & Julie Miller (2009’s “What You Gonna Do Leroy”) and Hank Williams Jr. (2016’s “Mental Revenge”).
The 2007 Robert Plant and Alison Krauss duet CD Raising Sand won the Album of the Year honor at the Grammy Awards. It included their revival of Tillis’s “Stick With Me Baby.” In 2012, President Obama presented Mel TIllis with the National Medal of Arts to honor him for his contributions to country music. Tillis joined the Florida Artist Hall of Fame in 2009 and won the ACM’s Pioneer Award in 2010.
In 2014, he recovered from heart surgery. He was schedule to entertain on the Country Music Cruise with Kenny Rogers and The Oak Ridge Boys in January 2016. But early that month, Mel Tillis had colon surgery. Initial reports had him in critical condition.
Mel Tillis is survived by his six children Pam, Connie, Carrie, Cindy, Mel Jr., and Hannah. His brothers are Allen Lee and Richard, and his sisters are Linda, Imogene and Mary Ellen.
The Tillis family asks for your prayers and will soon release more information regarding funeral services in Florida and Nashville.
Taylor Swift has made a comeback at country radio, as BMLG has serviced the piano ballad “New Year’s Day” to country radio stations. “New Year’s Day” is the closing track to Swift’s recently-released sixth studio album, reputation, which has already sold more than one million copies during its debut week. That feat makes Swift the only artist to have had a million-selling debut week four times (including her previous albums 1989, Red, and Speak Now).
Swift has already performed the piano ballad on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
As a songwriter, Swift’s impact has been on country radio all year, as the sole writer behind Little Big Town’s chart-topper (and recent CMA Single of the Year winner) “Better Man.”
BOBBY KARL WORKS THE ROOM
If you’re a booking agent who isn’t a member of the Nashville Association of Talent Directors (NATD), you don’t know what you’re missing.
The NATD’s speaker series, annual picnics, industry workshops, Christmas party and other fellowship events are always warm and convivial. And no other awards banquet can touch the NATD’s for intimacy, visual atmosphere, cuisine and camaraderie.
The seventh annual event was again staged at the opulent, 1910 beaux-arts Hermitage Hotel. The cocktail party on Tuesday (Nov. 14) was held in the venue’s exquisite lobby, topped with its breath-taking, stained-glass ceiling.
The awards banquet took place in the sumptuous ballroom amid vintage woven carpet, brocade-draped windows, polychromed and elaborately coffered ceiling, art deco chandeliers, rare chestnut paneled walls and Tennessee presidential portraits.
The company was as delightful as the surroundings. We greeted Shawn Camp, Charlene Tilton, T.G. Sheppard & Kelly Lang, Cerrito, Dave Brainard, Steve Buchanan, Pete Fisher, Rod Essig, Bob Romeo, comedian Dick Hardwick and super promising new singer-songwriters Jenny Tolman, Cherish Lee and Lauren Mascitti.
This year’s honorees were Charley Pride, Bobby Roberts, David Corlew, Jeannie Seely, Sean Henry and Barbara Hubbard. Many standing ovations punctuated the evening.
During the cocktail reception Chaz Corzine honored Sean Henry, the president and CEO of The Nashville Predators and Bridgestone Arena. “Back in 2010, there were people who didn’t think Nashville was a hockey town,” said Corzine. “Now the Predators are the No. 1 franchise in all of sports.
“No one has combined sports and entertainment like Sean Henry has.” Stars like Vince, Tim, Faith, Charlie Daniels and Carrie Underwood regularly fire up fans at the hockey games. Henry has brought SEC men and women’s basketball tournaments to Bridgestone, not to mention a parade of superstar concert attractions. Oh, and the Preds sold out every one of their Bridgestone home games in the 2016-17 season.
“We told the sports world how great Nashville is,” said Henry in accepting his honor. “This is one of the great sports stories. We’re gonna do it all again this year!”Inside the ballroom, NATD president Steve Tolman greeted the crowd saying, “Welcome to the NATD living room for the evening.” Membership chair Zach Farnum promised, “NATD is going to have its biggest and best year yet in 2018. This will be our 60th anniversary year.”
Co-hosts for the gala were Stephanie Langston and Shawn Parr. The former introduced Charlie Daniels as, “the man I might love more than Santa Claus.” He was there to honor Corlew.
“He came to work with me 44 years ago,” said Daniels. “I have leaned on David a lot in my life. He deserves this award.”
Corlew is the star’s personal manager. He runs song publishing companies, is the president of Blue Hat Records, runs a film production outfit and co-founded the Journey Home Project to benefit veterans.
“I love this event – It’s so much fun to come here and see all of my friends,” said the honoree. “The music business has always been the center of my heart, the center of my soul and the center of my life. This is a caring business. It’s a loving business.”
Hubbard, known as “Mother Hubbard” is a veteran concert promoter at New Mexico State University. Now 90, she was presented with her honor by Doc McGhee.
“I hope all of you realize how blessed we are,” she told the audience.
The Bobby Roberts Company has represented 11 members of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Longtime client and friend John Anderson sang “Seminole Wind” to salute him. Sons Travis James Roberts and Lance Roberts presented the NATD honor.
“It’s been a wonderful journey for us,” said Bobby. “I’ve represented some of the icons in this business, my personal heroes. Music was always central to my life. We built a family business as a family. This is one more blessing, so thank you very, very much.”
Bobby Bare surprised Pride when he took the stage. “Charley is country from the tip of his toes to the top of his head,” Bare said. “You can’t fool The People — he proved it with his singing.” Bare honored Pride by performing “I’m So Afraid of Losing You Again.”
“I’m proud to be here,” Pride said. “To the many promoters…thanks. I appreciate this.”
Lorrie Morgan surprised Seely via a torrid, torchy performance of the latter’s Grammy-winning signature song “Don’t Touch Me.” Sally Williams cited Seely as the first woman to host a segment on the Grand Ole Opry. She also recalled Seely’s challenge to conservative Opry management by wearing mini skirts instead of ginghams.
“You are a bad ass, and I’m happy to call you my partner in crime,” Williams added.
She then brought on Bill Anderson, another surprise. “Fooled ya, didn’t we?” he kidded the honoree. “Jeannie described herself best. Here’s what she said, ‘They say everybody marches to the beat of a different drummer — I’m looking for a drummer who will beat to the way I march.’”
“I’m so proud to be in this room,” Seely said. “I didn’t plan anything [to say]. I never do. I’ve been flying by the seat of my pantyhose for a long time. Thanks to Gene Ward. I always needed a good lawyer and couldn’t find one. So I married one.
“This is awesome. Thank you so much.”
Each honoree was introduced with a video bio. Making video cameo appearances were such stars as Garth, Reba, Dolly, Neal McCoy, Aaron Tippin and Sylvia.
Applauding and schmoozing were Steve Lassiter, Bebe Evans, Dan Rogers, Bonnie Sugarman, Preshias Harris, Bev Moser, Ray Shelide, Paula Szeigis, Carolyn Corlew, Randi Perkins, Moore & Moore, Dick Beacham, Michael Campbell and Dolly Chandler.
In addition to being sublimely gorgeous, The Hermitage is a real hotel. Ergo, our meals were superb. Salads of artisanal lettuces, radishes and carrots were dressed with citrus vinaigrette. The main course was tender filet mignon, jumbo asparagus and potato, cauliflower and white cheddar mash with truffle jus. Layered coconut cream and vanilla cake topped with whipped icing finished the repast.
Steve Tolman, Tony Conway and Blake McDaniel announced that the NATD was presenting $2,500 to Scott Hamilton’s ScottCares Foundation, $5,000 to Hubbard’s ACTS scholarships to entertainment-industry students and a washer-dryer to Dupont Tyler Middle School.
The event had just a touch of bonjour tristesse. Farnum is evidently doing such a good NATD recruiting job that the Hermitage ballroom is now stretched to its 150-person capacity. I fear it might soon outgrow this elegant, intimate venue.
Songwriter Steve Bogard was elected President of the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) during a special election of the NSAI Board of Directors on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. Bogard, who formerly served as NSAI President from 2006-2012 was elected unanimously.
Bogard filled the position vacated yesterday (Nov. 13) by the resignation of former President Lee Thomas Miller who announced he is seeking the 7th District Congressional seat previously held by Marsha Blackburn who is running for the U.S. Senate.
“It has been the honor of a lifetime to represent songwriters on music row and Capitol Hill. I think it’s important that someone step into this position who is familiar with the policy, politics and players since we are hopefully close to some legislative breakthroughs on behalf of songwriters,” Miller said as he announced his resignation to the NSAI Executive Committee, a 10-member subset of the NSAI Board. NSAI is a non-partisan organization which Miller acknowledged in his comments.
“I am flattered that the NSAI Board has the confidence in me to elect me again to this position,” Bogard said. “I knew Lee would be a good President when he was elected. He ended up being a great President,” Bogard told the NSAI Board. “We are on the cusp of some of the most important songwriter legislation in decades and I look forward to being involved in that process as NSAI President.”
Bogard is known for co-writing hit songs such as: “Carried Away” and “Carrying Your Love With Me,” recorded by George Strait, “Prayin’ for Daylight” recorded by Rascal Flatts, “Every Mile A Memory” recorded by Dierks Bentley, “Wherever You Are,” recorded by Jack Ingram and his latest No. 1 song, “Seein’ Red” recorded by Dustin Lynch.
Bogard’s term begins immediately. The next NSAI officers election will be in May of 2018.
The ABC-TV network telecast of the 51st Annual CMA Awards conveyed a theme of love, unity and respect while honoring some of the genre’s most recognizable names.
Garth Brooks repeated his 2016 win as Entertainer of the Year. This set a CMA record of six wins for him in this category. Miranda Lambert also made history, claiming her seventh Female Vocalist award.
Little Big Town won its sixth Vocal Group prize. Mac McAnally topped his own record with his ninth Musician of the Year win. Chris Stapleton claimed his third Male Vocalist honor as well as Album of the Year. Brothers Osborne were also double winners, garnering Duo and Video awards.
Winners’ remarks and show highlights stressed a theme of unity and healing in the face of national catastrophes, including October’s mass shooting of fans during a country-music festival in Las Vegas.
“Tonight should be about harmony and what we can do together to change things,” said Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town. “Kindness is an attractive quality. We can change things if we step out together.”
“More than any other year, I feel like there is a family in the room tonight,” said Lambert.
“Miranda said it best: We are family,” echoed Brooks. “The most important people…are the people who allow us to do what we do – the fans.”The show opened with Eric Church singing “Amazing Grace” and then Darius Rucker leading an all-star assemblage in performing his uplifting 1994 Hootie & The Blowfish hit “Hold My Hand.”
Co-hosts Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley set the tone for the show. “This has been a year marked by tragedy,” said Underwood. “So tonight we’re going to do what families do—come together, pray together, cry together and sing together. Our music lifts…”
Later in the show, she stood in the center of Bridgestone Arena and sang “Softly and Tenderly” as photos of country-music folks we lost during the past year appeared. The segment concluded with portraits of all 58 Las Vegas victims.
One of the late performers she saluted was a 2017 award winner. Glen Campbell and Willie Nelson’s performance of “Funny How Time Slips Away” on Campbell’s final Adios album claimed the Music Event award.
Little Big Town performed a flawlessly harmonized version of Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman” in tribute. Jimmy Webb, the song’s composer, accompanied the group on piano.
Dierks Bentley and Rascal Flatts saluted the late Troy Gentry by singing “My Town” on the show. Gentry’s duo partner Eddie Montgomery came onstage to sing the last verse and offered a shout-out to “T-Roy.” Angie Gentry, the star’s widow, wept in the crowd.
Brothers Osborne rocked their hit “It Ain’t My Fault” and then shifted gears into “Tulsa Time” to honor the late Don Williams.
Another highlight was Keith Urban’s introduction of his pulsing, heart-in-throat song “Female” as an anti-sexual harassment statement.
Kane Brown’s appearance with Brad Paisley during the cheery, downhome “Heaven South” was a statement of inclusion. Paisley’s t-shirt read, “Unity.”
Presenter Tyler Perry also offered a rebuke to the more extreme elements of Trump Nation. “It’s important that we come together and find some common ground, and realize that we are more alike than not alike,” he said.
Rucker’s show-opening appearance and the prominence of The McCrary Sisters and Joanna Cotton during the Eric Church performance of “Chattanooga Lucy” also underscored the theme of diversity and inclusion.
Another musical highlight was Lambert’s stone-country delivery of “To Learn Her,” which earned her a standing ovation. The same was true for Stapleton’s soulful performance of “Broken Halos” and for Alan Jackson’s plain-spoken delivery of “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow.”
Brooks earned a long ovation for a torrid, dramatic performance of his current hit “Ask Me How I Know.” He shared his microphone with Mitch Rossell, who co-wrote the song.
Tim McGraw and Faith Hill electrified the arena with the deeply romantic “The Rest of Our Life.” Reba McEntire offered an effective alto harmony on Kelsea Ballerini’s “Legends.”
Other performances included Pink’s acoustic ballad “Barbie,” Old Dominion’s hit “No Such Thing as a Broken Heart,” Maren Morris and Niall Horan’s mash up of “I Could Use a Love Song” with “Seeing Blind,” Thomas Rhett’s “Unforgettable” and New Artist of the Year winner Jon Pardi’s “Dirt on My Boots.”
Luke Bryan’s “Light It Up” led into a Chevy commercial by him. Lauren Alaina sang The Youngbloods’ 1967 hippie peace anthem “Get Together” with Dan + Shay, which led into a Walmart commercial utilizing the same song.
Many of ABC’s TV stars were included as presenters, alongside such country artists as Trisha Yearwood, Brett Young, Luke Combs, radio winner Bobby Bones, Kellie Pickler, Brett Eldredge and an apparently reunited Sugarland.
Urban’s “Blue Ain’t Your Color” won Single of the Year. Taylor Swift’s “Better Man,” a hit for Little Big Town, won Song of the Year.
The CMA Awards telecast had many moments of levity, as well as healing. Co-host Paisley provided most of these, offering parody tunes ranging from “Before He Tweets” to “Total Eclipse of the Garth.”
The show’s theme of unity-through-song led Paisley to go off script at one point. “The warmth in this room tonight is amazing,” he stated. He also offered the telecast’s benediction: “This show is dedicated to all those we have lost….we will never forget you.”
New Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Jackson closed the program with Paisley and Underwood doing a rousing rendition of “Don’t Rock the Jukebox.”