I wonder how long country music awards shows think they’re going to be able to claim Taylor Swift as a country artist. I think that train has sailed. Swift was among this year’s nominees for Album of the Year at the Country Music Awards for her shit-kickin’, twang fest Red, and garnered four other nominations, including Entertainer of the Year. Miranda Lambert, another Entertainer of the Year nominee, ties Swift with a total of five nominations.
The big leaders, though, are Eric Church, with seven nominations around his album Chief, and Hunter Hayes, with six, including Song of the Year and Single of the Year (because maybe the Song of the Year will be a deep cut, right?) for his song “Wanted.”
The 48th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards will be broadcast live on CBS on April 7th and will be hosted this year by Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton.
Brantley Gilbert is the opposite of a divo (that’s a male diva, in case you didn’t know).
That’s why it’s gratifying to see him grab so much success this early in his career. Last year, the now 27 year-old singer/songwriter was a bit bummed that many music journalists didn’t seem to want to talk with him. This year, he hardly has time to talk to anyone.
With a nomination for the 2012 Country Music Association (CMA) New Artist of the Year Award, Gilbert is launching the “Hell on Wheels Tour.” It’s the first headlining tour for Gilbert, whose sophomore album Halfway to Heavy debuted at #2 on the Billboard Country charts and who has written a host of #1 singles including “Country Must Be Country Wide,” “You Don’t Know Her Like I Do,” along with Jason Aldean‘s songs “My Kinda Party” and “Dirt Road Anthem.” He’s also won plenty of fans during his recent tours, including supporting spots on Eric Church‘s “Blood, Sweat & Beers Tour” and Toby Keith‘s “Live in Overdrive Tour.”
Although he’s got some heavy competition for the CMA Award — Love and Theft, Lee Brice, Hunter Hayes, and Thompson Square are the other nominees — Gilbert seems to be taking all the excitement in stride. Although he was battling bronchitis on one of his recent days home, he took time out to chat a bit about his reaction to the nomination, his songwriting, and just what he’s learned on all the tours he has played.
In the past two weeks, Little Big Town earned it’s first No. 1 hit for the single “Pontoon,” received a Single of the Year nomination from the County Music Association, and watched as its just-released album Tornado ttook the No. 1 spot on the Billboard country chart and No. 2 on the Top 200 chart with 112,758 albums sold in its first week.
It’s almost too easy to say the vocal quartet—known individually as Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Phillip Sweet and Jimi Westbrook—is a prime example of the old adage “good things come to those who wait.” But consider that it has been 13 years since the band formed and it just hit No. 1. And even “Pontoon,” which was released in April, didn’t really soar until the song was performed in June at the CMT Awards.
Blackberry Smoke‘s recent release of The Whippoorwill has fans and critics calling the Georgia-based band the next generation of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Little Feat, Kid Rock, and other legendary southern rockers with a foot planted in the country. Since signing with Southern Ground Artists, the label founded by Zac Brown, the band have been on the road with Eric Church, the Zac Brown Band, and many other high-profile performers. It seems only a matter of time before Blackberry Smoke become headlining powerhouses themselves.
Charlie Starr, leader and main songwriter of the band, took time out from his schedule to talk about writing The Whippoorwill, how the songs were selected, and just what he hopes fans hear in the band’s latest release:
OS: You must feel great about having The Whippoorwill released.
CS: Yes, it was such a long time between making this album and the last album (Little Piece of Dixie from 2010). I had a lot of songs written that we had been playing live already. We were were excited to record those even though they weren’t new to us and our fans anymore. We definitely had those down!
Kip Moore’s debut title Up All Night, is well named, because the newly minted country star hasn’t had much downtime since the album came out this spring. Not only did his single “Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck,” become a Platinum seller and summertime anthem but his next single “Beer Money,” is headed in the same direction. Always a road warrior, Moore has just signed onto Eric Church’s Blood, Sweat & Beers Tour and is making plenty of high-profile appearances, too. Recently Moore shared some of his precious downtime telling us about the past few month including the one thing he can’t get even though he tries and tries (hint: it’s got four wheels).
OS: So what is the story with the truck? Did you get it?
KM: I finally got a new truck! It’s great. I was driving around in it yesterday before I left and it’s great.
OS: So this is the kind of truck you sang about in “Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck?”
KM: No, this is a new one. That was an ’86 that I wanted. I still haven’t found one of those.
OS: “Beer Money” has been doing well on the radio. Congratulations! You wrote that one, didn’t you?
KM: I wrote all the songs on the record and, you know, just growing up in my hometown I just remember feeling that way all that way through college. The whole week was all about savoring what was coming, making just enough money for fun on the weekend. Small town life can be very suppressing for a young person. When you are older and settled down, that life make sense. When you are young, everybody lives for the weekend. It was all about Ramen noodles and we had a case of the cheapest most water downed beer. But it was all great. Continue reading ‘Exclusive Q and A: Kip Moore Talks Trucks, Touring and Eric Church’
Worley’s first album in two years, One Time Around, is slated for June release, the same month he’ll host the three-day BamaJam music extravaganza, and that’s just for starters.
The man behind more than twenty charted hit singles including “A Good Day to Run,” “I Miss My Friend,” “Have you Forgotten” and more took some time from his busy schedule to talk to OurStage about his latest single, his new album and more.
OS: We’ve missed you! Where have you been?
DW: I took a little time off. I have still been touring but I put the whole routine of grinding out one album after another on hold for a while. I have a little four-year-old daughter and I needed to eliminate something from my busy schedule to be a better dad. We toured pretty heavily last year and had a good year, but we’ve been off the radio for almost two years now. I got back in the mood to work on music. I made my own record on my own dime. I had no problem putting a deal together…with complete funding from outside sources.
We have a real determined team of people together that are excited to make this thing work and we’re having a blast working it. Watching it start to grow is a hoot. It’s your baby and people out there are very receptive.
When “Crazy Girl” by the Eli Young Band won the ACM Song of the Year at the April 1 awards telecast from Las Vegas, my faith in country music was renewed.
Don’t get me wrong—I have nothing against mainstream performers including Blake Shelton, Toby Keith, Taylor Swift and Miranda Lambert or their music. They were all celebrated, and rightfully so, at the ACM. They’re great musicians and terrific entertainers. I was one of the first music journalists that had the pleasure of interviewing some of the now big-names in country, and found the majority of them to be down to earth and passionate about their music.
But I’m also one of those fans that thinks it’s something of a tragedy that so many widely loved and incredibly talented performers—think Willie Nelson, the Avett Brothers, Ricky Skaggs, and countless others—are, let’s say shunned, at these shows. We could go into all the reasons, but why? The bottom line is that they aren’t on the industry shows. I love KISS and LL Cool J and U2′s Bono, but really? They’re featured at the ACM awards?
It was really just over a decade ago that Eric Church arrived in Nashville, another hungry wanna be country star.
Now as he prepares for his first headlining tour—Blood, Sweat & Beers—he’s taking with him a GRAMY-nominated new album, Chief, an ever growing stack of much-loved singles including “Home Boy,” and “Drink in My Hand,” and a rock-solid fan base that he credits for his success. Add to that he and his wife Katherine welcoming their first child last October and you have the makings for a huge boost into the new year.
As if that isn’t enough, his upcoming tour has broken concert ticket sales records and sold out so many venues that new dates were already added.
Just before the outlaw cowboy saddled up for his next adventures on the road, he talked to OurStage about his music, his fans and just what has been keeping him up at night!
OS: You’ve made records for years, your major label debut Sinners Like Me was released in 2006, and now the buzz almost indicates that you’ve suddenly been “discovered.” That seems a bit disconcerting!
EC: I think so, too. My career is almost defined as pre Chief and post Chief. For me, I love to see what Chief is doing, going into the NPR Top 50 and Spin magazine Top 50 [albums' list] and hitting [charts] where country artists don’t usually show up. It’s great to see how wide the record is reaching.
OS: I remember talking to you just after you’d written many of the songs for Chief, in a very secluded cabin, basically walled off from everything else. Is that a process you’ll repeat when you write the next album?
EC: I don’t want [the writing process] to be a gimmick thing. That was an experience in the cabin where I was writing this one very organically. I don’t know about the next one. We’re very young in this record cycle and we’ve already exceeded expectations, certainly my expectations, of where we’d be when we got toward the end of this cycle. I have to plug in, recharge and figure out what is next. That’s how I made [Chief], by shutting everything down and thinking about what I hadn’t tapped into yet.
People talk about the vulnerability of [the songs on] Chief but we had been beating up the road so much for so long, we had finished up the tour [behind the 2009 album Carolina] on a Saturday night and I was at the cabin the following day. The emotion was so raw, so much of that was still decompressing from the tour we had done.”
OS: I’ve read about your reaction to receiving a recent GRAMMY Award nomination for Best Country Album. The question is always what does that mean to you as an artist?
EC: The GRAMMY’s are the Holy Grail, and I’m very, very flattered. But I am going to make the same record whether I win or lose the GRAMMY. But to be GRAMMY nominated this early in [the record cycle], to have them acknowledge it very quickly in the most coveted category, is very cool.
OS: So you’ve got “Homeboy” and “Drink in my Hand” both out as singles and both incredibly well received. When can we expect another?
EC: It’s [probably] going to come out in early February. Now, we’re looking for “Drink in My Hand” to go to No. 1.
OS: The song “Springsteen” has gotten a lot of great buzz including from Rolling Stone.
EC: I am more excited every night I sing that song. I feel like I am seventeen again [when I sing it]. I have to believe that when I feel that way, others will too.
I remember talking [with my song co-writers] about shows at amphitheatres that changed us. I went to a [non Springsteen] concert when I was sixteen, seveteen, and when I hear that [artist's] song I can still see [my date] standing there. I think about her and I think about me at that time. [The other writers] all had similar experiences. I have such admiration for Bruce Springsteen and his career, it seemed he was the perfect [musician] to use for that song.
OS: So on a personal note, you and your wife Katherine welcomed Boone McCoy into the family in October. What’s the most surprising thing about having a new baby in the house?
EC: How little sleep a person can go on! I thought I was somewhat conditioned. I thought if anyone could segue into non-sleep, I should be the most conditioned person out there! It’s great but it’s also about trying to get the schedules right— he had his days and nights mixed up for a while. It’s been great though because I’ve been able to be off in anticipation of the [upcoming headlining] tour, so I’ve been able to be here changing diapers.
OS: I know you have followed Brantley Gilbert’s career [that includes songwriting many hits including Jason Aldean's "My Kinda Party"] and really wanted him to open for you on this tour, which he will. Do you think you might write together when you’re on the road?
EC: I am open to it. I’d love to do it. I got to write with [Toby Keith] and [Miranda Lambert] when I was on tour with them. And [Jason Aldean]. For me, it’s always a cool thing to do when you put yourself in a situation where you’re all sitting around with guitars.
OS: What strikes you the most as you look ahead to the Blood, Sweat & Beers tour?
EC: It’s going to be big. I am amazed. A year ago we were playing clubs and we were all crammed on one bus. I can’t believe how far we’ve come so fast. When they hit the gas on this headliner [tour], they started talking about five buses and four trucks and it’s all astounding. It’s not supposed to be this way until you’ve got eight or ten No. 1 songs. We’ve always done things a little differently and that was not an easy thing to do.
OS: And now you’re breaking ticket sales records and adding more dates onto the tour. What has made the difference for you and your career?
EC: It’s all been because of the fans and their passion.
Earlier today, somebody asked me if I was surprised and I probably would have been if the fans weren’t steering my career. It’s really all about them.
Find out more about Eric Church, including his tour that kicks off January 19 in Fort Smith, Ark., on his Web site.
Don’t miss Eric Church’s video for “Drink in My Hand”