MusicRow Magazine: Garth Brooks Is Back! World Tour, New Music In The Works

• July 10, 2014 •
Garth Brooks addresses the press. Photo: Bev Moser/Moments by Moser
Garth Brooks addresses the press. Photo: Bev Moser/Moments by Moser
Garth Brooks announced his long awaited return to the road today (July 10), as well as a new studio album to be promoted and marketed via a partnership between his own Pearl Records and Sony Music Nashville’s RCA Records Nashville. Brooks and his team gathered at Marathon Music Works in Nashville to share the news at a media event and luncheon. The entertainer called this the “second half” of his career.
With 134 million albums sold, Brooks is the best selling solo artist of all time. He has long held out from making his music available to digital outlets, and today revealed plans to release his music digitally within the next two or three weeks. “When it is used right, [digital] can do wonders for the artists and the songwriters,” said Brooks, adding, “we play our own way.” Therefore, the music will be exclusively at GarthBrooks.com. Currently the site features a four-day countdown until his music is available. For a limited window it will be available at what he said is a “stupid” low price. He also alluded to a possible digital music deal with Ticketmaster.
Brooks hasn’t mounted a full-scale tour since 2001, though he has performed various one-off concerts and a long-term gig in Las Vegas. He didn’t reveal the location of the opening concert of the upcoming tour today. Instead, he will fulfill a promise to a fan named Andy, who he met at one of his concerts in Las Vegas, and call Andy on July 14 to reveal the opening city. Brooks said he is proud of the low ticket price for the upcoming run, but didn’t give details, which will be made public in the next ten days. Ben Farrell of Lon Varnell Enterprises is promoting the outing. “I hope we give you a show that makes you forget the ones in the ’90′s,” Brooks said. The entertainer also said that wife and singer Trisha Yearwood will be joining him on the tour.
Garth Brooks. Photo: Bev Moser, Moments By Moser
Garth Brooks. Photo: Bev Moser/Moments By Moser
The new album is being produced by Mark Miller, who engineered under Brooks’ longtime producer Allen Reynolds, who is now retired. Matt Allen is engineering the new project which features Brooks’ longtime studio musicians. “My job at this point is to create,” said Brooks, adding that he is writing and searching for songs, though much of his own material is being overshadowed by the quality of outside songs. No release date has been set, but he expects the first track to be available within the next two months. The singer also discussed how he feels a responsibility to spread the message about his music after he creates it.
His music won’t sound like what is currently spinning on Country radio. “My music is not bro-country, or hick-hop, it’s Garth Brooks,” he said. “I was the guy who ‘wasn’t the Country guy’ in the ’90′s, so it feels a bit weird to be the guy who is now the older Country guy. Garth music is ever evolving and stands the test of time.”
Whereas his recent albums via Pearl Records—mostly repacked versions of older hits—were sold exclusively at Walmart, the new music will be available at all retailers.
Brooks released the box set Blame It All On My Roots in 2013, but has not put out an album of original material since 2001′s Scarecrow. However, he continued releasing singles to radio, including the hits “Good Ride Cowboy” and “More Than A Memory.”
Sony Music president and CEO Doug Morris.
Sony Music Entertainment chairman and CEO Doug Morris. Photo: Bev Moser/Moments by Moser
Doug Morris, CEO Sony Music Entertainment, sought out Brooks to make the deal. “When you have the opportunity to sign one of the best selling artists of all time to your roster, you jump at it,” he said today.
News of the upcoming tour follows this week’s cancellation of the superstar’s five-night comeback run in Dublin, Ireland due to city permit issues. Brooks addressed the situation saying, “[Today is] a day of joy, but it is also under a cloud.” Earlier this week he stated in a letter that his crew and equipment are still en route to Dublin in hopes of a last minute revival of the shows. However, Ticketmaster has already outlined the ticket refund process. Two of the first three questions asked by media at today’s event were from members of the Irish press, but there was no news of an agreement.
News personality Harry Chapman hosted the press conference and Sony Music Nashville Chairman and CEO Gary Overton also appeared.

MusicRow Magazine: 2014 Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Inductees Announced


• July 8, 2014 • 
Pictured, (back row, L-R): Nashville Songwriiters Hall of Fame Board Chair and Hall of Fame member Pat Alger; inductees John Anderson and Gretchen Peters and Hall of Fame executive director Mark Ford. Front row, (L-R): Inductees Paul Craft and Tom Douglas.
Pictured, (back row, L-R): Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Board Chair and Hall of Fame member Pat Alger; inductees John Anderson and Gretchen Peters and Hall of Fame executive director Mark Ford. Front row, (L-R): Inductees Paul Craft and Tom Douglas. (photo credit: Bev Moser / Moments By Moser)


John Anderson, Tom Douglas, Gretchen Peters and Paul Craft are the 2014 inductees into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. The inductees were announced Tuesday morning (July 8) by Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame board president Pat Alger at Nashville’s Music City Center.
“This is our first anniversary of the Songwriters Hall of Fame gallery and square at the Music City Center,” said Alger. “I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than to introduce our 2014 inductees. There are few songwriters who write songs that linger long after they are on the chart, and these writers fit that description.”
“I am going to cry in October,” said Peters, who is known for songs including “Independence Day” (Martina McBride), “Secret of Life” (Faith Hill), and “Chill of an Early Fall” (George Strait). “I couldn’t be happier to be in this company,” she added.
Douglas, known for the hits “The House That Built Me” (Miranda Lambert), “I Run To You” (Lady Antebellum) “Little Rock” (Collin Raye) and “Love’s The Only House” (Martina McBride), among others, said, “It is a joy to be with you in this amazing space. We are standing on the shoulders of all those giants who have come before us.”
Anderson penned many of his own signature hits, including “Wish I Could’ve Been There,” “Seminole Wind,” and “Swingin.’” “How flattered and humbled I am to be here,” said Anderson.
“This is very exciting to me,” said fellow inductee Craft. “I look forward to our induction.” Craft’s songs include “Keep Me From Blowing Away” (The Seldom Scene/Linda Ronstadt), “Brother Jukebox” (Mark Chesnutt), “It’s Me Again, Margaret” (Ray Stevens), “Dropkick Me, Jesus” (Bobby Bare), and many others.
The inductions will be made during a banquet at the Music City Center on Oct. 5.

MUSICROW Magazine: Bobby Karl Works The 26th Annual MusicRow Awards

• June 19, 2014 •

BMI's Clay Bradley highlights MusicRow's Artist Roster issue, featuring BMI writers Rhett Akins and Thomas Rhett.
BMI’s Clay Bradley highlights MusicRow‘s MusicRow Awards issue, featuring BMI writers Rhett Akins and Thomas Rhett on the cover. Photo: Bev Moser, Moments By Moser.

It is high time for a big-time MusicRow shout-out to BMI.
The performance rights organization hosted the 26th annual MusicRow awards ceremony on Wednesday evening (June 18) with so much style that I must comment. You know where that big reception desk is at the far end of the lobby? Well, that zone now converts into a large staging area with a video-wall backdrop. That wall had a huge, glowing blow-up of the awards logo. “Look at this set-up,” exclaimed the mag’s Sherod Robertson. “I feel like a star up here.”
Sony/ATV's Terry Wakefield accepts for Cole Swindell for Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year.
Sony/ATV’s Terry Wakefield accepts for Cole Swindell for Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year. Photo: Bev Moser, Moments By Moser

That’s not all. The sound in the echo-y lobby has been famously bad, which BMI overcame with a much-improved audio system. BMI put on the dog in the food department, too. Meat balls. Chunky guacamole with tortilla chips. Stuffed peppers. Chicken tenders. And BMI writers are featured on the cover of the current print, awards-edition of the publication. The father-son BMI songwriter duo of Rhett Akins and Thomas Rhett are smiling there. “We’re proud to have this event here,” said BMI’s Clay Bradley to the throng of attendees. “To me, this is always the kick-off to summer.”
“These awards started in 1989,” said Robertson. “Some of my staff members weren’t born in 1989. I guess I’m okay with that.” The magazine’s Eric Parker and Sarah Skates presented the Top-10 All-Star Musician awards. These are the only honors by any organization that salute the session musicians who make Nashville’s hits. This year, the group included Russ Pahl (steel), Aubrey Haynie (fiddle), Ilya Toshinsky (guitar), Greg Morrow (drums), Charles Judge (keyboards), Jimmie Lee Sloas (bass), Wes Hightower (background vocalist) and Justin Niebank (engineer). Pahl is a first-time winner in his category. Producer of the Year winner Frank Liddell is on vacation, but sent in this statement: “I’m in the Virgin Islands, celebrating the hell out of this.”
MusicRow celebrates Song of the Year "All Kinds of Kinds."
MusicRow celebrates Song of the Year “All Kinds of Kinds.” Pictured (L-R): MusicRow‘s Sarah Skates, Warner/Chappell’s Ben Vaughn, songwriters Don Henry and Phillip Coleman, Carnival Music’s Courtney Gregg, and MusicRow Owner/Publisher Sherod Robertson. Photo: Bev Moser, Moments By Moser

“All Kinds of Kinds” was written way back in 1998, but Miranda Lambert finally made it a hit and the MusicRow Song of the Year. “I told my mom I had a Miranda Lambert cut,” said co-writer Phillip Coleman. “She said, ‘Which song is it?’ I told her it was ‘All Kinds of Kinds,’ and she said, ‘That’s my least favorite song you’ve ever written.’” “Any time you can get a song on the country charts with a cross dresser in it, I’m all for it!” quipped co-writer Don Henry. Coleman and Henry performed the song splendidly at the event.
Pictured (L-R): MusicRow's Sarah Skates, MusicRow Breakthrough Artist of the Year Brandy Clark and MusicRow Owner/Publisher Sherod Robertson. Photo: Bev Moser/Moments By Moser
Pictured (L-R): MusicRow‘s Sarah Skates, MusicRow Breakthrough Artist of the Year Brandy Clark and MusicRow Owner/Publisher Sherod Robertson. Photo: Bev Moser/Moments By Moser

The Breakthrough Artist award went to Brandy Clark over four other nominees, all but her on major labels. “I was a little shocked when I heard that I had been nominated,” she confessed. “The critics, who most people hate, I love. This project has been driven by the press,” she explained offstage, “and by other artists.” Eric Church has chosen her as his current opening act. “Everybody loves you,” I told her. “At least, everybody with taste.” Her album is 12 Stories. “Since it came out, it’s been the most talked-about thing in the music business,” said Robertson. “It’s the best album EVER,” said Woody Bomar. There was a tie for Breakthrough Songwriter. Sony/ATV’s Terry Wakefield accepted for Cole Swindell. The co-winner was Nicolle Galyon.
Nicolle Galyon is honored as one of MusicRow's Breakthrough Songwriters of the Year, and is honored with a MusicRow Challenge Coin for her MusicRow CountryBreakout chart-topping hit "Automatic."
Nicolle Galyon is honored as one of MusicRow‘s Breakthrough Songwriters of the Year, and is honored with a MusicRow Challenge Coin for her MusicRow CountryBreakout chart-topping hit “Automatic.” Photo: Bev Moser, Moments By Moser.

“I write for the best publishing company in town,” said Galyon. “It took a lot of people believing in me and fighting for me. B.J. Hill signed me [to Warner-Chappell] when I was 23 years old. I’m almost 30 now.” She also thanked Rodney Clawson for his support. “Everybody here knows he’s a great songwriter,” she said. “I can attest to what a great husband and father he is.” Finally, she thanked her father. The day was his birthday, which he spent pouring contract in 100-degree weather back home in Kansas. “If that doesn’t make us all want to work harder, I don’t know what does,” Galyon concluded. The classically trained pianist sang her co-written Lambert hit “Automatic” in a strong, emotive voice.
Nicolle Galyon performs her MusicRow CountryBreakout chart-topping hit "Automatic." Photo: Bev Moser, Moments By Moser
Nicolle Galyon performs her MusicRow CountryBreakout chart-topping hit “Automatic.” Photo: Bev Moser, Moments By Moser

The denizens of Music Row turned out in full force for the ceremony. David Ross, David Preston, David Wykoff, Dave Pomeroy and Dale Bobo were there. Plus John Ozier, John Briggs, John Beiter and John Mullins (“I can’t believe a wholly SESAC song won Song of the Year”). Not to mention Joe Moscheo, Josh Osborne, James Elliott, Janie West, Jim Femino, Jody Williams and Jessie Jo Dillon.
Pictured (L-R): Don Henry and Phillip Coleman perform "All Kinds of Kinds."
Pictured (L-R): Phillip Coleman and Don Henry perform “All Kinds of Kinds.” Photo: Bev Moser, Moments By Moser

Mike Vaden, Mike Martinovich, Martha Moore, Scott Stem and Luke Laird mingled with Ben Vaughn, Barry Dean, Beth Gwinn and Bill Wence, who has just returned from performing with Wanda Jackson on the Queen Mary in L.A. at an “Iron & Ink” tattoo convention. I don’t make this stuff up. Wence says that Junior Brown and Merle Haggard were there singing, too. Back at the party: Susan Collier, Shannan Hatch, Steve Nathan, Sherrill Blackman and new artist Sydney Lett worked the room with Allen Brown, Al Schiltz, Lance Miller and Leslie Mitchell. Other fabulons attending included Trent Summar, Pat Higdon, Ree Guyer Buchanan, Rich Fagan, Earle Simmons, Holly Bell and Phil Graham. Speaking of Graham, thank-you, again, BMI.

The Tennessean: Mt. Juliet photographer gets ‘Nancy’ exposure


A Mt. Juliet photographer got a little free advertising when her business name was included in a popular syndicated comic strip with an estimated 57 million readers nationwide.
Bev Moser, of Moments by Moser Photography on South Rutland Road, got the mention in Tuesday’s edition of “Nancy,” which appears in about 400 newspapers nationwide and is also in about 80 countries. The comic strip has a popular mobile app and is available online as well.

“To have that exposure is unreal,” said Moser, who has been based in Mt. Juliet since 2003. “I know not everyone looks at the back of a comic, (but) Facebook just lit up.”

Sumner County’s Guy Gilchrist has produced “Nancy” for about 19 years.
Gilchrist and Moser know each other from different events downtown that they’ve been involved in through the years. Gilchrist is also a singer-songwriter who performs often in Nashville.

“I’ve mentioned friends who are artists or musicians before,” Gilchrist said. “There are bound to be a lot of parts of my life that slip into the comic. Things about town, music, sports teams — they wind up in ‘Nancy.’ ”

Reach Andy Humbles at 615-726-5939 and on Twitter @AndyHumbles.

MUSIC ROW MAGAZINE: Bobby Karl Works CMA Fest Saturday and Sunday

• June 9, 2014 •
Keith Urban and Karen Fairchild at LP Field Saturday night. Photo: CMA
Keith Urban and Karen Fairchild at LP Field Saturday night. Photo: CMA
SATURDAY
Sara Evans plays LP Field. Photo: CMA
Sara Evans plays LP Field. Photo: CMA

I don’t care what the calendar says. I know when summer arrives, and it ALWAYS occurs during the CMA Music Festival. This year, it was on Saturday (June 7), when the downtown temp hit 90, and a walk around the campus started to feel like a death march.
I arrived later in the afternoon than usual. At Walk of Fame Park, Heath Humes & The High Dollars were romping through “Jambalaya.” The Chevy Roadhouse Stage in Fan Alley went silent at 3 p.m., but over at the Texas On Tour stage, Holly Tucker was in full voice, delivering her solid single “More Than Just a Word” and following it with a splendid version of the Hunter Hayes hit “Somebody’s Heartbreak.” She sounds like a comer.
At Riverfront, Jason Michael Carroll was bringing his set to a spirited finale. Ella Mae Bowen and Caroline Cole were on tap in the Martin Guitar tent. They were between acts at the Bud Light Stage, but that venue had its weakest lineup of the fest on Saturday, in any case. Meanwhile, back at Walk of Fame Park, newcomer Cam was sounding winsome, hale and hearty.
The Music City Psychic was doing steady business on Lower Broadway. Both guys and gals were trying their luck swinging a hammer down and trying to ring the bell on that vintage strength-test thingy. One new attraction is the Swamp People Gator Tag, which features a mechanical gator ride. Those wacky, protesting, Jesus people are back with their condemning signs and their bullhorn.
The History Channel is promoting its Cross Country Cookout show by giving away yummy sausages on a stick. They weren’t free, but homemade lollipops were for sale to benefit “Suckers for Survivors.” This group supports a female cancer survivors convention.
Up in the Music City Center, afternoon autographing artists included Wynonna, Taylor Lynch, Frankie Ballard, Chip Esten of the Nashville TV drama, Kix Brooks, Rachele Lynae, Brett Eldredge, Austin Webb and living legend Brenda Lee. There has to be some kind of “Best Costume” award for that guy with long orange hair who bills himself as 8 Ball Aitken. His fully-floral, multi-colored suit topped with a cowboy hat was a brave fashion statement. Everyone loved posing for photos with the Chicken of the Sea mermaid in her sparkly, shiny tail.
Missing in action was Lynn Anderson. She had planned to autograph on Saturday, but called in sick. This breaks her attendance record as the only country star who has been in her booth for the fans at every single Fan Fair/CMA Music Festival since it began in 1972.
At the AT&T U-Verse Showcase Stage, the female trio The Shuggah Pies was harmonizing sweetly. Blue Mother Tupelo wailed on the Durango Stage.
Darius Rucker at LP Field. Photo: CMA
Darius Rucker at LP Field. Photo: CMA

That morning at Greer Stadium, the annual Celebrity Softball Game was staged for charity (City of Hope). It was batter-up for Scotty McCreery, Jana Kramer, Chuck Wicks, Lauren Alaina, Florida Georgia Line, Jamie Lynn Spears, Chase Rice, Sarah Darling, Dee Jay Silver and Danielle Bradbery, among others. Team Opry, “coached” by Pete Fisher prevailed over Team iHeart Radio, led by Bobby Bones, 13-11. Approximately $200,000 was raised.
The morning sunshine was long forgotten by dusk. A thunderstorm arrived at 6:45 p.m. Confident that it would blow over, we headed for LP Field anyhow. The thunder left, but the rain didn’t. Fans huddled in the bowels of the stadium until dribbling into their seats around 7:55. It continued to rain steadily.
Nashville Mayor Karl Dean asked for applause for both the artists and their soaking, dedicated fans. The relentless rain continued. Home Free, the country a cappella group who won on last year’s The Sing Off, sang the national anthem with a super-imaginative arrangement.
Sara Evans finally kicked the music off at 9:25 p.m. with “Born to Fly.” Little Big Town hit the stage with their white-hot soul vocals burning brightly. It was still raining. Fans sang along with Darius Rucker’s “Come Back Song.” Florida Georgia Line did their thing, by which time the rain had ceased. Closing the show late, late at night was Keith Urban, I assume. (We were home, in our pajamas and headed for bed by then). Chris Young had surgery on that hand he sliced Thursday night and had to cancel.
Industry fabulons spotted Saturday included Victoria Shaw, Larry McCormick, Cindy Watts, Dennis Banka, Michael Knox, Mark Zaleski and handsome young record maker Justin Adams.

Lady Antebellum. Photo: Moments By Moser
Lady Antebellum. Photo: Moments By Moser

SUNDAY
The last day of the festival always brings me a twinge of sadness. It’s like the circus has come to town and is now folding up its tents. But there were two big pluses about the events on Sunday (June 8). First, the day had the best weather of the fest. Second, I heard some of the best music on that day.
It started at Riverfront, where Lonestar turned in an outstanding set, climaxing with “Amazed” at 2 p.m. Grits & Glamor (Lorrie Morgan & Pam Tillis) were up next. They were introduced as, “two of the finest singers in the world” and then proved it. They alternated between Pam hits (“Shake the Sugar Tree,” “Maybe it Was Memphis,” etc.) and Lorrie hits (“Go Away,” “Something in Red,” etc.) and added duets to the mix, such as the stirring “I Am a Woman.” They also did a killer, rocking duet version of Joni Mitchell’s “Clouds.” It was a stunning presentation by a pair of true pros.
“This is the best weather we’ve ever had,” marveled Pam backstage. “It’s borderline cool.” The temperature never even hit 80 that afternoon.
Also backstage were Manuel and his posse. “I need your help with my book,” he said. “I left my English grammar in Tijuana.”
It seems there was good music wherever I turned that day. Jamie Lynn Spears was on the Bud Light Stage. With “Shotgun Wedding” and other tunes, she proved that she is more than Britney’s kid sister and that she means business as a Country singer.
At the Hard Rock, Gunnar & The Grizzly Boys rocked smartly. Julie Roberts belted her tunes at the Samsung Galaxy Stage. The Buckle Stage had smooth-singing Josh London, promising songwriter David Ray and “heart” vocalist Daisy Mallory, among others. The HGTV venue The Lodge in Fan Alley featured such topnotch acts as Love & Theft, Jon Pardi, Striking Matches and Gloriana. Other outstanding talents booked for Sunday included David Nail, Natalie Stovall & The Drive, James House, Sweethearts of the Rodeo, Mandy Barnett, Laura Bell Bundy, Sundy Best and those a cappella wonders, Home Free.
Brad Paisley backstage. Photo: Moments By Moser
Brad Paisley backstage. Photo: Moments By Moser

The revelation of the day was The Brothers Osborne at the stage on the plaza of the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum. For these guys, stardom is just around the corner.
Among the outdoor amusements, I noted the unusual combo of the furry blue Cookie Monster posing with fans alongside the Papa John’s Pizza Slice (someone in an orange triangle covered with felt pepperoni and other faux toppings). Fans displayed their good taste by forming a long lunchtime line outside Jack’s Bar-B-Que.
Merry fans were posing with the Geiko gecko while an airplane circled overhead towing a “Get Down Texas” banner. The number of scenic river boaters had increased to more than 15.
As the afternoon wound down, we headed for Fan Fair X. Nu Blu was wafting bluegrass beautifully from the AT&T U-Verse Showcase Stage in the convention hall. We need more harmonizing bluegrass bands at this fest!
It was “boujour tristesse” as the Durango Stage went dark. By 3:30 p.m., the finale autographers in the hall included Mark Wills, American Young, Dan + Shay, Mitch Goudy, Tim Sweeney, Brandi Nicole, Sherry Lynn and Spears, as well as the tireless Kix Brooks and Ashton Shepherd.
The balmy weather continued at LP Field that evening. Hunter Hayes, The Zac Brown Band and Brad Paisley brought the 2014 CMA Music Festival to a close, with opening sets by The Charlie Daniels Band, Thomas Rhett and Lady Antebellum.
Back at home, I reflected on the industry friends I’d encountered that day, including Justin Levenson, Tony Conway, Jeff Walker, Jon Walker, David Ross, Rick Murray and Stuart Dill. I recalled how sweet and gracious Nashville TV stars Sam Palladio (“Gunnar”) and Chaley Rose (“Zoe”) were when they were stopped by enthusiastic fans the moment they arrived at the gate leading to the corporate suites.
ASCAP’s Michael Martin and LeAnn Phelan were in the CMA Hospitality Suite. It tickled me to introduce LeAnn to Jo Walker-Meador, the Country Music Hall of Fame member who was the founding director of the CMA. I prompted Jo to recall the first Fan Fair, staged in 1972 at Municipal Auditorium and attended by 5,000. “We had to bring down soldiers from Fort Campbell to fill up the seats,” she reminisced. “We were afraid the artists wouldn’t sing if we didn’t have somebody for them to sing to!” LeAnn asked her about the throng outside the suite’s windows at LP Field. “It’s always amazing,” Jo replied.
It certainly is. CMA Music Festival (the 2004 re-branding of Fan Fair) now has more than 60-national corporate sponsors, more than 500-performers and attendees from all 50-states and 24-foreign nations. Its 100,000+ attendees have a $30+ million direct impact on the Nashville economy.
The fab grand finale fireworks display was at midnight.
Hunter Hayes at LP Field Sunday. Photo: Moments By Moser
Hunter Hayes at LP Field Sunday. Photo: Moments By Moser

MUSIC ROW MAGAZINE: Bobby Karl Works CMA Fest Friday

• June 9, 2014 •
The Band Perry backstage at LP Field. Photo: Moments by Moser
The Band Perry backstage at LP Field. Photo: Moments by Moser
Chapter 459
I am always impressed with how easy-going, fun-loving, non-complaining, mellow, polite and indefatigable the CMA Music Festival goers are.
No matter how much walking is involved. No matter the heat or the humidity. No matter the costs. These people have a wonderful time. They never seem to be cranky.
I used to think this was because of the bond between hit country singers and their audience. Over the years, I have come to realize that what the fans really like is being with each other.
Some attendees reserve the same hotel rooms every year. Some have annual reunions with people they only know as friends they made at previous fests. Some have fallen in love at the fest or been married at the fest. Some are groups of gals looking for guys. Some are groups of guys looking for gals.
Yes, the CMA Music Festival is about the unique relationship between country stars and their fans. But in a larger sense, it is all about a community of love.
I am also always impressed with how cross-generational the festival is. In country music, we don’t care if you’re 9 years old or 90. If you love us and our music, we love you.
Nonetheless, I was concerned that the Jean Shepard signing session for her new autobiography would be a bust on Friday (6/6). Au contraire. The 80-year-old Opry matriarch arrived at the Country Music Hall of Fame at 1 p.m. and sold 75 books within her first 15 minutes there. Upstairs in the Rotunda, there was a line of 50 multi-generational folks at a time waiting for her to sign copies. I bet they completely sold out of the book, Down Through the Years.
The fans love whoever is willing to chat with them. Doing that in mid-afternoon at Fan Fair X in the Music City Center were autographers The Swon Brothers, Brantley Gilbert, Josh Thompson, Jill & Julia, Lulu Roman of TV’s Hee Haw, Brandon Chase, cast members of TV’s Nashville Wives, Rachel Potter, David Ball and Ashton Shepherd. “I can’t stop smiling,” said Ashton in between posing with fans. “Plastic surgery can fix that,” I replied.
One of the liveliest autographing gigs was staged by Animal Planet’s Call of the Wildman show. Stars Ernie “Turtleman” Brown Jr. and Neal James delighted fans with both banjo picking and signing.
David Ross interviews Big and Rich. Photo: Moments By Moser
David Ross interviews Big and Rich. Photo: Moments By Moser
Speaking of TV, downstairs from the exhibit hall there’s a room in the Music City Center (#201) where they screened Billy Ray Cyrus’s Like a Country Song movie, the upcoming LeAnn Rimes reality TV show, the Big Smo series, Mark Collie’s The Mountain film and the like.
The Durango Stage at Fan Fair X is one of my favorites. When I dropped by on Friday, Kelly Lang was followed by her hubby, T.G. Sheppard. He waded into the capacity crowd singing “Do You Want to Go to Heaven,” then invited Kelly back to the stage to sing “Golden Ring” and other duets from their new CD.
Over at the AT&T U-Verse Showcase stage, I caught a swell set by Muddy Magnolias, a black-white female duo with a sweet, bluesy, acoustic sound.
Outside, at the Samsung Galaxy stage in Walk of Fame Park, Stephanie Quayle introduced her new single, the throbbing “No Parachute.” She was delighted by two eccentrics in attendance. There were twin diminutive men sporting long hair and moustaches doing synchronized dance moves in front of the stage wearing orange day-glo t-shirts reading “Bang This.” The photo-snapping fans loved it: Jeff Walker looked kind of aghast.
CMA Music Festival  Moments By Moser 556
Craig Morgan with fans. Photo: Moments By Moser
Over at the Bud Light Stage in front of the Bridgestone, Big Smo came out rockin’, rappin’ and bellowing. “Are y’all ready to show ‘em how we kick it in Tennessee?” he greeted the crowd. Boy, was he loud.
At the Fan Alley Chevrolet Roadhouse Stage, vivacious Rachel Holder concluded her set with a song, “for anybody with big dreams,” her anthemic “Unstoppable.”
Mighty voiced Collin Raye was holding forth at the Riverfront Stage. He paused amid his hits for a wailing treatment of Elton John’s “Rocket Man.”
Half a dozen boaters floated behind the stage on the Cumberland River. A large group gathered for an even better view from a patio on the roof of one of the 2nd Avenue Victorian warehouses.
Collin warbled the lovely ballad “Love, Me,” and the fans sang along sweetly. But he couldn’t resist leaving them with a rouser, Bob Seger’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Never Forgets.” Collin was arguably the day’s best Riverfront set since roaring Craig Morgan opened the stage that morning.
Back at Walk of Fame Park, David Bradley serenaded couples lounging and/or napping on the many hammocks. The ever-popular Blue Bell ice cream giveaway was underway.
Next door on 5th Avenue, the Budweiser Clydesdales were a popular attraction, whether in harness or in their paddock. The balloon-animal man was busy on Lower Broad. That silver-painted, human-statue cowboy guy was there on his pedestal. Every now and then he’d suddenly move and get a shriek out of a passing female.
I found a couple of new music venues just off the beaten track. On 3rd Avenue South, there’s a Texas On Tour stage with music. On the plaza in front of the new Nissan So-Bro Entrance to Bridgestone, the Jack Daniels Tavern 96 hosts folks singing for tips. Being surrounded by high concrete walls, their sound reverberates and carries. A male duo was singing  “Springsteen.” Meanwhile the real Eric Church was heading to his fan club party across town at Marathon Village.
Miranda Lambert backstage. Photo: Moments By Moser
Miranda Lambert backstage. Photo: Moments By Moser
Two men were “down on the field” on Friday. Chris Young cut his hand preparing dinner Thursday night, and had to cancel his autographing. Gary Allan was felled by a respiratory infection.
The WMG roster seemed to be everywhere. Cowboy Troy (Riverfront), Charlie Worsham (Avenue, Fan Alley), Dan + Shay (Omni Hotel, Riverfront), Jana Kramer (Fan Alley), Brett Eldredge (Avenue, Omni Hotel), The Railers (Samsung), Ashley Monroe (Omni Hotel) and Michael Ray (BMI Tailgate Party) were busy folks.
Working the festival campus were Rod Essig, Byron Gallimore, Bryan Frasher, Ralph Murphy, Kerry Hansen, Jensen Sussman, Steve O’Brien and Nicole Zeller.
Across the river at LP Field that evening, Travis Tritt took the stage at 7:45 p.m. to sing a theme for the fest, “Put Some Drive in Your Country.” Considering the gentle evening breeze, his “A Great Day to Be Alive” was also apt.
“It’s refreshing to me to see so many great fans of country music all in the same place at the same time,” Tritt commented backstage. “As artists, we feed off of that.”
This evening had arguably the best talent line-up of the fest, since the show also featured Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton. Not to mention Eric Church, who blazed through a set and brought on rocker Lzzy Hale of Halestorm. But his show seemed way too short.
The Band Perry blasted off with “Done.” and drew yells with “Better Dig Two” when all three of them pounded drums. Jason Aldean brought back Tritt. Miranda brought out Carrie Underwood, to everyone’s delight. Blake’s set included “Austin” and “Boys Round Here,” and he left the mob wanting more.
Grooving on the tunes were such fabulons as Hank Adam Locklin, Suzanne Gordon, Ed Benson, David Ross, Bob Doerschuk, Brett Wolcott & Lydia Lenker, Larry Vallon and Randy Himes. Serene Sarah Trahern was presiding over her first festival as the CMA’s chief. She said she’s impressed with how smoothly things run and how few problems there are. The CMA staff lodges at the Hilton Hotel downtown during the fest, by the way.
Blake Shelton plays LP. Photo: CMA
Blake Shelton plays LP. Photo: CMA
Jason Aldean. Photo: CMA
Jason Aldean. Photo: CMA