INTERVIEW: Rob Blackledge "Inside These Walls"

Rob Blackledge recently released “Inside These Walls”, a CD project he is proud of and very comfortable with. Blackledge wrote or co-wrote every song on his debut album as many artists do, but he is not your typical young artist who is hungry and eager to see his music rush to the top of the charts, but rather a solid young man who has been around the music long enough to know that good music comes from the heart and soul and music that sticks around is music that is a part of who a person is. I visited with Rob about his current CD project, as well as some exciting projects he is involved with and even got him to open up a bit about some of his fears.

Bev: Tell me about your new CD, titled “Inside These Walls”

Rob: Well, it’s about 4.5 inches by about 5.5…[laughs] Nah, I’m getting used to it, it’s been done now since March. It was produced by Jeff Coplan, who also produced a band called Love and Theft. I co-wrote their current single, so that is cool too. I met Jeff through those guys. I always joked about making a record with him because he’s really good , but I knew I could never afford him. When I signed a deal with One Revolution, I was able to get in the studio with Jeff. It took us about 3 months. It’s a pop/rock record with charismatic vocals and charming melodies. It’s all over the board, I’ve always been an artist that hasn’t been able to pick a channel. If something moves me or inspires me I’ll write that song and if it’s an R&B song then great, if it’s a country song, great! So I tell people if you don’t like the first three you’ll probably like the second three, just give it a shot all the way through. There’s something for everyone.
Bev: I know you wrote or co-wrote all of the songs, were they all specifically written for this project?

Rob: I think the oldest song is about four-years-old. A lot of new songs were co-written. I did enjoy that collaboration. Jeff stepped in on a couple and gave his two-cents. The song I had the least amount to do with is “Sweet, Sweet Lady” which Jeff and Kyle Riabko, wrote about two years ago. Jeff played it for me and it was right up my alley, kind of a bluesy thing. I didn’t like the name, it was “Kiss, Kiss Lady” originally and it was about this guy who was very reclusive and stayed at home at night and lived by the rules. Then he meets this girl, party-animal, live life to the fullest kind of girl, and I said that’s not really how I am. My life is more of the opposite so we switched that around and I got to put my two cents in on that one. All the rest are at least half mine.

Bev: Have you picked a favorite on the CD yet?

Rob: It depends on the day really. It goes back to having a record that’s a little bit of everything. I think the favorite that I could listen to every day is “Your City My City”. To play live, “Sweet, Sweet Lady” is just the funnest song to play to a crowd. It has a blues groove and I can really show off my voice. It would have to be between “Your City My City”, “Early Morning Riser” and “Granola Girl”. They all have a cool feel to them, all depending on what kind of day it is which is my favorite.

Bev: Fan wise, what do you get requested to play most often?

Rob: Oh man, everybody loves “Worth Taking”. They always have. We did the popularity thing on iTunes and “Worth Taking” was all the way up there, and I have an older song that was on my last record called “Broadway”. I think fans are still getting used to this record. Again, a lot of response for “Sweet, Sweet Lady”, “Our World”, a song called “Everything”. I imagine as time goes on that will pick up popularity as well.

Bev: What are you doing to get the word out besides internet and utilizing the basic promotional tools?

Rob: Calling my friends. (he jokes) I’m a horrible self promoter, so I tend to let things infiltrate. Let things do as they will. I live life that way too. I let things unfold, it’s always a slow build. I think music that grows like that, will last much longer than when it is resemblance of shooting up a firework stating “here, here’s what I have”. I would say I don’t really push it too hard. I’ll get on twitter, or Facebook, or Myspace and let people know what’s going on. Outside of internet and radio here and there, most of it is shows and word of mouth and just working it.

Bev: Are you working and playing within the Nashville music circuit or are you traveling?
Rob: I have been playing in Nashville quite a bit lately, more than I ever have actually. I used to treat Nashville like any other market and maybe play it two times a year. I’m playing here three times this month. I think that’s important because Nashville is a different place. People come to hang out, not necessarily to hear the music, it’s more so if you can become the cool kid in town, people will come to your shows. It’s a fun place to be, but I also really appreciate getting out of Nashville. There’s just so much music appreciation when you go to a little college in central Indiana that nobody ever goes to, they really love it and they love you. Those are the fans that I probably enjoy playing to more. They’re going to like you, they’re going to remember you when you come next time because I think they really appreciate you driving out to where their world is. I grew up in Mississippi, so I always got bummed out when bigger acts didn’t come through Mississippi, I never got to see anybody play music and when somebody came everybody loved them because somebody actually took their time to come through you know. I don’t mind being that guy.

Bev: What’s your favorite part about creating this project? Are you more of a writer or do you prefer performing, the studio time or promotion?
Rob: I’m definitely a performer! More than anything else, that’s my love. I do enjoy writing, but I’m not as persistent at writing like most great writers are, which is probably why I’m not great. My love is the stage; that is where I feel most comfortable. I don’t feel comfortable in a crowded room, I don’t really go to parties. I don’t like going to clubs, but I will sit at a packed bar on stage with a guitar or piano and feel very comfortable and at home.

Bev: When you are out on the road performing are you touring with anybody?

Rob: Mostly I’ve been solo. I finally found a great band. It is not hard to find good players in Nashville. It is hard to find good players in Nashville that are not busy. I don’t have anything in the works right now as far as getting on the road with anybody on a regular basis. I am getting married in a month, so that kind of gets in the way of the “Big Fall Tour”. That’s ok with me though, I’ve said it a few times this record is going to speak for itself. I have no problems putting this off until fall and settling in to marriage, but in the Spring, I will be gone all the time.
Bev: Are you trying to push it to radio at the present time or are you waiting with that?

Rob: We are pushing it to radio. Again, radio hasn’t been our focus point. I’ve done minimal radio touring in the Northeast and the Midwest and I had a good response. I have gotten a few ads here and there, but it hasn’t been a huge focus. It has been more direct marketing approach that we are taking. I like that, again, because I think it will make the music last. If somebody picks up on it and hears about it and falls in love with it and finds it, like the first time I listened to Pete Yorn, I picked it up off of an end listening section at a mall. It was back in ’98 or ’99 and I thought “Wow, this guy is great!” and I’ve always remembered and bought Pete Yorn. That’s kind of what I hope people do with this, is that they create a connection with this that doesn’t have anything to do with MTV or top 40.

Bev: What’s the biggest reaction or comment you hear after you’ve played?
Rob: Most people are impressed by my voice, I have never really thought about that. That’s usually what I get. Maybe I’m just that amazing of a singer [laughs]. It is a nice compliment, but it is the one thing I have the least to do with. It is very cool it comes out that way.
Bev: What’s the most bizarre thing you have ever been asked?

Rob: There are plenty of aggressive women in the world, so of course there are plenty of those stories. Actually, I haven’t been asked many things. I usually don’t stick around long enough to let people ask me anything too crazy. I had a some-what inebriated girl somewhere on the east coast make a pretty aggressive move right in front of the merchandise table one night. It’s always an interesting aspect of the business.

Bev: Do you enjoy that part of it, meeting up with the fans?

Rob: I’m introverted. I have to express my utmost gratitude, but it’s the hardest part for me.

Bev: I understand your song “Everything” was chosen to appear on the season finale of "Ruby" on the Style Network!

Rob: Yeah, that is pretty cool. I am excited about that!

Bev: Anything else you have up your sleeve you can share?

Rob: There’s also a promotion we are doing with “Her Magazine” that is giving away a wedding to a Nashville couple. My song “Everything”, it’s going to be the featured download and then I will be singing at the wedding. The October issue will have it in there, so tell your friends to pick up a copy and register to win!

Bev: Rob, I love your music and have enjoyed our visit. I wish you all the best and look forward to visiting with you again soon.

Rob: Thanks so much, and I appreciate your time and your interest in what I am doing.

For more information on Rob Blackledge visit or

PRESS RELEASE: NSAI World's Largest #1 Party

“IT ALL BEGINS WITH A SONG” At Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) Party

Even the rain stopped yesterday afternoon (9/21) to celebrate the songwriters honored at the NSAI World’s Largest #1 Party, presented by Avenue Bank and CMA. NSAI Executive Director Bart Herbison and NSAI President, Grammy-nominated songwriter Steve Bogard began the ceremony with three special organizational awards – the Stephen Foster Award (in recognition of generous support for – and dedication to – songwriters, the music industry and NSAI) to Phil Goldberg, the Maggie Cavendar Award of Service (in recognition of extraordinary service to the songwriting community) to Roger Sovine and the NSAI’s President’s Choice Award (in recognition of outstanding contributions to the protection and betterment of the songwriting profession) to Neil Portnow. Throughout the event CMA Senior Manager of Membership & Industry Relations Hank Adam Locklin and Avenue Bank Senior Vice President Ron Cox presented awards to several veteran hitmakers and talented newcomers. Bobby Pinson and Ashley Gorley quickly became familiar with the stage, taking home 4 and 3 awards respectively. Also in the crowd at the Music Mill was “The Godfather of Funk,” George Clinton.

Full List of Winners:

· Tim Nichols, Craig Wiseman, K.K. Wiseman (“A Baby Changes Everything” – Faith Hill)

· Kristian Bush, Jennifer Nettles, Bobby Pinson (“All I Want To Do” – Sugarland)

· Kristian Bush, Jennifer Nettles, Bobby Pinson (“Already Gone” – Sugarland)

· Gary Hannan, Phil O’Donnell, Trent Willmon (“Back When I Knew It All” – Montgomery Gentry)

· Zac Brown, Wyatt Durrette (“Chicken Fried” – Zac Brown Band)

· Alan Jackson (“Country Boy” – Alan Jackson)

· Tim Johnson, Dave Pahanish, Joe West (“Do You Believe Me Now” – Jimmy Wayne)

· Clay Mills, Darius Rucker (“Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It” – Darius Rucker)

· Mac McAnally (“Down The Road” – Kenny Chesney with Mac McAnally)

· Jim Collins, Marty Dodson (“Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven” – Kenny Chesney)

· Brett Bevears, Dierks Bentley, Brad Warren, Brett Warren (“Feel That Fire” – Dierks Bentley)

· Toby Keith, Vicky McGehee (“God Love Her” – Toby Keith)

· Alan Jackson (“Good Time” – Alan Jackson)

· Steve Robson, Jeffrey Steele (“Here” – Rascal Flatts)

· Clint Lagerbert, Chris Sligh (“Here Comes Goodbye” – Rascal Flatts)

· Michael Buble, Alan Chang, Amy Foster Gilles (“Home” – Blake Shelton)

· Kristian Bush, Jennifer Nettles, Bobby Pinson (“It Happens” – Sugarland)

· Chris DuBois, Ashley Gorley, Darius Rucker (“It Won’t Be Like This For Long” – Darius Rucker)

· Brett James, Angelo Petraglia (“It’s America” – Rodney Atkins)

· Hillary Lindsey, Steve McEwan, Gordie Sampson (“Just A Dream” – Carrie Underwood)

· Taylor Swift (“Love Story” – Taylor Swift)

· Kenny Chesney, Brett James (“Out Last Night” – Kenny Chesney)

· Billy Burnette, Shawn Camp, Dennis Morgan (“River Of Love” – George Strait)

· Clint Daniels, Tommy Karlas (“Roll With Me” – Montgomery Gentry)

· Caleb Followill, Jared Followill, Matthew Followill, Nathan Followill (“Sex On Fire” – Kings of Leon)

· Toby Keith, Bobby Pinson (“She Never Cried In Front Of Me” – Toby Keith)

· Jennifer Adan, Cory Batten (“She Wouldn’t Be Gone” – Blake Shelton)

· Danny Myrick, Bridgette Tatum (“She’s Country” – Jason Aldean)

· Taylor Swift (“Should’ve Said No” – Taylor Swift)

· Dallas Davidson, Ashley Gorley, Kelley Lovelace (“Start A Band” – Brad Paisley with Keith Urban)

· Monty Powell, Keith Urban (“Sweet Thing” – Keith Urban)

· Regie Hamm (“Time Of My Life” – David Cook)

· Chris DuBois, Ashley Gorley, Brad Paisley (“Then” – Brad Paisley)

· Caleb Followill, Jared Followill, Matthew Followill, Nathan Followill (“Use Somebody” – Kings of Leon)

· Wynn Varble, Don Sampson (“Waitin’ On A Woman” – Brad Paisley)

· Tony Martin, Mark Nesler, Tom Shapiro (“You Look Good In My Shirt” – Keith Urban) Pictured (L-R): Steve Bogard, Neil Portnow, Ron Cox, Hank Adam Locklin, CMA VP of Strategic Marketing & Communications Dan Bowen, Roger Sovine, Phil Goldberg and Bart Herbison
Pictured (L-R): Steve Bogard, Ron Cox, Bobby Pinson, Dan Bowen and Hank Adam Locklin

Pictured (L-R): SirNose, George Clinton, Bart Herbison, Ron Cox, Bobby Tomberlin, Hank Adam Locklin, Dan Bowen and Ron Ford, Jr.

Pictured (L-R): Ashley Gorley and Chris DuBois

Photo Credits: Bev Moser / Moments By Moser – 9.21.09

INTERVIEW: Mike Schikora “What’s Old Is New Again.”

Colorado Cowboy Mike Schikora lives with the motto "If you can live without the necessities you can afford the luxuries!" Finding himself stifled after a seven year publishing deal as a staff songwriter, he made a very tough decision to take some time away from Music Row and go back to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Since that time he has became a partner in his own independent record label [Front Range Records], continues to write new songs for his own Publishing Company [Tuck And Go Music] and currently is promoting a CD project with his latest single called “What’s Old Is New Again.” I took advantage of some time with Schikora to ask him about the life lessons he learned and how it has impacted his music career and also his personal life.

Bev: I am excited to know more about the project you have out; this is the second single off this album?

Mike: Yes, this is the second single, the title track off the record and we decided to give the online world a direct opportunity and it has done pretty well. I have been having a lot of fun seeing how it has done in other countries and have had some responses as far as interesting bookings.

Bev: Are you only releasing the singles online or can you purchase a physical CD?

Mike: The new project this year will be an entire CD but with these single tracks, it is digital only. We will get all that organized in the next few weeks and try to have it ready by October.

Bev: Which online websites are you using to promote it?

Mike: We basically did a direct marketing type of test and found a lot of data base organizations and a lot of country and western type event centers. I have also compiled lists with emails and connections with fans that like the music. And then there is radio, of course. We sent them MP3s of the single separately and the full electronic press kit because we feel for us, this is a better way of doing things. We have also pursued the international market of radio stations that are doing online streaming.

Bev: When you sat down to do this project, did you have a full concept of what you wanted it to be or did everything just kind of come together as you wrote the songs?

Mike: I had the full concept in my head for quite some time. It has been like this trilogy project, I have had a lot of the songs written and ready and whatever I have written since, if it qualifies as a good song to make the new cut, then I throw it in. That way I am not stressing about trying to write a full record out of the shoot with a deadline. I have been working on it for quite some time.

Bev: Are you doing the county fairs and similar events to promote it?

Mike: Yes, I have some stuff coming up, I finally get to go back to my home town to do a big event there so I am pretty excited about that.

Bev: Where is home town at?

Mike: I am from Libby Montana, up in the Northwest corner.

Bev: I know you were here in Nashville and then you went back to the country, just stepped away from it. Can you explain how that whole process took place?

Mike: I graduated college and did an internship at RCA in Nashville in the summer of 1987. The business was quite different then it is today. I climbed the ropes and got involved with writing a bit and was a staff writer in town. Sometimes what gets you the job is being creative and unique. After some time, I wasn’t feeling the creative energy enough to satisfy my own needs. I took the advice of a friend and industry professional that maybe some time off would be good, so I followed my heart and found moving to Colorado was a better experience for me, because I moved back to a place I was comfortable again. I simply took the attitude to stop trying to write and, instead, write whenever something came to me and that way I am not pressuring myself. I go with the creativity and the moment when I feel it.

Bev: You also produce; I am curious if you have a preference of performing, producing or writing. Do you really like one over the other?

Mike: The speed, I like to call it, my speed, I like to do all three and be a part of the whole project. I really love being in the studio. That is pretty cool, especially when it is your own song. I really love it when the song turns out better than you thought it would. That is a big bonus. I enjoy the entire process from start to finish. From the concept of writing it down, recording it the way you want, and then taking it to the stage live and seeing how people enjoy it.

Bev: The live performance is the ultimate reward?

Mike: It is the test to see if people like it. Not every song makes the cut like you think. These are your personal babies. When you get songs out there in front of an objective crowd, you can bet which ones they like more than the others, but sometimes you have that one that you really want them to like and sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t.

Bev: Do you tend to write towards the people or in a similar fashion of people that influenced you or do you think you have a style 100% your own?

Mike: I think I have some songs that I have written that, once they enter my head as a concept, I hear the melody, I start to relate it to the sound of a particular artist in the past or today and that can help influence how I end up writing it versus songs that completely come out of nowhere. I could never think that’s for someone or that is for so and so.

Bev: Who would you say were your biggest influences before you started doing this on your own?

Mike: I grew up with my Dad’s 8-track tapes and hearing a lot of the Boots Randolph and Chet Atkins music, some of the classic country sounds like Patsy Cline and George Jones, but then you have to throw in Abba who was pretty big at that time. I would have to say, I like the traditional movement that happened in the 1990s, Randy Travis, The Judds and Alabama. They were a big influence on me because I was just coming into my own as a young adult, I was in college and I was finding this music to be my passion and that is how I ended up in Nashville.

Bev: Have you been able to perform with anyone that you looked up to?

Mike: Yes, Guy Clark was one, I opened for him actually.

Bev: When you did that, were you nervous? Were you comfortable? What were some of the feelings you went through knowing this was one of your musical idols?

Mike: I was more excited and thought “I hope he likes my stuff”. I received good feedback and from a songwriter’s perspective, that is a songwriter’s songwriter right there.

Bev: Is there someone that you still hope to get on stage with and be able to share some time with?

Mike: I would love to play with John Prine and Kris Kristofferson. I might be dating myself a little but I think of them as the classics and having an acknowledgment from them would be awesome.

Bev: In the all the time you have been on stage, have you had any embarrassing moments or any good stories you want to share?

Mike: There are a lot I could probably include, but one is that I forgot my Capo and had no idea and had to stop and laugh it off and everyone was laughing with me, it was a very comical event. I dealt with it and made it funny. I must have told a joke and it was a very good evening.

Bev: Are you into Twitter and Facebook, MySpace, all the social networks?

Mike: I have to be. I accidentally got a Twitter account by someone sending a message saying I had a friend. I got an email saying I had a message on Twitter so my curiosity got to me and I created my account but I never got the message. MySpace and Facebook are just about all I can handle.

Bev: Do you think the social networking is a positive or negative thing?

Mike: I think it is instrumental in this day and in our present cultures. I feel it is a vital marketing opportunity and I have had more hits from marketing that way than I the old fashioned way. The interaction with fans is immediate and I even sense it. I have gotten to be friends with songwriters that I would think no way would they ever entertain the idea of talking to me, but with the interaction and the opportunity, it is definitely a game that has to be played today.

Bev: Do you think too much personal information is shared sometimes on there or it gives fans an open door to know too much or to be too close?

Mike: I think it depends on how the artist manages it. I don’t try to get too personal, I don’t share a lot. I try to keep it as a business. It is not necessarily my dating page, I have a different purpose than that. You can eliminate potential opportunities and fans by being too informative about your lifestyle.

Bev: Where do you hope to be in the next five years with the music?

Mike: I want to have the second album out and by five years, I want to establish a very good songwriting based career out of this. Being that guy up there in front of the fans and maybe they don’t know me, but they know the song. It is very competitive and to make it to the higher level where the Taylor Swifts are at right now, has become a little more of a steeper climb and the walls are a little more tighter unless you have some amazing opportunity and backing behind you to really get that a full chance. Those of us left have to rely on our talents and the songs, getting them out there as much as possible and surviving where we can and finding an audience.

Bev: When you meet with the fans, what is one of the things you hear most often?

Mike: They like to hear my words and they like hearing the story behind the song.

Bev: Are you the kind of artist that when you perform live you tell the story behind the song before you sing it?

Mike: It depends on the venue. If it is a more intimate setting, it reminds me of writer’s nights at the Bluebird or Douglas Corner where I can have a little bit of creativeness to talk a little bit in between each song. I enjoy that and I think it makes people enjoy the song on a different level and get to know the inspiration behind it as opposed to a quick 35 minute set where you just go through them to get as much stage time as you can.

Bev: As far as the second song you have out right now, what has been the reaction?

Mike: It is a favorite among the couples. Especially couples that have been through a marriage, ended in divorce and now they are with somebody new. I get a lot of reaction to the song that is about “us” and the fact that it is kind of modern in a way. It fits right in with a lot of what you hear on the radio, it just needs that chance.

Bev: I have really enjoyed speaking with you and getting to know you. I wish you much success and look forward to speaking with you again.

Mike: I love the questions and I thank you.
For more information please visit and

PRESS RELEASE: Digital Rodeo Recognized by Operation Troop Aid For Support of Troops

Digital Rodeo Recognized by Operation Troop Aid For Support of Troops

(Nashville, TN - Sept. 21, 2009) Online social network Digital Rodeo was recently presented an American flag by Operation Troop Aid Executive Director Mark Woods for the company's continued support of the nonprofit military organization, OTA. OTA provides support to troops at home and overseas through the collection, repackaging and distribution of care packages.
"Operation Troop Aid is in the business of supporting our troops without question," Woods said. "Digital Rodeo and Cadillac Ranch have always been strong supporters of OTA, and we wanted to present them with a special flag that was flown in battle and defended by those that protect our freedom. A very special thanks to Robert Reynolds and John Pyne at Digital Rodeo for their continued support."For more information, visit or

About is the premier country news, music and lifestyle site for country music fans everywhere. Community membership is free and offers fans and artists alike the opportunity to connect with each other, upload and download audio and video, watch exclusive content and stay updated on what's happening in the world of country music. For more information, visit

Operation Troop Aid:Operation Troop Aid is a 501 C (3) nonprofit organization founded by Mark Woods and based out of Hendersonville, Tenn. Mark Woods is Executive Director of Operation Troop Aid and is a 21-year veteran of the United States Navy. Operation Troop Aid is seeking one-time and ongoing grant support from private foundations, corporations and government agencies to provide much needed support services for U.S. troops stationed at home and abroad.
Pictured below (l to r): Robert Reynolds (Digital Rodeo Director of Industry Relations), OTA Executive Director Mark Woods and John Pyne (Digital Rodeo Director of Marketing and Promotions).

Photo Credit: Bev Moser / Moments By Moser

REVIEW: Luke Bryan CD Listening Party and Concert Backstage At The Tin Roof

Luke Bryan mingled with his friends and music industry colleagues on Friday September 18th at party in his honor held at BMI in Nashville for an exclusive invitation only listening party honoring his new CD “Doin’ My Thing”. The event was later followed by a sold out standing room only outdoor concert backstage at The Tin Roof on Demonbreun Street.

Those in attendance were welcomed by Jody Williams, BMI Vice President of Writer/Publisher Relations, who spoke admiringly of Luke and his songwriting credibility. He also gave credit to Luke for his warm and cordial personality towards his fans, but also towards his peers and colleagues in the music business.

Luke was recognized with an award for One Million Plays for his song “All My Friends Say” which was given to him by Williams. Mike Dungan, Capitol Records Nashville President/CEO and CMA Board President gave insight into some of the stories behind the songs which brought much laughter amongst those in attendance. His admiration for Luke Bryan was obvious, as was his excitement of the upcoming CD set for release on October 6th.

Luke took the microphone to introduce the new CD and thanked everyone for coming. The first single was a collaboration written by Luke Bryan, Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley, with backup vocals by Hillary Scott. “Having the excitement and support of Lady Antebellum behind me was so encouraging and made this so fun” said Bryan. He was gracious with his recognition of all the people who were behind him, from producers, co-writers, publishers and his label along including all the great people along the way throughout his career. He said “It all boils down to having fun and having a project that moves people and makes them want to buy the album.”

Immediately following the listening party, the outdoor concert began across the street, with opening acts Larry Bagby, Martin & Ramey, King Billy and David Nail followed by the star of the show and top billing Luke Bryan, who had the crowd singing along with all of his songs until well after midnight to a high energy, crowd pleasing show.

For additional photos of the concert visit

PRESS CONFERENCE: Rock The Power 70's Style

(Photo: Rock the Power Press Conference, September 15th, 2009 at ASCAP. Featured L-R Joanne Kokot-Hoppen, Director of Development for You Have the Power, Lisa Hurley, Sales & Marketing Manager for B.B.King's, First Lady Andrea Conte, Founder/President of You Have the Power, Catherine Hite, General Counsel for Shoney's, Lance Hoppen, Co-Founder of the band Orleans and Producer of Rock the Power 70's Style with Orleans & Friends.)

Rock The Power 70’s Style is the name attributed to the upcoming concert in support of You Have The Power (YHTP) as it celebrates the 16th Anniversary helping crime victims and promoting children’s advocacy. At a recent press conference held in Nashville, Joanne Hoppen Director of Development for YHTP announced the upcoming concert and fundraiser, and also introduced YHTP founder, first lady, Andrea Conti.

YHTP is a not-for-profit victim awareness and prevention program with a mission to educate and counsel those who are victims of violence. When asked what the purpose of YHTP was, first lady Conti reply was straightforward. “We have crimes that really can be preventable, such as domestic violence, child sexual abuse, elder abuse, and similar offenses.“

Conti knows first hand about violent crime, as she was abducted in a busy shopping center parking lot. She was fortunate and was able to escape, however a few months later, the same man who kidnapped her, killed a young woman in broad daylight at a popular Nashville park. YHTP started the first year with an average of one program a year. Now, sixteen years later, it offers two-to-three programs a week to include victim impact classes in prisons and talking with inmates about the affects of their crimes on people. Many of them are realizing, for the first time, that there is an impact and sometimes a lasting affect. Hope is to prevent someone who has been released from prison from committing another crime and to just think about their victims.

In an effort to raise funds for the organization, Lance Hoppen from the seventies rock band Orleans, has organized the Rock The Power 70’s Style. This is the second year Hoppen has worked with the organization to raise awareness and funds for YHTP. Orleans, best known for the songs “Still The One” and “Dance With Me” which have continued over the years to be popular songs and recognized by several generations. This is not your typical fundraiser where a band is asked to come perform simply because of their popularity and ability to draw a crowd. Lance Hoppen and Joanne Hoppen (his ex-wife), have two wonderful daughters who are now teenagers who unfortunately had a molestation incident in 2000. It was under this circumstance that they discovered You Have the Power. Their children received counseling and all of them received support. Because of that experience Joanne became a volunteer speaker for the organization and later was hired as Director of Development.

When asked about his personal experience and what he felt his family has gained from You Have the Power he replied with “You Have the Power provided counseling services so the girls could get psychological treatment immediately and continually, in fact, that went on for quite a long time and they’re still eligible. We gained support in how to deal with the legal system and we were supported by the D.A.’s office as well. In the end the girls received financial reward to help them with college expenses.”

The question was asked on what made them decide to share the story to which Lance explained that “keeping this a secret helps perpetuate it. It also can ruin your own life by suppressing it.”
Rock The Power 70’s Style is a unique opportunity to see amazing talent and classic rock in Nashville. The concert is being held at the TPAC War Memorial Auditorium (301 6th Ave N) beginning at 8:00 pm on September 25th. Besides hearing the hits of Orleans, you will also be treated to songs by Jimi Jamison (formerly of Survivor) with hits like “Eye of the Tiger”, “So High on You”, “The Search is Over”, “I Can't Hold Back” and the “Theme from 'BayWatch'”; Joe Bouchard (Blue Oyster Cult) singing hits “Don't Fear the Reaper”, “I'm Burnin' For You” and “Godzilla” ; John Cafferty (Beaver Brown Band/Eddie & the Cruisers) with the ever popular “On the Dark Side”, “Tender Years”, “C.I.T.Y.” and “Tough All Over”; Wayne Nelson (Little River Band) bringing with him songs like “Reminiscing”, “Lady”,” Cool Change”, “Take it Easy on Me”, “Help Is On It's Way” and “The Night Owls”. Nashville’s own beautiful songbirds Jonell Mosser, Kathie Baillie and Linda Davis will also take the stage.

A VIP Reception with TN's First Lady, Andrea Conte will be held from 5:30 - 7:30 PM at the Auditorium prior to the show where there will also be an opportunity to meet members of Orleans and several of the guest artists.

To obtain tickets for this event or more information visit

For additional information on You Have The Power (YHTP) visit

INTERVIEW: Ben Gregg "Radio Waves"

Ben Gregg was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest and grew up in a musical family where he was inspired early by his mother’s musicianship and sang in quartets with his twin brother and sisters for many years. Ben first moved to Nashville in 1995 but moved back to Washington, broke and not wanting to grow old trying to make it in music without a backup plan. Recently, he decided to cut a CD simply for himself, and to have a part of him to share with future generations, however as luck would have it, the project has taken on a life of its own. Ben and I visited about all the things that have led up to this, the present and the future. Ben has just released his debut single, "Radio Waves," from his forthcoming self-titled CD slated to hit store shelves early in 2010.

Bev: Tell me about yourself, I understand you got started with this project by just wanting to do something for yourself?
Ben Gregg: You know, it’s strange, the older you get the more wisdom takes over and you don’t have the impulses of youth. I’ve been trying to do this music thing forever. The thing with the music business is in the numbers and the odds of people making it in entertainment business are not the highest. Not really knowing the odds was a good thing for me because it kept me trying. After so many years, I thought to myself you know, I have a family and I’ve got to do something. I didn’t want to be waiting tables at fifty-eight, trying to get into the business and become a writer. It was a hard decision but I had basically given up on continuing to pursue music for a career about ninety-nine percent. I put it in the back of my mind and accepted that if I never did it, it was okay. I just continued to do my Sunday thing with my mom, brothers and sisters and that was fine. I was fortunate anyway. So I got into the business world with insurance and mortgages. I had made business my focus and then after having some success I thought well let’s just go to Nashville and do a fun CD. I simply wanted to have something for the great-grand-kids. I just came in here to do that and I did not know a lot about Cupit Records, but I did it. It has been a great journey so far. I’m giving it all I have and I know the realism of it this time around. I’m not going to be dissatisfied if things don’t go exactly the way I envision it. I’m going to be thankful for every measure of success along the way and leave it at that. Not that I do not expect great things but you have to be realistic and just enjoy the process every day as it goes.
Bev: Knowing that you are happy with both lives does that help take some of the pressure off and you are able to enjoy it more?
Ben Gregg:. That’s true, having a successful business career does lessen the pressure on me about the music career. I enjoy the business aspect of my life, but obviously music is what I enjoy the most, but not everybody can do that and make a living at it as quickly as one hopes to do. I am giving it everything I’ve got. When I can, I write and play almost every day. I keep honing my skills and planning for the next stage and promoting the single we have out now. I’m glad I do not have all the eggs in one basket. I spent a couple years in L.A. and I would see gals waiting tables at 45, not that 45 is old, but when you’re a gal and you’ve had no success yet and your starting out, in music especially, it is not fair but it is apparent that guys seem to have an extra advantage by having more time to get their music careers going when it comes to age. I didn’t want to find myself at that age still waiting tables. I had to have something for the kids and posterity. I had to know when to say when and I am really glad I did. Signing a record deal with Cupit Records has been a great, unexpected, turn of events for me, which I certainly appreciate.
Bev: Have you relocated to Nashville or are you splitting time back-and-forth?
Ben Gregg: I put in a lot of travel. I love it down here in Nashville. As a matter of fact, I lived back here in 1993, 1995 and 1996. I was born and raised in Washington, but the problem is you have all your family there, both sides, and nobody moved away. It is just unbelievable. It was like a hundred people within twenty miles of each other. I am really trying hard to get down here. I was looking at houses here two months ago when I was down here and I almost pulled the trigger. I feel like things are going well even without living here, but I feel that I need to be here. I‘ve always wanted to retire here anyway when I was old enough. It’s a great part of the country. I just love it!
Bev: As far as promoting, you put the single out on the radio. What are you doing for promotions? How are you trying to get the word out on that?
Ben Gregg: The promotion team is diligently going after it. August 10th was the radio release with the music compilation discs and we’re happy to see strong initial success of the single being downloaded. Now it is a matter of staying on top of it to gain as many radio adds as possible to support growth of the debut single. I’m looking forward to possibly going on a radio tour soon to meet everyone out there working so hard at radio to support my music and keep the momentum going. It is a tough business and I want to personally thank everyone at radio for giving me a chance.
Bev: You are on RFD-TV’s “Music & Motors” television series, tell me about how this came to be.
Ben Gregg: I do not know how Jerry (Cupit) did it. A lot of well-known people have been on that show or want to get on that show, host it, or be a part of it and when he said I was going to be a featured artist, I was ecstatic. That was a great experience; meeting Gary Baker and going to see what NASCAR is all about. It really got me interested in the sport and I watch it on the weekends now. I never watched it that much before. I thought to myself what’s so exciting about watching a bunch of cars go around-and-around in a circle other than the crashes? Once I learned more about NASCAR, I got into it and it is really interesting to follow now. Supposedly, there are approximately one hundred million viewers a week on that show. It was a fun way to get my name out there about the new music and CD in the works which helps with the launch of my music.
Bev: Do you think you are going to try and do some more of that kind of out-of-the box types of promoting versus just the typical way that has been done in the past?
Ben Gregg: Yes, because radio is still so important, but there are other important outlets that people are using to find new music these days. I mean this internet thing has taken everything to a new level, especially with our youth. A CD can sell 1,000,000 units today and that’s a lot! We are all over the internet and working with the digital technology, the web pages, Myspace, as they are all part of the whole puzzle. I believe that you have to think a little outside the box these days. You have to know how to wisely spend your marketing dollars to get the best sales and exposure for your money.
Bev: Do you have a CD out right now or just the single?
Ben Gregg: We just put out the debut single, “Radio Waves,” from the forthcoming CD which we just finished and are waiting for the final artwork to be completed. Hopefully this single will build a high demand for the CD. I know that hearing my song being played on the radio is really something.
Bev: Are you also utilizing i-tunes and similar media formats as well?
Ben Gregg: Yeah, that is all important.
Bev: Digital access is pretty much prevalent right now. People have it on their computer, their i-pod, on their phone etc.
Ben Gregg: Yes, digital access is prevalent and makes it so easy to download music quickly! I sure would be awesome if we can sell a bunch of units from people downloading the new music. I’ve purchased music downloads myself, but sometimes I just like to go out and buy the CD because it is a physical, material piece of product actually in my possession that I can hold in my hands to look through the CD booklet, read the liner notes, and get to know more about the artist and the players. It isn’t just an electronic thing. It is kind of like a personalized object that you can have, like a piece of that artist. It is a whole creative thing that they have there and it is nice to have it.
Bev: As far as the songs on the CD, did you write all the songs?
Ben Gregg: There are thirteen songs and I wrote nine of them. Three of them were just me and another six were co-written with Jerry. I enjoy writing songs and am pleased that a lot of my songs made the final selection for the CD, but I also am very aware that there are so many amazing songwriters out there and that’s why I’m always open to listen to outside material. I wanted to make sure to include something for everyone on the CD and not get locked into a certain type of style, but have something that sounds fresh. We have one cover tune, an old Elvis song and also included three songs from other writers.
Bev: What process did you use to select the songs?
Ben Gregg: We have a song called “Rainy Days” which wasn’t a favorite of mine at first, but the more I listened to it, the more it grew on me and now I really like it. Jim Reynolds wrote the song and it was a lot of fun to sing especially being from Seattle. Jerry came back from vacation where he wrote the song “Radio Waves”. I thought that it had something to it and got right to the point about making song dedications via the radio waves. I think it is a fun, rocking song that radio can have fun with.
Bev: Do you have a certain kind of message you like to sing about? Are you that kind of singer that you like to live your songs? Or do you like to sing whatever and it does not necessarily have to be you?
Ben Gregg: As writer it took me a while to be objective about my own songs and I am my own worst critic. I’ll write a song and think “that was bad”. I would go out to writer’s nights and hear people say that they just write from the heart, and that’s great. As a singer/songwriter, I find myself not only writing from the heart, but also striving to write songs that have commercial appeal and something catchy about it that people can latch onto. Now, a lot of my ideas don’t come from personal experiences; but from what I see from other people’s experiences or events. A song does not necessarily have to represent everything that you’ve personally been through. I believe that even if one believes they live an average life, there is always something to sing about.
Bev: Do you like story telling songs?
Ben Gregg: I do like story-telling songs. It was not until country music came into my life that I really started to appreciate lyrics. When you live through the eighties; lyrics are the last thing you talk about. I thought some of those songs were great, but when you start adding gut-wrenching lyrics to the perfect melody - that is a song. You add that eerie music to the right lyric - that is the fun part. I am probably an average lyricist at this point. I’m really trying to better that and I have improved quite a bit. My forte is music and 99% of the time, that comes first for me. Then I will try to find a topic that the song sounds like.
Bev: So when you start writing, the music comes to you first?
Ben Gregg: Oh yeah, when I start writing, the music (melody) comes to me first. As I grew up I had seen my mom play, all hours of the night. There are always little hooks and motifs going through my head. You just grab one and see what you can make out of it. I am not saying lyrics aren’t important, they are important, they’re critical. That is why I have six musical songs complete now that I don’t have lyrics for yet. I know what it sounds like it should be about, but it is an art form. I have to put the right lyric to the music and it has to be composed in an original way.
Bev: As far as the business side what is the least favorite thing you have to deal with?
Ben Gregg: When you first get in the music business, it is all just great. There are some tedious moments when you are in the studio and you are trying to get the proper sound from the bass drum for example, and they are playing it over and over again, that, I guess is my least favorite thing. There are very few songs that you can play and sing over and over again and never lose the love of it. When you are in the studio getting the tuning or phrasing just right, not just singing it, but playing it over and over again is my least favorite part.
Bev: How many instruments do you play?
Ben Gregg: I play the piano and guitar.
Bev: Speaking of performing, what is your favorite experience performing live?
Ben Gregg: I really enjoy performing at the CMA Music Festival by far! I really like talking and engaging in conversation with the audience. Since I have an interest in geography, I like to ask the fans where they are from and hear them share about their hometowns. The autograph signing is a blast and what an ego builder! They are so kind and make me feel so important. Then I go home to mow the grass, take out the trash and return to reality. Performing at CMA Music Festival really is a kick!
Bev: I know you said you like talking with fans, have you made vow to always be approachable? Is that something you always want to be and have fans come up to you?
Ben Gregg: I really enjoy it when fans approach me for autographs and say hello. I ran for a public office a while back and I had to meet hundreds of people, shake hands and make conversation just to keep it going. I enjoy learning where people are from. Some were from England, Scotland and Germany. That was just so fascinating to me and I since I know a bit about Geography, many times I knew where they were from and could share something about their city with them. They just ate that up!
Bev: Are you good at remembering names?
Ben Gregg: I am pretty good about remembering names but, I keep practicing. You know, the older you get, the memory goes. I have hundreds of phone numbers I try to keep track of so I keep the names and numbers in my cell phone. Not for gloating just to keep that memory strong.
Bev: What is the favorite thing about the whole big picture? Or something that you are looking forward to.
Ben Gregg: I looking forward to getting on a tour with some really great performers like Brad Paisley and George Strait even if I was the first one of many opening acts. I saw Kenny Chesney up in Seattle and he had five opening acts, one was Blaine Larson, and he is from my hometown. Then they followed up with Dierks Bentley, Big and Rich, Gretchen [Wilson] and then him. It was quite the line up. It is probably a little too optimistic for me to think of that, but that would be something I look forward to. Hopefully with some strong radio airplay, we will be able to get over that next hurdle. It is kind of a Catch 22 – it is difficult to have one without the other. It seems to happen simultaneously and you have to just stay focused and keep working hard. I am so happy to be where I am. I can keep touring the Northwest, but I don’t want to be only going to the bars and playing in front of small audiences. My dream is to perform my music for as many people as I can.
Bev: Are you playing anywhere now or are you focusing on getting the radio airplay?
Ben Gregg: Right now, we are focusing on getting some radio play and when we achieve some measure of success from that, we can get a band put together and do some touring. I’ve learned that I don’t want to rush anything. It is so important to surround myself with good people who believe in me and my music. I’ve found that at Cupit Records and I want to make sure to take the time to find the best fit as we add other team players to support the music and any tour. I mean the education curve on this business is phenomenal. Artists will come into town, “Oh, it is all about the music” and it is about the music, but I know that learning the business side of things is just as important.
Bev: Ben, I believe you have a great song with “Radio Waves” and I am really looking forward to hearing more of the album. Thank you for sharing this time with me and I hope to see you again and hear you play live on stage.
Ben Gregg: Thank you very much, it has been my pleasure and I will let you know when we have a show date so you can come out.

For more information on Ben Gregg visit: and

INTERVIEW: Mark Woods & Operation Troop Aid

Mark Woods and Operation Troop Aid are synonymous, they go hand in hand. Mark has single handedly put together an organization which has grown into something bigger and better than he could have imagined. I spent some time with mark during one of the fundraising efforts in Nashville to get some history on his organization and to look into the future on where he hopes it is going.

Bev: Mark, tell me a little about Operation Troop Aid or OTA as it is recognized.

Mark: Operation Troop Aid was born out of a Garth Brooks inspiration. He did a concert on the flight deck of the U.S.S Enterprise right after 9 - 11. I was stationed on the Enterprise at that time and I was the assistant coordinator for the show. I got to meet Garth and all of his entourage, John Small with Picture Vision, the CBS folks, Trisha Yearwood, Steve Wariner, Jewel and others. It was a really an inspirational moment for me, because that was the first concert I had ever been involved with other than going to see them as a fan. Backstage, I got to see how everything worked and it was just a very touching moment in my life. At that point, I got the idea, I just didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do or even how to do it. I started thinking about things and writing things down.

In 2005, I woke and had had a dream and basically the name “Operation Troop Aid” popped in my head. You remember the movie Lion King, James Earl Jones, one of the great voices of our time? In Lion King, he told Simba, “you deliberately disobeyed me”. It was that voice that woke me up with “Operation Troop Aid”. I woke up and thought someone was breaking in my house and I got up ready to fight. Obviously no one was there. I laid back down and said “wait a minute, Operation Troop Aid”.

I Googled the name and it wasn’t used, so the next morning I called the State of Tennessee and the state office told me it wasn’t in use and I secured the name, I set up a board and I secured the rights to, .org, .com. very quickly as well.

The first year we sent about $2500 worth of care packages over seas, and the next year about $20,000. Now keep in mind that I was still active duty, so I could only do this on weekends. I was getting donations for $5 wrist bands, $3 wrist bands, whatever I could do to raise the money. My third year, we did about $80,000 worth and last year we did about $400,000 worth. It has been hard, it has been tough, I still don’t have major corporate sponsors, we really need those to come aboard so if you are listening, “please come on board”. The website is

The goal is to support the troops. I was one for 21 years, I just retired last year. These men and women are serving with courage and commitment to do their job and do what they are told to do. They deserve the support of this country. They are giving their lives for this country, what better way to give back a little piece of home while they are over there. The first year I had a letter written back to me, it is on the website. This guy named James, I don’t know who he is, wrote me back on a post card and said “I had really given up on mail, given up on everything until today when I got back and got this, you gave me a little bit of inspiration.

That all goes back to Garth. The demeanor that Garth showed me. I gave him a tour of the ship, of course there were other people there with him and me, maybe 10 or 12 people. He just amazed me, he would see somebody, I’d introduce them, and he wouldn’t see that person again for 4 hours but when he was back, he called the person by name. I would say, Garth, my God, I have been on this boat for almost 3 yrs and I don’t know all of these people or seen all of these people. If Garth hadn’t done that show there would be no Operation Troop Aid.

Bev: Do you think you comprehend the affect you have on the troops when they receive these packages?

Mark: No, and that is not why I am doing it, I am doing it so they know that they are cared for. Vietnam to me was a travesty, the troops coming home and being treated like they were. They were just doing their job, they were just going over and taking care of business that whoever was in leadership at the time gave them the orders to do. It is the same thing here. We are in a transition of power now from Bush to Obama. They are just doing their job. They raised their hand and said “I do”.

Bev: How do you choose where to send them because there are so many branches, so many places?

Mark: The guys and gals in service can go online at and send an email to contact us and they send us information. I have people I know that are still active duty and they send me addresses and we send the packages. What we would like to do is find one person, because it saves a lot of money, and send 30, 40, 60 care packages to that one person and then they disperse to chaplains, officers, commanding officers. When a commanding officer of a unit gets that big of response and he calls out the guys and he doesn’t let them know what is going on, for him to pass the bags out saying “thank you for being here”, it means a lot to the junior guys. There are a lot of the junior guys with animosity. They are doing battle thinking “you don’t have to go out where we do and do battle”, etc. For the CO's the Po’s the Sergeants, Sergeant Majors and Chaplains to be able to get the packages and give them out is great. When I do get the addresses, I go back to them and ask them to please hand these out to single soldiers that don’t have families, or may have small families or just got married. I tell them to start with the juniors and work your way up instead of starting with the seniors and work your way down. We try to have some criteria for doing this.

Bev: Have you ever been at any of the bases when the packages were handed out?

Mark: Unfortunately, now that I am retired, I don’t go over there, I definitely wouldn’t mind but I don’t have the means to go over there. Perhaps if we do get a sponsor and I can do that, I will.

Bev: I have had the honor to do photographs at events where you recognized artists for their contributions to Operation Troop Aid. Can you elaborate on who some of them are and why?

Mark: Some of the honorary board members of Operation Troop Aid are Garth Brooks,
Toby Keith, Aaron Tippin, Darryl Worley, Loretta Lynn, Cheap Trick and several other artists, and most recently honored was Steven Cochran, who was a marine, still is a marine, he went over and did a couple of tours and broke his back when an IUD went off. It killed his best friend that was in the truck with him. They said Steven would never walk again but he defied that and now is a great artist. He has a new song called “Wal-Mart Flowers” that is moving up the charts.

Bev: How do you determine who is going to be an honorary board member or get the awards.

Mark: The yearly award, Operation Troop Aid patriot award, is for someone that has gone above and beyond to support the troops wherever they may be. Garth got the inspiration award, that was different from the patriot award. He is the only one that gets that because he was the inspiration. I just wanted to show respect. I had a flag sent to me that was flown in battle in Iraq and I gave that to him. Toby Keith, Darrell Worley and Aaron Tippin are the last three years, one each year. We already have the guy named for this year, can’t tell you right now, we want it to be a surprise. If you are a patriot award winner, you are automatically an honorary board member. The honorary board members are folks that have shown a desire to support the troops, support Operation Troop Aid and have done stuff in the past to give that support to the troops. The patriot award winner is for the guy that for the last year has gone above and beyond. Like Loretta Lynn, she has done stuff her whole life time for the troops. When I got a chance to meet her, I asked her management if she would be interested in being an honorary board member. They said “yes” because she has done so many things over the years.

Bev: How did the country music artists get involved, other than Garth? Did that spark the interest and you knew you would have concerts to promote it?

Mark: The concert on the U.S.S Enterprise right after 9 – 11 definitely put the idea of utilizing music and concerts to raise awareness and money for the troops in my head.
I want to do concerts, that is my calling. Am I totally in it yet? No. We don’t do great big shows yet but the goal is there, the mission is there, the vision is there to get to major concert halls. Verizon Wireless if you are listening, Live Nation if you are listening and all the others. We did an event with Nickelback back in 2007 where they donated about 30 tickets to one of their shows and we helped the radio station to get the word out and gave the tickets away and it was really cool.

Bev: What has been the most memorable feedback you have gotten back from the troop, someone that has been in the military. You do all branches right?

Mark: Oh yes, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, everybody. The most memorable is still the postcard from James. Even though that was one of the first ones we got back, he literally said he had pretty much given up on mail. To be a soldier overseas and not getting mail, even if you have family, normally families will send you stuff but if you don’t have family, to get something from somebody you don’t even know, saying God bless you, thank you for what you are doing, we believe in what you are doing, don’t give up, keep going, don’t give up.

Bev: The items that you put in the care packages include food items, personal care items, and a wide variety of things; do you purchase the items or have business stepped forward to make donations? How are you obtaining them?

Mark: We have both, we have Sam’s and Wal-Mart. They give us grants from their stores. But if you are listening down in Bentonville, Arkansas, at a Sam’s or Wal-Mart, the $1,000 grants are great, we love them and we are going to keep putting in for those grants at each store but we would love to have the corporate guys come onboard. Instead of getting $1,000 dollars at each store, if they would write a check for bigger, we would be able to do a big show and make even more. And then what do we do with the money? We go to Sam’s and buy all their products so it’s a win, win. If they were to donate to us, we would go back to Sam’s, buy all the product, send it over to the troops and that is the biggest result right there—the troops get provided for. It is a win, win, Sam’s gets back, the public gets a concert—not just a concert, it will be an event and I want people, when they leave, to say “I’m proud to be an American”. Whether Democrat, Republican or Independent, that right there is what America is all about, supporting the people that give back to you by serving in the military. If you have palletized size loads, beef jerky, soap, whatever you have, we can get pallet size loads over. We have a contract with a major carrier and they will come to your place and pick it up and ship it over to the troops.

Bev: Do you focus on certain markets? I know you have done a lot here because I have been involved with several events in Nashville that you were also involved.

Mark: My focus at the moment is pretty much focused on Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky right now. On Saturday October 10th we are promoting The 2009 OTA Freedom Ride. We will participate in the ride and then Dokken will be performing in concert at The Inner Circle in Cincinnati, Ohio. We are hoping for that one to be pretty big.

Bev: Mark, thank you for all you are doing for the troops and everyone who is affected by this. You are an amazing individual and I am proud to call you a friend as well.

Mark: Thank you and thanks for helping me get the word out. I appreciate it and am always appreciative of the photos and all you do as well.

For more information on Operation Troop Aid please go to the website or

ARTICLE: 6th Annual Leadership Music Dale Franklin Award Honors Jim Foglesong, Allen Reynolds and Garth Brooks.

The Renaissance Hotel Grand Ballroom looked as grandeur as the guests in black tie attire who were present to either be a part of the all-star salute or join the seven hundred plus music industry executives, collaborators, friends and family who attended the memorable evening honoring the recipients of the Dale Franklin Award on August 23rd.
The award, which was named after the founding Executive Director, recognizes music industry trailblazers who exemplify the highest quality of leadership. 2009 recipients included Country Music Hall of Fame member; Jim Foglesong; music producer/songwriter, Allen Reynolds and country music artist and enigma, Garth Brooks. The honorees’ celebrated careers came together when Foglesong signed Brooks to Capitol Records, and Reynolds produced his record breaking albums.
Inspiration along with integrity were words chosen to describe all three recipients during the five hour gala dinner and awards presentation. In a business where words roll off the tongues and from the pens of artists and writers day and night, there were plenty to go around as special tributes to each of the honorees and the commitment to their music were given by their peers through song, video and during touching and sometimes tongue in cheek recollections of the colorful course and path of each man’s career.
Emmylou Harris, George Strait, Barbara Mandrell, Charlie Daniels, blues musician Keb’ Mo’, Hall of Fame member Jo Walker-Meador, Dierks Bentley, Donna Fargo, Dolly Parton, the Oak Ridge Boys, Huey Lewis, Sawyer Brown's Mark Miller and even Elmo contributed to the many video montages of congratulations and praises towards the three recipients throughout the celebration of the evening.
Kathy Mattea kicked off the musical tributes with the song "I Believe In You," followed by Lee Greenwood, who sang his first hit, "It Turns Me Inside Out." Both songs had Foglesong’s hand in the making and Grand Ole Opry star John Conlee, earned a lively standing ovation for his performance of "Rose Colored Glasses."
Crystal Gayle sang a part of “We Must Believe In Magic” and wowed the crowd with "Ready For The Times To Get Better," a 1978 hit Allen wrote and produced. Hal Ketchum amazed the crowd with his version of "Five O’Clock World", another song written by Reynolds. Songwriter-engineer-producer "Cowboy" Jack Clement, age 78, took to the stage and sang Reynold’s "Dreaming My Dreams"
Upon accepting his award and expressing his gratitude for the recognition, Reynolds stated “It’s a little surprising to find that I’m being honored for leadership. I never tried to do that. All I ever did was try to take care of the music, live up to the standards of my musical heroes and give to others the same consideration I have received.”
Steve Wariner, long time friend of Brooks, performed their co-written song "Longneck Bottle," and Martina McBride’s rendition of "The Thunder Rolls" brought the crowd to it’s feet.
Trisha Yearwood spoke lovingly of her husband, pointing out he was moved to tears more than once throughout the evening and then sang a captivating and touching version of "To Make You Feel My Love," while Garth stood with a smile on his face and his cowboy hat in hand at his table in the center of the room.

Taking to the stage to accept his award, Brooks opened his thank you with “I really thought tonight was gonna suck," Garth confessed, "and this was really cool." He spoke of representing the truth, with tongue-in-cheek humor elaborating on the importance of standing up for what you believe in and using examples of influences on the youth of today through Disney movies and fictional characters to enforce his stance as well as the importance of fighting for the preservation of intellectual property. Brooks then moved to center stage to resonate some of the signature songs from his musical career including "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)," "We Shall Be Free," and "Friends In Low Places". Between each song Garth expressly introduced the seven session players on stage with him (Milton Sledge- drums, Mike Chapman- bass, Mark Casstevens- acoustic guitar, Bobby Wood - piano,Pete Wasner- keyboards, Bruce Bouton - steel guitar, Rob Hajacos- fiddle, Chris Leuzinger - electric guitar)and also recognized and gave accolades to the three backing vocalists (Vicki Hampton, Karyn Rochelle and Robert Bailey) who contributed to his recordings, giving detail and attention to specific instances in which they brought more than expected to the table with a special lick to a song or by giving a signature sound to a particular piece of work. Brooks also encouraged an industry legend and engineer Mark Miller to come to the stage for recognition, as any project would not be complete without his task of putting it all together.

In true fashion of ending a Garth Brooks performance, Brooks put his heart into "The Dance" as his finale and then closed the evening out by bringing Foglesong and Reynolds back to the stage for an unforgettable version of the Soggy Bottom Boys “I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow.”

“It was a really warm, heartfelt evening, where a lot of really great artists, producers, music business folks and friends had the opportunity to say thanks to Jim, Allen and Garth for being such a big help to them in their careers and for making such a big difference in the music world.” said Chris Leuzinger, one of the session players.

It is not often in the music industry that you can bring so many people together in one room and be witness to the purpose behind the gathering, but on this night, the highest quality of leadership was honored with integrity and inspiration for those who follow in their footsteps.

About Leadership Music
Leadership Music is an educational non-profit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to nurture a knowledgeable, issue-oriented community of music industry professionals through an annual educational program and events. This is accomplished through the identification and exploration of topical issues in an annual series of off-the-record educational seminars (the Program), and continued alumni nurturing and education. Over the past 20 years, Leadership Music has graduated more than 740 music industry-related executives.

INTERVIEW: Holly Williams

Holly Williams the daughter of Hank Williams, Jr. and half-sister of alternative-country singer Hank Williams III. Williams has released two studio albums: The Ones We Never Knew and Here with Me, in 2004 and 2009 respectively. The latter album has produced two chart singles for her on the Billboard country singles charts with "Keep the Change" and "Mama". I recently visited with Holly about the new project and about some of the personal things in her life.

Bev: Thank you Holly for spending some time with me, can you tell me a little about the new project?

Holly Williams: Thank you for taking time, I would love to share a little. “Here With Me” was released on June 16 and I recently was on the Craig Ferguson show prompting my CD and I have been touring with Sugarland. I currently have a couple shows in September and I’m going back to Europe in November. Basically I have been just touring and promoting as much as I can.

Bev: How does this project differ from the first CD you released?

Holly Williams: They are somewhat similar in the sense that the styles didn’t change. It was more the production of the project that changed. I’m 5 years older; therefore I’ve grown up a lot since the first record and vocally, I am a lot stronger.

Bev: How much of an impact did the car accident have on this project for you?

Holly Williams: I had written about half of the songs before the car accident happened. I did write a song called, “Without Jesus Here With Me” after the accident and because of it. Surviving this has just made me want to better myself in every aspect.

Bev: Did you write a majority of the songs on this project?

Holly Williams: Yes I did.

Bev: What kind of writing style do you have when you write your songs?

Holly Williams: I like to have a storytelling style to my songs. I like to see things visually and see the story.

Bev: Is there any Williams family traditions you try to carry on?

Holly Williams: Not really, I’ve mentioned a few things but it’s not something I try to do.

Bev: Do you have a favorite song on this C.D.?

Holly Williams: “Alone” is my personal favorite. It is a song I wrote about three years ago and many people can relate because so many people have a fear of getting close right away and committing yourself to someone.

Bev: You’ve done a lot of touring with bigger name artists, do you have a favorite to perform with?

Holly Williams: That’s tough to say. On the country side Keith Urban was amazing! Sugarland was great. Madeleine Peyroux , I adore and have been a fan for years. She’s probably been my favorite in the “female world”.

Bev: Do you have any memorable stories from on stage performances or embarrassing moments?

Holly Williams: I’ve left my fly down more than two or three times, had bugs go up my nose and it’s hard to compose yourself during a song when something like that happens. I haven’t fallen off the stage or tripped.

Bev: Can you tell me a little bit more about the clothing boutique that you have?

Holly Williams: The clothing boutique is in Green Hills, and is called H. Audrey. I’ve always loved fashion and design, and I opened it in 2007. We have quite a few stylists and artists come in, such as Taylor Swift and Kelly Clarkson. It’s a fun thing and I have a great store manager and employees. I love music, but this is a nice step away on occasion; especially as a solo artist, you tend to get a little overwhelmed at times.

Bev: How did you come up with the name?

Holly Williams: It’s my first initial and middle name.

Bev: Does your mom go out on the road and perform often with you?

Holly Williams: She comes out when she can. She performed on Conan [O’Brien] with me and she has joined me at a couple of the Sugarland shows I’ve done.

Bev: Is there anything else about the current C.D. project you really want people to know about?
Holly Williams: My favorite song is “Alone” and there is a great Johnny and June type of duet “A Love I Think Will Last”. Another great song is called “Mama” and it’s about my mom and her split with my dad.

Bev: Holly, I have really enjoyed visiting with you today and thank you so much for your time and all you have shared. I look forward to seeing you perform again soon.

Holly: Thank you so much and I look forward to you coming to a show too.

For more information on Holly Williams visit

INTERVIEW: Ricky Lynn Gregg

Country-rocker Ricky Lynn Gregg has recorded three studio albums: two on Liberty Records (1993's Ricky Lynn Gregg and 1994's Get a Little Closer) and one on Row Music Group (2001's Careful What You Wish For). His first two albums produced three hit singles on the Billboard country music charts, including the No. 36-peaking "If I Had a Cheatin' Heart." In 1993, Billboard ranked him at No. 4 on its list of Top New Country Artists of the Year. There is no doubt Gregg is a mainstay artist in country music. I had the opportunity to meet RLG and visit about some of his past, talk about the present and discuss what he has planned for the future.

Bev: Thank you so much for taking the time to visit. Can you give me an update on what you’ve been doing?

RLG: I released my last single in 2003, which was released to European media. European media is like R&R and goes between New Zealand and Russia. I had a No. 1, “I Just Want To Be Loved By You,” which was on the charts for five weeks. It was very rewarding. I just came back from Switzerland this last March and had a great tour. In June, I got together for a rock ‘n’ roll reunion with Savvy, a band out of Texas. My (former) band (Head East) and I played a festival in front of 10,000-plus fans. It was great to have all hometown boys there.
Since then, we have our own show at Bally’s in Tunica, doing two shows a night every weekend. They have a “sister” casino called The Resort, which we also play at. Both places allow me to play my music and let me be Ricky Lynn Gregg, which is very satisfying because I can play a lot of genres of music.

Bev: Are you working on any CD projects right now?

RLG: I am working on a gospel CD that I will be releasing independently. Nowadays, that’s tough because of the economy. It is so hard for everybody right now. I am waiting patiently for the economy to turn around.

Bev: Your last full album came out in 2001, right?

RLG: Yes, it was called Careful What You Wish For and we released a video for it. It did well on American radio. It connected well with my core audience and I co-produced it with the legendary Barry Beckett, Andy Gore and Steve Crawford. It was an album that was a little on the edge of rock ‘n’ roll/country and allowed me to sing ballads and basically said, “Here I am.”
We took the second single and video to Europe. It’s great to have a market there and still be alive in America. Doing this broadened our fan base beyond our expectations. It was so gratifying to have all the European markets embrace the music as they did.

Bev: I read that you selected each song because they had a special message. Do you look for songs like that? Do try to find songs that have special messages for your fans?

RLG: ABSOLUTELY! You can’t do a song unless you’ve lived it! Even if I sing blues, I try to make it happy. I love the old music and I listen to the songs and the ones that I connect to are the ones I have lived a piece of, so I think to connect to my own fans and be able to perform a song and do it right, I feel like I have to be the song. So to answer you on the special message, yes, each song has to posses that quality.

Bev: How have you changed as an artist through all that you’ve done?

RLG: When you first start this business it’s almost as if you’re a freshman in high school and you have those “freshman jitters.” In 1993, when I was singing rock ’n’ roll, it became so cut-throat that I got out of it. You just have to feel comfortable, and that’s why I got out. The most important thing I’ve learned with your first record you gain friends, with the sophomore you gain more experience. I became a better singer, and then this last record I’ve gained knowledge. Your styles and song choosing match these changes. Especially now when I can sing more songs that I have lived. Besides musically, you gain knowledge about the business and that you stand in line and know what to wait for and it’s all about recognition in this business. The greatest thing, though, is my improvement with my vocals.

Bev: What did it mean to be asked to be a part of the recent Mel McDaniel benefit concert?

RLG: It made me think this is the way things should be—so many different artists showed up to honor this man and be there for him. The camaraderie was great. All the fans of the different artists came together to make the benefit work. We had everyone from Jim Ed Brown and David Ball, to Little Jimmy Dickens and Tommy Tutone! The love in that room was amazing. There were people in the crowd there for support that made it so special. George Jones’ wife came out. I just was so glad to be a part of it.

Bev: Are you still producing, I know you were, for awhile, with Darryl Dasher.

RLG: I’m still with Darryl; he’s one of my projects. I’m producing the developmental end of the songwriting, studio work and the whole gamut of the preparatory work. Darryl is more contemporary gospel. I help get him on stage and in front of people, then we critique the performances. He’ll be a big star.

Bev: Is there a piece of advice that you would like to pass on? Especially those who are new to the business?

RLG: The best advice, without writing a book, is to be careful and be persistent, especially if you’re serious. It’s good to be careful because there isn’t any danger or negativity that you can look out for, and if singing is really what you want to do, you’ve got to be persistent. Make sure you have your mind set (to) thinking there is no turning back. If you have to go back to what you were doing, that is a thing called fate. If it turns back, it wasn’t your decision, it was fate. Don’t give up.

Bev: What was your most embarrassing moment?

RLG: [Laughs] I’ve just got so many! I was doing a gig in Dallas Texas, and right above the drums was an aluminum bar attached from one side of drums to the other. That night, the lighting company that set the lights up didn't use that bar. During a song, when the guitar took their solo, I grabbed the light truss and worked my way down to the aluminum bar. I hung my legs over the bar and sang upside down, facing the audience. After about 60 seconds on the bar, my 200 pounds-plus began to bend the aluminum bar—it eventually bent, and I fell entirely on the drums—breaking the tom-toms off, knocking the cymbals over, causing physical distress. But, through it all, the drummer, Joel Parks, with his snare and kick only (the only two things left standing) played through the song, and I kept singing, and I finished the song, despite the most major-league mishap you could have on stage. I give credit to determination, and as the saying goes, "The show must go on."

Bev: Has there ever been an interview where you have been asked a question you just didn’t want to answer?

RLG: I’ve had some ridiculous questions, anything from “boxers or briefs” to how the corn is going to do this year? Apparently the public is concerned on what Ricky Lynn thinks the weather is going to do or how the corn will grow [laughs].

Bev: Any pre-stage rituals you do?

RLG: I get in the shower and I meditate, then go in t
o do the same routine of washing my hair and my body, dry off the same arm. Same everything in the same order. I am like MONK. (laughing) Then I shave and start this process of getting dressed. It throws me off if something is not in order. I say a little prayer before I begin.
Bev: Have I missed anything or is there anything I did not ask you about that you wanted to make sure we talked about?

RLG: No, you have asked a lot of great questions and I really appreciate this time we have spent together. Thank you for taking time to visit with me.

For more information on Ricky Lynn Gregg visit Also, catch Ricky Lynn in the Sept. 14 issue of Country Weekly on newsstands beginning Sept. 7.

INTERVIEW: Darius Rucker for "Alright"

Darius Rucker and co-writer Frank Rogers recently took a little time out to visit with media during the #1 celebration for "Alright", Rucker’s third straight #1 hit song off of his current project. Members of the media were invited to a private Q & A session prior to the awards presentation at ASCAP on August 25th.
Q. I would like to know a little more about the hospitalization stories that revolve around this song.
DR: [laughs] We started to write the song, the first verse, and I wasn’t feeling good and went to the hospital to find out I had an infection that started in my knee. Then with the second verse we had my neighbor’s and their kids over. We have this big fish tank and I was in the other room and I heard a loud crash. My neighbor’s kid had pulled the fish tank over and it landed on her face. It’s crazy that every time we get together some disaster happens. This song took two disasters for us to write it.
Q. How did you guys get together to write this song?
DR: There’s a song on the record called “All I want” and Frank was sent out to me so I could meet him to decided if he would produce the record or not. When he came out we were sitting around talking and we wrote “All I Want”, but I didn’t want to record it. When we started writing a lot Frank told me he hadn’t written for years and we had so many wonderful things coming from it. I just wondered why he hadn’t written for so long. When creating this record it wasn’t about getting #1’s; it was about a career, it was about being able to produce another record. I thought we created a special record and a lot of “special records” people don’t ever hear, I thought I was going to be put in that category. To be able to sell a million records now, when selling a million records means something, that’s something special.
Q. Are you already looking ahead to this next year with things you want to accomplish?
DR: We’re already looking to put out another record, but we’re not in any rush to get to the studio. We’ll go when we’re ready.
Q. As a golf fan and you touring all over the country, are there any courses you’ve sought out and hope to go back again?
DR: Yeah every day. I’ve been able to play with Joe Don Rooney [from Rascal Flatts] a few times. It’s pretty easy to get to play on a course when you play with a guy from Rascal Flatts. We play some pretty nice courses and that’s one of the best things about touring.
Q. What is your favorite course?
DR: AUGUSTA! We’ll just leave it at that. There’s no other course like Augusta.
Q. How does the third number one feel compared to the first number one coming into the country music format?
DR: I didn’t actually think that they were going to be #1’s, but this third one it was more special because it was like I was really part of the family.
Q. With three number ones do you feel like you’re no longer an outsider?
DR: Absolutely! I feel more like a country artist than anything else. I’m happy to be where I am.
Q. With college football right around the corner, do you have any predictions?
DR: I’d say Florida. They’ll go undefeated.
Q. Any predictions for NFL?
DR: I’m going to go with the Patriots and the Sea Hawks.
Q. What makes you and Frank such a good team, speaking of teams?
DR: Well first Frank wants me to sing and secondly when I get bored doing a vocal he knows exactly what to say. Most of the stuff you hear on the record comes from Frank and what he has said. We just get along really well and when we first met it was like we had known each other our entire lives.
Q. You’ve had quite the busy week with your platinum party and the Opry, but what has been most memorable to you?
DR: Last night playing the show at the Opry; seeing people stand up for an hour and a half at the Opry was pretty amazing. The highlight however will be tonight when I stand up behind that sign that says WSM on the Grand Ole Opry stage and sing my three songs.

For more information on Darius Rucker visit

For additional photos of the event visit

MUSIC ROW MAGAZINE: Charlie Daniels Headlines NSAI Benefit

Pictured (L-R): AristoMedia President Jeff Walker; NSAI Executive Director Bart Herbison; Charlie Daniels' Manager/Co-owner Blue Hat Records David Corlew; Daniels; Daly and BMI Vice President, Writer/Publisher Relations Jody Williams. Photo Credit: Bev Moser

Charlie Daniels Band headlined the second concert in NSAI’s “It All Begins With A Song” Performance Series at the Wildhorse Saloon on Thursday night (8/27). The packed house was treated to a few tunes by Old Union prior to an energetic performance by the CDB, which included hits “Long Haired Country Boy,” “The South’s Gonna Do It Again” and the gospel classic “How Great Thou Art.” As the night concluded, Daniels was presented with BMI MillionAir Awards for one million performances of “The South’s Gonna Do It Again,” “In America,” “Drinking My Baby Goodbye,” and four million performances of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” He also received specially autographed lyrics of the “Tennessee Waltz” from NSAI for his contributions to the music industry. During the band’s final song, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” the CDB was accompanied by Pro Golfer John Daly.

HFA Publisher Services Team Lead Danielle Boone was pleased to be on hand to applaud her former boss – she worked for CDB Music, LLC prior to joining HFA.

Pictured from left to right: Bob Regan (Legislative Chair NSAI and songwriter), Charlie Daniels, Danielle Boone (HFA Publisher Services Team Lead) and Barton Herbison (Executive Director, NSAI). Photo: Bev Moser