REVIEW: 13th Annual Buds-n-Suds Music Festival

The 13th Annual Buds-n-Suds Music Festival presented by Big 98 Country, took place on Wednesday, August 25th at Loser’s Bar and Grill with proceeds benefiting Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America; a non-profit, volunteer-driven organization dedicated to finding the cure for Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis

This year's concert featured an All-Star Jam backed by one of the industry's hottest bands – “Sixwire”. Stoney LaRue, who is from Oklahoma and drove all night/day from Texas to be a part of the event kicked off the event to a packed house. His set included a tune he wrote for his wife called “Us Time”. Sixwire, with lead Andy Childs, sang several songs; including an instrumental medley of old time Rock and Roll riffs that were all recognizable. Mercury Recording artists “Coldwater Jane”, a female duo, took the stage followed by Broken Bow recording artist James Wesley, who sang his current single “Real” recently released to radio.

Ira Dean, former member of Trick Pony and who is now launching his own career had the crowd singing along as he sang several songs he has written, including the hit “One In Every Crowd” recorded by Montgomery Gentry.

Keith Anderson was up next and played several of his hit songs including “Podunk” and “Pickin’ Wild Flowers”. While Keith performed, famed artist Rachel Kice painted her interpretation of the music and the audience. The painting was auctioned off with the bidding starting at $2500.
Lee Brice took the stage and performed several of his songs from his new album including his top five “Love Like Crazy” and “She Ain’t Right” and brought up his long time friend Jerrod Niemann to perform with him. They shared the stage through several songs and then Jerrod performed his #1 hit “Lover, Lover”.

A silent auction featuring music memorabilia, beach getaways, gift cards to some of the best local dining, spas, salons and other great items from Jason Aldean, a pink fiddle autographed by Dolly Parton, Sports greats including a collage of memorabilia commemorating Steve “Air” McNair’ career.

The 13th Annual Buds-n-Suds Benefit Concert is sponsored in part by: Centocor Ortho Biotech and Aegis.
Buds-n-Suds is the creation of friends Cory Gierman and Jason Krupek. The event began as a tribute to a friend who suffered from Crohn's disease with a canoe trip and a kick-off concert. Gierman and Krupek have both served on the CCFA Tennessee’s chapter board of directors and could not be prouder of its beginnings and continued success over the past 13 years - raising over $200,000. In that time there have always been plenty of surprises in store at this event, you never know who will hit the stage. The roster of past participants includes acts such as Big & Rich, Darryl Worley, Billy Joe Shaver, Keith Anderson, Marv Green, Shannon Brown, Jerrod Neiman, Wayd Battle, Bryan and Gordon Kennedy, Shelly Fairchild, Kylie Sackley, Jamey Johnson, James Otto, Randy Houser and many others.

Every 18 minutes another man, woman, or child is diagnosed with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, two debilitating, life-altering diseases collectively known as inflammatory bowel disease or IBD. And sadly, there is no cure.

CCFA is the only non-profit, volunteer-driven organization exclusively dedicated to finding the cure for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. CCFA sponsors basic and clinical research of the highest quality, offers a wide range of educational programs for patients and healthcare professionals, and provides supportive services to help more than 1.4 million Americans cope with these chronic diseases. CCFA programs are supported solely by contributions from the public; no government funding assistance is received.

For more photos of the event, visit

PHOTO CREDIT: Pam Stadel for MomentsByMoser

ARTICLE: "Puddle Palooza" for Waldens Puddle

The first annual 2010 Walden’s Puddle “Puddle-Palooza” benefit concert and festival held on Saturday August 21st at Nashville’s Yogi Bear™ Jellystone Park on Music Valley Drive
was full of excitement and energy, both on stage and in the skies above. Organizers watched the weather very close as the lightening and storm clouds moved in and towards the end of the event had to cut a couple acts short, but overall an afternoon filled with amazing music, a silent auction, food vendors, horse drawn carriage rides and tractor pulled hay wagon rides gave campground guests and event attendees a great day of family entertainment. It may have given new meaning to the name “Puddle-Palooza”, but did not dampen the spirits or generosity of all in attendance.

Artists performing on the outdoor stage included John Anderson, Lane Brody, Cerrito, Rodney Crowell, the Notorious Cherry Bombs, Jypsi, Emily West, HLN news anchor Robin Meade, Victoria Shaw, Army Ranger and Country artist Keni Thomas, and additional special guests. GAC’s Nan Kelley served as emcee and the event was hosted by the Music Valley Merchants Association.

This wonderful event raised awareness and funds for Walden’s Puddle Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center, which provides care and treatment to sick, injured and orphaned Tennessee wildlife. It is the only professionally staffed wildlife rehabilitation and education facility in Middle Tennessee. The facility does not charge for services and receives no federal or state funding at this time. Guests were introduced to several of the facilities “patients” which included turtles, hawks, snakes, opossum and more. Volunteers from Walden’s Puddle provided guests with the opportunity to get up close and personal with the animals, and also educated them on some of the myths and facts about each of the animals they brought to the event.

In addition to the concert, other family-friendly activities offered by the park included swimming, hiking, mini-golf, hayrides, volleyball, appearances by Jellystone’s Yogi Bear™ , face painting, crafts and more.

The Music Valley area took a substantial blow from the flooding this past May, but is getting back on track and events such as this are exactly what needed to raise awareness and bring more visitors to the area.

For more information on Walden’s Puddle visit

For more information on Jellystone Park visit

Additional photos can be viewed at

REVIEW: Charlie Daniels Headlines the Wilson County Fair

Wilson County was proud to show off the incredible talents of Charlie Daniels; who along with his namesake band gave the hometown fans an outstanding performance at the 2010 Wilson County Fair, August 16th. The concert was held in the Exposition Center and proceeds benefited Joseph's Storehouse Food Ministry. Daniel’s, a Wilson County resident, has always been known for giving back to the community where he lives and chose Joseph's Storehouse Food Ministry as the charity to benefit from this concert.

Joseph's Storehouse Food Ministry (Lebanon, TN) has distributed food to needy families in Wilson County since 1999 when it gave food to 22 families and in 2009, 2.3 million lbs. of food was distributed to Wilson County residents. For more information on Joseph's Storehouse Food Ministry, go to

Admission to the fair was increased by $1.00 per ticket, with the additional $1.00 going to Joseph's Storehouse Food Ministry. Canned or non-perishable food items were also collected for Joseph's Storehouse Food Ministry at all gates to the fair.

Opening for Daniels was Trevor Finlay; a multi-faceted guitarist/singer-songwriter who has stormed stages around the world from his native Canada to Australia and France, wowing audiences and winning everywhere. Onstage, Finlay is a musical dynamo, showcasing an eclectic, stir-fried mix of hard-driving roots rock, rock and rockabilly on electric guitar and Violap.

During Charlie Daniels 50+ year career, he has scored hits on rock, country, pop and Christian charts and was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry on January 19, 2008 and in 2009 into the Musicians Hall of Fame. He has received numerous awards from the County Music Association, Academy of Country Music, the Gospel Music Association and a Grammy. His signature song, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," topped both country and pop charts, bringing him international acclaim. Charlie Daniels' energy and strong support for our nation is evidenced by his many accolades. His volunteer spirit, support of our troops and down to earth philosophy exemplifies him as a true American patriot; and his emotional tribute during his rendition of “Amazing Grace” had the crowd on their feet and singing word for word along with the musical legend.

Closing the show and a highlight of the evening was when Lisa Patton’s teenage daughter, Brenna, was asked to join Daniels on stage and play dueling fiddles during “The Devil Went Down To Georgia”. Patton is the weathercaster at WKRN-TV (Ch. 2 Nashville) and a familiar face to many local Tennessee residents. Brenna performed with perfection and being a Wilson County resident as well, had plenty of fans cheering her on and showing their pride of the local talent on stage together.

For additional photos of the event visit

For more information on the Wilson County Fair visit


Jim Halsey's career spans over 60 active years as artist manager, agent and impresario, discovering and/or guiding the careers of such illustrious personalities as Roy Clark, The Oak Ridge Boys, Waylon Jennings, Reba McEntire, Minnie Pearl, Clint Black, Tammy Wynette, Mel Tillis, Merle Haggard, Dwight Yoakum, The Judds, Lee Greenwood, Hank Thompson and many others. This year, he celebrates 36 years as the personal manager for The Oak Ridge Boys who continue to sellout and perform 160 dates a year.

Jim Halsey's eclectic tastes have also enabled him to represent such diverse artists as Woody Herman and his Thundering Herd, James Brown, Roy Orbison, Rick Nelson, The Righteous Brothers, Leon Russell, The Glenn Miller Orchestra and others.

His popular seminar series, "How To Make It In The Music Business" is filled with much needed information on the music business/song marketplace. Explained are the important functions of managers, agents, record companies, press and PR, producers, specialized music/entertainment attorneys, music publishers, promoters, performing rights organizations, copyright protection, and other components that make up the "star team." Halsey reveals the best way for the new, hopeful artists to be discovered.

One of the latest endeavor’s is the new book he has written called “STARMAKER” which is An important text for any artist who wants to make it in the music business or anyone starting a business career in the music industry! I enjoyed a long conversation with Jim to talk about his new book and the career he has been blessed with.

Bev: Jim, you have done so many things, and this book is proving to be yet another success for you; tell me in your own words why you decided to write the book.

Jim: It is a continuation of another book that I wrote about ten years ago. It is basically a “How To” book for those that want to be successful in the music business. Really there is no place to turn to except my book or books like mine unless you get into it and you learn by making a lot of mistakes. What I hope to do with the book is to shorten the time period that it takes from the time you get into the business and you go through all the mistakes and tragedies and come to the other end of it. I kind of explain what the business is made of to get an understanding of the business and how to assemble all the various parts of the business together to help make your career, your life, your record, your promotion a success. I guess I wrote the book just because I get so many questions and have for years about “how do I do this? How do I get started? Where should I go? How do I do it? What do I do?” So this is kind of an answer to a lot of the questions that have been asked of me over the years. And a lot of them are the same people or the same type of people that ask questions.

Bev: Is there a chapter in the book that is closest to your heart or that you enjoyed writing the most?

Jim: I write about a lot of personal stories in the book to illustrate a point. It is not necessarily an academic book that just gives you the facts and the figures. I think it is a very practical book that says “this is the way that you do it. I did it this way and these were the results.” There are a lot of people who could write a book and give the same or similar information, but they have not done it. It just so happens I have done all those things we are talking about, I have been in every position that there is in the industry except a music business attorney or a musician on stage; I did that when I was in high school. I have had a lot of people tell me, including other professional people, lawyers, even a dentist, say “I wish I had had this book when I got out of dental school. I would have learned more about how to operate my business. They just put me out there. I know all the technical aspects and I have a quarter of a million dollars worth of equipment here, but nobody has told me how to make a business out of it.” So this book is good for anybody. I think it is a positive book as well. I like to think there is probably nobody anymore positive thinking than me, so it is a book that is filled with ideas and hope.

Bev: I know the book has not been out all that long, but do you have any success stories resulting from your writings?

Jim: I did an interview on WGN in Chicago the other day with Steve Sanders. He said “I read the book all the way through and I found this the most fascinating book . I started to read it because I knew I was going to interview you and I usually skim through these things, but I read your book cover to cover. I have had a lot of young people call me and tell me it is just what they needed, that they were totally off on the wrong foot and doing the wrong thing. It is a road map!

Bev: It is always a good thing to get positive feed back. Knowing that people are actually reading everything and taking it to heart. Were there any chapters that you found difficult to write?

Jim: Maybe some more laborious. For instance, the chapter on music publishing; it has to be written and it has to be told; the formulas and the criteria has to be spelled out. That is not an area that I am interested in; I am more interested in promotional areas, the press and the PR areas and the selling areas. I have been a music publisher for a long time and it does not have the interest and excitement to me that recalling some of the stories about going into Soldiers Field or Radio City Music Hall with the Oak Ridge Boys or the Judds or Carnegie Hall. When I wrote those stories, I just relived them and I got excited all over again. Also going to the Soviet Union and opening up the international areas that had never been open to country music before. Seeing the response to people that were not familiar with country music; who even had a hostile attitude toward Americans as a whole and see their whole attitude change with music that touched their souls. That was the Oak Ridge Boys and Roy Clark and everybody else that I took around. But that was the chapter that meant the most to me. That was the big change in my life I think when I took that first tour to the Soviet Union with the Oak Ridge Boys and Roy Clark. They knew about us from The Voice of America broadcasting; but they were hostile toward America because they thought we were going to bomb them any minute and so the first show that was put on you could see within thirty seconds that audience just melt into a state of peace and harmony that Roy and the Oaks brought to that whole show. That was a magical period in diplomatic relations as well as all of us personally.

Bev: It is something we take for granted here because we are so involved in it every day and we do appreciate it, but to see it happen especially in a country like that I cannot even imagine.

Jim: We got letters from every Senator and every Congressman sitting in Congress at that time. Including diplomats in the State Department that this particular tour with Roy Clark and the Oak Ridge Boys did more diplomatic good than anything that they had done in years. It opened the doors, it opened the avenues of conversation and negotiations that had not been open before. Those of us in the business know that through music and art you can reach an understanding with people that puts us in a different place as far as our relationships go.

Bev: When you set out to write a book, having had all the experience you have had, how hard was it for you to narrow down to just so many chapters? Did you have to weed out things that you really wished you could have included?

Jim: I did and I did not start out just to write a book. These were different groups of essays that I had written primarily for myself or maybe for a magazine or for a conference that I was going to. I did not start out at the beginning and end up at the end. These were all notes and essays that I had written and all of a sudden I realized that I had the making of a book. My good friend John Wooley , who helped me with it, asked what he could do to help me. I said that I needed a beginning, middle and end to it. I had all the chapters, but needed to put them together into some logical sequence so that it made sense and would read with the flow. He was very skilled at doing that. So he is credited in the book for doing that.

Bev: How are you getting word out to the public?

Jim: Well, we are trying to do, and it is a matter of priority with me, is the Oak Ridge Boys at this time of my life. I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night and in between is all these things I am thinking about; I am thinking of the Oak Ridge Boys. But it works in to where maybe there is a place that I am going in conjunction with an Oak Ridge Boys project and I will do a book signing or I will do a television show. I was on Fox and Friends, Fox Business News, WGN and things like that work in. One of the things that is very exciting to me with and this whole project is the Oklahoma Museum of History. It has opened this gigantic exhibition of a lot of my memorabilia that I have collected over sixty years. There are gold and platinum albums from Reba, the Judds, Merle Haggard, Lee Greenwood, Mel Tillis and Hank Thompson ,Roy Clark and of course a lot from the Oak Ridge Boys. It is a one of a kind exhibition that maybe you could see something like it at the Country Music Hall of Fame, but no place else. There is a wide variety of artists involved in it and it is multimedia, and it is tastefully designed and set. It is full of pictures, awards, memorabilia, costumes, gold and platinum albums of sixty years of Jim Halsey star maker career. It is up and on display in Oklahoma City now at the Oklahoma History Museum and it will be there up until the first of the year. Then it will travel. It will go other places. I know they are talking to the Country Music Hall of Fame, they are talking to the Opry Museum, and they are also talking to the Smithsonian. So this may travel for the next three or four years and in between that time there is the gigantic pop cultural center. It is in the process of being built in Tulsa. It is a forty-two million dollar building located next to the stadium in the ball park that will house various artifacts and interesting memorabilia from all of the above cultural people from the state of Oklahoma; Mickey Mantle to Patti Page and a lot of my artist in between there. They plan to build a replica of my office in there and they will have all the pictures on the walls and the gold and platinum albums. It is not just going to be a place to show off interesting items; although they will be all right there too. A lot of my records and contracts will be in there. In the last sixty years, my company has probably booked thirty thousand engagements; everything from Rick Nelson to John Denver. I have an old John Denver contract when his name was some silly name like John Duffensdorf or something like that. It called for four hundred dollars a week in a place in Stafford, Arizona. That was a long time ago, in the early sixties, before Jerry Weintraub got ahold of him and made him a star. But anyway, it is those types of things that people interested in the business can come and can study and they can see contracts. I have probably ten thousand hours of videos of all my artists. All that will be there. But it will not just be my material, it will include material from Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys to Woody Guthrie.

Bev: Will you have your book available too? Will you be doing book signings from there?

Jim: I will have my book available everywhere! When I am getting gas at the gas station I will have my book in the trunk of the car. (laughs)

Bev: I assume also that you will be doing the online social sites?

Jim: We are. We have a site that is called Jim Halsey, Starmaker. We are building that and included on that will be an online school, with courses that you can take. You can take them for credit if you want to, or a certificate. But there will be various courses from Introduction to Music and Entertainment Business to Creative Artist’s Management to PR( Press), and the Art of Negotiation. All these things are in the process. We have some of the Courses already done; some will be fully accredited if you want it for college or like a lot of young people today, they may just want the information and when they complete the course, they will get a certificate of completion. If you read the book, you will see that I call this particular type of functioning layering; layered marketing, layered sales, layered projects where you may have a whole group of different types of things, but they are all connected in one way or another. They all have a thread running through them connecting them so that if you laid them on top of one another you would have a nice stack of pancakes and all you would need is a bottle of syrup and butter and you are in business.

Bev: I love that. It is a great way of putting it. Because this is somewhat a self-help book mixed with inspiration and learning tools all in one, how do you describe it?

Jim: I think this is a book of encouragement and hope. It tells you how to do it and what steps to follow. It is pretty simple. From beginning to end there is a lesson in each chapter and something to learn. Of course I am always available to answer anybody’s personal questions. They can just go online to If someone just types in they will get my website.

Bev: Jim, this has been an absolute pleasure and I have learned a lot just in spending time visiting with you today. I know that this book will help spawn many people’s dreams into reality.

Jim: It has been so nice that you would consider talking to me, Bev. I appreciate it very much. Thank you for all your help and I look forward to seeing you again.

For more information on Jim Halsey and to purchase your own copy of “STARMAKER” visit

Transcribed by Darlene McPherson for Digital Rodeo

Michelle Turley: Interview

Michelle Turley is originally from Deming, New Mexico, and grew up on a ranch where country music was a huge part of her life. Both her mother and father were musicians. Her father leading a band called “The Playboys” and her mother was an accomplished pianist and vocalist. They were a large part of Michelle musical influences throughout her childhood. Michelle spent her teen years in Phoenix and later became a top international fashion model for the Ford Agency in New York. Her many clients included, Valentino, Armani, Versace and Donna Karan.
Throughout her modeling career, Michelle continued to write and record music. Dance With Me Tonight includes a star-studded group of musicians who have performed with Kenny Chesney, Linda Ronstadt, Martina McBride and Larry Gatlin.

Bev: Great to meet you Michelle, you have had quite a career too far; let’s start out with the project you are currently working on.

Michelle: Caroline is my single we are very pleased with the results of this particular song; I am so excited about it. This is the first album out of the gates. Prior to “Caroline” we also had “Hard times”, another single off the album that also went to number one on the country chart. So right now I feel really excited.

Bev: Did you write any or all of the songs on the album?

Michelle: It is a combination of both; we are a brother and sister team. I write some of the songs, my younger brother writes some of them and another brother writes some of them. My whole family collaborates, so it makes it so much more special for me to be able to work with my siblings. This is something we have talked about doing for years, since we were kids. Now to have this all come together and have so much success right out of the gate, it is something we could have only dreamed of. But now that it is happening and is a reality and it puts a big smile on all of our faces.

Bev: I can only imagine! So, the song “Caroline”, what prompted you to write it? What is the story line behind it and how did it all come to be?

Michelle: I wrote the music for that and my younger brother wrote the lyrics to it. I was tinkering around in the studio one day and the song came to me. I was playing it on the piano and I play a little guitar as well and I played it to my brother. He said it reminded him of a train or some kind of locomotive. All of a sudden he came out with the lyrics. The song is based on a young girl who marries the wrong person and who has regrets and wants to go back home to the Carolinas. That is how that all came together.

Bev: Do you often times find that songs just happen that way for you or are you the kind of person who has to put a lot of time and effort into constructing a song?

Michelle: The songs usually just pop into my head. I could be doing anything; doing laundry or cooking dinner for my kids. Or I can be playing an instrument where the chords sound really nice to me and then the words will follow suit; but a lot of times they just pop into my brain! And I just go for it! I usually have my little tape recorder next to me or my Blackberry and I will sing into that and I will keep it. Sometimes I will be dreaming and I have a song that comes to me in my dream which is kind of strange. But I am lucky that way and it is sort of a lot of fun.

Bev: Our subconscious is a bigger tool than we realize. Since you have had so much success right out of the gate with “Caroline”, what do you plan to do next? Is there another single coming out? Are you working on the next album?

Michelle: Both. Yes, we are working on another album and also have another single coming out off this album. It is called “Memory”. It is a real traditional country song which is my favorite style of country. “Memory” is a ballad where the other two songs have been really upbeat fast songs. The second album which is almost completed, hopefully by November.

Bev: When you release these are you doing it via the online portals that are so popular now? Are you still doing hard copy on store shelves? What have you found to be most successful for you?

Michelle: We are doing a little bit of everything. We have had a lot of success online. We have had a lot of success internationally like in Japan. And we have also had a lot of success in radio and video. You can get the hard copies online as well as on the store shelves. And with the second release it will be even more accessible. We are working on all of that.

Bev: When you do live performances, do you try to reach a certain type of genre or what fan base are you aiming for? At what kind of places can people find you when you are out there performing?

Michelle: Right now we are doing a lot in Phoenix and hope to be in Nashville at the end of August or the beginning of September. Those are the most recent dates that we have. We are working on upcoming dates for the fall. We hope to get out to California. We are talking about doing other dates in Tennessee as well as in Nashville. Right it is kind of up in the air, but we are working on it. We are looking forward to getting out there and playing again. We have had a little bit of a break with the release of the second single and also we have been recording a lot in the studio working on the second album.

Bev: Have you been opening for any other acts? Or have you just been doing your own thing?

Michelle: We have just been doing our own thing. That is another thing we are working on too.

Bev: Are you utilizing all the online social networks like Face book, My Space, Twitter?

Michelle: Yes, we are on them all. You just have to do a Michelle Turley search and they will all pop up.

Bev: Have you had any odd or embarrassing or uncomfortable situations resulting from that?

Michelle: Not yet. And I am knocking on wood because I have heard of a few other stories. I think I have been pretty lucky that way so far.

Bev: Another popular online trend is Utube, have you jumped on that as well with some candid and behind the scenes footage for the fans?

Michelle: You can see all the videos on U-Tube. We have great videos of the first two releases and some comedy from Hard Times that will make you laugh and of “Caroline”. We have the next video coming out for the third release which is “Memory”. That should be done in a few weeks. Just look for it all. I am looking forward to hearing from everybody and thanks for the support.

Bev: Michelle it sounds as though you have a great start and I am sure there is more to come. I look forward to seeing you perform when you are in Nashville, be sure to let me know the exact dates and locations and I will look you up.

Michelle: That would be great, I would like that. And thank you so much too for making this work to share some time and help us get the word out!

For more information on Michelle Turley visit

Transcribed by Darlene McPherson for Digital Rodeo

BILLY YATES: Interview "Bill's Barber Shop"

Billy Yates first cut as a songwriter was the George Jones' smash, "I Don't Need Your Rockin' Chair", but that initial success was the culmination of years of hard work and thin times, as well as an uncompromising commitment to the power of country music.

Having had the experience of traveling all over the country performing at various venues in nearly every state, including more than twenty appearances on the world-famous Grand Ole Opry, Yates is now taking his music across the water where he will perform at nearly 50 festivals and events in Europe this year. "The country music fans of Europe are so passionate and love the music so much that it's an absolute thrill to perform in front of them", says Yates who's foreign single release, "Better Every Beer" is currently burning up the European country music charts.

Billy and I took a breather during a very busy week this summer to visit about his songs, his travels and some of his special memories.

Bev: Billy, we have known each other for some time and I am always so amazed with your new songs and your ability to really relate to your fans and give such a personal touch to your music. What do you have that you are working on right now?

Billy: Bill’s Barbershop is the latest CD I have been working on which comes out on August 25th. What is so cool about this is that it is the fact that my dad was a barber for forty years and I grew up in that barbershop. The picture on the cover is of him in his barbershop, Bill’s Barbershop and the sign was his actual sign as well. This is a tribute to those days. There are so many stories that were told and also about things that happened in that shop that influence what I do as a song writer. It was a surprise for him when he saw that we did a CD about his shop. I had the artwork all done before I showed it to him.

Bev: What was his reaction?

Billy: Oh, he was really thrilled! My mom was jealous.

Bev: So now you have to come up with something for her, like Betty’s Kitchen or something? (laughs)

Billy: The last CD I did was called “That’s Why I Run” which was a little more modern country. This one is more traditional. Especially for the European market which I really cater to. They really like that. And the next one will be even more traditional.

Bev: What is your favorite song on this new CD?

Billy: Well, “Bill’s Barber Shop” obviously is pretty special. “Famous For Being A Fool” is another track on that album that I am partial to. It has done really well. It is a single over in Europe. A song called “Margarita Meltdown” got a lot of airplay in Europe. The singles go a lot faster over there. I do a new one about every year.

Bev: How do you keep up the pace with being in Europe so much ,doing so much traveling and continuing to perform here?

Billy: Well, I write a lot on the plane. Coming home from Europe I wrote three songs on the plane. I try to make good use of my time. Like when I am alone in a motel.

Bev: And how long is the flight?

Billy: Eight hours. I can write a song every two hours. (laugh).

Bev: Do you ever feel like there are people looking over your shoulder? Making you nervous?

Billy: Well, on this flight there was a girl who was sitting next to me who thought I was writing a dumb poem or something. All she could see were the words, you know?

Bev: Did you do all the writing for this project yourself since it is so personal?

Billy: Yes, I wrote and co-wrote all the songs on it. Of course, co-writing is something I have always done a lot of. I have been very fortunate to have had a lot of songs recorded by a lot of people. Co-writing is so much fun because you get to hang out with your buddies. Lately, the last few months, I have been writing a lot by myself. So probably the next record that I put out there will be more songs that I have written alone. I have never done that before. I have written a lot of songs about myself, but when you are co-writing you get into a room with someone and you are not coming up with anything, you add a word here or change a word there, sometimes improving and sometimes making it worse. There are so many ways to do that. But pretty soon you have co-written a song.

Bev: What is your worst co-writing experience? Is there one that sticks out in your mind?

Billy: Well, there is this one guy, of course I will not say who it is, and we have been friends for a long time now, but when I got to his house and he was sitting on his couch with his eyes closed. I tapped on the door and he says to come in. So I walked in the door and he is sitting right in front of me on the couch with his guitar in his lap. I eased over and found me a spot on the couch, got my guitar out, and he said “I need you to be quiet”. So I sat there trying to be quiet. He started to work on his song kind of lost in his own world. So I thought I should contribute something or else leave, you know? So I started throwing out some ideas, some lines, and he said “I really need you to just be quiet”. He is sitting there in this trance. After about an hour or an hour and a half I thought “this is crazy”. And so I quietly got my stuff and I put my guitar back in the case and he heard me going out the door. He said “Where are you going?” I answered “I think you have this covered, you do not really need me”. And I excused myself.

Bev: An hour and a half is a long time---ten minutes is a long time! So, was that song ever a hit?

Billy: No.

Bev: Too bad. You could have at least had a good story. Like, I was there when he wrote it! I did not contribute a darn thing but I was there. How about live shows; Any funny stories there?

Billy: I did a show in California with Merle Haggard. I had a record out called “Flowers” and it was like in the top twenty or something like that. Haggard had heard the song and loved it. He invited me to come to California to do the show with him and Buck Owens. Well, they decided not to do the show together and I showed up and Merle wanted me to come on his bus and hang out with him. He is one of my heroes; It was just a perfect day for me, everything went great. Well, he started to do the show. It was one of those times that anything that could go wrong did go wrong! The first thing was a time in the show when I put the guitar down and took the mike in hand, to just sing. Well, the mike was stuck! I was trying not to be obvious while I was gently tugging on the mike. Suddenly it came loose and I chipped a tooth! Then, during the same show, I got tangled in the guitar cord and fell down on the stage.

Bev: How many hit recordings have you had?

Billy: I have never counted them actually. I have had probably fifty some odd songs recorded by other artists, and I have had several singles of my own. I have had those with George Jones that will probably go down as classics, such as” Choices“ and “The Rocking Chair”, those are top twenty records. I have never had a number one. I have never had a top ten. I have never won a BMI award.

Bev: “Rocking Chair” never went to number one?

Billy: Most people think it did. The video is out and you see it a lot. And they still play it on the radio. And that is the great thing about writing and kind of catering to that kind of artist, which is something I have done a lot of. Jones has cut six of my songs. And they continue to get played where I think if you have a number one on someone who is more current, it is up the chart, down the chart and then it is over. With an artist like Jones it becomes a top twenty record, from a financial viewpoint, it probably pays about as well if not better than a number one over time.

Bev: Do you have someone in mind that you would like to record a certain song when you are writing?

Billy: Oh yes. Many times. Sometimes I will be writing something and it kind of hits me that it would be so good for someone especially like Brooks and Dunn. And then I start channeling Ronnie Dunn and I hear his voice in my head and start phrasing for him. Then of course they do not do it, someone else does. For example, “Choices” was not written for George Jones. In fact I was probably channeling it for someone else! But it still ended up being a big record for him. But yes, during the whole writing process, I do hear “voices in my head” so to speak.

Bev: Have you ever written a song for a female or have a female in mind to record it?

Billy: Actually I have. It is a whole different perspective though. Being as how I am married to one, I sort of know how they think.

Bev: Who is your favorite person to co-write with?

Billy: That is a dangerous question you know, because you could offend someone. I love them all for different reasons. I have had great experiences with people who are no longer with us like Harlan Howard. We never wrote a thing together, but we tried to. You can learn a lot from the legendary writers. I used to write a lot with Frank Dycus who was Dean Dillon’s mentor. They wrote “Marina Del Rey”, and a lot of George Strait songs. Frank Dycus taught me a lot. He is one of my all time favorite co-writers and we have written probably close to two hundred songs together. Now today I write with a lot of artists. And writing with a lot of different people, I get something from each of them.

Bev: You did not grow up in Nashville; what was the deciding factor for you to come here?

Billy: No, I grew up in Missouri. My parents and my whole family, on both sides, are very musical. I have an uncle who lives in Nashville who used to be a song writer. He does not write much any more, he is pushing ninety. He wrote stuff for people like the Wilburn Brothers. For George and Tammy he wrote “God’s Gonna Get Ya For That”. Therefore, once I decided this is what I wanted to do, he made it seem attainable. Like, I can do that because he did it. Also, when you are younger, you have no fear. Right out of high school I started making trips here, and I ended up with a development deal with RCA . Mary Martin with RCA was the A & R person and she took an interest in me and told me it was time to move to Nashville. When I was just a kid growing up on this little farm in Missouri, we lived a very simple life. My dad is a barber, mom is a house wife, I am twelve and thirteen years old and coming home to some kind of good snack everyday, she was waiting there. We had a regular Sunday morning radio show, and when I would sing there or in church, with my mom and dad, I do not know at what point I realized that this is what I wanted to do. At one point, I went through a very shy stage and I kind of got away from it. Then again in high school it kind of came back. Out of high school I got really serious about it. I started working in little theaters, because Branson of course was just down the road. There were spin offs of that kind of thing locally where I lived. I was kind of lucky in that I did not have to perform in bars. It gave me a whole different perspective about entertaining. So I did know early on that this is what I wanted to do, but I never dreamed that I would get to do the Grand Ole Opry. Every few weeks I get to play there which is really great. For example if somebody gets sick, they call me. I love it when somebody gets sick! Also, the trips to Europe. Sometimes when I am on stage over there, at some big festival, there are bunches and bunches of people out there singing along to my songs. They do not speak English, but when they do that, I tear up. I have flash backs to when I was a kid. My big dream was to come here and end up on a major record label. You want to be a star. There is that part of it. But once the reality sets in and you realize it was never really about that. It was more about the music anyway. Then when you are doing your music in front of people who love it, you have succeeded.

Bev: How old were you when you actually moved here?

Billy: About twenty three.

Bev: When did you start doing the international shows?

Billy: About seven years ago. My first record deal was at Curb in ninety two; that was five years after I moved to Nashville. I had a developmental deal with RCA before I move here. Of course nothing happened with that. I ended up at Curb and I did a record with Ray Baker. Ray Baker had produced all the Mo Bandy, Mo and Jo stuff and the Right or Wrong album with George Strait, a lot of Merle Haggard stuff. He was a great country producer. We made a really cool record . It was kind of unfortunate, but the powers that be decided that it was really too country. And it may have been I guess. They wanted me to change my style. I decided that I am what I am and did not really want to change my style. I feel very fortunate, because I walked away from that to another deal, then another , then another. Eventually I ended up at Alamo Sounds which was owned by Albert J. Moss. And that was a really fun time. We had a song called “Flowers” that did really well. From there I went to Sony and was on Columbia for about three years. Did a record and a half there . I walked away from there with a great education, because I sat in on all those marketing meetings. I learned how the big label really ticks. When I graduated from that school in essence, I started my own label. Thus came MOD Record Label, (My Own Damn Record Label). And it has been a blast! I started trying to market one of these records in Europe. I saw where there was an audience for that kind of music, the kind of music that I loved, and it is a perfect fit with me and that whole kind of thing. They like the traditional kind of country music. It gave me the opportunity to do what I do without me trying to be someone I am not. I think if you are a real artist, it is not necessary to do that. It was easy for me to make that choice.

Bev: When you go to Europe, and they do not speak English, do you still do meet and greets after your performances?

Billy: Yes, I do do meet and greets. They know the words to my songs; but the thing is some of them do not speak English. Some of them understand it, but cannot speak it. Now in the schools, the younger people are able to speak English. So it is not a real problem. In France they are not as bilingual as in other countries, but I talk with my hands and really do not have too many problems. During the meet and greets sometime due to the fact that their names are so long and hard to spell, I just write “Love, Billy Yates“, or “Thanks, Billy Yates”. It is hard to communicate sometimes, but what is so cool is that they buy the CD’s and they have the music and you know they cannot speak the language. Yet they are singing along to it. It is a phonetic thing.

Bev: What are you doing for promotions for this CD?

Billy: As far as the promotions, I am doing the same thing I do every time. There is no serious infrastructure in Europe. I do not worry so much about distribution. It is not a real necessity, because there are specialty shops. There are great guys like John Lomax here in town that does a great export business. I do a lot of business with him and we get the CDs in all the specialty shops. We go to CD Baby, which is a great tool to make things available on I-Tunes for the European fan base , because they cannot go to the record store to find country records, they rely on the internet and these little specialty shops. It is really not that difficult . That is how I get the music out there. The key to it is to create the demand and the fans and consumers will find the product.

Bev: What about the CMA Festival. Other than your show the “Countriest of the Country”, and media interviews, did you participate in other events during the week?

Billy: In the past I have had a booth and again my fan base is primarily European, so they are here for the music. This year I decided to do special private shows for them rather than do a booth. For example, I had breakfast with a group of about fifty or sixty people from Switzerland at my hotel. I did a private show the one morning for a group of about that same size from England. I did that sort of thing all week. That way they are getting more out of it and so am I. And they seem to love that. Other years I had a booth, but it is a lot of work; and the problem with that was that a lot of European fans were trying to be at Riverfront to see a show and they knew I was at a booth and they didn’t want to let me down. So I decided not to keep them from enjoying the shows; as that is why they are here.. I did a lot of media and I was at the Grand Old Opry Booth

Bev: Now when you are over in Europe, do you find yourself more of a celebrity over there?

Billy: There are some places where people are camped out at the hotel. It definitely happens. You never know exactly where it is going to happen, because it is sort of in pockets. Maybe there is some guy who has a two hour radio program because there is no full time country radio in Europe. For the most part it is some guy who plays an hour or two of country music on Saturday morning. And those people tune in to that and they listen . So it is a whole different way of doing things.

Bev: Billy, it is good to see you again as always and I look forward to seeing you again soon. Thank you for sharing your day with me.

Billy: Anytime, and it is my pleasure. I know we will be seeing one another at a show again soon.

For more information on Billy Yates visit

Transcribed by Darlene McPherson for Digital Rodeo

Sunny Ledfurd: Interview "Greatest Hits"

Sunny Ledfurd was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee and raised in Cramerton, North Carolina where he taught himself how to play the guitar at the age of fifteen. At age seventeen he began to play in many of the local bars. After numerous rejections in the early 2000’s from every major label from Los Angeles to Nashville, Ledford finally made the decision that if he was going to make it he would have to do it myself. Using money from acoustic cover shows played in bars all over the Carolina’s, he built a home studio to be able to record whenever he wanted…when the inspiration came.

Sunny and I shared some time to talk about his music and his current Greatest Hits CD.

Bev: Sunny, please tell me about your current project.

Sunny: I have a Greatest Hits album which may sound a little ridiculous, but I was trying to catch the new people who will be coming aboard. It will combine seven years worth of work on one CD.

Bev: How did you choose which of your songs over such a wide time span? Are these songs most requested that are on it?

Sunny: That is pretty much what they are. Do not play them a lot since I have so many songs, so you will have a lot of people calling and saying “Could you play that song”. That is why they are called hits.

Bev: Did you have a hard time narrowing down so it would all fit on one CD?

Sunny: No, it was pretty easy because I try to keep everything spaced apart. I had certain categories of songs I wanted to be on the CD, so those that represented their type of song the best made it.

Bev: What are the best memories from a fan has come up to you after hearing one of your songs and said something about a song that has touched your heart the most?

Sunny: The one that seems to be recurring is people saying that the songs I am singing represent what is going on in their lives.

Bev: When you hear them compliment your ability to put into words and to music to the point you have touched them like that, what goes through your mind?

Sunny: Oh, it is really cool. It is a nice feeling to know that other people are thinking the same way I am.

Bev: Has there ever been something that you have written or that you have chosen to record that was interpreted an entirely different way than you intended by the majority of listeners?

Sunny: No, it has been pretty much straight up so far.

Bev: Nothing has thrown you for a curve, like, whoa, I was not thinking of it in that way?

Sunny: No, not yet. I think sometimes some of our viewers misunderstand it, but the listeners always get it.

Bev: If you were to look back on your life and pick one song from everything you have done up to now, what would be the one that you would like people to remember you by the most?

Sunny: I would have to say in the situation right now, still trying to move this thing forward; I would have to say “Got Em” from the Devil On My Shoulder CD.

Bev: Tell me a little bit of how you arrived at this point in your career. Where you started and what it took to get where you are today.

Sunny: Putting out music CD’s and making sure they got everywhere. One of my concerns was selling CD’s. Seven years ago it was like, look, let’s just get this CD in your car. Here, take it.

Bev: How old were you when you first knew you wanted to be an entertainer and singer?

Sunny: Thirteen.

Bev: And what was your first gig? Where did you perform?

Sunny: The first one I played in a little steak house bar and got paid in cash. I thought this was it.

Bev: Do you write as well as sing?

Sunny: I do write and I play all the instruments.

Bev: You play all the instruments? What instruments does that include?

Sunny: Drums, keys, guitars, bass. The only instruments that I do not play are specialty instruments like harmonica and sax.

Bev: In your opinion, what is the best venue that you have played?

Sunny: I would say Timbers Bar and Grille in Redmond, Oregon. That is usually pretty hype.

Bev: Is it because of the crowd or is it because of the sound of the venue that makes it your favorite?

Sunny: I base it on the crowd. I mean, they always seem ready to party.

Bev: Do you find that you have a certain age group or if it is male or female, what type of followers do you think like your music the most?

Sunny: It seems to be anything between sixteen to fifty, like kids who come with their parents to older people of no specific age range.

Bev: What about when you sit down to write, are you aiming for a specific audience type or is it simply whatever comes to mind regardless of age or genre.

Sonny: No, I like to get really uninhibited. It is almost like I have a big party going on and be real natural.

Bev: Where is the strangest place you have every written a song?

Sonny: I do not know about strange, but I like to go to Hooters. I like to go there in an afternoon and kid around with the waitresses and the next thing I know I am messing around on a napkin with a song I just wrote.

Bev: If you do not have a strange place, other than napkins, what is another unusual place you have written words to a song so that you can remember it?

Sonny: A strange thing I do is calling my own voicemail when I am really drunk. When I open it I am trying to decipher a weird melody in there.

Bev: What about all the online social networks? Are you using Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and so on?

Sunny: Yes, that is right.

Bev: And do you enjoy those or do you find them too invasive?

Sunny: Well, I feel like My Space and Face Book , I am fine with writing whatever, but with Twitter I have to control myself because I like them to see my thoughts.

Bev: When you use Twitter, do you tell every little thing that you do? I just tied my shoe, I am having a steak for dinner, or do you keep it more businesslike? Or do you do a little bit of both?

Sunny: No, it can be all kinds of stuff. What ever hits me at the moment. I will tell them about the game I am watching on TV.

Bev: Sunny, thanks for your time, I have enjoyed getting to know you.

Sunny: Bev, I appreciate your time too and look forward to talking to you again!

For more information on Sunny Ledford visit

Transcribed by Darlene McPherson for Digital Rodeo

AMBER HAYES: Interview "C'mon"

As her bio states, Amber Hayes was born an entertainer. She was singing, performing, even hosting her own 30-minute Country music show, "Amber & Friends" at state fairs, private parties and corporate events by the time she was eight.
Over the years, Amber's talent and performances have garnered recognition and awards. She was chosen as one of "America's Ten Most Beautiful Children" by Globe Magazine, crowned "Junior Miss of Oklahoma," was a National Finalist in "America's Kids," and was a finalist for Disney's television show, "The Mickey Mouse Club" along with Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson. Since moving to Nashville a few years ago, Amber has had many opportunities to share the stage with some of country music's hottest new stars like Rodney Atkins, as well as legendary artists Marty Stuart, T.G. Sheppard, Jeannie Seely and others. She also nabbed the coveted role of Kathy Twitty in the national touring play, "It's Only Make Believe – The Conway Twitty Musical," about the life and music of Conway Twitty. The play debuted to rave reviews and a sold out crowd at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville before touring the country. Amber recently signed with FUNL Music and has been on a radio tour to promote the title single and video from her new album, "C'Mon” which was released in June.

Amber took a moment out of her busy schedule to visit with me about the journey so far and her dreams of making a place of her own in country music.

Bev: I know that you have been working towards this point in your career for a long time. Give me a quick look back at your career to this moment.

AH: I started singing when I was about five. My parents were going through a divorce and my Grandma decided I needed something to do. She took me to dance lessons and I was so shy I wouldn’t even get out from under the table. The teacher suggested I take private lessons instead, so I started the private lesson where I was asked to sing and that is when they found out I was a singer. From that point on, I started singing and at age eight, I had my own show. I traveled around Oklahoma to the fairs and festivals. I was in a talent organization and a school that toured and then two weeks out of high school, I moved to Nashville. Since then I have been working really hard to get to this point. It is so exciting to see how it has all come about; it has been a great couple of years.

Bev: Have there been any surprises since you moved to Nashville; things that you thought were going to go a certain way or happen a certain way and you have found out it is totally different than what you thought it would be?

AH: I think everything is like that. When you move to Nashville, you think things are going to happen with a snap of the finger, but that is not the way it works. Also, it is overwhelming to see all the talent in Nashville around you all the time, but I think that makes you better. You can either be scared or it can make you better. Timing is everything; it’s not your time, it is everyone else’s time. They may or may not call you back for a couple of weeks; you may be in limbo that is the way it is. I know there are other businesses like that other than the music business, but you learn a lot from this.

Bev: What has been the most scary or overwhelming part of the journey for you?

AH: The fear that it may not ever happen. I guess I know that it is going to happen and I am going to make a living singing. What your dreams are, are not necessarily what might happen; I guess that is my fear and it is scary. I am working hard; I just keep going and I am so happy to be where I am right now.

Bev: When you have those moments when you second guess everything, what do you do, what picks you back up to motivate you and kick you back into gear?

AH: I don’t have any children yet, but I think of my nephew and I want him to have certain things and I want to work hard so I can give him things. My family has worked so hard for me. My Grandparents would take me all over Oklahoma every weekend and I don’t want to let them down. That is very motivating to me.

Bev: You also write. Everyone has their own style and technique. What do you do? Do you have certain days, certain times? Where do you find you write best at?

AH: Yes, I write and I find my best place is on the road. We have been doing a radio tour the last few months and a co-writer friend has been out there with me playing guitar. We have been writing so much and I find that I write my best material when we are out on the road. I don’t know if it is motivated by going from town to town or what. I am from a small town; I talk about that in my songs and when I travel through these small towns, I might see something and I can pull from that. Writing for me, has to come natural and I think that is why I am picky when I start to write, if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. You just have to go with the flow and that is something I have learned. I wasn’t a songwriter when I moved here and I realized quickly, the need to be both a singer and a songwriter.

Bev: When you choose songs that you want to perform, do you prefer to have songs that have a connection to something you could have lived or are you content to sing about anything?

AH: I would rather sing about something that I could have gone through or lived. That is one thing about being a co-writer on songs, is you typically have been there. Even if it isn’t something you have lived, it is something your friend or co-writer has been through. I know there are great songs out there that I have not been able to live, that I would maybe be able to get the message across, but I would prefer the other.

Bev: When you perform and do meet and greets afterwards, have there been any fans that have come up to you and told you of something that touched them emotionally to where you will remember that person or that moment?

AH: During the radio tour this summer, I was at a station in Georgia, live on the air talking to Steve Ferguson, the DJ. He looked up and pointed; I looked up and turned around and a fan had stopped into the station to meet me. I went “she stopped to meet me?” For her to come to the station because the music touched her and because she wanted to meet me, that was so cool and something that I will always remember. She was so nervous and I told her to stop, don’t be nervous, I am just a normal girl. I was so honored that she would come to meet me.
Bev: What has been the reaction during the radio tour? Are there any stories you can tell about going into the radio stations?

AH: For the most part, everyone has been so great. I know there are a lot of us that are trying to do this, I am very aware of that. I just try to be me when I go in there and not be some pushy person telling them that they have to play my single. They either get the song and you, or they don’t. I hope they do. I have had a great experience. My whole family got to hear me on the radio for the first time in Bristow, Oklahoma. They actually came to the station and were there when I walked out. We met in the road while the song was playing and we danced and we cried. They have put a lot of hard work into all of this. That is a day I will never forget. It is a first that will never happen again. We have it on video.

Bev: What is next?

AH: The EP is going to come out August 31st and we are planning a showcase in Nashville September 2nd. It will be a CD release and will be broadcast on WSM at the Station Inn. I am a lover of traditional country music so anything to do with The Grand Ole Opry or WSM, I get excited about. We have some dates in the fall, but we are still doing radio shows.

Bev: Most artists say they have “made it” when they play “the Opry”. Have you done anything on the Opry stage yet?

AH: I played the Ryman twice and that was such an awesome experience and an honor to be on that stage. I have never been on the Grand Ole Opry and never played that stage but that is one of the biggest dreams I have. I have a 94 year old Great- Grandmother and we are very close. She says she is living to see me sing on the Grand Ole Opry, so no pressure. She is excited and when she heard me on WSM at CMA Fest she said, “You’re getting closer, just one more step.” That is one of my biggest dreams.

Bev: Was this your first CMA Fest?

AH: As an artist, yes. I did the CMA Fest last year with the Twitty musical and we played the Ryman, but this is the first time as an artist. All the people I talk to on Facebook and Twitter that come to CMA Fest; they came to see me at the booths. It was fun to meet all the fans and introduce myself as a new artist.

Bev: You said some of the older artists inspired you. Who are your icons and the people you tend to lean towards?

AH: My top three are, Reba, being from Oklahoma. She is from a small town like me and the fact that she did what she has done is so inspiring to me; just the performer that she is, is amazing. Dolly, as a songwriter, I love her. She is brilliant in everything she does. Barbara Mandrell was a big influence for me as a performer. She is the best and puts on such a great show. I hope that is the kind of show I can put on.

Bev: Because you have the acting and the singing, do you see yourself putting on a show somewhat like the Barbara Mandrell show?

AH: I would love that! A TV show or hosting or even Broadway or theater. I would like to have some of that in my live show. I think Reba and Dolly do that to a degree too; they have their own versions and hopefully, I will have my own version.

Bev: I know you are active with the social media outlets like MySpace, Twitter and Facebook; how do you handle that? Do you enjoy it or do you find it gets to be too much information out there? How do you control that?

AH: You have to have a balance when you get down to it. I think about Dolly and Barbara Mandrell; they didn’t do Facebook or Twitter. There are pros and cons, but I do think it is so great, as a new artist, to be able to reach people. They are getting to hear me where otherwise they may not have ever heard of me if they weren’t on one of those sites. It is important for them to know you, but there has to be a balance. If you do it well, they can get to know you without knowing too much. As a performer, entertainer and artist, when you make the decision that this is what you are going to do, there is going to be a part of your life that is always out there. It comes with the territory.

Bev: Is your single available for purchase or download currently?

AH: Remember the EP is coming out August 31st and the single “C’mon” is available on ITunes, Amazon and other places. It is on the radio so call and request it. We have the CD release party coming up on September 2nd here in Nashville so if you are here in town, make sure you come out. We have a really great new site at It is a behind the scenes video site and you can view my EP there. I have some of the Twitty musical things up also.

For more information on Amber Hayes visit

Transcribed by Pam Stadel for Digital Rodeo

CERRITO: Interview "Cerrito y Las Chicas de Country"

If you have ever seen CERRITO, you already know you will experience a rare entertaining combination of country music, romance and a spice of international flavor. He shifts effortlessly between Spanish and English converting country fans to his unique muy caliente sound with a show that’s spicier than your Momma’s jalapeno corn bread. While American audiences are still discovering CERRITO, he has won fans internationally touring Mexico, Europe, Japan, Honduras and the United Kingdom.

A love of music and entertaining came naturally to William Thomas Cerrito, one of six growing up in Providence, Rhode Island in a tight knit, multilingual, Italian family. His journey in the music industry is a story in its own and now he is concentrating on a new chapter as he puts his focus on a new project. CERRITO invited me to share time with him to talk about this new project as well as his past and the future.

Bev: I have heard some of the new CD “Cerrito y Las Chicas de Country” and it is so original and refreshing and you have quite a line up of duet partners. How did this come to fruition?

CERRITO: I am so happy about “South of the Border.” My first single off the album, Cerrito y Las Chicas de Country (Cerrito and the Girls of Country) is “South of the Border.” (It) is one of the duets with Lane Brody. All of the songs on the album are bilingual duets. It’s never been done in the history of any genre of music. Cerrito y Las Chicas de Country is going to be a monumental album in country music. When you hear the girls sing Spanish, you’re not going to believe it. Most of the girls on the album I met during the course of my career; at the Academy of Country Awards and of course, the CMA’s. I approached the girls, but the girls - Las Chicas – actually picked the songs that they wanted. Being the title of the album is Cerrito y Las Chicas de Country, what a better way than to kick off the album with Ms. “The Yellow Rose of Texas” with “South of the Border. [Editor’s Note: “The Yellow Rose of Texas” is a reference to Lane’s 1984 hit single.] It’s very Mexi-Cali with trumpets, guitars – it’s just beautiful!

Bev: I know you’re doing a lot of promotions here for the song. What else have you got going on?

CERRITO: We have full promoters on the album. I just did a wonderful interview with “The Linnda Durre Show,” out of Orlando, Florida. I have been to the New England area to promote. I performed at the CMA Music Festival this year with another of my duet partners, Lynn Anderson. We’ve had tremendous press with it. It’s just amazing the press that is coming through! It’s a good summer song. You can see people driving and singing along. I am also doing a very special show with Lane Brody and Rodney Crowell, Emily West, John Anderson, Robin Meade to raise funds for Walden's Puddle Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center on August 21st.

Bev: For the readers who may have not seen you perform, can you elaborate on the sound that is you, because you are an original sound that is all your own.

CERRITO: I just thought it was a wonderful way to solidify that there is room for the Hispanic market in country music. People really need to realize that. Now, I’m talking Hispanic. I’m not talking about Tejano. I’m not talking about Latin. I’m talking country. I just came back from a show called Border Fest in Hidalgo, Texas, which is on the Rio Grande. There were 85,000 people. It’s a 4-day event. Tim McGraw was there; Lady Antebellum was there. Charo and I had the same stage. There were some of your biggest acts out of Mexico. I went out and I sang country music in front of a 99.9% Mexican-American audience that all speak English and when I sang traditional country songs, they gave me a standing ovation. When I came to Nashville, I never went after a major deal. I never crammed it in front of anybody’s face, because many people said to me, “We’re already done it.” I just said, “You’ll see.”

Bev: How long have you been here?

CERRITO: I’ve been in Nashville 17 years. My music career took me to Rhode Island, Las Vegas, and California. Then, I went to Hawaii for 16 months, and that’s where I got national exposure. I decided to come to Nashville to sing country music. I’ve always sung country music in English and Spanish and in Nashville people would look at me as if I was a space Martian. So anyway, I didn’t get a very positive response from people. It didn’t bother me, because first of all, I don’t sound like Randy Travis. I don’t sound like anybody else. When you put a CERRITO record on, you know its CERITO. I also think that Music Row was somewhat tainted with the Hispanic market. They had tried it with Rick Trevino, it didn’t work. They tried it with Emilio, and it certainly didn’t work, and the reason I believe it didn’t work is that people thought that the Hispanic market was ignorant. It’s not an ignorant market. You have to remember a hundred years ago, there wasn’t even a border between Texas and Mexico. When you watch a Roy Rogers movie, who do you see playing behind them? Mexican mariachis. Now, Emilio was a Tejano performer. The country audiences didn’t know Emilio, but worked with Alan Jackson; that was his biggest break. But once he wasn’t (singing with) Alan Jackson, Emilio went back to Tejano, so it killed that. Then, they tried with Rick Trevino. Mi amigo, I love Rick; he’s a great guy. They sent Rick to Mexico to learn how to speak Spanish. My record label and my executive producer, Felipe de la Rosa, from Spain; was the first one who recognized my talent and he said to me, “You will never record a syllable in Spanish unless it’s correct.”

Bev: I think that’s where the confusion is. There are so many variances in that, that people bunch it all together.

CERRITO: You’re so correct. I’ve been called the King of Latin Country. Oh my gosh, Marco Antonio (Solis) – he’s the king of Latin! Tejano is Rick Trevino. I’m country. If you take my Spanish out of one of my songs, you’re listening to a traditional country song. It’s a huge difference! I’m very proud of what we do. I can’t wait for everybody to hear Elizabeth Cook singing Spanish! It’ll knock you out of the water!

Bev: How many duet partners do you have on your album?

CERRITO: We have Lane Brody. I invited Kathie Baillie from Baillie and the Boys. Kathie’s Italian and her Spanish is amazing. Lynn Anderson and my sister Sally Ann, who was just voted Rhode Island’s Female Vocalist. I also have Elizabeth Cook, Janie Fricke, Jett Williams, Moore and Moore, and we have one spot left. Actually, I approached Jeannie Sealy about a year ago. I have Lynn from 70s and Lane from the 80s. And, what I really wanted to do was get somebody from the 60s, which would be Jeannie or somebody of that caliber, because they really would represent country. So, I’m still pursuing that. So far, we have 10 girls on the album.

Bev: Now, did any of the female artists have to learn Spanish or did they already know Spanish?

CERRITO: Lynn Anderson’s Spanish was very good. Janie Fricke is from Texas; her Spanish is excellent! Elizabeth Cook is going to blow you out of the water with her Spanish! You know, radio’s been not so nice to some of those girls lately. But, it will be different with this album. You know what? I don’t want the stations that don’t want me. My goal is to go after the stations who do want to play my music.

Bev: What is the target date for the album release?

CERRITO: The album is one song away from complete. We hope to have an album release September 21. The artwork is all done; it’s beautiful.

Bev: Tell our readers a little about Charo and your relationship with her.

CERRITO: When I was living in Rhode Island, I had a beautiful hair salon. I had an opportunity to go to Las Vegas because the president of the National Cosmetology Association had offered me a job in either Hilton Head, South Carolina or Vegas. But, I was engaged to be married and I wasn’t really looking to move. He, being the president of the Association, he had tickets to anywhere. And of course, he was taking me around, because he really wanted me to work for him. But, I told him, “You know, Dave, I’ve got to tell you the truth; I just love my music.” He said, “Alright here’s what we’ll do. Who do you want to go see on the Strip?” I said I wanted to see Charo. When she came to Rhode Island, I bought the first two tickets to see her. We had a front row seat; she was at the Sahara. Her show was just fantastic! So, I go backstage, she was in her dressing room, and I’ll never forget, she said to me, “Hello. How are you? What is your name?” I said, “My name is CERRITO. I’m Italian, and I’m from Providence, Rhode Island.” She went, “You talk so funny!” And I said, “Well, you talk funny, too!” So of course, everybody laughs. And, the following day, we all get together, and Felipe, her guest, had a guitar. I picked up the guitar and started playing “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” They were all like, “What the heck is an Italian from Rhode Island doing country music?” Felipe was the contractor for her show, and two days later, she offered me a job in her show as a backup singer. I was 22 at the time. I called my mother and said, “Ma, you’re not going to believe this!” She said, “You remember one thing; you’re still very young. But this is a great opportunity.” I went home, sold my salon, called of my engagement and went to Las Vegas. I stood in the wings every night and I would learn her songs. I debuted with Charo in Atlantic City; I’ll never forget it, my whole family came up. I did The Tonight Show with her. After all that, Felipe told me it was time to go to Nashville. So I bought a house in Bellevue; I didn’t know one person. Felipe opened a label, and before you knew it, we have Cerrito y Las Chicas de Country.

Bev: What’s been the most exciting thing about your career?

CERRITO: The most exciting thing for me, at this point, is that my career now has definitely reached a new accolade. My last record went #1 in five nations in Europe. When we sat down to put together this album, I told everybody that I wanted this new album to be my accolade to the next level in my career. To me, Cerrito y Las Chicas de Country makes a statement in country music. It is the first ever bilingual collaboration of duets. You know, I’m very grateful. You work hard, but very few people make it to the height of Garth Brooks. But, what we did is put the cart before the horse. In other words, we built our audience first and then went to make our first record. Two years ago, I sang with Loretta Lynn at her ranch! It’s been a busy, productive year and I thank God every day.

Bev: You touched a little bit on your hairdressing. Are you still doing that at all?

CERRITO: Just for fun, yes. My band will come over, and I have a few friends whose hair I do. It was a career opportunity for me that when I came to Nashville. And you know, some of the people who sat in my chair opened doors for my music.

For more information on CERRITO visit

BRANDON RHYDER: Interview "Head Above Water"

Texas is well known for cultivating country music and also for creating a unique sound. A name that is familiar and a sound that is as unique as the individual and artist is Brandon Ryder. When you hear the voice you know it’s unmistakably him. When he comes out with a new single you never know what you’re going to get. Brandon Rhyder loves to take you to the top and then jerk the rug out from under you and start the process all over again. Brandon Rhyder doesn’t write for a genre, but rather for the inspiration he receives. He’s as real as they come. He’s sincere in his approach and delivery and hard headed to boot. He knows his business and expects as much and more out of himself as he does those who he calls ‘his team’. "We have worked very hard to get to where we are."

Brandon and I recently spent some time talking about his career, the music, the inspiration and his future.

Q: Thanks for sharing an afternoon with me Brandon, tell me about the new project; what you have going on and where you are at with it.

BR: This project we just came out with is called “Head Above Water” and it came out in February. It has been out for three or four months now. Last year was a really good year for me. I had a publishing deal that was ending up here and I just made it a year of staying home. I have two small children, a four year old boy and a two year old girl. I wanted to stay closer to home for a little while because I have been up here in Nashville for the last couple of years.
I wanted to record a project with my band; I wanted to have Walt Wilkins who has been up here for many years, to be a part of the project. He is now back in Texas. I also wanted to do it in Texas close to home because I really wanted our families to be involved in what we were doing. We did all of those things. We recorded at a little place called “The Zone” and “Dripping Springs” outside of Austin. I pulled the entire band into the project. Walt Wilkins agreed to produce the whole project for us and it fell together so easily. It was the first time in the studio out of six full length albums that I have done that is just worked so effortlessly. There was not one bit of stress the entire time that we were in the studio and when you are able to pull that off, you come out with a really great project. This one is my favorite thus far and has done better than anything I have had out there. The life it has already had the last three months is great.

“Rock Angel” is the first single off the album and went to number one on the Texas Regional Radio Report and also on the Texas Music Chart. It is continuing to have a life of its own and we did a video on it. I have joined forces with Katie Messerschmitt who is the original creator of the Rock Angel clothing line and we have started a “Katie Did” line of Rock Angel shirts. She is selling them in some of the ten thousand boutiques she is in across the nation and also in her online store. We sell them at every show we play as well.

“Rock Angel” has been really good and the new single, “You Burn Me”, is out there and already in the top ten on both those charts after just a few short weeks. Hopefully this regional success we are having will continue and push us to bigger and better places. We are touring 200 dates a year and not slowing down. We are breaking it out one market at a time. It is a lot of work but at the same time I really like the responsibility part of it as far as it all falls on my shoulders. That has its definite pluses and minuses in this day and age in the music industry and how much it’s changing right now. I get the feeling a lot of times in meetings that everyone doesn’t know exactly what they are doing. It might be a really great time to be an independent artist out there pushing this our own way.

Q: How much involvement did you have in writing the songs on this project?

BR: I wrote the entire record. This is the first time I have written the entire record. It wasn’t intentional, going in I had three outside songs that Walt and I had discusses. One was a Walt Wilkins song, one was a Matt Powell song and one was a Keith Gattis tune. We were in the studio for a couple of days, has recorded eight or nine songs I had written and Walt said, “hey I think we should just make this a Brandon Rhyder project”. By the time you have six albums, it is really hard to pull that together and be able to write that many songs. Luckily with our growth and the things that are happening for us we are able to be on a bus now and that has really helped us out but also given me a lot of free time to spend time on the back of the bus and continue to write as much as I can.

Q: Do you have a favorite tune or one closest to your heart on this project since you wrote all of them?

BR: Not really. They are all like my own little babies so it is hard to like one more than another. From top to bottom, the thing I like about the record so much is that every song has its own life. I like to explain it in a way that it is not 13 different chapters in one book; this is 13 different books on one disc. Every song has a life of its own and is written from a different perspective. I have always said I am not a writer for a specific genre, I have always written from the inspiration, the new things you learn. Whether you sit down and play a guitar, learn a different riff or find a new melody in your head, I just love that approach. I think it would keep it from ever getting old because you realize when inspiration hits, you realize it is there and you have to take advantage of it. It is not one of those things you can shelve and wait for the next opportunity to come around. You have to take advantage of it when it’s there. I really love that aspect of it and so if that were ever to be taken away from me, I don’t know how I would handle it.

Q: Let’s talk a little about charity events, especially with Nashville just going through the flood. What charities are you involved with and why?

BR: We are involved with many different things, especially in Texas. Our backyard is pretty big and a lot of times we are asked to be involved with different events and charities. Something that I have recently been involved with and had fun with is a program in Texas that was started by a gentleman and his wife; what they do is take inner city youth and teach them how to hunt and fish. It is a great kid’s outdoor program. I have been able to be a part of that, raise some awareness and money for that. I have also been able to be a part of some of their extra curricular activities like getting to do some work with the game wardens of Texas. I love to hunt and fish and because is it a positive thing to be involved with, it has been really great for us. I have a friend that I graduated high school with, his name is George and his wife is Liz. They have three deaf, blind children, triplets. Believe it or not, there are a lot of deaf, blind children in the United States and there are no schools for them. We are pulling together a fundraiser in the fall, probably in November to help raise money. We want to raise enough money to help them continue on that path to build another school in the United States. They have had a lot of help from Dr. Field; they have been in Readers Digest, on a couple of hour programs on the Discovery Channel. Right now in this tough economic situation, a lot of those funds have dried up. We want to try to help them out.

Q: I know you have had six albums out, but for the fans that are not familiar you’re your history, let’s discuss the history of how you got into the music business.

BR: Growing up, all my life, people told me I should go to Nashville, I should sing. I grew up singing in the church. It was just one of those things I thought was unattainable, ludicrous. I didn’t believe it was an option for me. I don’t know why I thought that, but I did. Then when I was about to graduate from college, around 1998, I discovered the guitar, I picked it up and immediately figured out there was a correlation between all the things I had written down. In 1999, I asked my wife if she wanted to move to Austin Texas, I wanted to try music and she said yes. I think she thought I was kidding. After that, we moved to Austin and in 2001, I came out with the first record, 2003 we came out with another one called “Behind The Pine Curtain” and then in 2005 we came out with the third project and it was called “Conviction”. “Conviction” is really the project that put us on the map. It was also a time when I was at my wit’s end. I had put a couple of records out there that didn’t do a whole lot for us, we weren’t drawing where we were playing, and we were playing all the time to empty houses. I decided I would put out this one project and I was going to do exactly what I wanted to do and if it worked, it worked and if it didn’t? I had tried. It worked and since that time we have been able to come out with three more records and hopefully I am stuck in this for life.

Q: What kind of crowd base do you draw? Do you find that there is a certain genre, a certain demographic that follows you?

BR: I have a ton of college followers, kids in college that come out to see us all the time. There are a lot of females and we don’t dislike that at all. (laughter) We see fans in the crowd as young as they can get them out to the shows and fans into thirties and forties, we have a really huge fan base, it is a grass roots type of fan base. Organic; that seems to be the word today, it really has been an organic experience from the standpoint that we built it from the ground up, from the first fan to where we are right now. As an independent artist, that has basically everything at our fingertips with respect to all of the people and things in place that you need to have to have a successful operation, we have those without having a major label behind us. We do get to make all the decisions and we get to point the finger at ourselves if we fail. I like that. I am not saying I wouldn’t like to find the right team here in Nashville to help push us quicker but if that doesn’t happen, then we will continue to push this as we have, from the ground up. I think it is much easier today for bands to do that with all the access to the media that we have like the internet, Facebook, MySpace, all of those things helping bands like ourselves can grow a fan base quicker and out of your reach in places you never thought you could draw on. You get a date and you go into that city and wow, there are people there.

Q: You mentioned the Facebook and Twitter. Do you do that yourself and do you enjoy it?

BR: I do. I try to keep up with all of it but I might miss a question now and then. I try to do that for the fans because that is how the fans have access to us. When we get through with shows, we always go sign autographs, take pictures with the fans and we feel that is just something that is expected of you. I love it. I feel it gives the fans more insight into what is going on so they feel like they are a part of it. There are nights when we stand in line for one or two hours at a time. I won’t leave until the last one is done, that is the way it is.

Q: What is the most bizarre thing that has happened, or the most bizarre thing a fan has asked you to sign?

BR: Fans have asked us to sign lots of things. There are different things, some want their boots signed, cell phones, wallets, their chests. I don’t really think of it as bizarre anymore, I am just kind of numb to it. The fans usually try to give us that space and don’t try to take advantage of us. It is an interesting life. I basically step out of one movie into another every day.

Q: Has there been a personal or emotional moment when a fan has come up to you and said that song has related to them personally that has caught you off guard?

BR: There is a song on “Conviction” called “Mister Soldier”. It was a prayer that I wrote for a friend of mine who was in the Marine Reserves and was called up. He lived across the street from me and had two small boys. I didn’t intend to write a song like this; probably because I felt people were writing songs to make money off them and I didn’t want to be that guy. I woke up in the middle of the night and I was having a dream about a soldier in a bunker and I couldn’t make out the person, I could only see the silhouette. I woke up and wrote a prayer basically to music. That song has been a really emotional song for a lot of the soldiers. It has been really great, especially when they are home where I can shake their hand and hug them and thank them. It is odd but we still forget. We have been doing this for nearly ten years and we still forget that we have service men and women dying on a daily basis in Afghanistan and Iraq. Any time we can reach out to them and thank them, we should.

Q: Have you done any USO tours or anything similar to that?

BR: We have tried but it hasn’t come together yet. In fact, right now there are a couple of guys talking to us right now and are trying to put that whole thing together. There are many restrictions, but I hope we get to do something like that, I would really be honored. There is a division of the Marines that call themselves the “cowboys” that were generous enough that when they got back, presented me with a flag that was flown over in Iraq and gave me a plaque that stated what day it was flown. Things like that really blow my mind. It is really special that those guys think enough of us as artists to be able to do something like that for us.

There are different situations all the time where I get told stories like “we were playing this particular song while going into battle in our tanks”. It is great to know your words are making a difference or lifting spirits or helping people get through things. That is a big thing. I can’t imagine having to strap on a helmet and do all the things and go into battle. When I wrote “I’m Mister Soldier”, that is what stirred my soul so much was the fact that I was watching my friend prepare and pack all of his gear to get up the next morning to leave and go into a war. That was the first time that it really sank in, that is definitely what stirred the emotions for the dream and the prayer.

Q: Let’s go back to the current project. What are you doing promotion and touring wise? Anything out of the ordinary?

BR: We have all those different online abilities,, Facebook and MySpace and those things. We tour constantly. Our game is to get out there and take it to the fans. We do, in one shape or fashion, 200 plus times a year, radio appearances, media appearances, everything we can do to push any way we can. We have been lucky that our growth has seemed to go to another level. The growth allows you to do a lot more things like television and things to continue to push to get your name out there. Right now we are in our own back yard of Texas and a few states around us. Our name is a known name out there and it is growing and our fan base is growing. What we are trying to do right now is continue to push those singles and find the markets. We get a lot of radio love regionally, we get quite a bit of print in magazines, newspapers, things like that. Now, we are trying to find secondary markets to continue to push this thing.

Q: You were not here for CMA Music Festival this year. Will you be here next year? Have you ever come for CMA Fest as a fan?

BR: No, I haven’t and I am probably too spoiled to do that now. You get use to being back stage and not being in the front row with the crowds and all. I think we have a story here. It seems that with my time away from Nashville last year, we developed so much more of a story over that 13 or 14 months. I think everything happens for a reason, you make decisions business wise that are based on growth and your sanity and so many different factors. It is crazy that I would finish up a publishing deal here in Nashville and then take some time off saying I am not going there and I am going to do all this in my own back yard and then have it come out such a great project and have that become a story. We have a lot to say and we have tenure and we have pounded the pavement with 200 dates a year for three, four or five years now. I think it is really paying off and another part of it is that the music industry is changing right now. A lot of people don’t know when the dust settles how this is all going to play out. I think it is important for guys like me to recognize that and try to take advantage of that. You see other aspects of it in the country world, the Zac Browns and the Uncle Krackers, people like that that are opening more doors for artists like myself that doesn’t necessarily fit in the country box but have country roots and definitely fall into the country category but we just don’t fit into that top 40 box. Growing up, that was what interested me anyway, the singer/songwriter, the person that was able to be on the edge but still be accepted into the group so to speak. The guys that were able to go out there and do their own thing that was not considered “main stream” but close enough, the fans dug it, they requested it and the wanted it. I think that is what we are seeing right now, more and more of that happening. I really hope with all this happening right now and labels struggling, with publishing struggling and trying to find different ways to make money, the whole industry, in my opinion has taken a back seat. Right now is the time to push for the artists, the musicians, for us to have the opportunity go out there and have the fans hear what we have to say and know that we mean it when we say it.

Q: What about the independent label and the struggles you face or challenges?

BR: I think the growth with many bands is leaning towards that; grass roots and independent. “Indy” used to be a bad word. If you were an independent people did not pay as much attention and now it is becoming a very popular word. It is so great to be able to go out and hire great publicists and booking agents, managers and road crew and run the entire operation from top to bottom, sometimes blows people in the industry away. They can’t figure out how we pull this off. It is great to say that there are 14 or 15 families we feed and there are 9 guys on that bus every week when we go out. We are “road dogs”, we do it three, four, five days every week. I got to spend a day at home, got on a plane to Nashville the next day, spent a few days and get to get on a plane and fly home tomorrow, spend a day or two at home and then back on the road. I am my Father’s son and he taught me to work hard and things will pay off. I really feel we are doing the right things, we are in the right spot and I really feel it is the right time. People ask me how big I want to get and I tell them we are going to take it as far as we can. I have always said that if you give us the opportunity to put it out there nationally, even globally, and they didn’t like it, at least I would know. I just want that opportunity.

Bev: Brandon, this has been so much fun. You are a great person and an amazing talent. I really am looking forward to seeing you perform live soon. Is there anything else you want to mention?

Brandon: To all the fans out there, we certainly appreciate all you do, the way you buy the CDs and make sure others hear them. You buy the shirts and wear them like billboards and you tell everyone you know, that is about the best pat on the back we could ever wish for. I have truly enjoyed this too Bev, and you are welcome to come out anytime and spend more time with us, we look forward to it.

For more information on Brandon Rhyder visit

Transcribed by Pam Stadel for Digital Rodeo