Session One: Sound and Speed Behind The Scenes Q & A 1-9-2010
Ernie Irwin (NASCAR), Mallory Hope (Country Artist), Mike Bliss (NASCAR)
For the past four years, this two-day fan event featuring some of the top names in country music and NASCAR has attracted an estimated 40,000 fans and has raised more than $800,000 for Victory Junction (a year-round camping experience founded by Kyle and Pattie Petty for children, ages 6-16, with chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses) and the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum.
On Saturday, Jan. 9th fans of racing and country music had the opportunity to get up-close and personal with drivers and country music stars at Nashville's Municipal Auditorium for autographs and question-and-answer sessions. NASCAR stars Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, Michael Waltrip, Clint Bowyer, Reed Sorenson, David Stremme, Aric Almirola, Justin Allgaier, Kyle Petty, Michael Annett, Carl Edwards, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Busch, James Buescher, Brad Kesolowski, Logan Ruffin, Brian Scott and Morgan Shepherd joined country music stars Chris Young, Jason Michael Carroll, Josh Turner, members of Diamond Rio, Danny Gokey, Danielle Peck, Corey Smith, Ashton Shepherd, Brady Seals, Nathan Lee Jackson, and duo Kate & Kacey.
Behind the scenes, media also has an opportunity to visit with the participants in Q & A (Question and Answer) interview sessions throughout the event.
Moderators: Kerry Tharp with NASCAR and Holly with Kaleidoscope Media & Marketing
Kerry: Welcome to the 2010 Sprint Speed and Sound presented by Sun Trust here in Nashville TN. It may be a little chilly on the outside but certainly warm on the inside. It is a great way to combine two very passionate fan bases and industries, NASCAR and Country Music. It benefits two great causes, Victory Junction Camp and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. We appreciate everyone being here today.
Kerry: To my left is Ernie Irvan. Ernie was named one of NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers in 1998. He is the 1991 Daytona 500 winner, 313 career NASCAR sprint cup series races and went to victory lane 15 times. Ernie, welcome to Nashville.
Kerry: To the far left is Mike Bliss, NASCAR driver extraordinaire. He has run in all three series, 476 combined starts across the three national series. He is coming off a very solid year and finished fifth in the NASCAR Nationwide series standings. He is going to be racing NASCAR Sprint cup series full time in 2010.
Holly: In the middle we have Mallory Hope. By the time she was a sophomore in high school, she was performing over 150 shows a year. Her determination was so intense that her whole family pulled up stakes in Georgia and moved to Music City when she was 17 years old. She finished her education as a home schooled student while enroute to signing a publishing contract and recording over 500 demos as a music row session singer. Last November (2009) at age 21, she signed a recording contract with MCA Records. Her single, “Blossoms in the Dust”, will be coming out in February.
Kerry: Let’s start it here with Ernie. Tell us about your involvement with Sprint Sound and Speed and why you like coming here. I think you have been here several times.
Ernie: I like coming here for to try meet Country singers. I am going to take Mallory and go ARCA racing. She is going to outdo all the other females that are starting to run ARCA. We are going to do that and a lot of people are going to start watching her.
Kerry: Mike Bliss, I know you had a lot of good news come out last month. You are driving the number 36 car for Tommy Baldwin and racing full time this season. Talk about that and your take on the 2010 season.
Mike: First of all, we came here for the good weather. I don’t know if it is any warmer, maybe we should have gone to Miami. Yes, I am driving for Tommy Baldwin Racing. This is his second year as an owner. He has been a crew chief for a long time and won a lot of races. Him and Wave Energy drink is our sponsor. My hat’s off to Tommy being an owner and not a crew chief. He is really sticking his neck out so I am excited about being involved with a team that’s in its sophomore year.
Holly: Mallory, tell us about yourself.
Mallory: I moved to Nashville from Georgia when I was a senior in high school. I started writing songs and singing demos. I have a really great team behind me and they decided that it was time to go to Music Row and visit a few record labels. I felt like I had the songs ready and the record done already. I walked in and played for MCA and Luke Lewis, the president and in my heart I felt that was where I was supposed to be. We put a song out in August 2009 and it went to around #36 on Billboard and we are getting ready to release an new song in February called “Blossom in the Dust”. On my album, I got to co-write 10 of the 11 songs. If you want to know about my life in Georgia, every song on there has a story. I can’t wait for you to get the album and hear all about my life.
Q: Mallory, how old were you when you started singing and decided you wanted to be a singer?
Mallory: I started singing when I was two or three. We came to Nashville when I was nine and I sang with the house band at The Nashville Palace. On the way back to Georgia, I told my parents that no matter what happens; this is what I want to do. I wanted to quit cheerleading and sports and sing. I had heard someone yodel while I was in Nashville and I drove my parents nuts all the way back to Georgia trying to teach myself to yodel too. I figured it out by the time I got home.
Q: You are the only successful artist to come out of NACMA (North American Country Music Association. You must be very proud.
Mallory: NACMA is a great organization. I joined when I was about 13 or 14. I joined the Country Music and Gospel Association in Georgia and it turned into the NACMA organization. Each spring, kids would come and compete and sing. I did that for five years; it put me on stage and allowed me to meet other musicians.
Q: Mike, do you think with Danica’s part time schedule will help put more focus on the races?
Mike: I think Danica Patrick is going to steal a lot of thunder from a lot of drivers. There is a lot of emphasis on her and she is someone that they are going to be watching at Daytona. Thank God it is her, the camera is going to be on her; a lot of pressure. It is hard for a regular Nationwide driver and his team to get that kind of attention because it is overshadowed by the cup guys. It has been that way for awhile. We are starting to lose some of the Nationwide owners because of that.
Q: Mallory, as a songwriter, are there any songs on your upcoming CD that you have a great story behind and would like to share?
Mallory: Actually, “Blossom In The Dust” is coming out February 16 so please call your local radio stations. That song is also the title of the album. I wrote it with two great friends and it is a story about a girl I went to school with who grew up in a rough family life and at one point was adopted. It talks about this little girl that didn’t really have a chance and then someone else giving her a chance. She blossomed from the dust. Every song on there really does mean a lot to me. The single that was released last summer is called “Love Lives On” and it was written about my sister. Her and her husband are both in the military and had just had a baby. I asked my sister if my nephew was planned or a surprise because we had just found out that my brother-in-law was getting ready to leave for 18 months in Iraq. She said that when they found out he was going, they decided to have a baby because if something were to happen to him while he was at war, she would want to have a piece of him to be reminded of him and see him in that child. From that conversation, I wrote the song “Love Lives On” the next day. Every song on there has a story.
Q: Ernie, can you compare this event here in Nashville with the event that used to be held in Winston Salem.
Ernie: The deal in Winston Salem grew through the years. Nashville is starting to grow now; it is bigger and better organized this year. They are making it easier for the drivers to come here, get in and out and sign autographs. That is very important and I know that SunTrust and everyone involved have been doing that. Also, this auditorium is perfect to do this in. Everyone that wants autographs can get one; they can meet the drivers and see the cars and the singers.
Q: Is it fun to have the Country Music stars here?
Ernie: It is great to sit next to Mallory, this is Nashville and this is the Country Music part. A lot of people like to ask her questions. Country singing, NASCAR and going fast correspond with each other. A lot of NASCAR fans are Country Music fans and it is nice to be able to come and intermingle with the singers and participate in the events and hear them sing and perform. They get to see us perform on the racetrack but now they get to mingle with us right here.
Q: Mike, congratulations on your new ride. Your first race is going to be the biggest of the season. How much pressure is that for you going into it with a new team?
Mike: Daytona is our “Superbowl” of the year. We have qualifying races on Thursday to get us in the race. Thursday is probably one of the worst races of the whole season as far as trying to get into the race. I remember, in past seasons constantly being on the radio asking “what do we need, what do we need to spot”. If you are involved in a wreck, then there goes your whole weekend. The year starts with Daytona and keeps going. There is a lot of pressure on Thursday, that is the first race of the whole year.
Q: Ernie, in 1999, you stepped into a Nationwide car that unfortunately ended your career. Looking back on that, would you not race in a Nationwide series knowing that you are a lucrative Sprint car driver?
Ernie: I would probably have still done the same thing because you never know what the future brings. I got hurt the first time in a cup car, it could happen anywhere. When you drive down the street, you don’t know what will happen. It was a great car, a well-built car and I owned it, so we felt like we had done everything possible to make the car safe. Today, the cars are so much safer, the walls are softer, and there are so many safety features that have come about because of the wrecks that have happened. We have all learned from the past. Today, I would probably still be running the Nationwide car and still running the cup car. I am almost at the age where I would be too old but Mark Martin keeps making it where I could still be doing it.
Q: Mallory has there been one compliment that has stood out through the years for you?
Mallory: Most recently, the song “Love Lives On”, that has been out for about six months. It is very interesting to me because I know I am just getting started with my career and I have been able to go across the country and sing in different states and meet different people. I have met so many that have used the song in their daily lives. We left the topic open so anyone going through a loss could use the song and every day I get messages on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and email from people that tell me about their husband that is overseas or their Mother that just passed away or they lost their child. Everybody that sends me messages has changed my life and it is great to know that I am having an emotional impact on others.
Kerry: Ernie, Mallory and Mike, we appreciate you being here. Thank you.
Transcribed by Pam Stadel