It is nominally an honors presentation, but the MusicRow Awards ceremony is also one super-duper party.
Staged at BMI on Wednesday (June 29), this year’s 28th
annual event attracted a record number of attendees, announced an
exceedingly popular slate of awardees and had a fabulously festive vibe.
Honorees included Maren Morris as Breakthrough Songwriter, Old Dominion as Breakthrough Artist, Dave Cobb as Producer of the Year and Lori McKenna as the writer of Song of the Year winner “Humble and Kind.” Winners are determined by subscribers to MusicRow and each recipient was greeted with delighted shouts of surprise from the crowd.
BMI’s Jody Williams greeted the 300+ folks in his
lobby. He thanked event sponsor Anderson Benson, as “Nashville’s only
locally-owned entertainment insurance company.” He then brought on the
host, MusicRow’s Sherod Robertson.
“These awards are often predictors of awards to come,” Robertson told
the crowd. The magazine has been presenting its accolades since 1989.
Taylor Swift, Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert are
among the stars who won their first industry prizes from MusicRow.
Songs such as “Girl Crush,” “I Drive Your Truck,” “The House That Built
Me” and “Whiskey Lullaby” all picked up trophies from the mag before
going on to wider award acclaim.
The first honors presented on Wednesday were to the musicians behind last year’s biggest hits. MusicRow‘s Craig Shelburne and Eric Parker presented these to engineer Justin Niebank (his 12th win), drummer Shannon Forrest (his 11th), guitarist Ilya Toshinsky (his 7th), bassist Jimmie Lee Sloas (his 6th), keyboardist Charles Judge (his 6th), session vocalist Wes Hightower (his 14th) and steel guitarist Paul Franklin (his 16th). There was a tie between fiddlers Stuart Duncan (his 9th win) and Larry Franklin (his 4th).
“I’m in awe of everybody who plays with me,” said Duncan. “I’ve learned from some of the best players, globally.”
“I’m so proud to be part of this great community of so many great
players,” added Toshinsky. “I’m privileged and humbled to be here,” said
Sloas. “This town is like a big family, and it’s quite an honor to be
included,” commented Judge.
Robertson pointed out that this is the first time that Producer
winner Cobb had even been nominated. “It’s a real honor to be honored by
my peers,” said Cobb. “We live in the best f—ing music city in the
“I’ve never won anything before,” said Morris. “This has been the
craziest month, ever. I released my album. I started a tour. And, now,
ending it with this. Thank you to Carla Wallace for giving me a job. This means a lot to me.” In addition to her award, Morris was given a MusicRow Challenge Coin for having a No. 1 hit on the MusicRow CountryBreakout Chart with “My Church.”
Big Yellow Dog publisher Wallace said, “This song has affected
people’s careers; it has affected people’s lives.” She presented the
singer-songwriter with a framed No. 1 honor for the chart-topping album Hero.
Old Dominion was on tour with Kenny Chesney, but sent a thank-you
video to the ceremony. The band’s award was accepted by Morris Higham
Management’s Will Hitchcock. “Thanks, MusicRow, and the whole Nashville community for making them your band,” he said. Old Dominion also earned a MusicRow No. 1 Challenge Coin for “Snapback.”
McKenna and Universal Publishing’s Kent Earls accepted the “Humble and Kind” accolade. This is her third song to have won at MusicRow,
the other two being 2007’s “Stealing Kisses” and last year’s “Girl
Crush.” She couldn’t make last year’s ceremony, so co-writers Liz Rose
and Hillary Lindsey accepted and performed on her behalf.
“It’s a magical place that you have here,” said Boston resident
McKenna. “Thank you for embracing this song.” She also accepted her MusicRow No. 1 Challenge Coin for “Humble and Kind.”
“Thank you, Sherod, and MusicRow and all your team,” added Earls. “We’re very honored to be here.”
To McKenna, he added, “The elegance and grace of your writing is only
matched by the beautiful person you are.” Earls also gave a shout-out
to Travis Gordon, who pitched “Humble and Kind” to Missy Gallimore for Tim McGraw to record. The song has now sold more than 700,000 singles.
The high point of the event was unquestionably Lori McKenna’s
yearning, soulful rendition of her song. It hushed the room, which
erupted in rapturous applause when she concluded.
As guests schmoozed and winners accepted congratulations, the screen
showed Maren Morris’s video of “My Church” and Old Dominion’s video of
“Break Up With Him.”
That “record number of attendees” I spoke of included Renee Grant Williams, Ree Guyer Buchanan, Beth Raebeck Hall and Preshus Tomes Harris, as well as Sarah Skates, Sarah Lai, Tom Luteran, Tom Roland, Michael Mason, Mike Sirls, Michael Knox, Becky Harris, Becky
Hobbs, Elizabeth Lyons, Dave Pomeroy, David Ross, Ronna Rubin, Luke
Laird, Corey Crowder, Macy Martin, Maurice Miner, James Elliott and Jaren Boyer.
Not to mention (although we will) such fabulons as Trent
Summar, Tim McFadden, Terry Wakefield, Steve Lassiter, Shane Barrett,
Susan Collier, Sherrill Blackmon, Barry Coburn, Bart Herbison, Ashley Moyer, Eric
Galvin, Garth Shaw, Jill Block, John Ozier, Ralph Murphy, Don Cusic,
Ron Huntsman, Chris Keaton, Ann Wilson, Neal Spielberg, Charlie Monk,
Mark Brown, Woody Bomar, Katharine Richardson, Patrick Clifford and Shannon Hatch. Making his first appearance in BKWTR is Jerome Pillow, who was hired two weeks ago by Keaton. So this was his first Music Row partay!
We snacked on jumbo meatballs, Mexi-sticks, chips, guacamole, salsa and deep-fried peppers. It was, in short, a blast of a bash.
MUSICROW Magazine: In Pictures: SESAC Honors Heritage, Offers Modern Amenities With New Music Row Office
Jessica Nicholson • June 15, 2016
SESAC’s 42,000-square-feet space, located on the building’s fourth and fifth floors, was designed by Nashville’s Tuck-Hinton and California’s Wolcott Architecture/Interiors. The plan incorporates plenty of natural lighting and open work spaces. Light woods, glass-paneled offices and punches of red add vibrancy and transparency to SESAC’s two floors of space.
On the first floor, a plaque welcomes visitors, informing them of the site’s musical heritage as the former location for Combine Music, followed by EMI and Broken Bow Records.
“We have been searching for a location on Music Row for three or four years. We were insistent from day one that SESAC stay on Music Row,” SESAC’s Pat Collins tells MusicRow. “It was extremely important to us to stay on Music Row. In the main lobby of the building, we did a plaque that acknowledges that Combine Music started here, followed by EMI and ultimately Broken Bow. It’s very important for us to also be aware and be respectful of the heritage of this site.”
The new space balances history with progress, and provides a comfortable workspace for SESAC’S 110 employees, along with plenty of amenities, including a gym and a Fresh Market, which provides healthy food options on-site for employees. In addition to spacious songwriters rooms, a piano is available in the main lobby for visitors and employees to play.
“Many of the people who work with and at SESAC are musicians in their own right, so we give them an opportunity to move from their workspace if they need a break and they can go tickle the ivories,” says Collins. “It was as much mental health as productivity that we were looking to harness.”
“I love the openness of it and the light,” says SESAC’s Dennis Lord. “I think it has such a positive effect on everybody, being in this open space. It also promotes a collaborative attitude. We talk more to each other, because we are all together.”
“We believe a more open plan was appropriate and fitting for this day and age and the way that young people work and their work habits, and the comfort level they would like while they practice their trade,” says Collins. “Our Nashville employees also had input into the building. We didn’t do anything without bringing it to our folks. We gave them the objective and many people including the Sr. VP of Plant Operations and HR, Cathy Grizzell, were involved. We are delighted that we have received glowing marks from our employees.”
At the heart of the move is the desire to build upon the legacy of the companies that previously inhabited the site on 16th Avenue, while offering a progressive work space for SESAC’S staff in a modern music industry era. “We are honored to work on hallowed ground where Combine, Broken Bow, and great artists like Kris Kristofferson penned many classic evergreen compositions,” says Collins. “We are very proud of this space.”
MUSICROW Magazine: Bobby Karl Works The Rooms: Blake Shelton Exhibit Opening, CAA BBQ, CMA Fest’s GlobaLive!
Bobby Karl • June 7, 2016Chapter 529
What better way to commence the CMA Music Fest week than with a party at the Hall of Fame?
And who better to celebrate at that party than the great Blake Shelton?
Monday evening’s reception (June 6) at the Country Music Hall of Fame was to inaugurate its new exhibit: Blake Shelton: Based on a True Story. The Hall’s Kyle Young called Blake “one of country music’s prime forces” and hailed him as the genre’s ambassador on network TV’s The Voice.
He recounted Blake’s upbringing in Oklahoma, and losing his older brother as a teen. The late songwriter Mae Boren Axton urged the boy singer to move to Music City. So after his high-school graduation in 1994, Blake headed for Nashville at age 17. Two years later, he was discovered by songwriter Bobby Braddock, which led to his recording contract.
“I can’t believe I’m standing here,” said Blake to the crowd assembled in the Hall of Fame’s rotunda. “I have an exhibit in this place, and that’s a pretty damn big deal to me. All I ever cared about is being a country singer. All I ever wanted was to be on the radio. This is the most surreal moment of my life. No matter how much they throw at ya….I kept trying for this thing. And I still feel like I’m trying. I still feel like I’m at the beginning of this thing. I’m in shock. This is the craziest thing that has ever happened to me. It’s overwhelming.”
The exhibit is loaded with cool stuff. A little memo pad shows the lyrics of the first song he ever wrote. He was 15 at the time. His first BMI royalty check is on display, for a whopping $2.73. His Opry induction mementos include a commemorative bottle of Jack Daniels with “Blake Shelton” on the label in the familiar script, plus his Opry mike-stand trophy. There are guitars, costumes, posters and more.
Among the honors displayed are his five BMI silver cups, six CMA awards, two ACM statuettes and more. The finale artifact is his iconic red chair from The Voice.
Paying their respects were Paul Overstreet, Victoria Shaw, Jon Randall Stewart, Marc Beeson, Liz Hengber, Nora Lee Allen and newly installed Country Hall of Famers The Oak Ridge Boys – William Lee Golden, Joe Bonsall, Duane Allen and Richard Sterban.
Industry schmoozers also included Rob Simbeck, Rob Beckham, Sherod Robertson, Chris Lacy, Wes Vause, Narvel Blackstock, Mary Ann McCready, Jerry & Ernie Williams, Lon Helton, Jimmy Carter, Pandora CEO Tim Westergren, Troy Tomlinson, Earle Simmons, John Marks, Rachel Whitney, Cindy Watts, Hunter Kelly, Charlie Monk and Julie Boos.
We snacked on shrimp & pasta salad, mini filo sandwiches, olives and tomato & mozzarella skewers.
That wasn’t the only room worth working downtown that evening. Also on Monday (June 6) was the 24th annual CAA BBQ in the lobby and penthouse at 401 Commerce, the firm’s Nashville HQ.
Half the industry seemed to be at this industrial schmoozathon. Gripping and grinning were Drew Alexander, Dale Bobo, Todd Cassetty, Adam Dread and host-with-the-most Rod Essig. And that’s just A through E. Teri Brown had her new management client Alix Smith in tow and was schmoozing Scott Siman. There were loads of other baby acts at the party, notably Alyssa Micaela, whose “Getaway Car” is already a social-media phenomenon.
Jody Williams, Sally Williams, Patrick Clifford, Chip Petree, Randy Perkins, Diane Pearson, David Macias, Dwight Wiles, Justin Levenson, George Briner, Jeff Gregg, Neal Spielberg, Mike Molinar, John Ettinger and Erika Wollam Nichols were also all in the throng, which was massive.
Attendee Mike Craft is gearing up for a big week. Following a full slate of CMA Fest activities, he and his 18-year-old son are heading for Bonnaroo on Saturday, where the temp is predicted to be 96 degrees. They’ll be joining about 80,000 other fans at the 15th annual Bonnaroo.
The hors d’oeuvres at CAA were much enjoyed. Among the offerings were mini chicken tacos, pork barbecue sliders with slaw, cauliflower buds drenched in hot-chicken sauce and cheesy chicken nacho plates, plus assorted strawberry, blueberry and chocolate morsels.
The night was still young. Over at the Hard Rock Café, the annual Global Artist Showcase was underway on Monday (June 6) on an outdoor stage. Excuse me. This event is now billed as “CMA World GlobaLive!”
On the bill representing Australia were four-time CMAA Entertainer of the Year Troy Cassar-Daley, plus Karin Page and Caitlyn Shadbolt. The Canadians on tap were Raquel Cole, hockey player and songwriter Chad Brownlee and Juno winner Brent Kissell. New Zealand’s Kayla Mahon was booked, too. Representing the U.K. were Frankie Davies, who leads an all-female band, and The Pauper Kings, who are being produced by Jay DeMarcus.
This event began in 2004 as the Global Artist Party. Its guiding light was the late Jeff Walker. Predictably, this year’s event was held in homage to him. Leading the parade of attendees was Jeff’s best buddy, David M. Ross.
Fans from more than two dozen nations are expected at this year’s CMA Music Festival. Beginning on Wednesday, they will be among an expected 87,000 people a day downtown enjoying 400+ artists performing on 11 music stages. This is the 45th CMA Music Festival. And away we go.
Craig Shelburne • June 6, 2016Bruce Hinton might just be the happiest tourist in Nashville this week. On Monday night (June 6), the former chairman of MCA Nashville will be cheerfully mingling with past staffers and MCA artists at an unofficial company reunion. The following night, he’ll be celebrated as a founder of the City of Hope celebrity baseball tournament, which is marking its 26th annual game this year.
Hinton came up with the idea for the game after touring the City of Hope campus near Los Angeles in 1991. Although he had been making personal donations to the medical research organization, the visit convinced him to become even more involved. Today he’s quick to praise City of Hope’s research findings as well as their efficiency as a charitable organization.
After making a name for himself in the music industry in Los Angeles, Hinton moved to Nashville in 1984 in the role of Senior Vice President and General Manager of MCA Nashville. In 1989, he was named president and then elevated to chairman in 1993. In 2002, Hinton stepped down to become Chairman Emeritus. The track record during that era is still impressive. During the 1990s, MCA Nashville was named Label of the Decade by Billboard and R&R.
These days, the 79-year-old Hinton divides his time between summers in Park City, Utah, and winters near Palm Springs, California. Yet he’s quite happy to chat over the phone about his upcoming trip to Music City.
MusicRow: How did you create the City of Hope game in Nashville?
Hinton: I was looking at what we then called Fan Fair, and I thought it was great that we had all the music. But there’s this whole country music lifestyle that’s about family and being outdoors and sports, and I thought, “What a great way to kick off Fan Fair week if we had a celebrity softball game.” It totally fits anything you’d want to think about, for the country lifestyle or the country music lifestyle. I went up and down Music Row to all the label heads and they said, “Oh sure, we’re on board.”
A little aside: I went to the general manager of the Nashville Sounds stadium and told him what I wanted to do. I said, “You can have the concessions and the parking, so it’s a good thing for the city and you’re making a profit.” He was kind of a crusty character and he said, “Well, I guess … but I’m telling you, you’ve got a loser.” I said, “What do you mean?” He had had some “names” come in and perform and he said, “I’ve tried that stuff and it just doesn’t work.”
This was back in the day and the baseball teams were WSM and WSIX, the No. 1 and No. 2 country radio stations in town. For ratings, they were so competitive. And I said, “You just watch, people will be here.” The first year, they totally ran out of concessions about halfway through! They didn’t have one Coke or one hot dog or anything left. So, I think I made my point.
Was it an easy sell for artists to get involved?
Yes, it really was. Speaking of that, who better for me to acknowledge than Vince Gill? There’s been 25 games and I want to say he’s been there for maybe 23 of them. One year I understand the President of the United States wanted to have a game of golf with him. (laughs) Priorities, priorities, what can I say?
And just over the weekend, Trisha Yearwood got back to me and she’s going to sing the national anthem. She’s one of the first people to show up and participate. Actually every superstar in the first couple of years were all there, and for many years forward. And I look at who’s been there recently, like Florida Georgia Line. I think it’s great that the new, white-hot artists are participating also.
I know Trisha Yearwood was one of your artists when you were at MCA.
Oh, I remember very well going to Douglas Corner with Tony Brown and we saw her. There was a country band that was performing that she was friends with. She worked up some of her songs with them and she just blew me away. Trisha and I have been not only business friends, but I think we’re personal friends. She’s very special.
I wanted to ask about that time in Nashville history. How would you describe the city in the 1990s?
The golden years. (laughs) We were label of the year for 10 years, and the trades called us the label of the decade. It just doesn’t get any better! You think about the artist roster that we had from Vince to George Strait and Trisha and Reba McEntire, on down the line. I look back on that and I can’t believe it. Even George Jones was on our label in his later years and I loved working with he and Nancy. Those are really precious memories.
When I was researching your career, I saw that you served on a lot of boards. That’s a big time commitment. Why was it important for you to be involved in so many organizations?
Well, each one I thought made a major contribution to Nashville. To give you an idea, when I served on the TPAC board, no one from the music industry had ever served on that board before. I remember one guy who shall remain nameless who owned a mega-corporation. On my first year on the board, he pulled me aside and said, “Just tell me, why is it that Music Row doesn’t want to participate in the community?” So, there’s your answer. I felt like we needed to be represented and not just be this enclave that’s never gone outside of Music Row.
In the 1980s and 1990s, before the internet was so prevalent, I would imagine that being on those boards would have been a good way to communicate and to know what everybody was doing.
Yeah, I think it was the best thing I could have ever done. We were very successful as a label, but at the same time, “Downtown” as we called it back then, was saying, “Hey, there really is something to this Music Row.” Back then, downtown folks looked at us as the hayseeds up there on Music Row. We didn’t get any respect! And that’s the bottom line. What you don’t know, you don’t know, and I thought they’ve got to get to know who we are and what we’re about. That was all part of it.
You moved to Nashville in 1984, right?
Yeah, that’s exactly right, and what a wonderful time to come in. Owen Bradley was still around. I put him way up on a pedestal and we had a great affinity for each other. He came from big bands and I knew everything there was to know about big bands as a high school kid. I knew every chair [of the orchestras] of Duke Ellington and Woody Herman and Stan Kenton and Count Basie. I knew every one of their names. He couldn’t quite figure out where that came from! We just got along famously, and of course, that was really neat that Owen and Chet Atkins were there. I thought so highly of those people. Anyone who starts something, kudos to them. And they started something so special that’s better than ever today.
When it comes to your legacy in the music business, how do you want to be remembered?
It’s a good question that I’ve never thought of an answer to, so I’m ad libbing here, but… you know, I was in the music industry because I was a total, total fan of the music. I figured out my junior year in college that I was never good enough to make it as a musician. It’s a long story short, but I thought, “You know, there’s a music business too.” Remember, this was before there was such a thing as [studying the music business at] Belmont. I thought, “Wait a minute, if I can find a way to get into this record thing, I’ll be working with these people that I admire so much.” That was really what it was about. I wanted to be in the music business, making a difference.
On a side note that you can pull in, it’s also important to mention that when I became president and chairman of the division, it was very important to me about what kind of culture we had. We had a culture of respect and caring and everyone pulling together for their best effort, and they were recognized as such. I am very proud of that. I look at that 10-year legacy, I’m just glad to say that I was there. Can you imagine the focus it takes to do that over a 10-year period? And they did it.