Keith Urban, Rascal Flatts, Kellie Pickler, Ricky Skaggs, Diamond Rio, Kree Harrison, Lennon and Maisy Stella & Bill AndersonCountry
2013 so far has been another spectacular year for Urban, who has already celebrated the success of a sold-out Australian Arena tour and received his first Golden Globe Award nomination for his song “For You”, his initial foray writing specifically for a motion picture. A performance with the Rolling Stones and at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Concerts, combined with Urban’s 4th annual “All 4 The Hall Benefit Concert” performing alongside “Rebels and Renegades” Willie Nelson, Kid Rock, Jason Aldean, Kris Kristofferson, Vince Gill, Tim McGraw and Eric Church, amongst others, has further solidified the respect that Urban has received as a musician and player.
In the Spring Keith released his first single in nearly two years, “Little Bit of Everything”, and wrapped Season 12 of FOX’s American Idol, on which he served as a judge.
In July, Urban launched the first outdoor Summer tour of his career, “Light The Fuse Tour 2013”, with Little Big Town and special guest Dustin Lynch. The tour moved into Arenas in October and will continue through December 2013. Urban’s eighth studio album is expected for release this Fall.
In 2001, the Country Music Association honored Keith Urban with its Horizon Award, designating him a talented artist with a bright future. He is the first Horizon Award winner in history to go on to win the CMA’s Male Vocalist of the Year, a title he’s captured three times, and the coveted Entertainer of the Year. More than 15 million albums later, Keith is a four-time GRAMMY® Award winner who has also won a People’s Choice and American Music Award. He’s won five Academy of Country Music Awards, had 14 No. 1’s, including 28 Top 5 hits, and has had five consecutive platinum or multi-platinum albums. In 2012 he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry.
Urban’s reputation as a songwriter, musician, vocalist and virtuoso guitarist is no more evident than when he is onstage. His electrifying concerts have played to sold-out venues from Australia to Germany, England to Canada and the United States. In fact, 2009’s Escape Together World Tour, as well as 2007’s Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy World Tour, were both, one of the top grossing tours for their respective years. As one journalist put it, “Urban is one of the best reasons in the world to attend a live concert.”
In just ten years, Rascal Flatts has become one of the most honored acts in country music history, reaching heights and achieving milestones reserved for the genre's elite. They have set more venue attendance records than any country act en route to ticket sales of six million and counting. They have sold 20 million albums and earned 11 #1 singles. All six of their albums are platinum or multi-platinum and every one is among Billboard's Top 100 Albums of the Decade. They have won more than three dozen awards from the ACM, CMA, AMA and People's Choice, among others, and they have received that ultimate honor for those who have impacted the culture--a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
"We have had an unreal ten years," says lead singer Gary Levox with an appreciative smile. "We've done things we couldn't have been able to dream."
Behind those statistics is an accomplishment more basic than numbers, more important than any trophy--for the past decade, the music of Rascal Flatts has been the soundtrack to countless lives. Songs like "These Days," "Mayberry," "What Hurts The Most," "My Wish," "Stand," "Here," "Here Comes Goodbye" and "Summer Nights" have soothed and uplifted, fired up, mellowed out and otherwise impacted millions.
"I'm humbled to think that the music we've been able to make has touched so many lives and moved so many people," says bass player/harmony vocalist Jay Demarcus. "The stories are just incredible and I think I'm most grateful for that."
"To this day," adds guitarist/harmony vocalist Joe Don Rooney, "we receive letters and e-mails about how a song like 'I'm Moving On' has impacted someone's life in some way or how 'Bless The Broken Road' was played at their wedding or how 'Stand' gave them the courage to stand up and fight the cancer out of their body and mind! That's powerful stuff, and that's the reason we're in the business, without question."
Their place in country music history may be assured, but Gary, Jay and Joe Don retain a newcomer's passion about capturing magic with each new project. Now, with the release of their latest, Nothing LIke This, they have done it once again, taking their career and their legacy another long step forward.
"We've reached back a little to what brought us here while moving forward at the same time," says Jay. "We concentrated more on our vocals and chemistry again and not so much on big production."
The album is a microcosm of all the things the band does well--Jay calls it "Rascal Flatts in a nutshell"--which is to say it touches on many of the best aspects of 21st-century country music. It is first and foremost uplifting, with songs like "Why Wait" and "Play" kicking off the proceedings with the call to enjoy life no matter what our circumstances. It features both the throwback groove of "They Try" and the fresh sparkle of "All Night To Get There." "Summer Young" is an uptempo celebration of the season of warmth and romance and "I Won't Let Go" is "You've Got A Friend" for the new millennium, a song steeped in the strength of love and friendship in times of trouble. The title cut finds a way to bring freshness to the subject of love and sees Gary bringing a disarming desperation to his vocal.
"One of the more special songs on this album for me is 'I Won't Let Go,'" says Joe Don. "Being a parent now and listening to that song really hits home and truly hits me in the heart."
Evident throughout is the group's ability to recognize the best in Nashville songwriting. "It's always been about the songs first," says Jay, "and boy did we get our hands on some gems!!
"We think we've got a good balance," says Joe Don, "between the really deep, sweet, meaningful ballads and the 'right at ya' uptempos that keep the party going." "I think there's something for everybody on this project," adds Gary, "and it's a full-length example of what makes us who we are."
Guesting on the project is Natasha Beddingfield, who joins the trio on "Easy." "We had a blast recording with Natasha," says Gary. "I've always been addicted to great singers and she is certainly one of the best. It was an honor to sing with her." Fans got their initial listen to the project with the debut single, the group's first release on Big Machine Records, their new label home.
"'Why Wait' is one of the coolest tunes I've heard in a long while," says Joe Don. "I'll never forget sitting in that little studio in Santa Barbara and hearing it for the first time. Instantly we new it was a Rascal Flatts song and by the day's end we had ourselves an extremely magical track going. I love it!"
The laid-back California outpost was chosen as a creative counterpoint to Music City. "We cut half the album in Nashville and half in Santa Barbara," says Gary. "We just wanted to change it up some and enjoy the beautiful weather in California. It gave us a new spark for sure."
"It as a nice departure from the norm for us," adds Joe Don. "We recorded in a funky little studio with some amazing L.A. musicians and created some great magic together. I really think you can feel some of the energy on a lot of these tracks."
"Overall," says Jay, "this is an album about fun, growth and change. We have been at a very important crossroads this year with our ten-year mark, so I think we wanted to prove to ourselves that we could still grow and surprise ourselves and stretch."
The fact that they were able to do so reflects the magic they have always found in their approach to music and the respect with which they view their mission and each other. Their sound took root in the late 1990s, when Jay and Joe Don were band mates working with Chely Wright and Jay and Gary were playing a separate gig in downtown Nashville. When their guitar player was unable to make it one night, Jay asked Joe Don to sit in.
"We knew right away we had something special," says Jay, "even if we were the only ones who ever got to hear it!"
"I truly feel like every time the three of us lock into a chorus," adds Gary, "God's hand is in it. I feel blessed to share the stage with Jay and Joe Don and their crazy talent. They both inspire me."
"Gary is one of the greatest and most unique singers of our time," says Joe Don, returning the compliment. "I've always felt blessed that we have a lead singer who, like a quarterback, takes charge of the stage and leads us into victory night after night!" The three honed their sound with club work, cut some demos and by year's end had been signed to Lyric Street Records, where they flourished and took off on that magical decade of hits and sold-out shows. Along the way, their "Bless The Broken Road" was Grammy nominated for Country Song of the Year and Vocal Performance, they became 2006's top-selling physical and digital artist in all genres, scored four #1 country albums and three #1's overall, and hit the Top 10 Billboard pop singles chart twice, among many other milestones.
"There's never been a method to our madness," says Joe Don. "We just cut the best songs we can, and through the years we get better at what we do." When Lyric Street closed its doors, they chose Big Machine as their new label home. "We have found an amazing business partner with [label head] Scott Borchetta and the entire Big Machine family," says Gary. "They get us and we get them on every level. It feels like the right place at the right time."
Committed to giving back, they are known for their charitable work, which includes raising three million dollars for the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville.
"That," says Jay, "is definitely the thing I'm most proud of."
This year sees them back on the road with their "Nothing Like This Tour," which Jay says, "is sort of a Rascal Flatts history lesson."
"As a kid," says Gary, "you stand in front of your mirror and only dream about being able to sell out arenas and stadiums. And to be able to play a place like Wrigley Field and sell it out, you can't even dream that big. The feeling is awesome."
"Without a doubt we've been blessed to have received our fair share of awards and recognitions in this business," adds Joe Don. "But above all, getting to make music that matters, that affects people emotionally and spiritually, is the greatest thing we could ever accomplish."
Never content to rest on their laurels, they are eagerly looking forward. "The goal," adds Gary," is to continue to make amazing music together for at least the next ten years, because we honestly feel like we're just getting started." "And as long as we stay true to the music and each other," adds Jay, "everything else will fall into place."
Albemarle NC | Country
Kellie Pickler is everything thats right about that uniquely modern place where reality and celebrity come together. She is first and foremost a force of nature, a young woman who followed a restless small-town dream to the upper reaches of the music world. She came armed with real talent, for she is a singer who has learned well from idols like Tammy, Patsy, Loretta and Dolly. Still, it takes much more to enter the cultural consciousness as firmly and unmistakably as she has, and Kellie brings more in spades. It starts with star quality, that undefinable but clearly identifiable trait she possesses in abundance. She combines beauty, wit, humor and guilelessness in a way that has attracted fans from her first days in the national spotlight, and she has proven over and over that there is a great deal of substance under the blond-haired, light-hearted exterior.
Cordell KY | Country
A life full of music is the story of Ricky Skaggs. By age twenty-one, he was already considered a “recognized master” of one of America’s most demanding art forms, but his career took him in other directions, catapulting him to popularity and success in the mainstream of country music. His life’s path has taken him to various musical genres, from where it all began in bluegrass music, to striking out on new musical journeys, while still leaving his musical roots intact.
The year 2012 marks the 53rd year since Ricky struck his first chords on a mandolin, and this 14-time Grammy Award winner continues to do his part to lead the recent roots revival in music. With 12 consecutive Grammy-nominated classics behind him, all from his own Skaggs Family Records label (Bluegrass Rules! in 1998, Ancient Tones in 1999, History of the Future in 2001, Soldier of the Cross, Live at the Charleston Music Hall, and Big Mon: The Songs of Bill Monroe in 2003, Brand New Strings in 2005, Instrumentals in 2007, Salt of the Earth with The Whites in 2008, Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass: Tribute to 1946 and 1947 in 2009 and Ricky Skaggs Solo: Songs My Dad Loved along with Mosaic in 2010), the diverse and masterful tones made by the gifted Skaggs come from a life dedicated to playing music that is both fed by the soul and felt by the heart.
Ricky was born on July 18, 1954 in Cordell, Kentucky, and received his first mandolin at the age of five after his father, Hobert, heard him harmonizing with his mother from across the house as he played with his toys. Two weeks after teaching him the G, C and D chords, Hobert returned from working out of town shocked to see his young son making chord changes and singing along. He soon earned a reputation among the locals in his community. When the legendary Bill Monroe came to Martha, Kentucky for a performance, the crowd wouldn’t let up until “Little Ricky Skaggs” got up to play. The father of bluegrass called six-year-old Skaggs up and placed his own mandolin around his neck, adjusting the strap to fit his small frame. No one could have imagined what a defining moment that would be in the life of the young prodigy. By age seven, Skaggs had made his Grand Ole Opry debut and performed with bluegrass legends Flatt & Scruggs on their popular syndicated television show, for which he earned his first paycheck for a musical performance.
In 1971, he entered the world of professional music full-time with his friend, the late country singer, Keith Whitley, when the two young musicians were invited to join the band of bluegrass patriarch Ralph Stanley. Ricky soon began to build a reputation for creativity and excitement through live appearances and recordings with acts such as J.D. Crowe & the New South. He performed on the band’s 1975 debut album for Rounder Records, which is widely regarded as one of the most influential bluegrass albums ever made. A stint as a bandleader with Boone Creek followed, bringing the challenges of leadership while giving him further recording and performing experience.
In the late 1970’s, Ricky turned his attention to country music. Though still in his 20’s, the wealth of experience and talent he possessed served him well, first as a member of Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band and later as an individual recording artist on his own. With the release of Waitin’ for the Sun to Shine in 1981, Skaggs reached the top of the country charts and remained there throughout most of the 1980’s, resulting in a total of 12 #1 hits. In 1982, he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry, the youngest to ever be inducted at that time. As his popularity soared, he garnered eight awards from the Country Music Association (CMA), including “Entertainer of the Year” in 1985, four Grammy Awards and dozens of other honors. These achievements also placed him front and center in the neo-traditionalist movement, bringing renewed vitality and prominence to a sound that had been somewhat subdued by the commercialization of the ’Urban Cowboy’ fad. Renowned guitarist and producer, Chet Atkins, even credited Skaggs with “single-handedly” saving country music.
In 1997, after Ricky’s then-current recording contract was coming to an end, he made the decision to establish his own record label – Skaggs Family Records. Since then, Skaggs and his band Kentucky Thunder have released an amazing 12 consecutive Grammy-nominated classics (8 of which went on to earn the revered award) while also opening the label to a variety of other musical artists, all the time keeping emphasis on bluegrass and other forms of roots music. Since then, Ricky and Skaggs Family Records have had the privilege of working with many musical talents, including the Del McCoury Band, Jerry and Tammy Sullivan, Blue Highway, The Whites, Mountain Heart, Melonie Cannon, Ryan Holladay, Keith Sewell, Cherryholmes and Cadillac Sky.
Ricky’s first release for Skaggs Family Records, Bluegrass Rules!, set a new standard for bluegrass, breaking new sales records in the genre, winning Skaggs his sixth Grammy Award and earning the International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) Album of the Year Award. In 1999, his second all-bluegrass album, Ancient Tones, won a Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album – his second consecutive Grammy in that same category. Just one year later, Ricky won his eighth Grammy Award in the Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album category for Soldier of the Cross, his first all-gospel project with his band Kentucky Thunder.
Ricky made further progress with the release of his fourth bluegrass album in 2000, Big Mon: The Songs of Bill Monroe, a project which featured an all-star cast of musicians ranging from Dolly Parton, Patty Loveless and Travis Tritt to Joan Osborne, John Fogerty and Bruce Hornsby, and celebrated the music and the life of Ricky’s mentor, Bill Monroe. Big Mon received much critical acclaim, including a Grammy nomination for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals. The album was re-released by Lyric Street Records in 2002 under a new name, Ricky Skaggs and Friends Sing the Songs of Bill Monroe. His fifth bluegrass album, History of the Future (2001), a timeless collection of both traditional bluegrass standards and newly conceived acoustic gems received rave reviews and industry accolades, including a Grammy nomination for Best Bluegrass Album and an IBMA nomination for Album of the Year, once again placing Skaggs among the leading innovators in the genre.
Skaggs’ first all-live album with Kentucky Thunder, Live at the Charleston Music Hall (2003) led to an IBMA Award for Instrumental Group of the Year – an award Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder has taken home 8 times in the last decade. The decision to record a live album was an obvious one for Skaggs. From a string of high-profile tour dates with the Dixie Chicks in 2000, to his position as host of the unprecedented “All*Star Bluegrass Celebration” which aired nationwide on PBS in 2002, to his participation in the wildly successful 41-city ’Down from the Mountain’ tour – Ricky has become one of bluegrass’ most dynamic and sought-after live performers.
He counts the current configuration of Kentucky Thunder among the best group of musicians he has ever worked with. “This group of guys meets my approval every night,” Ricky says. “Each and every one of the pickers in Kentucky Thunder totally amazes me in every show…and that, to me, outweighs any award we could ever win.” The all-star lineup of Kentucky Thunder includes Andy Leftwich (fiddle), Cody Kilby (lead guitar), Paul Brewster (tenor vocals, rhythm guitar), Eddie Faris (baritone vocals, rhythm guitar) Justin Moses ((banjo, background vocals) and Scott Mulvahill (bass, bass vocals). Live at the Charleston Music Hall was honored in 2004 with a Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group for the Harley Allen-penned track, “A Simple Life.”
In 2005, Ricky earned his 10th career Grammy (Best Bluegrass Album) for Brand New Strings – a beautiful collection of music featuring four Skaggs originals as well as several tunes by some of his most admired contemporaries, including Harley Allen, Guy Clark and Shawn Camp. In 2006, Skaggs was honored with a Grammy Award – this time in the Best Musical Album for Children category – for his contribution to Songs from the Neighborhood: the Music of Mister Rogers. Greater success followed with the release of Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder Instrumentals, an album of all-original, all-instrumental material in the fall of 2006. Praised by fans and critics alike as a landmark album for Skaggs, Instrumentals debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s bluegrass album chart and earned Ricky his 12th career Grammy Award (Best Bluegrass Album).
Cross pollination has been a mainstay throughout Ricky’s career, from his weekly collaborations with various artists as host of The Nashville Network’s Monday Night Concerts in the 1990’s to his recent pairings with Bruce Hornsby and The Whites. Released in March of 2007, Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby (Sony/Legacy) drew from the deep roots in mountain music – adding piano and Hornsby’s inimitable songwriting to the core bluegrass lineup of mandolin, guitar, bass, fiddle and banjo. A major ’CMT Crossroads’ special coincided with the album’s release.
His next recorded project, released in September of 2007 on Skaggs Family Records, was a literal family affair. After years of blending their voices from the living room to the stage, Ricky Skaggs and The Whites teamed up for their first collaborative gospel album, Salt of the Earth, which resulted in a 13th career Grammy Award for Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album, followed by a Gospel Music Association Dove Award for Bluegrass Recorded Album of the Year and Inspirational Country Music Awards for Musician of the Year as well as Mainstream Country Artist of the Year and Inspirational Bluegrass Artist of the Year (with The Whites).
In 2008, Skaggs paid tribute to the man he has often referred to as his “musical father”, Bill Monroe, and the original lineup of the Bluegrass Boys (Earl Scruggs, Lester Flatt, Chubby Wise and Howard Watts) with the release of Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass: Tribute to 1946 and 1947, earning a 14th career Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album.
A musical father in his own right, Skaggs continued on the full circle path with the addition of a ReIssue Series of his groundbreaking country music masterworks to the Skaggs Family Records catalog in 2009. Beginning with 1982’s Highways & Heartaches, and followed by 1981’s Waitin’ for the Sun to Shine and 1983’s Don’t Cheat in Our Hometown, the ReIssue Series will include nine albums total and includes bonus retrospectives with each release, which feature Ricky, in his own words, sharing never-before-told stories about the making of each project.
Skaggs’ first-ever solo album, Ricky Skaggs Solo: Songs My Dad Loved (2009), celebrated the man that caused him to fall in love with music – his father, Hobert Skaggs. He elaborates, “If I could’ve gotten my dad into the studio, this is how I would’ve wanted him to sound.” Playing every instrument and singing every note on the album, Ricky brought raw, emotional honesty to the songs. By coming home to the music that meant so much to him as a child, Ricky tapped into a wellspring of passion that is channeled into every tune, as though he willed himself back to his family’s house in Kentucky. Solo was honored in the American roots field with a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Folk Album in 2010.
Ricky Skaggs’ album, Mosaic (2010), marked a return to a full band sound that mixed elements of Country music with Beatles-esque melody and lyrics that spoke to Skaggs’ faith, “making music that is in my head and in my heart,” as Ricky said. Grammy winning songwriter/producer Gordon Kennedy, who co-wrote Eric Clapton’s “Change the World,” was instrumental as co-producer and writer. This most special album hooks the heart, as the sounds invite you in to take notice and come closer. They have blended their talents and love of music with their love for the Lord to create this distinctive collaboration of writing and talent, unparalleled in strength of genius. The song, “Return to Sender” from Mosaic was nominated for a Grammy for Best Gospel Song, and the album was a contender for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album at the 53rd Grammy Awards, receiving major critical acclaim.
Marking Ricky’s 50th year in music was the release of Country Hits Bluegrass Style (2011), a compilation of many of Skaggs’ #1 country hits and fan favorites played in a bluegrass style. Combining his country and bluegrass roots along with Ricky’s impeccable tenor voice, his eight time IBMA Instrumental Band of the Year, Kentucky Thunder, and some of Ricky’s original award-winning country band alumni together with special friends added to the magic of this release.
Long awaited by country and bluegrass music fans alike, Music To My Ears (2012) is an exciting new offering by Ricky. Fresh, new bluegrass tunes co-written by Skaggs along with a brand new instrumental mark this CD in distinction among all others, while new takes on older bluegrass standards add to its charm. The album features a new duet with Ricky Skaggs and Barry Gibb (of Bee Gees fame) on deeply moving “Soldier’s Son,” along with new bluegrass treasure “You Can’t Hurt Ham,” inspired by a true story of Mr. Bill Monroe.
Ricky Skaggs has often said that he is “just trying to make a living” playing the music he loves. But it’s clear that his passion for it puts him in the position to bring his lively, distinctively American form of music out of isolation and into the ears and hearts of audiences across the country and around the world. Ricky Skaggs is always forging ahead with cross-cultural, genre-bending musical ideas and inspirations.
Diamond Rio recently took home their first Grammy Award for The Reason. Named Grand Ole Opry members in 1998, Diamond Rio has had an illustrious career that includes over 10 million album sales, nine #1 singles, six Vocal Group of the Year awards (Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music) and 14 Grammy nominations. The band is highly regarded for their charitable contributions as the longtime National Spokespersons for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and was further honored with the prestigious Minnie Pearl Humanitarian Award in 2004.
Nashville TN |
Kree Harrison who reigns from the LoneStar state has been performing country music since she was three years old. Growing up in Woodville, TX she performed in churches, oprys, and rodeos throughout the Golden Triangle. During a routine show at the venue Broken Spoke Saloon, a friend recorded the seven-year-old’s set and sent it to the Rosie O’Donnell Show. Rosie later contacted Kree to perform on her “Most Talent Kids” episode, which at the time included pop artist Jo-Jo. She ended up appearing as a guest on the show four times.
Lennon and Maisy Stella
Nashville TN | Singer-Songwriter
Bill Anderson has been using that philosophy for almost fifty years to capture the attention of millions of country music fans around the world, en route to becoming a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and one of the most popular, most enduring entertainers of our time.
He’s known, in fact as “Whispering Bill,” a nickname hung on him years ago as a result of his breathy voice and his warm, soft approach to singing a country song. His credentials, however, shout his prominence: One of the most awarded songwriters in the history of country music, a million-selling recording artist many times over, television game show host, network soap opera star, spokesman for a nationwide restaurant chain, and a consummate onstage performer. His back-up group, The Po’ Folks Band, has long been considered one of the finest instrumental and vocal groups in the business.