Carrie Underwood w/Mel Tillis, The Whites, Josh Turner, Bill Anderson, Charley Pride, Jeannie Seely, Lauren Alaina & Jim Ed BrownCountry
Checotah OK | Country
With more than 15 million albums sold worldwide, 16 #1 singles, with seven as co-writes, five Grammys, and countless other accolades---all achieved with four albums in less than eight years---some artists might feel as though they’d earned the right to rest on their laurels, but not Carrie Underwood. Fueled by a restless creative spirit, good-natured competitive streak and abundance of God-given talent, Carrie unleashes her most ambitious project yet with Blown Away.
Teaming again with producer Mark Bright, Carrie delivers a 14-song collection that covers a particularly vast expanse of emotional territory. She celebrates the understated pleasures of small town living in “Thank God for Hometowns” and explores the exquisite fragility of life in “Forever Changed.” She’s not averse to tackling abuse and betrayal then doling out a little sweet revenge with such compelling tracks as “Blown Away” and “Two Black Cadillacs.” Musically the songs range from rollicking up-tempo anthems, such as the hit first single “Good Girl” to the island-flavored escape of “One Way Ticket” and the steel guitar-laced country lament of “Wine After Whiskey.”
Such musical and lyrical diversity is the foundation of Carrie’s artistry. After all, this is a young woman who has performed with Steven Tyler on a top-rated edition of CMT’s “Crossroads,” scored a No. 1 country hit with good friend Brad Paisley on “Remind Me,” and sang with the iconic Tony Bennett on the 2012 Grammy telecast, delivering the classic “It Had to be You,” their collaboration on Bennett’s Duets II album.
The Oklahoma native is a fan of all types of music, yet she’s purposefully planted herself in the country format, even while her eclectic tastes have influenced her creative output. She’s been careful to not get pigeonholed and prides herself on not being predictable. “I feel like I’ve taken all of my albums into as many different directions as possible while still keeping them cohesive,” she says. “I love this album from start to finish and love every song on it. There’s not one single song that’s like another song I’ve ever done. I think it’s my best album. I really do think there’s something for everyone.”
Her ability to be unique yet accessible has been crucial to Carrie’s career from the beginning. She became America’s sweetheart in 2005 when she won the fourth season of American Idol, a vehicle that transformed her from a shy Oklahoma girl with a great voice to a budding superstar. Since then she’s become the popular franchise’s most successful alumni.
She’s won a vast array of awards including three female vocalist awards from both the Country Music Association (CMA) and the Academy of Country Music (ACM). In 2010, when Carrie garnered her second win as ACM Entertainer of the Year, she became the first female artist to win the award twice, and only the 7th female to take the award in the 40-year history of the ACM category, among Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Barbara Mandrell, Reba McEntire, Shania Twain, and the Dixie Chicks. Carrie also received the ACM Triple Crown Award, thanks to her past wins for the categories of Entertainer of the Year, Top Female Vocalist and Top New Female Vocalist, which has been won by only one other female artist – Barbara Mandrell in 2004. In addition to the above, Carrie’s won 7 American Music Awards, 6 People’s Choice Awards, 9 CMT Music Awards, 9 American Country Awards, and 7 BMI Songwriter Awards. Carrie also received a Golden Globe nomination in 2010 for “Best Original Song” for “There’s A Place For Us” from Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader which she both recorded and co-wrote.
Carrie’s 2005 debut Some Hearts topped Billboard’s Country Albums chart for 27 weeks, has sold over 7 million copies, and was voted #1 Country Album of the Decade by Billboard. Both her 2007 sophomore album, Carnival Ride and 2009’s Play On debuted at No. 1. Her current album, Blown Away, debuted atop the all-genre Billboard 200 chart, where it held the No. 1 spot for two consecutive weeks. Over the course of four albums, she’s saturated country radio with such hits as “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” “Before He Cheats,” “So Small,” “Last Name,” “Just A Dream,” “Cowboy Casanova,” “Temporary Home,” “All-American Girl,” “Undo It,” “Mama’s Song,” “Good Girl,” and “Blown Away.”
Carrie’s highly acclaimed concert tours have further helped to establish her into the elite status of the country music community, or in any genre of music, with her stellar performances. In 2008, after wrapping her “Carnival Ride Tour” she became the top selling country female touring artist of the year selling out many of the 137 shows before 1.2 million fans. In that year, Carrie also became the most-heard artist at country radio and was named the #1 Hot Country Songs Artist by Billboard and #1 Top Country Artist by Radio & Records. In 2010, her next headline arena tour, the “Play On Tour,” played 108 shows with one million fans attending which resulted in Carrie being named again as the top-ranked female country touring artist of the year. Carrie is currently on her critically-acclaimed international “Blown Away Tour”, which began at London’s historic Royal Albert Hall, and continued throughout Australia, before launching in North America in September of 2012.
Carrie is a proud member of the Grand Ole Opry and expanded her resume making her acting debut in the 2011 film “Soul Surfer.” She can be seen in print and TV ads as the North American face of Olay beauty products, and has a long-running deal with vitaminwater®. One of Country Music’s most respected young ambassadors, Carrie has served as co-host of the CMA Awards with Brad Paisley the past five years.
Yet for those who think they know Carrie, Blown Away is likely to catch them by surprise, particularly the cinematic title track with its swirling, atmospheric production and intense lyric about abuse and revenge. “I got chills,” she says of the first time she heard the Josh Kear/Chris Tompkins penned stunner. “I remember where I was when I heard it and called my manager and said, ’Do not let anyone else have this song. It’s my song’ . . . It’s such a visual song. You listen to it and you can see everything that is happening. It’s so dramatic. I’m not a drama person, but when you can make a movie in song form in 3 ½ minutes, it’s surreal.”
“Blown Away” finds a daughter getting revenge on an abusive, alcoholic father and the next song, “Two Black Cadillacs,” also has a larger-than-life cinematic quality which makes both tunes feel like mini-movies set to music. “Two Black Cadillacs” relates the story of a wife and mistress who conspire to get even with the man who betrayed them both. “It’s just more drama,” says Carrie, who co-wrote the tune with Josh Kear and Hillary Lindsey. “It was so much fun creating all this drama and singing about it. That’s the great thing about being an entertainer; you’re just a big actor. When we start sitting down and writing songs, you just never know what’s going to come out.”
Carrie co-wrote eight of the 14 songs on Blown Away, including the first single, Good Girl" which reached number 1 on the country airplay charts and is certified platinum. ’Good Girl’ was one of the last ones I wrote for the album,” she says of the tune she penned with Chris DeStefano and Ashley Gorley. “We wanted something a little more fun and up-tempo. Chris DeStefano is just a mad scientist with his Pro Tools and he can play every instrument. We walked out of that writing session with a demo. It sounded awesome. It was ready to go. We let everybody hear it and everybody was so excited.”
“Cupid’s Got a Shotgun” is another of the album’s high-energy tracks and it gets an extra kick from Paisley contributing his signature guitar licks. “Once we got into the studio, I was like Brad Paisley HAS to play on this. He’ll make the song,” Carrie says of the tune, she wrote with Kear and Tompkins. “We left so much space in the song for him to come in and play. He did his thing and sounded awesome. He added that last piece of the puzzle and it’s just so country. It’s really cool.”
In addition to being musically inventive, Carrie has long been known for delivering songs with substance, and the new album delivers its share of potent messages. “Nobody Ever Told You,” which Carrie wrote with Luke Laird and Hillary Lindsey, boasts an empowering lyric and a breezy, engaging melody. “People need to hear compliments more,” she says of the song’s life-affirming lyric. “People need to hear ’I love you’ more. People need to hear ’You are beautiful’ more.”
“Good in Goodbye,” co-written by Carrie, Lindsey and Ryan Tedder, is a bittersweet look at life beyond heartbreak that offers tender truth in the lines “As bad as it was/As bad as it hurt/I thank God I didn’t get what I thought I deserved.” On the other end of the emotional spectrum, “Thank God for Hometowns” is a sweet salute to small town life. “I heard that one when I was going back to my 10 year high school reunion,” the Checotah, OK native says. “I listened to the demo when I was driving in to go stay with my parents. It was just very fitting in my heart at that time.”
“Forever Changed” is a beautiful ballad that brings tears to Carrie’s eyes as she discusses it. “I had a hard time recording it and I still have a hard time listening to it,” she says of the Tom Douglas/Hillary Lindsey/James T. Slater penned ballad. “That is the most wonderfully well written song I’ve ever heard in my life. There’s this young girl meeting the love of her life, getting married and having a baby. It takes you back in time and there is something old fashioned about it. At the end, the mom’s obviously slipping a way a little bit. It is a sad song, but it’s not meant to be a sad song. It’s about love, being forever changed, forever loved.”
In a few short years, Carrie has seen the power music has to change lives---to incite dialog, to instill hope, and to simply entertain. She’s aware of the platform she’s been given. She respects it and appreciates every moment. “I’m very happy in my life and I count my blessings every day,” she says. “Seven years ago when I decided to try out for American Idol, my life changed completely in the blink of an eye. I went down a different train track and took off at about a million miles per hour. I feel like I’m still learning. In the beginning, it was like, ’Oh, I have a No. 1. That’s awesome!’ I didn’t really understand what that meant. ’Jesus, Take The Wheel’ and ’Before He Cheats’ were No. 1 for several weeks, and that doesn’t happen often, but I had no idea. I realize now what hard work it actually is and I feel like I can appreciate those victories even more. Touring is more fun because I know what it’s like to headline a tour. I feel like I’m able to be more and more creative all the time. I always feel like I’m taking steps forward.”
Lonnie Melvin Tillis (born August 8, 1932), known professionally as Mel Tillis, is an American country music singer. Although he recorded songs since the late 1950s, his biggest success occurred in the 1970s, with a long list of Top 10 hits. Tillis's biggest hits include "I Ain't Never", "Good Woman Blues", and "Coca-Cola Cowboy". On February 13, 2012 President Barack Obama awarded Tillis the National Medal of Arts For his contributions to country music. He also has won the CMA Awards' most coveted award, Entertainer of the Year. He is also known for his speech impediment, which does not affect his singing voice. His daughter is country music singer Pam Tillis.
"There's nothing like playing music to bring a family together," says Sharon White, but that's not exactly right; over 30 years have shown that the music of The Whites - sisters, Sharon and Cheryl, and father Buck - has just as much power to bring audiences together in a feeling that resembles that of one giant, extended family.
The story of The Whites begins in Texas, when a young Buck White started his musical career not long after the end of World War II, working the dance halls and radio shows in a succession of bands. Honky-tonk music called for the piano and the bluegrass mandolin, and so he became proficient on both, absorbing the many varieties of Texas country and blues to fashion his own distinctive style - one that kept him in steady demand as a sideman throughout the 1950s. In 1961, tired of the rough-and-tumble life of a honky-tonk musician and wanting to raise his family in a more wholesome environment, White moved to Arkansas. Yet within a matter of months, he and wife Pat were once again making music, forming a band with another couple that eventually called themselves the Down Home Folks. As Sharon and Cheryl grew, they, too, were drawn to music ("Mama said I could carry a tune before I could talk," Sharon recalls.) at first forming the Down Home Kids with the children of other Down Home Folks members in the mid-1960s, then moving up to join their parents in a growing number of bluegrass festival appearances.
The first big turning point for the Whites came in 1971, when a successful trip to Bill Monroe's Bean Blossom festival convinced the family that the time was right to move to Nashville and pursue a more serious music career. Though Pat retired from the band in 1973, the move paid off as Buck White and the Down Home Folks began their recording career, featuring the striking family harmonies and top-notch instrumental work that has characterized their music ever since. The remainder of the decade saw them make a steady ascent in the world of bluegrass, recording five acclaimed albums for various labels and working a busy touring schedule, even as they gained a toehold in the country music field thanks to their powerful vocals and broad repertoire. The former, in particular, attracted the attention of Emmylou Harris, who brought them in to sing on her Blue Kentucky Girl album of 1979 and then took them on the road with her as an opening act.
The early part of the 1980s brought The Whites - by then renamed to reflect their family ties - to national prominence as their simple, traditionally-rooted yet dynamic sound put them on Billboard's country charts with a succession of Top 20 hits. Favorites like their first Top 10, "You Put The Blue In Me," as well as "Hangin' Around," "Give Me Back That Old Familiar Feeling," and "Pins And Needles," - the latter all produced by Sharon's husband, Ricky Skaggs (the two married in 1981) - introduced them to new audiences, culminating in the induction as members of the Grand Ole Opry in 1984.
Since then, The Whites have entertained and inspired literally millions of listeners at thousands of personal appearances with their unique sound. Time has also brought renewed attention to Buck White's mandolin playing; as bluegrass historian Neil V. Rosenberg recently said, "insiders have long known of his prowess," and with his appearance on Bluegrass Mandolin Extravaganza, released in 1999, a wider audience has been introduced to his masterful style and compositions.
Their first release for Skaggs Family Records, A Lifetime in the Making, (produced by one of their former sidemen, the legendary Jerry Douglas) proves once again The Whites are among the top ranks of artists able to combine a respect for - and mastery of - traditional country and bluegrass. "We're always falling between the cracks when it comes to styles, but that's just the way our music is. We have dobro, fiddle, and mandolin on this album, as well as some piano. It has the same kind of feel as those singles we made back in the early 1980s, but it's as bluegrass as anything The Whites ever did." Released in the fall of 2000, A Lifetime in the Making received substantial critical acclaim, winning an INDIE Award for 'Best Country Album' (2001), as well as a Golden Voice Award at CMA Music Festival's third annual awards show in Nashville.
In 2001, acoustic music blasted onto the mainstream with the smash hit movie and soundtrack, O Brother Where Art Thou? Buck and the girls were hand selected among bluegrass music's finest to participate in the soundtrack and appear in the film. The Whites were recognized at the International Bluegrass Music Association's (IBMA) Awards Show in 2001, where they won two awards including the well-respected 'Album of the Year' honor. In November of 2001, The Whites were recognized at the 35th Annual Country Music Association (CMA) Awards in the highly esteemed 'Album of the Year' category. Their involvement in the film and soundtrack brought further acclaim the following year, including the highest industry honor achievable - a GRAMMY Award - in the revered 'Album of the Year' category; as well as the 'Album of the Year' nod from the Academy of Country Music (ACM). Along with all the industry accolades, The Whites made numerous appearances in promotion of O Brother, including their involvement in the first 18-city 'Down from the Mountain' tour, a stop at David Letterman's "Late Show" with fellow O Brother artist, Dr. Ralph Stanley, and a featured spot on the follow up tours - the 40 plus city 'Down from the Mountain' summer tour in 2002 and the 'Great High Mountain' tour in the summer of 2004.
In 2007, after years of blending their voices from the living room to the stage, The Whites teamed up with Ricky Skaggs on Salt of the Earth, their first collaborative effort, which earned them a Grammy Award for Best Southern, Country, or Bluegrass Gospel Album and a Dove Award for Bluegrass Recorded Album of the Year. Buck, Sharon, Cheryl, and Ricky share lead vocals with Skaggs' award winning band Kentucky Thunder laying the foundation for their tight family harmony. Traditional hymns, a few familiar favorites, and brand new treasures flow throughout the album providing an intimate look into the heart of one of music's most beloved families.
In 2008, proud Texans Buck, Sharon, and Cheryl received the ultimate honor from their home state with their induction into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. For those who have heard The Whites before, that's good news indeed - and for those who haven't, it will be an exciting introduction to a rich, yet comfortable musical world. They may not use the name anymore, but Buck, Sharon, and Cheryl White are still creating music that's as good and as real as everything conjured up by the phrase "down home folks."
SC | Country
As a family man, a philanthropist, a devoted Christian, and a passionate sports fan, you might say Josh Turner’s commitments run as deep as his voice.
Of course, he’s also a double-platinum-selling singer, songwriter and disciple of traditional country music, a mentor to up-and-coming artists —and one of the youngest members of the Grand Ole Opry.
All of those layers construct Josh’s new album, Punching Bag. His fifth for MCA Nashville, the record is a knockout collection of bluegrass-influenced barnburners, lonesome laments, and the slow and steady love ballads on which Josh’s trademark baritone excels.
The follow-up to 2010’s Haywire, which yielded the No. 1 hits “Why Don’t We Just Dance” and “All Over Me,” Punching Bag represents Josh in fighting shape. Throughout all 11 songs, he bobs and weaves like a champ, exhibiting new range in both his voice and his songwriting. Josh penned eight of the record’s eleven tracks, including the rollicking title song that, he says, set the tone for the entire project.
“When the idea for ’Punching Bag’ came along, it really hit me,” Josh says, pun intended. “It became the central idea for this record.”
Ironically, the up-and-at-’em tune was inspired by a particularly down day for the singer. “I’ve learned that songs come to you in various ways, from all different angles,” he says. “Nothing was going my way that day, and I felt like I was up against the world. When I got home, my wife Jennifer and I were talking about things that happened and I said, ’You know, I just feel like a punching bag, like life is beating me up.’”
Soon, Josh was off and writing, brainstorming lyrics with one of his most trusted creative partners, Pat McLaughlin.
“I wanted to express the idea that life is tough,” he says. “You get a lot punches thrown at you and a lot of times you’re not in control. But you have to take those punches and keep moving forward,” he says.
This is exactly the position Josh found himself in while making the album.
“With this record, I had just gone through a lot of craziness in my life,” recalls the father of three young boys: Hampton, Colby and Marion. “We had just had our third child and I had spent two years building a writer’s cottage, a log cabin for me to write in. It was a very stressful time getting all that done.”
But when the bell rang, Josh was still standing. And with something to show for it--all eight songs that Josh wrote or co-wrote for the album were conceived in that very cottage on his Tennessee property. A refuge from the distractions of life, the cabin, with its wraparound porch and stone fireplace, also serves as a depository for Josh’s priceless musical mementos. “It has all the awards I’ve won over the years, a red, white and blue Telecaster that Buck Owens gave me and an original ceiling joist from the Ryman auditorium,” he says. “They’re all things I hold dear.”
Consider it the “Cottage that Music Built.” As such, it holds a special spot in his process as a musician. “It’s turned out to be quite an inspirational place. It’s where I allow myself to think, be creative and make mistakes along the way,” says Josh, who encourages music and arts students in his native South Carolina to follow their own muse via his Josh Turner Scholarship Fund.
That uncluttered approach paid off in some of Josh’s most clever compositions yet, all highlights on Punching Bag. With a photographer’s eye and novelist’s vocabulary, the Grammy, CMA and ACM Award nominee has developed a Mark Twain-like knack for turning common phrases on their heads.
“I’m very observant of what’s going on around me,” Josh says. “I like to take phrases that people use in everyday life and use them to my advantage. You hear people say, ’They gave me the cold shoulder,’ but they don’t go beyond that. If it’s something that has been said before, I want to say it in a different way.”
In “Cold Shoulder” he does just that, using that term to address not just a one-time brush-off, but the progressive dissolution of a romance. Elsewhere, in “For the Love of God,” he transforms the phrase from one of frustration to one of jubilant intent, while the notion of the “right hand man” sidekick is redefined as a loyal husband in “Left Hand Man,” one of two songs Josh wrote with Peach Picker Ben Hayslip.
With help from his longtime producer Frank Rogers, Josh has a gift for selecting just the right material from other sources, like the album’s first single “Time Is Love,” written by Mark Nesler, Tony Martin and Tom Shapiro.
“When I’m looking for outside songs, I look for songs that I probably wouldn’t write myself,” he says. “’Time Is Love’ is a song that speaks to the idea of quantity of time versus quality time. Quantity time—getting to know people better and growing relationships—is the more important thing.”
It was that sense of fragility that inspired one of the most haunting cut on Punching Bag, “Pallbearer.” The song was partly inspired by the death of one of Josh’s relatives that he looked up to and admired. When Josh learned that his dad had helped carry the casket at the man’s burial, the grieving writer retreated to his cottage and put his feelings to paper. “It’s about how lonesome a person can feel,” he says. “And being a pallbearer at a funeral is pretty lonesome.” Featuring mandolin from Marty Stuart and backing vocals from Iris DeMent, the song adopts the idea as a metaphor for a man jilted by his lover. Written, naturally, in a minor key, the song is one of the most compelling and poignant songs on the album.
Punching Bag, pound for pound, may be Josh’s most ambitious and confident record to date. He’s never sounded so focused, so committed—or as he puts it—fearless.
“Fearless is being confident, faithful, and having trust in something that is bigger than you, and I think that’s a good description of me,” Josh says. “These songs are like a barometer for where I am in life, both in my age and in my experiences. They tell a story about me that nobody else can. I’m very confident and secure in the kind of music I’m making.”
In other words, he’s ready to come out swinging.
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.
Dallas TX | Country
Charley Frank Pride (born March 18, 1938) is an American country music singer, musician/guitarist, recording artist, performer, and business owner. His greatest musical success came in the early-to-mid 1970s when he became the best-selling performer for RCA Records since Elvis Presley. In total, he has garnered 39 #1 hits on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts. Pride is one of the few African-American country musicians to have had considerable success in the country music industry and the only African-American to have been inducted as a member of the Grand Ole Opry.
Titusville PA | Country
Along with many accolades including awards from Billboard, Cashbox and Record World, country music legend Jeannie Seely has achieved No. 1 songs as a solo artist, as a duet partner and as a songwriter. Her deeply moving vocals earned her the nickname of "Miss Country Soul".
Jeannie’s recording of "Don’t Touch Me" not only topped the charts, but also earned her a Grammy Award for the "Best Country Vocal Performance by a Female". It is ranked at No. 97 in the book "Country Music’s 500 Greatest Singles" published by the Country Music Foundation, and also included in "The Stories Behind Country Music’s All-Time Greatest 100 Songs".
Born in Titusville, Pennsylvania, and raised on a farm outside of nearby Townville, Jeannie was singing on Meadville radio station WMGW at age 11, and by 16 was performing on TV station WICU in Erie. When she moved to Nashville upon the encouragement of friend Dottie West, Jeannie only had $50 and a Ford Falcon to her name, but within a month Porter Wagoner hired her as the female singer for his road and television series.
Rossville GA | Pop
Lauren Alaina’s debut album, Wildflower, is a vibrant bouquet of compelling stories, powerful emotions and soaring vocals that is as irresistible and delightful as Lauren herself.
Lauren captured America’s heart when she appeared on American Idol earlier this year and revealed her enthusiasm, humor and warmth, as well as a commanding voice with an impressive range that has been compared to the genre’s premier vocalists, including Carrie Underwood and Martina McBride. She helped make the show one of the most popular yet. A record-breaking 122.4 million votes were cast for the finale, which garnered 29.3 million viewers, as well as 38.6 million who tuned in to see the winner’s name announced. She signed her record deal shortly thereafter and began recording her debut album with producer Byron Gallimore.
The result is a fitting musical portrait of the 16 year old’s personality, optimism and life experiences. There’s sauce and sentimentality, as well as an unwavering hope for the future and a belief in true love. “Wildflower is the perfect name for my first album,” she says. “I would consider myself a wildflower because wildflowers are sweet, but then they have a little bit of spunk to them – they are ’wildflowers,’” she says. “I like to have a lot of fun and I’m really sassy.
“I tried to get songs that were all different so everyone would have a part that they liked because people are different,” she says. “I tried to make it so that it would please everyone. It’s just me; that is what the album is: it’s Lauren Alaina. That is the common thread.”
Lauren’s inimitable spirit is showcased in “Georgia Peaches,” a fun celebration of Southern girls that proclaims, “Love to dance and we love to flirt, ain’t afraid of a little dirt.” Lauren says, “I am a Georgia peach. Even if you aren’t from Georgia, you can appreciate it because it’s the type of song that will get you up off of your feet and dancing.”
Lauren co-wrote “Funny Thing About Love” with Brett James and Luke Laird after discussing her own romantic experiences with them. “I feel like it turned out really great and I’m excited to see how people will respond to my own style of writing, as well as my style of music, period. It’s about when you like someone and they don’t like you, and when you don’t like them anymore, they like you. Timing is everything. When you are young, it never really works out. You are always on a different page.”
“Growing Her Wings” explores the coming-of-age quest for independence through the tale of a teenage girl who reads Cosmopolitan magazine, against her mother’s wishes, after she’s grounded for kissing the boy next door. “She’s growing her wings behind closed doors and she’s ready to fly away,” Lauren says. “I felt like that is who I was six months ago and I’ve formed my wings and I’m flying.”
In “She’s a Wildflower,” she encourages girls to believe in themselves by recognizing the beauty they possess. “As a teenage girl, you are your own worst critic,” says Lauren, who admits that she hasn’t been immune to self-doubt. “When I first heard the song, it made me want to cry because I know what it was like to be the freckled-face girl with a gap in her teeth,” she says. “Girls always put themselves down when they are really wildflowers and need to go for it.”
While she’s always 100 percent pro-girl, she’s not afraid to put flashy and shallow boys in their place, as she does in “I’m Not One of Them.” But she describes the innocence of young love in “Tupelo” and sings the praises of nice guys in “One Of Those Boys,” in which she reveals a weakness for jeans-wearin’ country boys who mind her curfew and love their mamas. “I am singing about a boy who is perfect, but he has all of these flaws that make me love him.”
“The Locket” is a poignant song about the power of love, both between a man and a woman and a grandmother and her granddaughter. “The grandmother has Alzheimer’s and she is starting to forget things and the granddaughter is reading out of a diary what has happened in her life,” she says. “It tells this beautiful story about these two people who fell in love when they were young kids and they grow old together.”
Lauren was surrounded by love and music as she was raised in Rossville, Ga., by her father, J.J., a chemical technician, and mother, Kristy, a transcriptionist. Her mother and older brother, Tyler, sang and her father is a multi-instrumentalist. Her parents played country and rock music in the house and Lauren favored music to television, especially Shania Twain, Aerosmith and the Dixie Chicks.
When she was 3, her mother was listening to the Dixie Chicks’ “When You Were Mine” until she turned the car off, but Lauren kept singing, hitting every note and word perfectly. Her mother bought the karaoke version of the Dixie Chicks for Lauren to sing to as she sat on the bar where they ate breakfast at Lauren’s grandmother’s restaurant.
Her first public performances came with a kids’ choir as well as an annual vacation spot that offered karaoke. Word soon spread about her talent and she began receiving invitations to perform. Beginning in elementary school, she routinely landed the lead roles in school plays.
At age nine, she wrote her first song, “She’s a Miracle,” after her aunt was in a car wreck. She sang in church, restaurants, family holiday gatherings and anywhere else. Says Lauren, “I would grab up every opportunity I could,” Lauren says. “I would go karaoke at any place within a 30-mile radius of where I lived. I would drive an hour just to sing. Any competition I would hear about I would enter.”
At age 8, she entered the talent competition of the Southern Stars Pageant and won, and the next year was selected to perform on the Kids talent stage at Chattanooga’s Riverbend Festival. She continued to perform on that stage annually until age 12, when she won the competition that allowed her to perform on the festival’s big stage. At age 10, she won the American Model and Talent Competition in Orlando, beating out 1,500 kids. She later joined the Georgia Country Gospel Music Association’s children’s group that performed at places such as Six Flags.
“I started coming to Nashville when I was about 12,” says Lauren, who enjoyed a normal childhood of playing softball, cheerleading and working at a pizza parlor. “I would go into the bars on Broadway before 6 p.m. and walk up to the people on the stage and ask if I could sing and they would let me.” Offstage, she was continuing to develop as a songwriter. Little did she know that she would be returning to Nashville to sign a major label record deal.
It was during Idol that she first heard her debut single and first hit, “Like My Mother Does.” “When they started playing it for me, I started crying because I went through this whole crazy journey and the only person who was there for me every step of the way was my mom. She didn’t get any praises for it and I got all of the attention. I thought the song would be a great way to say thank you for her for all that she does for me. When she came in and heard it, she cried. It was a sign. Everybody was crying, even the piano player.”
This year has been one of the most incredible and emotional years of her life. "When you are 16, you change a lot from the time you are 16 to 17 to 18. I got to change on national television, so everybody watched me grow up over the past year.
"I feel like people are going to continue to get to watch me grow up. It's cool that I have been able to meet so many people that I otherwise would have never been able to meet. I have been able to accomplish so many goals, like being on American Idol and releasing a single and now my first album. I know there is more to come in the future and I can't wait to see how everything unfolds."
Jim Ed Brown
If there is one word best suited to describe Jim Ed Brown, it is veratile. As a dynamic component in duets and a trio, as a solo recording artist, and as a popular television host, in the course of his professional lifetime, he has filled role after role with shining success. The last career of this balladeer from Arkansas can easily be likened to a well-cut gem, with its facets reflecting light on many different planes, yet collectively achieving the warm, enduring brilliance of an unforgettable star, a TRUE LEGEND...