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EDITORIAL INQUIRIES: CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Alanna Conaway Terry Canter Kelly Geist Marianne Horner Melissa Kucirek Liz Stokes



PHOTOGRAPHERS: Neal Nachman Joe Orlando PUBLISHED BY: Full Access Media Group 9713 Takomah Trail Tampa, FL 33617 813.400.3110 (Office) • 813.200.3916 (Fax) MAGAZINE DISTRIBUTION AND MARKETING BY: Comag Marketing Group © 2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED No part of Country Beat Magazine may be reproduced in any form by any means without prior written consent from Full Access Media Group. VISIT US ON THE WEB @ Country Beat Magazine


Christmas 4 Kids Lineup Announced Christmas 4 Kids, a non-profit organization that benefits hundreds of underprivileged children in Middle Tennessee, announces its allstar concert lineup, which includes Phil Vassar, Matt Ramsey of Old Dominion, Lonestar, Eddie Montgomery, Craig Wiseman, Jeffrey Steele and more set for Monday, November 25 at the historic Ryman Auditorium. Tickets are available Friday, September 27.

Christmas 4 Kids is a not-forprofit organization that has been in existence for over three decades. Each year, the organization provides hundreds of underprivileged children in Middle Tennessee with their very own Christmas shopping spree. The funds generated by the Ryman concert and Tour Bus Show/Artist Meet and Greet event, are used to give over 400 children from 29 different schools, a day-long shopping excursion. The special day consists of a chauffeured trip from their school aboard an entertainer’s luxury tour bus, dinner, and a party hosted by Santa and Mrs. Claus. To wrap up the day, the tour buses journey to the Hendersonville, Tennessee Walmart where the children receive a brand new winter coat, and $175. to spend however they choose. To

Tickets start at $38.50 for upper level and $60 for lower level with special edition merchandise available on-site. A limited number of meet & greets with Vassar and select performers will be available for purchase beginning October 2. Country hitmaker Phil Vassar will headline this years’ show, providing an intimate concert experience by sharing many stories behind the song in between performing his piano-pounding hits. “Christmas 4 Kids is an event that year after year I look forward to participating in,” shared Vassar. “I am thrilled to be carrying on this great tradition with some of my dear friends and songwriters. The holidays are a special time, especially for kids, and I love that this organization benefits kids in Middle Tennessee.” 4

Carly Pearce & Lee Brice Release New Single Two of the best voices in country music—Carly Pearce and Lee Brice—have teamed up for a powerful new single, “I Hope You’re Happy Now.” Penned by Carly, Luke Combs, Jonathan Singleton and Randy Montana, “I Hope You’re Happy Now” will be featured on Carly’s upcoming sophomore album, which is slated to drop later this year. Country Beat Magazine

“I often gravitate towards the beauty and the break in country music, probably why it’s always been my dream to experience the realness of life so openly,” says Carly. “Writing ‘I Hope You’re Happy Now’ with Luke Combs, Jonathan Singleton and Randy Montana brought up sadness from the past, but I truly hope there is happiness now. Thank you, Lee, for lending your unsurpassable voice to perfectly tell my story.” “Carly has such emotion in her voice, especially on a song like this that’s really powerful,” adds Lee. “I’m honored she asked me to record this duet.” Learn more visit

Taylor Swift’s Album Lover Certified RIAA Platinum Taylor Swift’s critically adored album Lover [Republic Records], receives platinum certification in just four weeks from the RIAA in recognition of over 1 million U.S. sales—as announced today. This only adds to a series of recent accolades, achievements, and accomplishments for the superstar. Lover exceeded 1 million in U.S. consumption in less than two weeks. Taylor held #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Songwriters Chart for three straight weeks anchored by “Lover,” “You Need To Calm Down” and “ME!” featuring

Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco. She also emerged as #1 most-streamed female artist globally on Spotify and all 18 tracks from Taylor’s new album Lover charted on the Billboard’s Hot 100 upon release. She accelerated the sales of Lover to historic heights by not only delivering the highest-selling album of 2019, but also achieving “the biggest first-week total for any album since her own Reputation in 2017,” according to Billboard. Accumulating number ones in over 100 countries, Lover is also China’s most consumed full-length international album of 2019, besting the previous record holder by double. Total global streams are over 3 billion to date. Lover is the ten-time GRAMMY® Award winning, record-breaking superstar’s seventh album. Taylor‘s juggernaut arrives as a fan favorite and currently ranks as her highest rated critically acclaimed album on Metacritic.

Luke Combs’ This One’s For You Ties Record For Longest Reign At No. 1 On Billboard’s Top Country Albums Luke Combs’ double-Platinum debut album This One’s For You is No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart for the 50th nonconsecutive week—tying the record for the longest reign atop the chart with Shania Twain’s Come On Over

in 1997. This One’s For You is also the most-streamed country album of 2019 so far. This monumental accomplishment adds to a landmark year for Combs, who will release his highly anticipated new album What You See is What You Get next Friday, November 8 via River House Artists/Columbia Nashville (pre-order here). Each pre-order of What You See Is What You Get includes an instant download of the title track, “ 1, 2 Many” featuring Brooks & Dunn, and the five tracks previously released as part Combs’ The Prequel EP. The album also features a special new collaboration with Eric Church. Produced by Scott Moffatt, What You See Is What You Get features 17 songs including the five tracks previously released via The Prequel EP earlier this summer. The EP debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart with all five tracks charting on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs Top 25—a feat not accomplished by any artist in 60 years since Johnny Cash in 1959. The release also propelled Combs to the largest streaming week ever for a country artist with 73 million on-demand streams (week ending June 13). Additionally, The Prequel’s lead single, “Beer Never Broke My Heart,” recently reached No. 1 on both Billboard ’s Country Airplay and Mediabase/Country Aircheck charts. This is Combs’ sixth consecutive No. 1—a first on the Billboard Country Airplay chart— and his fastest-rising single to date (13 weeks). Adding to his historic year, Combs is nominated for three awards at the 2019 CMA Awards: Male Vocalist of the Year, Song of the Year (“Beautiful Crazy”) and Musical Event of the Year (“Brand New

Man” with Brooks & Dunn). The awards ceremony will be broadcast live on ABC from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday, November 13 at 8:00 p.m. ET/7:00 p.m. CT.

Jake Owen Premieres New Video For “Homemade” On YouTube Jake Owen premiered the new music video for his song, “Homemade” on YouTube today. The music video for “Homemade” shares the story of Owen’s grandparents and how they met in real life, capturing their love story, in a time period of the past. In an episode of his podcast “Good Company With Jake,” Owen discussed more about how his grandfather tracked his grandmother down, writing letters to her and how they are still together. A Platinum-certified Big Loud recording artist, Owen has seven #1 songs, numerous #1 albums and Multi-Platinum hits to his name. The chart-topping entertainer’s latest album, GREETINGS FROM… JAKE, garnered Owen’s seventh #1 hit and debuted with more than 154,000 album equivalents by release. The singer/songwriter continues to earn critical acclaim, with critics praising GREETINGS FROM…JAKE as a “countrygrounded odyssey” (Billboard) that “unveils new layers of his artistry” (Sounds Like Nashville). Owen’s latest single “Homemade,” is currently climbing the country radio charts.

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Photo: Ellen Von Unwerth

By Liz Stokes It's been a busy year for this Grammy Award winning artist. She is releasing new music, a new album, music video's, planning a new tour and got married. Despite her busy schedule, I had the pleasure of interviewing Miranda Lambert prior to her upcoming tour, Roadside Bars & Pink Guitars, and got to chat with her about her new album set to be released Nov 1st called, Wildcard, and her incredible charity foundation, Mutt Nation and all things Miranda! I ask Miranda what inspired the video, "It Comes Out In The Wash" and she said, "Well, the label decided on that song for the first single and I thought it was a good choice because it's fun and catchy and sarcastic, but also truthful. We wanted something different and a little more fun. And so Tre thought on it and I called her and she's like, "Give me a week or so to think about it. She came up with this awesome idea of these girls in the mud and trucks in the car wash and I was like, "That's so perfect!" It's actually more perfect than anything I could ever have dreamed of. So, I had the best time doing the video. It was so much fun!" Miranda tells me how she came up with the title of her new album, "Wild Card." She says, "I just got a tattoo 6

in like October and it's a card, it's a queen of hearts and I kind of was inspired by one of my favorite lyrics. My favorite lyric, it's from a song called "Easy From Now On." My favorite lyric from the song is, "When the morning comes and it's time for me to leave, don't worry about me I've got a wild card up my sleeve." And I just loved the connotation of what that is, like I've been through a lot in my life and I feel like there's always, even my family, my mom or dad going through hardships growing up. What I always just told them then out of their hat and make it ok, you know? And so when I got the tattoo it was just a reminder of that and then, the record started coming together and I ended up getting married and then right into this record. I started writing for the record before I got married and then finished writing for it after. I kind of felt like that whole journey was me pulling up my wild card and then starting again. And this record's got a pretty hopeful tone to it and some fun. I kind of feel like I'm back as far as that goes and so "Wild Card" just felt right." On this album, Miranda did a collaboration with Maren Morris and I asked how that came about and she said, "I've always been a fan of her. I've known about Maren and Country Beat Magazine

kind of knew her and her family for a really long time since she was a little girl. We were both from East Texas area, so we sort of were on the same circuit when you're trying to start our careers. But, she sent me her EP before her last record came out, which was her first record, and I just thought, "Man, she's really found who she is and she's this really confident woman and willing to take risks." And I'm just a huge fan of her. I was writing a song, "Too Pretty For Prison," I knew instantly when we were writing it, this has to be a duet with Maren. She's so funky and fun and Texas girls stick together!" It's a pretty safe bet that fans will see them perform together on this tour and Miranda says, "That's the plan. It kind of works out perfect. The timing of finishing a record and getting a song out and us on tour, couldn't have worked out any better and we're really excited." Miranda picked all women for her Roadside Bars and Pink Guitar Tour and she tells me, "It wasn't what I set out to do. When we first started talking about the tour, it wasn't like, "We're going to do an all girls tour." It was just what's inspiring you, start listening to things, and looking around at who's available and, honestly, just all these girls are

great. And I was saying, what's getting me excited about music these days and Maren and Elle King or two of those people. And then Ashley McBryde is great and Caylee Hammack is new. But this little red head fireball and then Tenille Townes was on our last tour for a few dates and she's just a sweetheart and has such good work ethic. So, I'm like maybe it's just an all girls tour on accident and then you put up with the ladies in there and it's like a dream. So, I feel like it was organic, but it was meant to be." Having seen Miranda myself several times, one of her best performances was at CMA earlier this year. I asked Miranda why she chose to perform "Locomotive" as her first new song and she said, "I had to perform at CMA fest and I wanted to put something new, it's been awhile since I had anything new and I thought, "Let's just rock," and "Locomotive" rocks so I was like, ‘That'll be fun, let's do that one!’ It was a really easy choice for me just because I thought we're at a stadium, in the summer, at a country festival, like I want to do something fun." Miranda tells me that one of her favorite songs to perform live is "Mama's Broken Heart." She says, "I'm always still a fan of it. I love to sing that song. I've been singing it for a long time, but it always gets everybody all pumped up." One of her favorite songs on her new album, "Wild Card" is "Tequila Does." she said, "It's so Texas. I mean it's Texas-country at its finest. I wrote it with two Texas artists and singer-songwriters, John Randall and Jack Ingram. So, I just always gravitate towards that one."

Photo: Matthew Berinato

Miranda has found love and got married earlier this year and I asked her how he is adjusting to being in the spotlight and adjusting with all the animals. She states, "He's doing really well. I think he's just so friendly and kind of up for anything, that taking on eight dogs, five horses, three cats and two bunnies was not the easiest thing to do, but he loves animals and the farm and loving the road so far. I think that's what you do when you get married; people have to compromise and luckily his compromise is in the form of eight cute dog faces. So he's taken to it

pretty nicely." Speaking of dogs, Miranda and her mom started MuttNation in 2009. Besides her love of dogs, I asked her why she decided to start the foundation and she said, "My manager asked me what I would like to do that's charitable and I said, "I kind of want to start my own because I've been rescuing dogs my whole life. I mean, living in the country, that's kind of part of it. People don't know or whatever, but I kind of felt like it was my calling and it's the thing I'm most passionate about, besides music. So, I started MuttNation and we've grown so much, we're still on tract to like, I want to do so much more, but we've been able to raise over $4 million and save thousands of dogs, or find thousands of dogs home. So, it's so rewarding and it's one of those things that you can't ever feel like you've ever can get there or do it all, but you'll die trying." Miranda says, "My husband won't let me go anywhere near a shelter anymore because the last time I went, I brought home two bunnies. But hey, it's not a dog!" I asked Miranda how did she pick the songs that went on the album and she replied, "For the record, it kind of chose itself. I didn't overthink it. My last record was a double album so I feel like with that I needed to do it at the time. With this record, While I was at the studio, I was like, ‘Whatever song comes to mind today.’ I didn't overthink it or write lists after list, didn't kind of sit Country Beat Magazine

down and go, "I guess whatever day I went in studio, if I felt that song that day, did that song." I feel like the ones that made the record are perfect. It just all came together perfectly." Miranda tells me what she is looking forward to most on this tour is, "I'm looking forward to just being on the road in general. I have had to adjust to being off the road, which is more foreign to me than being on the road. I call it reentry. It's like a month to get used to it, because I've been on a bus or in a moving vehicle to play music since i was 17 and so I do better when I have a routine. Writing for the record was amazing. I love that part of it. I love making records. I love being off and being a wife and a friend and hanging out, but I'm meant to play music with my band and so I feel like there's always a piece of me missing when I'm not doing that." The process for writing songs, Miranda says, "Most of the writers are friends I've known forever and so kind of go in a room and somebody brings an idea and we, depending on who you're writing with, sometimes it's the day. I'm a night-write kind of gal, so I kind of rather sit down with a bottle of wine or cocktails and play guitar and kind of explore. Sometimes it takes all day and sometimes you don't finish one or sometimes you're at three. It just depends on what's happened. Natalie Hemby is a great friend of mine and she and I have been writing together since "Revolution" and we had our first number one together. So, we kind of have a chemistry that we never really get that stuck. We always kind of find some common ground and get the song written." Miranda says her greatest musical acccomplishment to date is, "I'd have to say singing at the Kennedy Center honors for Merle Haggard and I got to see him with Kris Kristoferson and Willie Nelson, so I really don't know how you top that! That was the biggest thing ever and I thing that will be on my headstone some day. I sang with Willie and Kris y'all, bye! Don't miss Miranda Lambert on her Roadside Bars and Pink Guitars and don't forget to pick up a copy of her new album, "Wild Card," out in stores on November 1st. 7

Photo: Mark Weaver

By Melissa Kucirek “I didn’t write this album for radio. I knew that for me to make this record without that pressure. I think that freed me up a little bit,” stated Tracy Lawrence. It’s early in the week, early in the day and the twang in Tracy Lawrence’s voice is a welcomed reprieve from robocalls and the squawking coming from cable news. Something about the timber in his voice is genuinely melodic. On the other hand, the pace and the rhythm feels more like it’s half-time and the pep squad is instilling a confidence never quite seen before. His southern drawl and infectious enthusiasm never subsides. Lawrence’s mesmerizing recollection of recording his new album, Made In America, is a fascinating look at an artist that has done what so many have dared to dream, whereas only a few actually attain. The Grammy nominee has charted 18 No. 1 songs and sold more than 13 million albums. He’s the guy that watched songwriting from the sidelines and jumped into the fray as a co-writer on massive hits like “Stars Over Texas” and “Can’t Break It To My Heart.” He's also the guy that admits that he’s lacked the confidence to truly put his own storytelling and songwriting skills to 10

the test. “Life” he said is the reason it took so long for him to get to this point. It’s the only pause in the conversation; it’s just a slight breath leading up to the word. In that short sigh he sums up the years of honky tonk appearances and nearly 50 charted singles.

worked with Lawrence on such mega hits like “How A Cowgirl Says Goodbye” (1997), “As Any Fool Can See” (1994), “I See It Now” (1994) “My Second Home” (1993) and of course, “Stars Over Texas” (1996), joined Lawrence on “It Aint You” and the title track.

For the first time in the country singer’s more than 25 years in the business, the Foreman, Ark.-raised icon wrote the majority of the album’s songs. Of the 12 tracks, Lawrence co-penned eight. The experience, drawn out as it became, saw Lawrence going back to his publisher’s tune store several times before finding the right songs that make up what he describes as “the small things people around our nation do.”

The 51-year-old knew what he wanted out of the record and fought to find the songs that measured up to his expectations. He was mentally ready for the challenge of writing and came prepared with melodies and song structure.

“I had gone out early on to cut some Christmas songs – this was about three years ago, so July of 2017 when I started making this record, so when I went in and cut a couple new songs for my Christmas record, there were two songs that were initially cut,” Lawrence said. “The first two were the first to this record, they were ‘First Step To Leaving’ and “It Ain’t You.’”

“I knew that I wanted this record to be traditional,” he said. “I knew that I wanted to cut an album that is different from anything that I’ve cut in the past. I didn’t want ‘Sticks and Stones’ and ‘Alibis’ kind of songs. As we kind of filtered through, I continued to look for stuff and didn’t find a lof stuff that really blew me away. As we got towards the end, I went back to Rick Huckabee, with my publishing company, and went back four or five years, which is where I found Just The South Coming Out’, ‘Stay Back A Hundred Feet’, ‘Chicken Wire’.”

Lawrence continued that he even went and asked longtime friend and writer Paul Nelson to come out of retirement to work on some material. Nelson, who

Those songs are the last three songs on Made In America and Lawrence felt like it had a more rock flavor marinating. The flow then turned into a more traditional

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tone, with “When The Cowboy’s Gone” (Lawrence co-wrote with Carson Chamberlain and Wyatt McCubbin) and the album really started to take shape. “Toward the last two or three months before I was scheduled to have it turnedin I was working with ‘Chicken Wire’ as the working title of the album,” Lawrence said. “I had this whole roadhouse vision in my head with the band behind chicken wire, getting beer bottles, the broken glass and the beer splashing on us, and one of the last pieces that was written was ‘Made In America.’ I had never done an Americana song. “I wanted to be positive and uplifting. I didn’t want it to have political overtones to it. I wanted it to be about the America I remember when I was a kid. I want it to be about pride in your school mascot and what your dad does for a living. We started throwing out ideas and when we finished that song in about two-anda-half hours, I realized the whole album had just come into focus. That was the pivotal point that I knew that it was done. It took a long time – I’ve never done a record that took me that long to figure what it was about. I just kept writing and it just came together.” Lawrence is quick to recognize Nashville’s songwriting community and his appreciation for the craft. “I’ve been blessed over the years of recording music and making these

projects and to really be exposed to true American poets. Guys that are really exceptional at what they do. I have so much respect for the songwriters in this town. There are guys that do this every day for a living, that punch the clock with songwriting and come in with ideas. I’ve learned from them so much over the years. I really knew what I was doing this time.” Made In America doesn’t have a song zspecifically about Thanksgiving, but Lawrence’s story wouldn’t be complete without a mention of his annual event, MISSION: POSSIBLE Turkey Fry and Concert. This 501 (C) (3) organization has raised more than half a million dollars for the homeless and hungry in Dallas, Louisville, Nashville and has served more than 84,000 meals in its 14 years. Like most American success stories, it started out small. “It started out with just us wanting to help out the mission, and from there it grew,” he said. His organization has developed a whole system and template for other cities to follow for their own events. “We’re trying to grow this to a national campaign….it takes a lot of volunteers. The initial mission of this whole thing was to try and change the public perception of what homelessness is about and it’s really tough sell right now when you go out to L.A. and some places. It’s bad,”

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Lawrence said. “I think Nashville has a better grasp on it than most other cities I’ve been to, because the focus is on much, if not more, on rehabilitation and getting people re-acclimated and be constructive members of society. It’s not only about giving somebody a bed when it’s cold, giving somebody a meal when they’re hungry. There’s so much more that goes into it. Getting peoples’ lives back on, that’s really what this all about.” Lawrence notes love and music as the driving forces that kept him going. “I came here with nothing and didn’t know anybody, and by the grace of God I didn’t wind up (homeless),” he said. “A lot of things happen in life that are beyond your control.”


Photo: Neal Nachman

Photo: Neal Nachman

Photo: Joseph Llanes

By Melissa Kucirek When Canadian singer-songwriter, Tenille Townes belts outs the words “I wonder if she got lost and they forgot her. Somebody’s daughter” from her song “Somebody’s Daughter” her voice has a timber to it, like an aged soul that’s harvested decades of experience and stories passed down from generations to generations. Townes’ voice, however, on the other line of the telephone on this Friday morning is beaming with rays of sunshine and sounds like the 25-year-old that she is. “It’s a dream, I’m so thankful to be out here doing this,” Townes said, referring to life on the road and having a heavy schedule, including supporting Dirks Bentley. On this day, it’s her last stop on Bentley’s Burning Man Tour. Just after this interview she will take her customary walk through the arena after soundcheck and before doors open. She’ll capture a view from an empty seat, imagining the night ahead. She will return to the road this fall, once again supporting Miranda Lambert. “I’m so excited to get back on the 16

road with Miranda this fall and continue these adventures,” the Alberta, Canadian-born Townes said. “I’m having a blast getting the music out and just traveling, meeting sweet people. It’s a lot of fun.” She’s also recently collaborated with Brandi Carlile and the legendary Tanya Tucker on the “Five Decades, One Voice” Cracker Barrel 50th anniversary initiative. It’s a perfect fusion – the trio’s collective voices are powerful and sincere on Townes’ “Somebody’s Daughter.” It’s an awe-inspiring, goose-pimples reaction for listeners. Much like the storytelling in “Daughter”, Towne’s new single, “Jersey on The Wall” is a stirring tale of loss, nostalgia and a feeling of small-town athletics. It’s sad. It’s poignant. It’s fitting for a Canadian that still has strong ties to her own hometown – Grand Prairie, Alberta. At the age of 15, Townes started the first ever Big Hearts For Big Kids. While she’s now based in Nashville, she plans to make the trek back for the 10th anniversary event. Big Hearts For Big Kids will mark the occasion on September 14, and Townes said Country Beat Magazine

she’s planning on once again giving back to the local youth shelter, The Sun Rise House. “The people in my community are pretty remarkable, they’re extremely generous,” Townes said. “We’ve raised over 1.5 million…that’s what music is for to me – to bring people together. Over these past few years, it’s been life -changing for me.” Looking back to find that turning point in her life, where music would be her calling, Townes said, wasn’t specific. “It’s definitely a collection of moments,” she said. “My grandparents bought my first guitar when I was 14 and I started reworking cords and see how I could put them together, and how I could incorporate journaling and poetry that I had been doing. That was a moment to me, when things clicked that I really loved to write songs and when it all made sense in the sense of wanting to dream about wanting to play those songs live.” In 2009 Townes, then 15, released the story-rich “Home Now”. The song, written from the perspective of

a daughter whose father is deployed to the war in Afghanistan. The astute songwriter channels her own wisebeyond her years artistry, with the power of inspiration from some of her songwriting heroes.

show and you’re out on the road and it’s like Neverland out there. It’s its own world. It’s so wonderful and filled with the things that I love. Then, it’s going home and doing laundry.”

“I am a huge Patty Griffin fan – I’m inspired by the raw, vulnerability of her voice,” Townes said. “I absolutely love Lori McKenna and her style of writing about such beautiful, ordinary things, in a way, I don’t even know, hits home every time…I absolutely need to add Dolly (Parton)! There’s a song that sets the bar for me, that my greatgrandmother’s favorite of all time that I grew up hearing is ‘Coat of Many Colors.’ Dolly just caries herself like nobody else.”

Just keep the feeling of the ground as well, she said. Her strong supportive family, including volleyball-player brother, parents and Grand Prairie community help her sustain her balance. Even more so, she said, her fans’ openness has allowed her to be a part of their lives. Country music, Townes said, is very much “anchored in stories which lends itself to that open arms spirit.”

As the interview continues, it’s obvious Townes is well-versed in life and in literature. She thinks beyond the pages and applies the lessons to her songs. She’s got a different disposition on life –she paints smiley faces on her toenails. Who wouldn’t smile after seeing those! And yet it’s another way to connect with people. “I love to read, I’m a huge fan of Harry Potter,” Townes said. “I like to read fiction – things that stir up vocabulary and imagination that can lend itself to songwriting. I like to read books about human existence that make us think, books about

being connected.” Maybe the timber in her voice, the echoing choruses are seedlings of the cadence she follows. Like the prairie grass, blades of grass remain standing all year long, even during the cold winter months. Townes has already discovered her lows and highs in the music business. The hardest part about the industry, she said, it’s getting back to the normal day-to-day. “For me, it’s the highs and the lows,” she said. “When you come off a

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“People send in messages a lot through Instagram…my favorite part of social media is hearing the stories from people,” Townes said. “I’m just in awe of the courage of that it takes to really talk about things that are hard and how these songs bring up many different memories of people in their lives and what it makes them think of. Getting to hear about that is like thinking that music is a way of kicking the walls down of the places that are kinda scary to go into. Somehow someone makes it more, I don’t know, maybe a little easier to walk through those spaces. To me hearing about that through people


Photo: Neal Nachman

Photo: Neal Nachman

By Melissa Kucirek Some might say the voice on the other end of the phone line resembles the same groggy-sounding growl a latenight partier might make. Truth be told, the voice on the other line doesn’t sound fatigued. It sounds like work. Hard work. Jon Langston is approaching the last leg and final shows of his Sunset Repeat Tour run with headliner Luke Bryan and Cole Swindell. The timbre in his voice matches the same spark that fans have come to know since his smoldering hits “Forever Girl”, “When It Comes To Loving You” and “Dance Tonight”. With no intention of slowing down, this former football standout is proving there’s more to his artistry than life on the gridiron. The former Gordon-Webb University Division I Runnin’ Bulldog Langston, was sidelined due to numerous concussions. The Loganville, Georgia-born singersongwriter starts the night before Cole and Bryan take the stage. After his set, there’s still work to be done. “He’s one of the most genuine people I know,” Langston, 28, said of Bryan. “I’m lucky to have him as a friend, and as a boss man, mentor. I’ve learned to have fun. Watching him every night, seeing him, he’s a two-time entertainer of the year, dude. You watch him entertain 20 to 50 thousand people and it’s just incredible watching him work. I’ve 22

learned a lot of tricks and tips on how to keep a show ‘up’ the whole time.” “I think we might mix it up a bit,” he said. “We might have to pull a prank on Luke or Cole or something.” Growing up in Georgia, Langston modeled his guitar playing after Alan Jackson. He idolized the “Don’t Rock the Jukebox” singer-songwriter and credits Jackson for gravitating towards the country music genre. The state of Georgia, too, had an impact. “Everywhere you look in Nashville, people are from Georgia,” Langston said. That list includes Jackson and Bryan. “The country music community and the live music community down in Georgia is so prominent. Everywhere you look and turn, there’s a show going on where someone’s from there or someone’s talking about Georgia. It’s definitely a big reason why I fell into the country scene.” His hometown is just under 40 miles from another musical hotspot: Athens, Georgia. Home to R.E.M., The B-52s, Drive By Truckers, Widespread Panic and The Black Crowes, among others, the “Classic City” has also influenced Langston’s music. “Athens is like a mini-Nashville,” he said. “Kind of like the underground scene. It’s Country Beat Magazine

a very musically inclined town. It’s not just a college football town, a lot of musicians and great bands come out of there.” Grinding it out since 2013’s EP Runnin’ on Sunshine, Langston followed the independent release with two more extended plays: Showtimeand Jon Langston. Showtime(via the Treehouse label) garnered a No. 8 spot on the Billboard/Heatseekers Chart and landed No. 26 on the Billboard US Country Chart. Jon Langston, released via independently in December 2015, topped the Billboard/Heatseekers Chart and charted at No. 25 on the BillboardUS Country Chart. The momentum continued when February 2018’s release “When It Comes To Loving You” reached No. 29 on the Hot Country Songs and No. 1 on the iTunes all-genre chart. In 2017 Langston opened up for Bryan on the “All My Friends Say” singer’s Farm Tour. Langston has since signed a publishing deal with Sony ATV, management with KP Entertainment and is the first artist signed to Bryan’s new label 32 Bridge Entertainment in conjunction with EMI Records Nashville. Langston’s latest release is “Now You Know.” The song is a powerful, burst of energy bordering country-rock with the

anthemic chorus: I’m a cold beer drinkin’ every Friday night, Singin’ them songs ’bout the girl I love, I’m a small town, running that sundown, Till I get downtown tearin’ it up, I just go with the flow with the whiskey and Coke, If you ever wondered how I roll, Well now you know. He’s been working with writers while on the road and hoping to roll out more hits. “We’ve written a lot, a bunch of good stuff we’re going to be recording this fall, hopefully before the fall’s over,” he said. “Especially the first half of the tour, I had a bunch of buddies, writers from Nashville, come out on the bus. We write songs during the down time, before the show. I’m excited to get back into the studio and record some new music.” Like most country artists, Langston is accessible to his fans. His nearly twohundred-thousand Instagram followers know he likes Chick Fil-A and he has a very down to earth personality. What they might not know is that he gets pretty stoked watching HGTV stars Chip & Joanna Gaines. “I feel like the fans know everything about me, because I share so much,” he

said. “I watch Fixer Upperall the time. I guess it’s my guilty pleasure.” Hoping he can use the skills he’s been watching from the Gaines’ television show, he thinks when he finally gets off the road, he will find time to renovate his new Nashville home. Afterall he will be recording those new tunes he’s been writing. Still, that ever-elusive time is what seems so far away right now. He’s too focused on the shows at hand. Being a musicians is a lot like being an athlete, after all he said. “I take a lot of what I learned in football and put it into my work,” Langston said. “In football you wake up, you go to practice all week, and you play the game on the weekend. If you’re not waking up and practicing and getting

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better, than someone else is gonna take your spot. Same thing in music. The competition is just as hard. If you’re not waking up and you’re not writing songs, someone else is going to write that hit that you didn’t write that day. You practice. You rehearse. You go and play the shows on the weekends. It’s kind of the same deal, you know. Practice makes perfect.”


Photo: Neal Nachman

Photo: Neal Nachman

Photo: Neal Nachman

Photo: Neal Nachman

By Liz Stokes

Photo: Neal Nachman

Photo: Neal Nachman

By Liz Stokes

Photo: Neal Nachman

Photo: Neal Nachman

Photo: Neal Nachman

Photo: Neal Nachman

Photo: Neal Nachman

Photo: Neal Nachman

Photo: John Shearer

By Melissa Kucirek Calling from her Nashville home just a week before her national television debut on the Today show with Hoda and Jenna, singer songwriter Kelleigh Bannen is a flood of confidence on a Monday morning. She’s a force to be reckoned with a slightly raspy tone woven into a Southern twang – it’s nonetheless a wave of warmth and proof in the pudding that her new album Favorite Colors is a culmination of hard work and determination. Favorite Colors, the follow up to Bannen’s The Joneses EP keeps the listener highly engaged in all 14 lively tracks. Bannen co-wrote all of them, a skill she started in her 20s, and worked with producer Jaren Johnston (The Cadillac Three, Lee Brice, Jake Owen and more). Bannen, 38, said she wanted to make a bold statement with the packed song list. “We went back and forth how many is too many,” she said. “And I think for me, 40

not knowing where albums are going and having been at this full time for the past decade and not having an album out, we kind of thought ‘what if this is the only album.’ Like what if this is the only album that we put out, what would I be sad about if we didn’t get to put on there.” The title track is a moving tale and contagious chorus: “I know all your favorite colors, I know your sign and your height and your weight, I know you had a lot to live up to, And I know your father’s middle name, How many drinks you gotta drink ‘till you’re drunk, All the words to your third favorite song, Even so I don’t know where love goes when it’s gone, where love goes when it’s gone, when it’s gone.” Bannen’s delivery and air of confidence is an immediate rapport with the listener; it’s as if the layers of hurt, happiness and hope trickle down with each note. Her vulnerability transforms the listening Country Beat Magazine

experience. “The sentiment behind favorite colors is, and I know we’re playing with that word color a lot, but a colorful description of grieving a relationship and of knowing someone on all these deep and different levels,” she said, telling why “Favorite Colors” garnered the album title. “So, the song was important….when you’re naming an album, you want it to be one of these emblematic songs of the larger project. We just felt like we could play with the way all these songs are different shades of love and loss and human experience, and all these different shades of life. It felt like a really fun way to group everything together.” The University of Virginia graduate studied politics and even law before solely focusing on music. She’d grown up in Nashville and saw the impact of chasing dreams, only for some to return back home empty-handed. “There is no middle class in music,” she said.

As the conversation continued, the hues and anecdotes that have peppered Bannen’s life fall into place, much like the album. In “Diamonds” her crooning vocals brush up against murky guitars and vibrant tones. In the track “Time Machine” Bannen sings about “longing for a little slow down, little hometown.” “I think that’s about trusting the people you’re with,” she said, about the writing process. “And the people in the room all willing to be in each other’s stuff. Like when we wrote ‘Happy Birthday,’ I think each of us was bringing a different flavor of that sentiment, of nostalgia and longing and wondering what could have happened. We’re all thinking about different relationships, but we’re intersecting.” Bannen said that especially for her, the process of writing for Favorite Colors included pieces she had previously worked on before being dropped by a major label. It’s another reason that the voice on the end of the phone feels at peace – she’s not letting the pressure get to her and she sounds happy. “I think what happened for me when I was trying to write specifically for the radio as my main job every day,” she said. “I love the radio and I want to be on the radio, like everyone else, but when you’re in a record deal and you’ve had a couple failed singles, you just need that hit single and that’s what everyone is saying to you. You try and write what you think will work. What should work, not necessarily what’s in the room. That’s when I think the most special things happen. We make room for whatever is showing up that day.”

One key to songwriting and being in relationships even more so, Bannen said, is listening. She made a point to bring up her interview with Liz Rose (Bannen has a podcast called This Nashville Life). Rose, co-wrote many of Taylor Swift’s hits like “You Belong To Me,” “Teardrops on My Guitar,” “Picture To Burn,” and many more. “I think co-writing is one of those ultimate trust relationships,” she said. “Liz was talking about how she learned to write and the women that taught her how to write. And I think about all the stories we heard about her writing with Taylor early on. You know, she was asking questions and getting Taylor to spill details and to describe things in a colorful way…” Keeping things light and engaged comes natural for Bannen. The podcast is a perfect extension for such a gregarious artist and is celebrating its third season. “Honestly when it first started it was more about venting,” she said. “It just morphed into what could this be, the Nashville life, the music life, and we landed on This Nashville Life. I think what I like about that title is, there’s a lot that happens here that is so much more beyond what is the final product of a song on a radio that is blasting through the airwaves. It’s the artists voice and there’s all these smaller pieces that even as a Nashville native, growing up around the industry, but not in it, you don’t know, like there’s someone that pitches songs to the radio…everyone has a discovery process. That’s the part of what we tell on This Nashville Life, there’s all these

ways to make a life in music.” Her downtime right now (what little she has) is likely spent with her husband, Jeff, renovating a house in Nashville built in 1910 with her mother or as most of her Instagram followers (she has over forty-thousand) know, she has three pugs she likes to gush about. “They’re like little comics in some ways,” she said. “They’re so funny. In some ways they are really simple. They love food and they love people. That’s probably true of me too. They love a good meal, they love a good snuggle. They’re just so funny.” If she closed her eyes and had to pick a color for her pugs, what color would they be? “Actually they’d probably be a really bright orange because they’re kind of obnoxious and a little clown-like, they are just so silly,” she said.

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Photo: Neal Nachman

Photo: Neal Nachman

Photo: Neal Nachman

Photo by: Neal Nachman

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