As often seems to happen around awards shows, an extra long edition this week. Maybe grab some snacks before proceeding. Click the bullet after each quote to visit the source.
Try not to look at the charts. It’s about the music. That’s what made you wanna come here and do this. It’s the songs. ●
— Alan Jackson to young ASCAP songwriters.
If you’re kind, life is going to be just great. I told somebody, I was joking, I said, ‘Oh, great, they’re going to put a statue up of me, and kids are going to go out there and put cigarettes out on my face.’ Maybe it’s too tall. But more than anything, I hope that where that statue sits that it’s not too much about who’s on that statue but just that it’s a place where you go out and be nice to each other. ●
— Vince Gill, honored with a 9+ foot tall bronze statue at his old Oklahoma City high school.
Ovations used to terrify me. When they first started happening in my career, fear crawled up my spine like electricity, cold sweat formed on my skin, and the need to run overtook me. I’d bow quickly, mumble a panicked, “Thanks y’all” and exit the stage as fast as I could.
Believe it or not, it was not easy to let in the applause. It frightened me, I wanted to shoo it away. It felt narcissistic, like too much ME, so self-indulgent it was embarrassing. ●
— Mary Gauthier, in a lovely blog post on learning to accept ovations. Trouble & Love is out now.
Eventually you realize there’s really no wrong way to sing, as long as you just do it and mean it. There’s so many weird voices in the world. ●
— Shakey Graves on finding his voice.
We used to do all the jokes in dress rehearsal and that was a huge mistake because some managers and other talent would hear these jokes and we had people coming back and asking us not to do jokes. That’s a disaster for us. In country music, people are more polite so we have cut great, great material and, generally, this is not about being mean. I think we have always kept everything pretty loving because that’s the nature of country. Last year was the first year we no longer did the routine [during dress rehearsal]. We’ll do a few lines of something, but we’re not doing the jokes. ●
— David Wild, longtime CMA Awards scriptwriter, on what sounds like overly touchy, humorless image control practiced by some within the industry.
“When George Jones died, it was a passing thought,” he says, disappointed in the lackadaisical tribute to the legendary country star. “I’d like to see a lot more of the pillars of country music there. Because they’re the reason you have a job and a chart.” But he probably won’t be watching either way. “There’s just so much going on,” he says. “I kind of get panic attacks!” ●
— Adam Hood on the CMA Awards. His new album is Welcome to the Big World.
The audio people have countless acts to mix in quick order, one after the other. Great emphasis is put on camera angles (blocking) during pre show “sound checks”. Robert Deaton does a great job as producer of the CMAs. Almost every act is accustomed to different live audio playback systems (monitors). You, understandably don’t have a choice on multi act shows. You get what you get.
As a singer, your pitch is determined by what you hear. In an arena the sound reverberates / swims…. so, if you aren’t hearing accurately you will most likely be “off”. ●
— Ronnie Dunn on the difficulty of sounding good on awards shows.
The role of disrupter has been passed along to Kacey Musgraves, who in 2013 won new artist of the year (this year it was Brett Eldredge, a far duller choice) and this year won song of the year for “Follow Your Arrow,” a galloping ditty about tolerance and acceptance with an emphasis on sexual orientation. She shared the award with Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally, her fellow songwriters. Ms. Clark and Mr. McAnally are, if not the first openly gay winners of a C.M.A. Award — a spokeswoman for the association did not reply to requests for comment on the subject — then certainly the highest profile. ●
— From Jon Caramanica’s CMA Awards write-up for the New York Times.
[Re: “emphasis on sexual orientation” in last quote…]
I have to say I don’t think that particular message is the reason that song didn’t work at radio. It doesn’t sound like country radio or what’s going on currently, and we have to recognize that. It is a different sounding record. It’s sparse, it’s not of the current… I wished that it had been able to make enough impact that it opened a door for songs that sound like that, I’m talking sonically, I’m not talking about lyrics. I think probably the pot references hurt the song more than the sexuality references, because I don’t think any country radio station would have a problem with someone saying “love who you want.” I never sensed that. I just think it was a lot of things. There were a lot of hurdles. ●
— In a chat with For the Country Record back in April, Shane McAnally said he didn’t think sexuality was the bit that made “Follow Your Arrow” a tough sell at country radio.
When I came off stage, Vince Gill grabbed me and said, ‘You just won the biggest award you can ever win. I know, I’ve won them all, and this one means the most to me.’ That about sums it up! ●
— Brandy Clark on winning Song of the Year for “Follow Your Arrow.”
It’s funny, people always try to bring up the rebel card with me. And I just think it’s kind of hilarious, and — not to be rude — cheap. Because if you go back in time to the people who founded this genre — Hank Williams, George Jones, Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn — they were singing about things that impacted every single person in real life. I’m nothing new. I’m just carrying on the tradition of telling the truth. ●
— Kacey Musgraves on being tagged a ‘rebel.’
But, in fact, the message advocated here is nothing more than a twangy, catchy, and admittedly sexier, recycling of the pernicious “If it feels good do it” lie that led so many of the 60s generation into the darkness.
The danger, should anyone actually follow their arrow to the logical conclusion, is not that this song promotes the wrong values, or liberal values, or conservative values—and it’s certainly not that it encourages to trust our own instincts, no matter what the critics say—but that it presents all values as equally valid.
Anyone turning to country music for life lessons or values had better be content with the advice to simply not be so judgmental! Sadly, some impressionable young listeners will internalize this “advice.” And that’s unfortunate. ●
— The Daily Beast’s Matt Lewis thinks “Follow Your Arrow” isn’t moralistic or preachy enough. Huh.
Record executives say they’ve been told there’s only one slot for a new female. If a female artist’s first single doesn’t perform well on radio, they have a much more difficult time than a male artist getting a second chance by programmers. Then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: Programmers don’t believe that women will break through because it hasn’t happened.
Because of these programming choices, radio has become a testosterone-fueled sonic playground that is virtually unlistenable. It reinforces the pop culture trend that strips women of their dignity by defining them solely by their bodies and appeal to men. Is this the atmosphere in which we want to raise our children? Is this the legacy we want to leave for Nashville and country music? ●
— In an opinion piece for The Tennessean, Beverly Keel says “Country radio needs to show female artists some respect.”
Oh Please. Poor mistreated women. Really held Taylor Swift, Faith Hill, Reba and all he others way back. If they got the product they get what they deserve. Quit the whineing. ●
— Comment on above. Criminy.
In their lyrics, Maddie & Tae join a long line of women—ranging from the Dixie Chicks to Loretta Lynn—to sell themselves in opposition to the established order, either demanding recognition or exacting revenge. The true victory will come only if they’re able to keep doing so. In today’s market, “rebellious” female artists have only achieved sustainable success by making the transition to safe country sweetheart—one perhaps embodied by Lambert herself, who hit her break with “Gunpowder & Lead,” in which the narrator makes plans to shoot an abusive husband, but whose recent single, “Automatic,” is decidedly soft. ●
— The Atlantic on gender equality in country music. Also interesting: “And for every valid claim that the genre has historically produced some of the toughest-talking ladies in the business, the fact remains that only 16 of the 124 artists in the Country Music Hall of Fame are women.”
John Esposito, president and CEO of Warner Music Nashville and one of the day’s presenters, told the crowd he wouldn’t be satisfied until “25 of 50 chart-toppers are women.” ●
— From Rolling Stone’s recap of CMT’s Next Women of Country gathering. Seems… ambitious.
I was lucky enough to get into the country charts, but I didn’t have to live and die by them. I was always able to do whatever I wanted because, luckily enough, I always had an extraordinary audience. They were loyal. They came out to shows. They bought enough records to make it respectable, where the record company would say, ‘Yeah, she should do another record.’ ●
— Emmylou Harris.
But all I can say is that music is changing so quickly, and the landscape of the music industry itself is changing so quickly, that everything new, like Spotify, all feels to me a bit like a grand experiment. And I’m not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music. And I just don’t agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free. I wrote an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal this summer that basically portrayed my views on this. I try to stay really open-minded about things, because I do think it’s important to be a part of progress. But I think it’s really still up for debate whether this is actual progress, or whether this is taking the word “music” out of the music industry. ●
— Taylor Swift on removing her music from Spotify.
Anna Grace’s mom said the family was having its portrait taken when the country star walked up.
“She just walked up to Anna Grace and said, “Hi, how are you? Would you like to take a picture with me? Let’s strike a pose,” Anna’s mother Monica Farner said in a phone interview with The Tennessean. ●
— Speaking of Swift, she has taken to sidling up next to little girls in parks and offering to join them for photo shoots. She did it twice last Sunday in Nashville’s Percy Warner Park.
I love it when inspiration happens, but when I first came to town, some of the older songwriters told me if I was ever going to make a living doing this, I’d need to learn that success was 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. I took that to heart. If you want to do this and be successful at it, you need to go to work. That’s what I did. I booked time with other writers – I learned pretty early on that I liked co-writing – and we went to work five days a week like any other man or woman in any other job. ●
— Larry Cordle to Engine 145. He has a new duets album, All-Star Duets, coming out this week; Engine 145 has an exclusive stream of a track with Trisha Yearwood.
There are plenty of outlets for it, because the Internet has opened up everything. You have to work harder to build that connection with the audience on your own, but in that way, it’s a blessing in disguise, because when you build a fanbase that way, it’s a fanbase for life, and it doesn’t go away when radio decides you’re not in fashion anymore. When you’re not relying on radio to sustain your career, it forces you to dig in and build. ●
— Jason Eady on building a music career independently.
The weird thing is I guess you get labeled as a certain type of writer, but you have no idea how many non-party songs I write. I write 150 songs a year. I cannot write 150 party songs. I write sad songs. It’s just that the last few years, certain songs are the ones that get cut the most. ●
— Rhett Akins, once and future Peach Picker.
You can’t tell me that doesn’t speak to your soul. You almost tear up when you say that. It’s ’cause it’s striking a nerve. ●
— Blake Shelton, jokingly, on “chew tobacco chew tobacco chew tobacco spit.”
He said, “Let me throw a line out at you.” As you said, he’d been over on a friend’s couch and crashed. He said, “As I was coming to, I was apologizing to my friend. I said, ‘I know I’ve been an inconvenience to you. I’ve been an intruder, really, in your life and your home. I thank you.'” The friend said to him, “That’s all right Jon. I’ve put the bottle to my head and pulled the trigger a few times myself.” ●
— Bill Anderson on co-writing “Whiskey Lullaby” with Jon Randall.
It sounds like scratching, and that’s what it emulates, but it’s just a pick on a guitar string. If it was real scratching — that’s a whole other conversation — but I would never put legitimate scratching in, but yet it sounds like it. It’s a thing that in my mind, I can be content with, because it’s not real scratching. ●
— Jerrod Niemann, jumping through some odd hoops in talking about “Buzz Back Girl.” Sounds like scratching but is fine on a country record because it was generated some other way? To me, it would have been preferable to either (a) not have scratching of any sort if it makes him as uncomfortable as this explanation suggests or (b) have scratching and say ‘yes, there’s scratching.’
Known for: Honestly, probably that viral video that showed him getting hit in the head with a beer can on stage at a concert. ●
— From the Washington Post’s “complete guide to the dudes of country music.”
Sticking with that metaphor, Hunt’s music also qualifies as fine fusion cuisine — and it has arrived at a time when Nashville’s other leading men are busy slapping country and rap together like pickles on peanut butter. Flip your radio on, and you’ll hear them flirting with hip-hop in mysterious, superficial and increasingly horrific ways. It’s a trend that seems more heavily influenced by focus groups than by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. ●
— Chris Richards, in an extensive Sam Hunt feature for the Washington Post. From things I’m reading, it’s sounding more and more like I might actually have to give Hunt’s Montevallo a listen.
How does a record company make its money nowadays? iTunes, streaming, YouTube — all these things we don’t do. We call that a form of protecting the music. But that’s how they make their living. So to find a record deal in this day wasn’t easy. ●
— Garth on doing it his way.
So “Man Against Machine” (Pearl/RCA Nashville), his first album of original music since 2001, is defiantly behind the times, and skillful enough — mostly — to transcend them. It is grand scale and hammy, in places eye-rollingly schlocky and in others outrageously moving. As has always been true of Mr. Brooks, there is no correlation between the quality of a song and how well he sings it: His most affecting moments are often his corniest. ●
— From Jon Caramanica’s review of the new Garth album, Man Against Machine.
His consistency of songs through the years, he never crossed you up or threw you a curve ball. He always progressed with his music, but he was always singing… songs that were so good that George could just walk out there and sing ’em, and that’s all he needed to do. He didn’t have to shake his butt like I have to every night. He could just step up there and tip that hat and flash a smile at the girls and start into another amazing song. ●
— Luke Bryan on George Strait.
And for such a longtime, 11 No. 1 singles performer, the lack of high quality staging was disturbing for anyone who didn’t come solely for Cash’s blend of country, blues and related mixture of sound storytelling. Having the band initially enter on stage without the benefit of darkened stage lighting and having Cash walk on from the side with little flare was more amateurish than professional. Imagine how much better the concert could have opened and set a much more enthusiastic beginning had the band been behind a curtain, playing a lively instrumental introduction, and Cash first appearing down the center aisle singing from a portable microphone. ●
— Exceedingly strange concert review says the music was all great but Rosanne Cash should really put some pizzazz and production values into it. Maybe it’d pep things up if she danced around like that Sawyer Brown feller.
It ain’t like it is watching it on TV, is it? I never wanna try that again. Worst experience I ever had on the road in my life on that thing. It kept stopping, and they never quit blowin’ the horn! ●
— Jerry Lee Lewis on riding the train. Amtrak, not freight.