Country Music News

Matt Stell celebrates platinum “Prayed for You” with first-ever RIAA virtual plaque presentation

ABC/Image Group LAMatt Stell notched a major milestone on Wednesday, when he got the news that his debut single, “Prayed for You,” had gone platinum. However, in the midst of a global pandemic and given that it also was April Fool’s Day, the celebration surrounding his hit song was anything but ordinary. 

During a virtual meeting, the singer’s label team and members of the RIAA surprised him with a paper plaque in lieu of a framed certificate. They captured the special moment in a YouTube video, where Matt briefly wondered if he was being pranked.

“Today being April 1, which is April Fool’s Day, this is no joke,” said Sony Music Nashville CEO Randy Goodman at the virtual celebration. 

“I can believe it because of how much work that we’ve all put in, but I can’t really believe that it worked out the way that it has,” Matt reflected, as he expressed his gratitude to his team. 

Before it hit the one-million-unit milestone, “Prayed for You” spent multiple weeks at the top of the country charts. It was the only single from a debuting artist to do so in 2019.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Keith Urban contrasts darkness and light in the video treatment for “God Whispered Your Name”

ABC/Image Group LAKeith Urban takes his song to soaring new heights in the music video for “God Whispered Your Name,” a clip that puts a visual spin on the song’s message of hope and redemption. 

The video starts off with footage of Keith alone in a dark basement, playing an acoustic guitar. With the help of a little sunlight, and the power of lasting love, he finds his way out. At the end, he’s standing on top of a boulder in the California desert, against a stunning backdrop of natural beauty and light. 

However, Keith tells Billboard that neither setting was quite as glamorous as it looks on camera. 

“That dark and lonely place, was underneath a warehouse in Nashville, literally the darkest, dank and smelly place,” he reveals.

As for the dazzling, hope-filled desert scene?

“Playing guitar atop a boulder is definitely not a great idea. You just kinda lose yourself in what you’re doing, and every minute or two you realize what you’re doing, and you think, ‘I better not fall off this big-a** boulder,’” Keith continues. 

Still, he says he hopes the visual elements will offer extra insight into the song’s message. 

“For me, a good music video takes the song to another level. It maybe gives the song a bit more dimension and hopefully we’ve done that with this one,” the singer reflects.

Keith first released “God Whispered Your Name” in February, sharing at the time that it was the first of “a whole bunch” of new music on the horizon.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


“We have loved every tribute”: Joe Diffie’s widow thanks fans for their support following his death

ABC/Image Group LAAfter news broke last weekend that nineties hitmaker Joe Diffie had died of complications of the COVID-19 coronavirus, fans showed an outpouring of support.  And it didn't go unappreciated.

The singer’s widow, Tara, recently touched base on social media to reflect on all the creative ways Joe’s listeners have been keeping his legacy alive. 

“I cannot count how many people have contacted me,” she wrote on Instagram. “Joe was so loved and I hope he can see how he affected everyone’s lives. From the candles, to the parade, to the people leaving gifts at the house -- I thank you from the bottom of my heart! The radio stations are all playing his music and it makes my heart happy.”

Tara also shared a couple of memories, posting a picture of the couple kissing next to a tractor and a video of their wedding celebration, complete with Joe giving an impromptu performance of “John Deere Green” to a crowd at Nashville honky tonk Tootsies.

“We have loved every tribute,” Tara wrote. “He loved his fans, his friends, his family and he was truly happy.”

She concluded her message by asking fans to continue to remember Joe through his enduring hit songs.

“Please keep playing his music,” she implored. “Please keep his legacy alive forever.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Dolly Parton, Rascal Flatts and more will tribute the late Kenny Rogers in a benefit for MusiCares

CMTA new TV special will spotlight the life and legacy of Kenny Rogers, who died on March 20. The show, premiering next Wednesday night on CMT, is called CMT GIANTS Kenny Rogers: A Benefit for MusiCares

A star-studded roster of Kenny’s friends, contemporaries and famous fans will join the tribute, offering virtual performances and interviews recorded in their homes. Dolly PartonRascal FlattsLady Antebellum, Jennifer NettlesRandy HouserVince Gill, Gavin DeGrawJason Isbell and Amanda Shires will all participate.

In addition to the long list of country artists who had a special connection to Kenny, the show will reflect his all-genre appeal. Lionel Richie, a pop legend and longtime friend and collaborator of Kenny’s, will participate, as will singer-songwriter and Doobie Brothers member Michael McDonald. 

“Kenny Rogers transcended genres and generations with his musical versatility, legendary collaborations and timeless appeal, and we’re honored to pay tribute to his legacy,” explains CMT executive producer Margaret Comeaux.

During the show, you'll be able to donate directly to MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund, established in support of the Nashville country community and all of the musicians and industry professionals affected by the pandemic. 

CMT GIANTS Kenny Rogers: A Benefit for MusiCares will premiere on CMT on April 8 at 8PM ET, followed by on encore performance on MTV Live on April 10 and another CMT showing on April 11.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood take fan requests and spread hope in 'Garth & Trisha Live!'

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Country superstar couple Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood staged a special live concert on Wednesday night, delivering a request-packed, hour-long acoustic set. The pair played live from their home recording studio.

The set list was compiled entirely from fan suggestions, and featured a mix of their own biggest hits, deep cuts from their catalogue and cover songs. “Calling Baton Rouge,” “The Dance” and more of Garth’s most enduring hits were on the menu, as was his rendition of Bob Seger’s “Main Street.”

Trisha dipped into her recent album, Every Girl, and delivered searing performances of hits by Fleetwood Mac and Little Big Town. Of course, the performance also featured plenty of duets between the husband-and-wife duo, including parts of “In Another’s Eyes,” “Whiskey to Wine” and more. 

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdown has made for a difficult few weeks for fans, and Garth and Trisha reflected on their own experience in self-quarantine.

“I know it’s rough being apart. I want to hold my babies so bad, but everybody’s staying apart,” Garth said. “Be apart now so that we can be together quicker later.”

“The longer we do this part that is hard, the sooner we’ll get to the part where we’re all back together again,” Trisha added. “A friend of mine said, ‘I didn’t know I was a hugger until I couldn’t hug.’”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Country star trivia

Comstock/ThinkstockOn this date in 2005, this country superstar released her debut album, Kerosene. The project debuted at number one on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and the title track was a top 15 hit. Can you name her? ANSWER: Miranda Lambert. 

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Lady Antebellum push back first dates of their 2020 Ocean Tour

Big Machine Label GroupLady Antebellum were originally scheduled to begin their 2020 Ocean Tour in late May, but in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country trio has pushed some dates on the trek.

Shows planned for May and June will now take place later in the summer and fall. The Ocean Tour is set to launch on July 2 at Sacramento, California’s Toyota Amphitheatre. At first, the band planned to wrap their tour in September, but it will now extend through October 2, hitting both originally scheduled dates and rescheduled shows. 

Featuring opening acts Jake Owen and Maddie & Tae, the Ocean Tour takes its name from Lady A’s latest studio album, Ocean. Back when they first announced their tour, the trio gave fans a preview of all the fun, dropping a goofy YouTube video that showed the headlining band and their special guests embroiled in a hilarious karaoke battle at Nashville dive Santa’s Pub. 

Previously purchased tickets will be honored for the rescheduled shows. You can check out a full list of the new tour dates at LadyAntebellum.com/tour.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


No photo session needed: Why Sam Hunt's 'Southside' cover is a throwback to 'Montevallo'

MCA NashvilleCreating the cover of the long-awaited follow-up to a multi-platinum album would often involve an elaborate set-up and lots of forethought, but for Sam Hunt, capturing the Southside image was more instinctual.

It revolved around the place where his breakthrough album, Montevallo, was created -- plus one of his favorite companions. 

"Yeah, that's my dog. That's one of our dogs," Sam reveals. "I'm not big on...posing for photo shoots. And we started talking about 'What are we gonna do for the album cover?'"

"And I said, 'Well, what if we went to...the house that I lived in with the guys when I first moved to town that I wrote that first record in?'" he explains. "And my brother lives there now. I sold him the house."

Almost the moment Sam arrived, his photographer captured the cover.

"I pulled up and I'd just come from church, I think," Sam tells ABC Audio. "And I jumped out and the dog was in the truck, so I was sitting there holding the dog. And I think I had a bag of like groceries or something in my hand, too."

"And he said, 'Well just stand over here, and let's see if the spot looks like a good spot,'" he continues. "So I'm walking with the dog and I stopped there. He took the picture and he's like, 'Yeah, this looks like a good spot.' And we were all like, 'That could be the picture, too.'"

In fact, the photo session ended right there.

"I had these clothes that I was gonna change into," Sam adds. "And we ended up just throwing them back in the truck and saying, '... Let's don't overthink it.' So at least it was honest."

Sam Hunt's Southside comes out on Friday.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Nashville notes

Burke/Triolo Productions/ThinkstockJimmie Allen has shared a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the music video for "This is Us" with his duet partner, Noah Cyrus. 

The Voice season 17 winner Jake Hoot has released a new song, "Tennessee Strong," honoring the heroic actions of volunteers who stepped in to help after a tornado devastated parts of the state in early March. Proceeds from the song will be donated to the Middle Tennessee Emergency Response Fund

New country trio Avenue Beat is hosting a livestream on Instagram Live today featuring special guests Kelsea Ballerini, Tori Kelly and hit songwriter Lori McKenna. it begins at 8 p.m. ET. 

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Chase Rice hosting livestream in benefit of Sweet Relief's COVID-19 Fund

ABC/Image Group LAChase Rice is one of the many artists lending his support to COVID-19-related causes. 

The "Eyes on You" singer is hosting a social media livestream on Friday in partnership with Jack Daniel's to generate donations for the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund and its longstanding mission to help music professionals in need.

Dubbed "Friday Night Happy Hour," Chase will perform his hit "Lonely If You Are," along with other songs from his recently released The Album Part I. He'll also give listeners a taste of what to expect from The Album Part II with performances of the new music, along with other fan favorites. 

Sweet Relief launched in 1994 as a way to offer assistance to career musicians during times of crisis such as illness, disability or age-related issues. The organization has instituted a COVID-19 Fund, with donations going toward musicians' medical expenses, food bills and other living expenses. 

“It’s been heartbreaking to see what this virus is doing around the world, and one of the places it’s hit closest to home for me is seeing all of my friends in the music industry lose out on work,” Chase says. “I’m honored to join Sweet Relief Musicians Fund and my friends at Jack Daniel’s to support our own during this tough time.”  

The livestream will air on Chase's Instagram and Facebook pages, as well as the Jack Daniel's Facebook page, on Friday at 7 p.m. ET.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Reba McEntire and family have private memorial service for mom Jacqueline

ABC/Image Group LAReba McEntire and family gathered to honor her late mother, Jacqueline McEntire, at a private memorial service. 

Reba posted a gallery of photos from the special occasion on Instagram. The first photo is a throwback of Reba and her mother standing back-to-back, both giving each other a thumbs up as Reba smiles proudly.

The rest of the gallery shows photos from the service, including Reba and her family surrounding her mother's casket, and another of a beautiful bouquet of flowers. The final shot shows Reba standing alone on a vast landscape of sweeping green hills. 

"This is us always having each other’s backs. Tight knit family. She taught us that. #mama," the singer writes alongside the commemorative pictures. 

Jacqueline passed of cancer March 14 at the age of 93.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Old Dominion previews "Some People Do" video

RCA RecordsOld Dominion has shared a preview of the music video for their current single, "Some People Do." 

The hitmaking group posted a 16-second clip on Twitter that shows a man at the beach at dusk, seemingly in distress as he walks alone. An orange haze amidst a dark blue sky is visible in the background as the sun sets, creating a moody effect. The clip ends with him walking toward the camera as the image fades to black. 

"We’re proud of this one," the band describes in the preview's caption. 

The "Some People Do" video will be released tomorrow night at 7 p.m. ET. The band will also host an online chat with fans before the premiere.   

"Some People Do" is the final track on Old Dominion's 2019 self-titled album. Thomas Rhett serves as one of the co-writers. It's the third single off the album following back-to-back number ones "Make it Sweet" and "One Man Band."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Dolly Parton donates $1 million to Vanderbilt for COVID-19 research

ABC/Image Group LADolly Parton announced on Twitter that she's donating $1 million to Nashville-based Vanderbilt University Medical Center to fund research that will help find a cure to COVID-19.

The music icon's donation also comes with a personal connection: she mentions that her longtime friend, Dr. Naji Abumrad, is one of the doctors spearheading the important research. He informed the singer that they are "making some exciting advancements" that could lead to a cure. 

Additionally, Dr. Abumrad's son, Jad Abumrad, is the host of the popular podcast Dolly Parton's America that was released in 2019. Dr. Abumrad was one of the interview guests on the podcast, along with Dolly herself. 

The "Faith" singer also encouraged others to donate to Vanderbilt if they're financially able to do so. 

On Tuesday, Dolly posted a video expressing her appreciation for the first responders and other medical professionals working tirelessly to fight the virus. 

"I want to shout out to all the first responders, all the servicemen and women and all the healthcare professionals all around the world for sacrificing your time and even your lives to help the folks in need at this time," she says in the video.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

I am making a donation of $1 million to Vanderbilt towards that research and to encourage people that can afford it to make donations.

— Dolly Parton (@DollyParton) April 1, 2020


Jon Pardi and Summer Duncan postpone wedding

ABC/Image Group LAJon Pardi and his fiancée, Summer Duncan, have postponed their wedding in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Summer revealed on Instagram that "due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19," she and her country star fiancé are hitting pause on their wedding, originally scheduled for May. 

The couple was planning to wed at a venue near Yellowstone National Park in Montana sometime next month, but Summer says that they want to keep their loved ones safe. 

"We would be selfish to keep our wedding date and put our guests at risk," Summer writes alongside the couple's engagement photo, taken when Jon proposed during his show at the Ryman Auditorium last fall. "To all the other brides out there (and wedding vendors) it’s gonna be one hell of a busy fall!!" 

Jon echoed this sentiment. Speaking with People in March, the "Heartache Medication" singer said that while he's looking forward to his upcoming nuptials, he was also thinking practically about the situation. 

“I’m excited, but I just can’t be overexcited about it because there’s always that lingering, well, what if it [the virus] is not caught up by then? I have elderly people that are going to come, and I can’t put them in jeopardy," he explains. "I’m just kinda like whatever happens happens.”

Jon will host a live performance on social media Thursday night at 9:30 p.m. ET.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


CMA donates to MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund

Country Music Association The Country Music Association has made a major donation to MusiCares' COVID-19 Relief Fund

CMA and its philanthropic branch, the CMA Foundation, are contributing $1 million to the Recording Academy's fund that provides support to those in the music industry whose employment is in jeopardy due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fund also targets a specific need by helping industry professionals pay for their mortgages, rent and other bills to enable them to stay in their homes.

“We have heard firsthand the many ways the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted not only our CMA members but the music industry at large,” CMA CEO Sarah Trahern says. "Our business does not exist without these hardworking individuals who make up the touring industry as well as our artists, songwriters and musicians, and we hope our pledge can provide a bit of comfort during these troubling times.”

The donation comes one day after CMA announced that the 2020 CMA Fest was cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The festival is currently scheduled to take place in 2021.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


ACM launches COVID-19 relief fund

Academy of Country MusicThe Academy of Country Music is stepping up to help those impacted by COVID-19. 

The organization has launched a new fund under its charitable arm, ACM Lifting Lives, to aid those in the country music community who are taking a financial hit because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ACM Lifting Lives COVID-19 Response Fund will begin with an initial donation of $250,000, with an additional matching fund of up to $250,000 from third-party donors.

The funds will be available to all types of professionals in the country music industry such as songwriters, musicians, tour crews and bus drivers that meet the criteria 

The new program will officially be introduced during the ACM Presents: Our Country broadcast on CBS on Sunday. The show will feature many stars performing from their homes including Carrie UnderwoodKeith UrbanLuke CombsMiranda Lambert and more.

Our Country airs on CBS and CBS All Access on April 5 at 8 p.m. ET.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Country star trivia

Comstock/ThinkstockToday marks the 34th birthday of this country singer, who's the daughter of singer Linda Davis and one-third of a Grammy-winning trio. Can you guess who it is? ANSWER: Hillary Scott.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Nashville notes

Burke/Triolo Productions/ThinkstockMatt Stell is teaming up with Lindsay Ell and Jameson Rodgers for a livestream performance on Instagram tonight at 9 p.m. ET. They will each perform a new song. This will be a standing appointment each week until the COVID-19 quarantine is over.  

Baylee Littrell, the country singing son of Backstreet Boys member Brian Littrell, will host a live digital hangout on April 4 at 4 p.m. ET that includes a performance with his family. 

Circle, the network that broadcasts the Grand Ole Opry, is joining forces with Nashville comedy club Zanies for a livestreamed event today. Comedians and past Opry performers Aaron Weber and Dusty Slay will host a livestream commenting on highlights from season one of the Circle network's show, Stand Up Nashville! The virtual event begins tonight at 8 p.m. ET.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Kane Brown's crazy about daughter Kingsley; having to disinfect the groceries, not so much

ABC/Image Group LA Just like everyone else these days, Kane Brown is adjusting to a new normal, as we all learn to live in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I'm doing fine," he tells ABC Audio by phone. "I think my wife's going crazy. Literally last night, she got groceries, and she took all of the groceries out of the bag before she came in the house. She got about a hundred separate pieces worth of groceries and she wiped them all off with a Kleenex wipe."

"So then I had to go out there and individually bring every single one of them in the house," he continues. "It took me about an hour. It was awful."

Of course, Kane and Katelyn do have a reason to be extra careful. Their daughter Kingsley was born October 29, and is thriving.

"She's definitely healthy!" the proud father says. "She's got some big old cheeks where she's storing her milk."

"She's looking at me right now. She's been great. Parenting is amazing. I wouldn't change it for the world," Kane  laughs as he pauses to talk to Kingsley. "Don't smile at me! And I wouldn't change babies for the world, either."

Kane admits he and Katelyn are already discussing the possibility of giving Kingsley some siblings, though her sleep schedule is giving them some pause.

"Yeah, we were talking about it," Kane reveals. "The only thing is right now, like last night, she didn't sleep at all. So other than the sleeping part, I mean, you know, being parents is awesome."

"She's cute all around. When she stops crying, she's cute. Sometimes when she cries she's cute," Kane says.  

Kane's new track with John Legend, "Last Time I Say Sorry," is out now.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Sara Evans is "Born to Fly" with new memoir

Howard BooksSara Evans has found another way to share her life journey. 

The "Suds in the Bucket" singer is set to release a memoir about her life and career later this year. Titled Born to Fly, the book finds Sara telling never-before-told stories about her country music career and life in the limelight.

She'll also share insight and tips on topics including motherhood and marriage, as well as how fans can find their own purpose in life. 

The book gets its name from her 2000 breakthrough album, which features such hits as the title track, "Saints & Angels," "I Could Not Ask for More," and "I Keep Looking." 

Born to Fly is expected to be released September 8 through the Simon & Schuster imprint, Howard Books. 

“I am so excited to release my memoir this year. With 2020 being the twentieth anniversary of my Born to Fly album release, which was such a pivotal project for me and my career on so many levels, this book really brings everything full circle," Sara says. "I am so proud of how it all came together and can’t wait to share it with everyone."

Sara will also release her 10th studio album, Copy That, on May 15 via her own label, Born to Fly Records.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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