Country Music News

Dierks Bentley tapped The War & Treaty for an ACMs duet, and he’s excited for “inclusivity” in country music


As Dierks Bentley looks towards Sunday’s ACM Awards ceremony, the singer says he’s excited to still be a part of the show, 16 years after winning his first trophy.

“My first ACM was back in 2005. To still be invited, still be nominated for some of these bigger awards and be part of the fun is something I really appreciate and have never taken for granted,” he reflects.

But Dierks is far from a relic in the country genre: On the contrary, he’s excited to be part of pushing the genre forward, and that includes inclusivity when it comes to the racial diversity of the artists being recognized. That’s part of the reason why he wanted to invite The War & Treaty, a husband-and-wife vocal duo comprised of Michael and Tanya Trotter, to join him for his performance of U2’s “Pride (in the Name of Love.).” The duo are Americana Music Award winners, but they haven’t seen much mainstream country recognition -- at least, not yet.

“They’re so awesome and I’ve been waiting for a chance to collaborate with them again,” says Dierks. “They came out and played my Seven Peaks Festival in Colorado a couple of years ago. Lovely people, huge voices, and exciting, too, that they’re both African-American, to have that element, with what’s going on in country music.”

For Dierks, the push to open up the genre’s boundaries is exciting, and he hopes his ACMs performance will be an example of what the genre stands to gain from being inclusive.

“They just elevate the performance so much. And it’s just a really cool mixture of people on stage for this performance,” he adds.

The 2021 ACM Awards will air on CBS at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Lee Brice is hoping to “knock socks off” when he and Carly Pearce perform at the ACM Awards

Brent Harrington/CBS via Getty Images

Lee Brice is making his full-song performance debut on the ACM stage during the awards show on Sunday night, and he’s planning to make it count.

“I performed a piece of ‘I Drive Your Truck,’ like,’ 10 years ago at a commercial bumper on the ACMs. That’s the only time I’ve ever performed on the ACMs,” he says. “So this is truly my first time every performing a full song on the ACMs. I’m super excited and want to get in there and knock socks off, if I can.”

Lee is performing “I Hope You’re Happy Now,” his duet with Carly Pearce, a song that has already won the pair an early trophy for ACM Music Event of the Year.

Their spot on the show is a second chance at performing “I Hope You’re Happy Now” for Lee: He and Carly were booked to sing it during last November’s CMA Awards, but Lee had to step down at the last second due to a positive COVID-19 test.

“I was just by myself in my barn, watching it,” Lee recalls of that experience, as he sat in quarantine and watched Carly perform the song with Lady A’s Charles Kelley instead of him.

“I will say, there was that, ‘Ugh, I was singing that.’ Although Charles killed it. I did tell him, ‘Man, bring your A-game, because this song is, like, the hardest song I’ve ever had to sing,’” Lee goes on to say, adding that Charles "called me after and said, ‘You were not kidding.’”

The ACM Awards airs on Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

At the ACMs, Carly Pearce will finally get to perform “I Hope You’re Happy Now” with Lee Brice


Back at the 2020 CMA Awards last November, Carly Pearce had plans to perform “I Hope You’re Happy Now,” her hit single, with her duet partner Lee Brice. But Lee had to skip the awards show at the last second after a positive COVID-19 test.

Though Lady A’s Charles Kelley filled in Lee during the performance, Carly and Lee never got to truly celebrate the song that won them a CMA trophy and a number-one hit together onstage.  That’s all going to change at Sunday night’s ACM Awards, where Carly and Lee are performing “I Hope You’re Happy Now,” which also won Music Event of the Year ahead of the show.

“We haven’t seen each other since it went number one. We haven’t seen each other, except on FaceTime, since we won a CMA,” Carly shares. “Now to be able to perform together -- on a stage that I have obviously dreamt of performing on forever -- is going to be just magical.”

“I Hope You’re Happy Now” might not be done hitting new milestones, either: It’s nominated for ACM Single of the Year, something that Carly says is a little bit tough to fathom, given what a personal song it is.

“It’s very weird for me to think of it that way, because it started as an apology to someone in my past,” she says. “It’s changed the whole trajectory of my life, and continues to validate my purpose as a songwriter and my purpose as an artist, which is to tell my truth and tell my stories.”

Carly’s also nominated for Female Artist of the Year at the ACM Awards, which takes place Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET on CBS. 


Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Brothers Osborne band mates say the reaction to TJ Osborne’s coming out was “a beautiful surprise”


TJ Osborne, one half of country duo Brothers Osborne, recently came out as a gay man. He's the first mainstream artist signed to a major country label to do so, and his brother and band mate, John Osborne, admits he wasn’t sure that country fans were ready to accept an openly gay artist.

“I was just worried as an older brother, as a protective older brother,” John says. “And when he came out and the response was what it was, it really did surprise me. And I thought it was incredible. It was a beautiful surprise.”

For TJ’s part, coming out means that he doesn’t get hung up on little annoyances, like overthinking his outfit choices for awards show like Sunday’s ACM Awards.

“There were a couple of times where I would think to myself, ‘Wow, that’s really cool, but if I wear that, maybe people will think that I’m gay,’” he remembers. “...That’s not even in my mind anymore. It doesn’t seem like a big deal until it just isn’t a problem anymore. You’re like, ‘Wow, that was very annoying before. I didn’t really realize that!’”

In addition to be nominated for Duo and Album of the Year, the Brothers Osborne will perform their new single, “I’m Not for Everyone,” which is a fitting statement about being comfortable with who you are.

“You get to a point where you are okay with who you are and okay with people maybe not liking you for who you are,” TJ says of the song’s message. “I think when you get to that place, It’s a much happier place to be.”

The 2021 ACM Awards air Sunday night at 8PM ET on CBS.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Ahead of the ACMs, Jimmie Allen shares his vision for the future of racial equality in country music


The ACM Awards aren’t until Sunday, but Jimmie Allen’s already a winner: He was named this year’s New Male Artist of the Year ahead of the ceremony.

He’s the first solo Black performer in ACM history to win a New Artist trophy, and he’s not the only trailblazer so far this year: Kane Brown also became the first Black artist to win in his category when he brought home Video of the Year for “Worldwide Beautiful.” But Jimmie says he hopes that in the future, Black artists winning country music awards becomes a much more common experience.

“My plan is hopefully, in 10 years, it’s no longer a thing, you know?” the singer says. “We’ll be just like every other genre of music...where you don’t even mention the Black thing or the white thing or the Spanish thing or Asian thing. It’s not even talked about. It’s just: ‘Here’s the artist. Here’s the song. I like the song or I don’t like the song.’”

In the meantime, though, Jimmie’s proud of his growing legacy in country music, particularly when it comes to his relationship with legendary Black country performer Charley Pride. Jimmie duetted with Pride at the CMA Awards last November. It was the 86-year-old’s last performance before his death in December.  Now Jimmie’s starting to hear some pretty powerful feedback from his fans, along the same lines.

“I’ve had parents DM me on Instagram and say that I am to their nine-year-old son what Charley Pride was to me. I was like, ‘Jeez! No pressure,’” he adds with a laugh. “To have an impact on someone’s life the way Charley had an impact on mine, it’s just mind-blowing to me.”

The ACMs air Sunday at 8PM ET on CBS.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

“You’re dang right” Ashley McBryde thinks about what it would be like to win ACM Female Artist of the Year


Ashley McBryde won ACM New Female Artist of the Year back in 2019, and this year, she’s got a chance to build on that resume. The “One Night Standards” singer is up for Female Artist of the Year at Sunday night’s ACM Awards show.

The singer knows she’s up against stiff competition, including her former tour boss, Miranda Lambert. Also listed in the category are Kelsea Ballerini, Maren Morris and Carly Pearce.

“I love all of these women. So there’s not a wrong winner here,” Ashley says.

But does she envision what it might feel like to take home the trophy?

“You’re dang right I do,” she says without hesitation. “I think about it a lot...I think if you don’t ever envision it, then it won’t, it can’t ever happen...and if it’s not my year, it will be eventually.”

Meanwhile, the singer says she’s also looking forward to her performance of her new single “Martha Divine,” which she’s giving from an outdoor stage in downtown Nashville, by the riverfront.

“I mean, what better backdrop than the entire cityscape of Nashville, with the river running calmly between the chaos and the lights?” she adds, noting that her performance will be just as fast-paced and villainous as the song’s sinister storyline itself. “Mean ole’ Martha Divine, we have to teach her a lesson one more time.” 

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Dolly Parton, Darius Rucker, Ingrid Andress + more revealed as 2021 ACM Awards presenters

Acadmy of Country Music

Sunday night’s ACM Awards show is fast approaching, and the Academy of Country Music has officially unveiled the presenters who will announce winners at the show.

Dolly Parton, Darius Rucker, Ingrid Andress, Blanco Brown and Martina McBride are among the presenters, in a group that also includes Amy Grant, Leslie Jordan and Clay Walker.

They’re joining a stacked assembly of previously-announced performers in a line-up that begins with Miranda Lambert and Elle King’s show-opening performance of their new duet, “Drunk (and I Don’t Wanna Go Home.)”

The show will be hosted by Mickey Guyton and Keith Urban. Already announced ACM winners this year include Kane Brown, Carly Pearce, Lee Brice, Gabby Barrett and Jimmie Allen.

The 2021 ACM awards will broadcast live on CBS at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 18.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Maren Morris and Ryan Hurd are used to attending awards shows together, but performing together is new


Maren Morris and her husband and fellow artist, Ryan Hurd, are doing something new at this weekend’s ACM Awards: For the first time, they’re performing at an awards show together, bringing their new duet, “Chasing After You,” to the stage.

“When we got the word that we were gonna perform this on the show, it was so exciting, because this is Ryan’s first awards show to perform on,” Maren says. “He’s typically, like, my date at them.”

That also means that Ryan will get a first-hand look at what it’s like to be an entertainer on the show.

“You’ll see how scary it actually is,” Maren adds with a laugh.

Though the show doesn’t kick off until Sunday, Ryan’s already had a lot to be excited about this week. “Worldwide Beautiful,” a song he co-wrote for Kane Brown, won Kane an early Video of the Year trophy.

“It truly was a special day writing that song, and we all knew it,” he remembers. “Then Kane obviously knocked that video out of the park. So we’re just proud to have my name even in any way attached to that.”

Meanwhile, Maren’s looking forward to defending her title as reigning Female Artist of the Year, which she won for the first time in 2020.

“It definitely raised the stakes, I guess,” she says of that experience. “I just remember being at the ACMs last year, and having no clue that I was going to win. And it really just started this ball rolling. Like, the CMAs were crazy, and then being nominated at the Grammys...It’s an honor, always.”

The 2021 ACM Awards will air Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET on CBS. 

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Despite her FOMO, pregnant Elle King is ready to kick off the ACM Awards Sunday night

John Lamparski/WireImage

"Ex's and Oh's" singer Elle King is five months pregnant, but that's not stopping her from opening the Academy of Country Music Awards Sunday night with her pal Miranda Lambert: They'll be singing their current duet, "Drunk (And I Don't Wanna Go Home)."  But Elle says it's ironic that she'll be singing about getting drunk when her current condition keeps her from doing just that.

"Am I like, 'FOMO,' really hard right now? Yes. Am I still having fun? Yes!" she tells ABC Audio. "Is it for the best that I'm not living up to this song's full potential? For the best for sure, yeah! Because I mean, you know, I can light a match, y'know what I'm sayin'?"

But other than the fact that she and Miranda won't be popping bottles on Sunday night, Elle says she has no complaints about her pregnancy -- or her life, for that matter.

"I'm, like, in a really awesome place. What can I say?" Elle declares. "You know, I've got a song is doing well. I'm about to open a massive awards show with my friend. I've got a little baby that I worked really hard for. [My fiancé and I] just bought our dream house."

"Like, I feel like I'm bragging," she goes on. "But after this wild, very long, long year-plus, I feel like I have so much to be grateful for that, y'know, a little nausea here and there can't get me down!"

The Academy of Country Music Awards airs Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.  Other stars who'll be appearing include John Legend, Dan + Shay, Maren Morris, Gabby Barrett, Kane Brown, Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, and Lady A.


Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Country star trivia


On this date in 1982, a country group had a number-one hit on the country charts with their now-classic single “Dixieland Delight.” Can you name them? ANSWER: Alabama.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Carly Pearce + Lee Brice’s “I Hope You’re Happy Now” wins ACM Music Event of the Year


Two more early ACM Awards winners have been announced ahead of Sunday night’s show: Carly Pearce and Lee Brice were surprised with their trophies for Music Event of the Year, thanks to their duet, “I Hope You’re Happy Now.”

The pair got the big news during what they thought was a pre-ACMs interview, which quickly became a giddy celebration when they were handed their trophies.

“I mean, just to think about how hard I and my team fought to get this song right, and how much your voice lent exactly what I always wanted for it...” Carly told Lee, adding, “Wow! I can’t believe it.”

“Thank you so much for letting me be a part of this,” Lee added. “Thank y’all so much for letting us be in this category, and now, wow!”

It’s Carly’s first-ever ACM award, and Lee’s fourth. Also, it’s the second time that “I Hope You’re Happy Now” was earned the pair a trophy: The song won in the same category at last November’s CMA Awards.

The two artists will also be performing “I Hope You’re Happy Now” during the show on Sunday. They'd planned to perform it during the CMAs, but Lee had to sit out the show at the last minute due to a positive COVID-19 test, and Carly performed it instead with Lady A's Charles Kelley.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Kelsea Ballerini will "probably cry" during her "full circle" ACM Awards performance with Kenny Chesney


Kelsea Ballerini and Kenny Chesney will perform their new duet, “half of my hometown,” at the upcoming ACM Awards, something Kelsea is expecting to be an emotional experience.

“It’s a full circle [moment],” the singer says. “We haven’t performed it together, but we were in the studio together. And for some reason, I think this song really just pulls at both of our heart strings.”

The song, which is the newest single off of Kelsea’s self-titled third studio album, is a reflection on roots and home. Kenny is an especially meaningful duet partner, as he and Kelsea share a hometown: Knoxville, Tennessee.

“It’ll be a miracle I don’t cry. Everybody knows I cry at everything,” she adds with a laugh. “I’ll probably cry.”

That’s why Kelsea’s planning a “no bells and whistles” outfit for her performance: “We want the song to be about the song. So I think we’re just going to keep it very casual."

Of course, Kelsea’s a nominee as well as a performer: She’s up for ACM Female Artist of the Year. But the singer says she hasn’t thought all that much about what she’ll do if she wins.

“I don’t think about it. I really don’t,” she says. “I think if that ever happens for me, I’ll be so genuinely shocked and excited that I would want that to be a pure moment that I don’t overthink -- because I overthink a lot in my life!”

Now, she’s trying to save her overthinking for the time she spends performing on stage.

“That’s what I’m in control of,” Kelsea reasons. “So that’s where I’ll be in my head.”

The 2021 ACM Awards air on Sunday night at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Nashville notes

Burke/Triolo Productions/Thinkstock

Niko Moon and reggae star Shaggy have released an animated music video to go along with their remix of “Good Time,” Niko’s chart-topping country hit.

Lindsay Ell, Cassadee Pope, Mitchell Tenpenny and more will perform during ACM Lifting Lives’ ACM Pre-Party for a Cause, ahead of Sunday’s ACM Awards show. The event will simulcast across the ACM’s YouTube and Facebook pages on Saturday at 7PM ET, and will remain up for the 24 hours leading up to the telecast. 

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Eric Church offers an early listen of his 'Heart' album to his Church Choir fan club


Eric Church begins the roll-out of his Heart & Soul triple album on Friday, starting with the release of the first collection, Heart.

But before it drops, members of Eric’s Church Choir fan club will have the chance to listen to the collection early: The singer’s offering an advance listen of Heart in its entirety exclusively to fan club members.

The singer is known for making sure his fans are always the first to get news or hear music from him. In fact, one of Heart & Soul’s three collections -- the middle album, & -- is going to remain a fan club-exclusive vinyl record.

But even fans who aren’t members of the Church Choir will have plenty of exciting opportunities to see Eric in the days ahead. He’s performing at Sunday’s ACM Awards show, and next Tuesday, he’ll sing some of his new material during an Amazon Music livestream event.

Eric also recently announced plans to return to the road: His Gather Again Tour launches this September and stretches through next May. Meanwhile, his current single, “Hell of a View,” is inside country radio’s top 15.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Keith Urban listened to two unreleased songs from Taylor Swift while in the food court of an Australian mall


Keith Urban is a featured guest on two “From the Vault” songs on Taylor Swift’s re-recorded Fearless album, duetting with the superstar on “That’s When” and also lending some harmonies to “We Were Happy.”

But the singer wasn’t in a fancy recording studio or on a private jet the first time he heard the two unreleased songs from Taylor: On the contrary, he was running some pre-Christmas errands.

During an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Keith tells the story of how he got the tracks from Taylor. “We were in Australia. I was doing some Christmas shopping at a shopping mall in December...and I get a text from Taylor,” he remembers.

After asking if he was interested in singing on the tracks, Taylor sent over the two songs, and Keith found a convenient place to sit down and listen to them.

“I’m sitting in the food court at the shopping center, listening to these two unreleased Taylor Swift songs,” he adds with a laugh. “It was, uh, and unusual place to be hearing unreleased Taylor Swift music! But I loved the songs, and luckily got to put a vocal on both of those.”

Fearless (Taylor’s Version) arrived on April 9. In addition to Keith’s guest spots, it also includes backing vocals from Maren Morris on another “From the Vault” track, “You All Over Me.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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