Country Music News

Thomas Rhett surprises healthcare workers with thanks and music during virtual acoustic show

ABC/Mark LevineA group of healthcare workers got an unforgettable surprise last week, when Thomas Rhett offered up an exclusive virtual performance as a well-earned thanks for their work on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thomas’ gratitude was personal, he shared during the video call set.

“You guys are my heroes. I have a lot of family that works in healthcare, and y’all inspire me to wanna be a better human being,” the singer said, before launching into an acoustic performance that included his uplifting song, “Be a Light.”

Cisco and Live Nation teamed up with Thomas to make the event happen. The healthcare workers that attended work for Banner Health in Arizona and Colorado, as well as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee.

“It was really special to be able to surprise this group of healthcare workers because I’m so appreciative of their incredible work and bravery through this crazy time,” Thomas told Billboard about the event. 

“Even though I can’t thank them all in person right now, this was a really cool way to stay connected and offer up my gratitude face-to-face,” he added. “They are truly inspiring.”

By Carena Liptak
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Cassadee Pope releases acoustic album Rise and Shine, opens up about her mental health

John ShearerCassadee Pope unveiled Rise and Shine this week, an eight-track acoustic album that she hopes will offer listeners an opportunity for self-reflection.

Rise and Shine is a record that is meant to help people navigate their feelings in this trying time,” she explains. “Personally, it’s been a reflective time for me, and a lot of what I’ve reflected upon has brought up some dark moments.”

Cassadee delves further into those “dark moments” in a new interview with People, where she reveals that she’s had to overcome abandonment issues rooted in witnessing her parents’ divorce as a child.

“Seeing my dad leave and move on to a new family really quickly was hard. I think I brought that into my life now, where I have this overbearing sense of: I need to be interesting enough and good enough and funny enough and entertaining enough for people to stick around,” she reflects.

The singer cites therapy and a healthy relationship with her boyfriend -- actor and performer Sam Palladio -- as two critical tools that have helped her work towards more balanced mental health.

But she’s open about the fact that she continues to struggle with self-confidence and self-worth. Cassadee believes the title track might be a source of solace to listeners, particularly during the pandemic.

“I hope ‘Rise and Shine’ is one of those songs that gives them hope and lets people know that ‘Hey, through the darkest times we can get through it,’” she notes, “and we can find meaning in those times and really use it to our advantage.”

By Carena Liptak
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

“I Ain’t Without You”: Tucker Beathard releases the song he wrote in tribute to his late younger brother

Warner Music NashvilleTucker Beathard grapples with the loss of his younger brother, Clay, in the gut-wrenching “I Ain’t Without You.”

Clay died in December of 2019 at the age of 22, after a stabbing altercation that took place outside a bar in downtown Nashville. In the difficult days and months that followed, Tucker turned to his most powerful sources of strength: Faith, songwriting and family ties.

“To be honest, I was always terrified of having someone so close to me pass away because I knew I wouldn’t have the strength to get through it on my own,” he admits.

The singer co-wrote “I Ain’t Without You” with his dad, noted country songwriter Casey Beathard. The song sheds light on Tucker’s journey through grief, and how his faith helped him realize that he didn’t have to carry his burden by himself.

“This song was inspired by the relationship I developed with the Lord following my little brother passing away and realizing that I don’t have the strength to go through this alone, but also realizing more than ever before that I’m not alone, and I am strong enough, but I ain’t without him,” he adds.

Tucker also shared a music video to go along with the song. He shot it at the Grand Ole Opry, where he first debuted “I Ain’t Without You” early this year.

The song is featured on Tucker’s upcoming album, King, which takes its title from Clay’s middle name.

By Carena Liptak
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Old Dominion isn't “kitten” you: The “Meow Mix” version of their album is completely “fur” real

RCA RecordsWhat started as a series of mysterious, cat-centric posts on social media has become something very real, and very strange: Old Dominion dropped the “Meow Mix” version of their self-titled third album this week.

Yes, that means that the band re-recorded every single song by meowing instead of singing the words.

“Cat’s out of the bag!” the group announced, as they shared their new project. “We are re-releasing our entire album, only this time, it’s all ‘meows.’ Sometimes you gotta be silly. #ODmeowmix is out meow.”

The “Meow Mix” album features the group’s feline takes on fan-favorite tracks like “Make It Sweet,” “One Man Band,” Some People Do” and “My Heart Is a Bar.” Fan reactions’ ranged from delighted to just plain baffled.

“If this isn’t the most 2020 thing ever...” wrote one Twitter user. “It’s just the gift that keeps on meowing.”

If you can believe it, Old Dominion aren't the first band to re-release an entire album using “meows” instead of words. Rock group Guster applied the trope to their Keep It Together album in 2003, and rap duo Run the Jewels released a revamped “Meow Mix” project of their own, Meow the Jewels, in 2015.

By Carena Liptak
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Tim McGraw’s got “Good Taste in Women” in feel-good new tune

Big Machine RecordsTim McGraw might have simple tastes when it comes to most things in life, but in the newest song to be released ahead of his Here on Earth album, the singer can’t help bragging about his “Good Taste in Women.”

“Yeah, I sleep like a baby in a Motel 6 / I like dive bar bands that can’t sing a lick / But I’ve got good taste in women,” he sings in the song’s chorus. “Lookin’ at you just lookin’ at me / Got everybody thinkin’ I’m high-class livin’ / I got good taste in women.”

The song’s message feels particularly true to Tim’s life, as he’s married to none other than country superstar Faith Hill. The pair have toured together and duetted quite a bit over the years.

“Good Taste in Women” follows a handful of poignant, message-forward tracks off Here on Earth, including “I Called Mama” and “Hallelujahville.” The full 16-track project comes out on August 21.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic is preventing Tim from celebrating his new album’s release with his fans in person, he did recently announce a virtual Here on Earth event, which will include performances of songs from the album and offer fans a peek behind the process of creating it.

By Carena Liptak
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Lady A and more stars join virtual benefit for St. Jude

Courtesy of St. JudeBrad Paisley, Keith Urban, Darius Rucker and Lady A are just a few of the big-name stars who will appear during MusicGives: Together #forStJude, a virtual benefit concert benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The livestream event will feature a broad array of different performers across six stages, themed by genre. Country music will take place on the Give Back Stage, with a lineup that also includes Brett Eldredge and Randy Owen with Alabama.

Other platforms include the Hope Stage (featuring pop and R&B artists), the Faith Stage (gospel and Christian), the Amor Stage (regional Mexican and Spanish pop), the Gratitude Stage (rock and Americana), and the Kindness Stage, which is dedicated to highlighting special St. Jude moments.

In addition to an impressive lineup of musical talent, the event will also include culinary content from a few of the country’s most renowned chefs.

Richard C. Shadyac, Jr., president and CEO of St. Jude’s fundraising arm, ALSAC, explains that St. Jude’s life-saving mission of providing world-class treatment to pediatric cancer patients at no cost to their families is more important now than ever.

“Giving through events like this when the world is so disrupted enables us to continue to ensure that families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food,” Shadyac says. “Because all a family should worry about is helping their child live."

The festival is scheduled to take place on August 13 beginning at 5PM ET. You can tune in across St. Jude’s social media platforms, and keep an extra close eye on their Twitter feed for special announcements. Limited-edition merchandise for the event is also available now.

By Carena Liptak
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Kane Brown and Nelly get “Cool Again” in tropical beach music video

Matthew BerinatoKane Brown invites rapper Nelly on a tropical beach vacation for his remixed “Cool Again,” which Kane originally released as a single back in April.

In the new version of the song, Nelly layers a breezy new verse onto the track, adding extra fun-loving flavor to a song that was already a summertime anthem.

“Cool again / I really wish that I was kickin’ back with you again / At top the penthouse, somewhere checkin’ out the view again / ‘Cause every time we do it, it’s like new again / It feels like new again,” Nelly sings in his portion of the song.

The music video amps up the summery vibes even further. The clip begins with Kane hanging out solo on a tropical island, kicking back and enjoying a drink or two as he soaks up the sun. As the song continues, Kane holds his binoculars up to the ocean to reveal Nelly pulling up on a jetski, just in time for his verse.

“Cool Again” isn’t the only out-of-genre collaboration that Kane scored this spring. His recent single “Be Like That” is a joint effort with pop and R&B star Khalid and rapper Swae Lee.

Kane is set to drop a new EP later this month.

By Carena Liptak
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Country star trivia

Comstock/ThinkstockOn this date in 1989, this ‘90s country hitmaker released his debut single, “Country Club.” The song became a top-10 hit and was also the title track of his debut album. Do you know who he is? ANSWER: Travis Tritt.

By Carena Liptak
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Keith Urban’s new tune second-guesses a breakup, and now he’s hoping to “Change Your Mind”

Capitol NashvilleKeith Urban’s brooding latest release, “Change Your Mind,” tells the story of a breakup, and the lingering feeling that maybe it might not be too late to try again.

“You changed your number / And got some friends that I don’t recognize / But I wonder sometimes / Is it too late to try? / If I change, would you change your mind?” Keith muses in the chorus.

It’s the fifth track on Urban's next studio album, The Speed of Now Part 1. He shared the full track list for the project earlier this week, revealing that the album features 16 songs and three as-yet-unannounced duet partners.

“Change Your Mind” delivers a heavy dose of nostalgia and wondering what might have been, and it’s not the only song on The Speed of Now Part 1 to do so. Other previously-released tunes include the memory-laden “Polaroid” and the wistful “We Were,” a look back at young love that Keith wrote with fellow country star Eric Church.

Keith shared his current single, “God Whispered Your Name,” back in February, heralding the start of his next album single. Also, he first dropped “We Were” as a stand-alone single in 2019. Both songs have become top-10 hits.

By Carena Liptak
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Luke Bryan's "Born Here Live Here Die Here" is the story of country music

Capitol NashvilleFor the title track of his seventh studio album, Born Here Live Here Die HereLuke Bryan chose a song that takes him back to his beginnings in Leesburg, Georgia. 

"It tells the story of my hometown," the four-time Entertainer of the Year explains. "Now, I'm a little bit hypocritical because I did leave my hometown and move to Nashville and chase my dreams."

"I think it says who I am," he adds.

In fact, if Luke hadn't been "nudged out of the nest," he expects he'd still be living in the Peach State. 

"I would have been that person that stayed right there in my hometown, and I would have loved every aspect of that, too..." he reflects. "If you'd told me that I would have ever called Tennessee [home], I mean, Tennessee's my home, too, and Georgia's my home."

"But, you know, I thought immediately I'd move back to Georgia and live right there in that small town," he reveals.

Ultimately, Luke believes "Born Here Live Here Die Here" conveys a message that's at the heart of country music.

"It just pays homage to so many people that live that kind of life," he reflects, "where they love to wake up, drink their coffee, go put in a hard day's work, swing by the gas station, get 'em a six-pack of beer."

"Go home," he continues, "watch some baseball, football, and start it all over. And that's what country music is all about."

Luke's album, which already boasts three number ones, is new today. 

Incidentally, "Born Here Live Here Die Here" was co-written by newcomer Jameson Rodgers, who's enjoying his first top-fifteen hit with "Some Girls." He says it reminds him of his hometown: Batesville, Mississippi.

By Stephen Hubbard
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Nashville notes

Burke/Triolo Productions/ThinkstockJon Pardi will make an appearance on NBC’s Today on Monday. He’s planning to perform his chart-topping hit, “Heartache Medication,” which is the title track of his latest album.

Cassadee Pope this week unveiled her hopeful new tune, “Rise and Shine.” It’s the title track off her acoustic album, which drops Friday.

Kylie Morgan debuted the music video for her song, “Break Things,” this week. It’s available to watch at CMT.

By Carena Liptak
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Kane Brown is glad his daughter is too young to remember this year: “2020’s been tough in general”

ABC/Image Group LAKane Brown’s latest song, “Worldwide Beautiful,” provides a poignant message of the importance of unity during a divisive time.

He released the song early in June, as millions of Americans were in the midst of turning out in protest against racism and police brutality. As a biracial man, Kane has firsthand experience with the prevalence of bigotry in America.

“The Black Power thing -- Black Lives Matter -- it’s important to not get lost in what’s being said,” the singer reflects to  HITS Daily Double. “It’s not that all lives don’t matter, it’s that all lives can’t matter until Black lives really matter.”

In 2019, Kane became a dad. He knows that his daughter, Kingsley, will have to face the same bigotry he does, but he admits he’s a little relieved that she’s too young to remember this year.

“2020’s been tough in general,” he notes. “I’m glad my daughter doesn’t know what’s going on, and she’s not going to remember.”

Still, Kane’s often asked how he’ll teach Kingsley about racism one day.

“I have a lot of people coming at me, asking ‘How are you going to explain to her when she’s pulled over?’ And, ‘What are you going to tell her about the difference between her and her white friends?’” Kane continues.

And while it’s difficult to make sense of a complicated legacy of racism in America, the singer says he’s tried to understand all sides.

“If I’m coming from my Black side, I’m super-scared if a cop pulls me over. But the cop? They’re in the line of fire every day, and that’s part of it,” Kane points out. “So I try to love everybody -- the cops who do their jobs, anyone who’s a good person in society.”

By Carena Liptak
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Jennifer Nettles lends her voice to the National 4-H Council’s campaign to close the opportunity gap

ABC/Image Group LAJennifer Nettles is the voice behind a PSA by the National 4-H council, in support of its newly-launched Opportunity4All campaign.

The project marks a push to close America’s education and economic opportunity gap, which affects millions of children across the country. In the PSA, Jennifer seeks to raise awareness about the lack of opportunities that children face as a result of their race and economic status, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s time we provide opportunities for all our kids,” she declares in the short video. “It’s time to invest in their potential, so they can help our communities and our country thrive: Not in the future. Right now.”

Jennifer, who is a 4-H alumna herself, spoke out on social media about her role in the new partnership.

“55 million kids face a widening opportunity gap in America. Nothing should hold them back,” she wrote. “Not now. Not ever.”

The singer also shared a montage video featuring an array of young girls explaining what opportunity means to them.

As one half of country duo Sugarland, Jennifer is hard at work on new music with her band mate Kristian Bush. The pair postponed their planned spring tour due to the pandemic, but hinted that they would have brand-new music to share soon.

By Carena Liptak
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

The Cadillac Three enlist Kristian Bush, Hailey Whitters and more for curated global livestream series

Courtesy of The Cadillac ThreeAs the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep country artists off the road, The Cadillac Three have found a creative way to safely return to the stage.

The band is establishing a curated livestream series called
Country Fuzz Presents, which will feature performing acts like Hailey Whitters, Kristian Bush’s Dark Water, A Thousand Horses and many more.

Broadcasting from Nashville venue The Basement, the series will use specially-installed autonomous cameras, enabling a crew-less production, and provide thorough cleaning services between performances. The series kicks off on August 13 and will run through September.

“We are so excited to partner with Grimey and the Basement in our hometown to bring high quality livestream concerts from not only TC3 but a number of our artist friends that have been sidelined from touring as well,” explains the band’s Neil Mason. “Country Fuzz Presents is a way to give fans direct access to music in a time when we all desperately need and miss it.”

You can pick up your tickets to the virtual event now. Country Fuzz Presents will also drive donations to Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, with a goal of providing 100,000 meals in 100 days.

By Carena Liptak
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Maren Morris’ Heroes Fund makes donation to local Tennessee high school band program

ABC/Image Group LASince she established her Heroes Fund charity in 2017, Maren Morris has been allocating a portion of the proceeds of her “Meet and Greet” packages to support of music education and fine arts programs in public schools.

Now, the Heroes Fund, in partnership with the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, has donated $70,000 to Nashville Metro Schools and the East Nashville Magnet High School Band Program.

According to a tweet from local music education initiative Music Makes Us, the grant will be used to buy instruments and supplies, as well as tuxedos and gowns for students who are part of the program.

Both Maren and the school showed their excitement about the grant on social media following the announcement. However, Maren’s husband, fellow artist Ryan Hurd, had one tiny, joking gripe about her fund’s donation.

“My wife donated all of her meet and greet money instead of buying me a jetski, and I have to say...I am very proud of her,” he tweeted, along with the hashtag “#stillnojetski.”

Even though the COVID-19 pandemic forced Maren to postpone her planned tour this summer, she’s still been keeping busy. She and Ryan are adjusting to life as parents to their new baby boy Hayes and in July, Maren hinted that she was also beginning to get back into songwriting and working on new music.

By Carena Liptak
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

My wife donated all of her meet and greet money instead of buying me a jet ski and I have to say...I am very proud of her. #stillnojetski

— Ryan Hurd (@RyanHurd) August 6, 2020

“Beers and Sunshine”: Darius Rucker’s breezy single toasts the good kind of “B.S.”

Capitol Records NashvilleDarius Rucker returns to country radio this week with “Beers and Sunshine,” a summery antidote to stress and anxiety during a tumultuous year.

“‘Cause everybody’s down in a world gone crazy / Don’t know how to fix it, but I think maybe / Turn on the good times, turn off the TV,” Darius sings in the song’s chorus. “Yeah, the only B.S. I need is beers and sunshine.”

When he first started teasing the song last month, Darius explained that he hopes “Beers and Sunshine” will serve as a much-needed breath of fresh air.

“It’s certainly been a hard year so far, with a lot of heaviness around us constantly,” the singer noted during an early July appearance on NBC’s Today. “Like it says in the song, I don’t know how we fix any of those big, real issues that we’re facing, but while we work through this time, I think it’s important that we find the silver lining where we can really enjoy the little moments and the simple joys of time spent together with friends and family.”

“Beers and Sunshine” headed to country radio Thursday.

By Carena Liptak
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Luke Bryan “sat up at night” after hearing from Black fans who’ve felt uncomfortable at his shows

ABC/Gavin BondAmid growing nationwide protests against racism and police brutality, country music has had to confront and question some of its own Southern symbols in recent months.

Lady A opted to drop “Antebellum” from their name, The Chicks scrapped “Dixie,” and Mississippi native Faith Hill called for the removal of the Confederate emblem from her home state’s flag -- a measure that state's governor signed into law June 30.

Luke Bryan says that the conversation has been a sobering educational experience, especially when he hears from fans who feel unwelcome at his concerts because of the color of their skin.

“I have sat up at night after hearing from African American audience members who say they’ve felt uncomfortable at my shows through the years,” the singer admits during an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

As a high-profile performer, Luke acknowledges that he always chooses his words carefully before speaking out about issues he believes in.

“I’m always gonna walk a smart line, but I’m not scared,” he reflects, citing his 2018 hit “Most People Are Good.” That song contains the line “I believe you love who you love / It ain’t nothing you should ever be ashamed of,” which stood out to many as a statement of support for the LGBTQ community.

“I had a lot of people ask me, ‘Well, does that mean you want to plant a flag and support the gay and lesbian community?’ I’m like, ‘I’m not saying I’m gonna go fly that flag...but I’m not saying I’m not, either.’”

Although Luke errs on the side of remaining diplomatic, he’s glad to see that conversations surrounding race and equality are taking place in country music.

“It’s a delicate conversation, and do I think we may take a little longer in country to have it? Probably,” he adds. “But it’s the conversation we’re having more and more.”

By Carena Liptak
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Dolly Parton is sharing the stories behind her best-loved songs, in her own words, in new audiobook

ABC/Image Group LAFor over six decades, Dolly Parton has shared the story of her life through her songs. Now, the country superstar has announced the release of a new audiobook, called Dolly Parton, Storyteller: My Life in Lyrics.

In her own words, Dolly will share some of the stories that inspired beloved hits like “Jolene,” “I Will Always Love You” and nearly 100 more country classics. Along the way, the singer also offers memories of her extraordinary career and life, beginning with her childhood growing up in a one-bedroom log cabin with 11 siblings.

“Across my life, I’ve written thousands of songs. This fall, for the first time ever, we’re spotlighting 100 of my favorites in my new audiobook,” Dolly notes. “...Not only will you be able to revisit my life in lyrics, but I’ll tell you never-before-heard stories behind the songs.”

Dolly Parton, Songwriter: My Life in Lyrics will be released on RBMedia, produced by flagship publishing brand Recording Books. The audiobook will be available on November 17 as both a CD and in digital audiobook form, and it’s available for preorder now ahead of the release date.

An illustrated book of the same name is also being released as a companion to the project.

By Carena Liptak
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Country star trivia

Comstock/ThinkstockOn this day in 1990, "Friends in Low Places" was released as the lead single from this megastar's famed No Fences album. It spent fours week at number one on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and was named Single of the Year at both the 1990 CMA Awards and ACM Awards. Can you name the artist? ANSWER: Garth Brooks

By Cillea Houghton
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

The guys in LOCASH are "blessed" 'Brothers,' enjoying the journey, as "One Big Country Song" hits #1

Broken BowThis week, LOCASH is all gratitude, as "One Big Country Song" ascends to the top of the country chart, becoming their second career number one.

"We're blessed to do this, you know what I mean?" Chris Lucas asks. "And it's good to be around people that kinda understand that, too. There's a lot of people that are like, 'Look what we do for a living!' You know what I mean?"

"Sometimes you have to stop and enjoy the journey you're on," Preston Brust reflects, "because sometimes the rewards and what you think is the end, you know, peak is not exactly what you thought it would feel like or be like or wanted anyway. And sometimes it's the journey."

It's has been quite a journey for the duo, who put out their first single in 2010 and didn't make it to number one until 2016 with "I Know Somebody." 

"I can say for sure that it's been a long, tough journey for us," Preston tells ABC Audio. "I wouldn't really change anything, maybe make it move a little bit faster."

"But so many experiences and lessons in life we learned, we could have never learned in college or at a structured job someplace," he adds.

For Chris, it all comes down to the effect the music has on the fans.

"It could be one fan saying, 'I just want you to know this song right here, man, me and my wife, you know, went through a hard time,'" he offers as an example. "'You know, this was going on. This saved us. This saved my life.'"  

"One Big Country Song" is also LOCASH's first number one in Canada. It's from their 2019 album, Brothers

By Stephen Hubbard
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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