Country Radio Seminar 2022: Artists Interviews

Makenzie Phipps is a 20-year-old singer/songwriter from the small town of Bluefield, Virginia. Though she has been singing most of her life, she has been accompanying herself with a guitar for five years. She attended CRS to be able to “meet different people in the industry and learn how they have been doing music and what they like about music.” She wants to get more involved in the Nashville music scene. She is a regular at Ole Red Gatlinburg is just getting her feet wet in the music industry.

Taylor Hughes is a Music Spotlight artist. She states, “CRS is a very important event for independent artists like myself. One of the most challenging things we face in the industry is getting radio stations to play our music. CRS week allows independent artists to meet those in radio, build lasting relationships, and also learn more about the business side of their careers. It offers a lot of exciting events as well, from concerts to ping pong tournaments! I’ve attended CRS week twice now since moving here and it’s truly a great experience.”

Alannah McCready is a Music Spotlight artist. She attended the CRS virtual conference in 2021 but this was her first in-person seminar. She sees CRS as a “huge networking opportunity, being in the room, meeting people and having my face in front of people.”

McCready also played Barlines at the Opry Hotel which garnered further exposure. McCready has lived in Nashville for one year and relishes the collaborative community here.

She explains, “Last year was cool because there was a lot of coverage virtually, but you can’t replace being here in person. Everyone in our industry is converging in one place and it a rare time when this can happen.”

Alyssa Bonagura was born into country music. Her RCA country recording artists’ parents, Baillie & The Boys took her on the road at age three weeks and she has been a part of the music industry ever since. At 32 years of age, the singer/songwriter has accomplished more than most could hope for in a lifetime. Even though she attended CRS as a child with her parents, this was the first year Bonagura attended as a solo artist. (She is a former member of the duo, Sisterhood.) She attended CRS 2022 so she could introduce herself to everyone.

She explains, “I have a story and I’ve been here a long time and I feel so grateful to actually be getting the chance to tell people my story.”

She has a lot of friends that she knows and writes with and it’s great for her to be able to see them all and reconnect.

“There are amazing people who come to CRS. People from all around the world. It’s a great connector for everybody,” she articulates.

John Berry is an American country music artist and a regular performer at the Opry. Active as a recording artist since 1979, he has recorded more than 20 studio albums.

John Berry has a new record of faith Find My Faith coming out on March 25th and he thought CRS would be a good place to promote it.

Berry has come to CRS since 1993 when his first album was coming out. In 1994, he got to play on CRS’s New Faces show along with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. Berry played his song, “Your Love Amazes Me” and a couple of weeks later it went to number one.

He explains, “CRS is a great tool to continually cultivate new relationships, to nurture old relationships, and to see old friends.”

Back when CRS was at the Opryland Hotel, it was called “Camp CRS.” He continues, “CRS is a great time to see people who have worked with you in different capacities whether it be record label people, promotions people, people in radio and media and it’s always great to catch up.”

To the veteran artists, it’s like a country music homecoming.

Nashvillains are a Music Spotlight band made up of season professional musicians Troy Johnson, Brett Boyett, and Scott Lindsey. Each is an accomplished musician in their own right, but several years back they fused their varied backgrounds to make a country-rock supergroup. And while they have all three been in the business a while, their group the Nashvillains is relatively new and they came to CRS to get additional exposure.

Johnson said, “We hope to get some visibility, and the more you get your name out there, the more action you get.”

They have a new album, Tumbling Down, dropping March 4th and CRS is the perfect place to promote it.

Juna N’ Joey is a brother and sister duo and is also a Music Spotlight feature. Even though they are still in their teens, they have been to multiple CRS events. Besides having the remarkable sibling harmony that many family groups have, they like working together and share the same goals. They attended CRS to meet as many people as possible and shake a lot of hands.

Joey states, “CRS is very organized and well put together. You meet a lot of new people and you get your name out there. People start to recognize you and the more you come back the more you get known.”

Since Juna N’ Joey has been coming to CRS since they were children people now come up to the now young adults and remark, “You’ve grown up so much.”

One of the perks of attending CRS is getting to see some of the current stars perform. Juna was especially excited to see Cody Johnson who recently achieved his first number 1 hit with the song, “Til You Can’t.”

They were also excited to see/meet artists like Parker McCollum, Jesse James Decker, and Callista Clark.

Juna N’ Joey both attend online school and live part of the year in their hometown in Florida and part of the year in Nashville where they sing, write, and collaborate with other artists.

Paulina Jayne is a Nashville recording artist and songwriter who brings country, soul, rock, and pop influences together to create a genre she coins, “urban country.”

Jayne hails from Detroit, Michigan, and is sponsored by the Ford Motor Company. She has lived in Nashville for eight years and has attended four CRS events. She is was fortunate enough to perform at her first CRS and played again on February 25, 2022. Her good friend, Brooke Sanders, is the Senior Director of Brand Marketing and Strategic Partnerships for CRS.

For Jayne, the biggest thing she receives by attending CRS is inspiration.

She elucidates, “I come here and I am reminded that there are all of these people who are advocating for artists in my shoes. They are getting our names out there, our music out there, which is a total blessing and a gift. It’s a really good time for us to remember these people before we go out on the road (for the summer). We are reminded of our purpose and that there are people who care deeply about what we are doing.”

Noah Guthrie is a Music Spotlight artist from South Carolina. He was a finalist on America’s Got Talent and portrayed the character Roderick on the hit show Glee. Even with all his experience (he is a YouTube sensation), he felt compelled to attend CRS for the first time.

He told me, “At CRS, I have been filled with really kind, lovely people doing wonderful interviews. It’s a nice place to showcase up and coming talent along with some amazing people who have been around forever.”

His PR firm set him up with multiple interviews since his arrival in Nashville.

He confirms, “Anybody who wants to talk with me about my passion. That’s fantastic.”

Since being at CRS for the first time, I wondered if anyone had recognized him as Roderick from Glee.

He replied, “It’s so funny. You never know who the Gleeks are. I’ve had a few interviews where they say, ‘I have to confess. I’m a Gleek and I saw you on the list and wanted to chat with you.’ When you come to a country [music] – based seminar, and have people come up to you and say, ‘I loved you on Glee,’ you don’t think those worlds are going to intersect, but they do.”

Regardless of how Guthrie gets noticed, the talented singer/songwriter plans to attend CRS conferences in the future.

Madison Station is a country music duo who were separately involved with music but recently teamed up. Former football coach and frontman Lance Horton grew up in Collinwood, Tennessee, where his dad was part of a gospel quartet. Craig Anderson was originally from the country music group Heartland where their song, “I Loved Her First” shot to number one in 2006.

While Anderson had attended CRS in the past, this was Horton’s first time attending. Anderson even played the New Faces stage with Heartland back in the day.

Most recently have released one single, “Shoes Under My Bed” and have another one forthcoming. Their goal for CRS is to make contacts and to “get that ball rolling.”

While they will soon be signing a management deal, they may or may not hook up with a record label because “there is no sense in selling your soul to the devil.”

“There are different ways of doing stuff now,” states Horton, and CRS is just the place to figure out what those alternative options may be.

Exile is a band that I listened to in my teens. But at the time they didn’t admit to being country as they had the number one smash pop hit, “I Want to Kiss You All Over.”

2022 marks Exile’s 59th year as America’s longest-running band.

Band member, Bob Marlin reminds, “You have to approach the music business as a business. And part of the business is promotion and talking with radio and media personnel. That’s the reason we come to CRS because we realize it’s an important promotional part of our lives which even after all these years, we still need that.”

Sonny LeMaire exclaimed, “Fortunately for us, there are people like yourself who still want to talk to us and want to hear about the band.”

To have a band with the same original band members after ten years is remarkable, but to remain together for 59 years is unheard of. Even the Beach Boys who have been together a little longer are missing their lead singer, Brian Wilson.

States Marlin, “We’ve worked at it but somehow we’ve been able to overcome everybody’s idiosyncrasies and embrace and accept one another.”

The band wrote their own songs, played on all their recordings, and also proved to be prolific songwriters composing hits for other artists such as Alabama, Restless Heart, Engelbert Humperdinck, Huey Lewis, Diamond Rio, Janie Fricke, and many more. During this country phase of their career, Exile received 11 nominations including Vocal Group of The Year and Best Instrumental Performance for the Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music awards. They are regular performers at the Opry.

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Bethany Bowman is a freelance entertainment writer. You can follow her blog, Bethany WritesInstagram, and Twitter.

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