When I heard Jake Worthington’s music, I was surprised that someone so young could sound well, you know, so old. He is bringing back old-school, classic country which will be evident in his upcoming debut self-titled album. His song “Next New Thing” is a preview of what we can expect.
And I, for one, couldn’t be more thrilled. I will be doing a full Music Spotlight feature on the country crooner next month, but I wanted a chance to meet him in person before the full interview.
The Big Loud recording artist has earned himself a spot on the coveted record label alongside the likes of Morgan Wallen, Hardy, and Lauren Alaina.
In our brief session, he explained, “The traditional sound has always been what caught my ear. They are still rural people, and the rural listener leans towards traditional music. I think we have been kind of short-handed over the past few years, but I think the pendulum is swinging back the other way.”
One thing that I have realized by writing my blog is that Texas country is its own thing. There are artists from Texas that may or may not be played on national radio stations. Either way, they are going to do their own thing. And if we are lucky enough, we in Nashville, and the rest of the country will get to hear it.
JC Shelburne didn’t even pick up a guitar until he was 19, but once he learned to play, he found a few gigs in the local bars in Louisville and Lexington and developed a large fanbase in the process.
His singles “One Less Girl” and “She Keeps Me Up At Night” are fan favorites while “Church Pew Bar Stool,” (my favorite) hit #1 on CMTs 12-pack countdown.
Shelburne announced that his upcoming album, Neon Hallelujah will be released Summer of 2023, with the title track available now.
He advised that he draws his inspiration from 90s country and the next record will have a wide variety of different sounds and melodies.
And even though the artist is quite successful on his own, he sees the value of meeting with county radio stations and executives at CRS where he can continue to highlight his popular brand of country music.
The first I heard of Josiah Sikas was when I watched his acapella version of his fan-favorite song, “3 Tequila Floor.” As he cloned himself several times to make the video, I knew this was someone I wanted to know more about. I was not disappointed.
Siska’s debut EPThree Chords at a Time (Black River) is a testament to Siska’s love of storytelling and of writing the story itself.
The American Idol alum continues the fun with his energetic, single. “Honky Tonk. Of the song, he explained, “If I’m gonna write a song and I’m gonna name it, ‘Honky Tonk,’ it’s gotta’ have that honky-tonk piano.”
He provides the listener with a bang-up good time.
Being a people person and extrovert, Siska was right at home at his first CRS. But he warns, “Be sure to pace yourself. Maybe don’t start drinkin’ until later on in the afternoon.”
The singer-songwriter writes and plays his own music, and his rich country baritone is just what the doctor ordered.
Juna N Joey
When I first featured the brother and sister duo, Juna N Joey, Juna was in high school, and Joey was just beginning college. Now both are in college, and they are busier than ever. Their music is evolving, and they keep getting better and better as they garner a new generation of country music fans who share their truths as they navigate adulthood.
The pair released their self-titled EP on August 26 which features the track, “I’m So Over You.” The duo’s summer kicked off strong as they just returned from touring Europe for performances at major festivals and venues and a UK school tour where they addressed issues such as mental health and climate change with the students they encountered.
They told me that their newest song off an upcoming EP, “Slip Out The Side Door” is about “when you’re at work and your boss is giving you a hard time, you want to slip out the side door when he’s not looking. Or when you’re at the bar and you see your ex and you’re like, I gotta’ get.”
Juna N Joey split their time between Nashville and their hometown in Florida. I am excited to see what’s next for the duo.
KC Johns is a rocking country girl with a sassy attitude to go along with it. (Think of a country version of Joan Jett.) It is virtually impossible to listen to her latest single, “Dodging Bullets” sitting down.
In addition to spending seven years singing on cruise ships, The Memphis, Tennessee girl was a regular at Dollywood leaving her audience wowed by her energy and versatility.
When she was a teen back in 2009, Johns attended her first CRS. After spending the majority of her 20s traveling the world, she finally made it back to Nashville to attend another seminar.
She exclaimed, “I love [CRS] honestly. I’ve got to see some old friends and it has been amazing. It’s nice to kind of be back here. It’s important for me to be here and I think radio is a huge part of what we (country singers) do.”
In the meantime, Johns will continue to incorporate country, rock, and blues while making her unique brand of music that I just love.
Singer, songwriter, and producer Kelly Lang has had a stellar career in the music industry with cuts by artists such as Ricky Skaggs, Lorrie Morgan, The Oak Ridge Boys, Crystal Gayle, George Jones, B.J. Thomas, Jimmy Fortune, T.G. Sheppard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Lee, just to name a few.
Married to legendary country music icon, T.G. Sheppard since 2007, the gifted artist has bravely chronicled her journey with breast cancer with a book and now audiobook, “I’m Not Going Anywhere.” The book has a forward from her long-time pal, Dame Oliva Newton-John who recently succumbed to breast cancer herself.
Lang says she keeps coming to CRS because “I think it’s important to just be able to put a face to a magazine or a face to a podcast or something that you don’t normally get to see. It’s hard to have a personal relationship with somebody through the computer.”
Singer Laurie Morgan just recorded three of Lang’s songs and she and T.G. Sheppard are finally putting out another duets album. But the thing she is most excited about is the album Just the Two of Us, that Olivia Newton-John’s team is putting out on May 5th. Collaborators include Dolly Parton, Barry Gibb, Jim Brickman, and Moriah Carey to name a few. Lang sings “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” with Newton-John on the upcoming album.
Go to KellyLang.net to find out everything about this diverse and multi-talented artist.
Last year when I met Makenzie Phipps for the first time, the then 20-year-old Virginia native was just getting her feet wet. Since then People Magazine premiered her single, “Drag”, American Songwriter premiered her cover of Lacy J. Dalton’s timeless hit, “16th Avenue” and Taste of Country showcased her latest single, “A Little Bit of Both.”
Her acoustic video of “I Want to Stroll Over Heaven With You” went viral in 48 hours with more than one million views.
About CRS, she told me, “I’m so excited this is the second CRS that I’ve attended and I just love getting to meet everybody and getting to sit down and talk about what I have going on in my life. I’m actually going to be moving to Nashville here at the end of May okay so I’m really excited about that and to see what the good Lord has to offer me.”
Phipps honors the traditional country music sound with her songs because as she says, “Without Loretta and George and Tammy and Dolly, we wouldn’t have country music.”
I agree. Preach girl, preach. Country music is in good hands with artists like Makenzie Phipps.
Mary Heather Hickman
If your reason to listen to country music is to have a dang good time, then Mary Heather Hickman is the artist for you. Hickman was a contestant on Season 6 of NBC’s The Voice in 2014 and has not slowed down since then.
Her song, “Treasure” went viral in 2021 garnering millions of views/streams. And while the song is one of the most fun I have heard in while, she reports that sadly, it’s based on a very personal experience. (The best songs usually are.)
And even though the Arkansas native has been in Nashville for six years, this was her first time attending CRS. She has learned that it’s a place to network like none other.
Her songs “Britches” and “Baptist Parking Lot” are two more twangy tunes where the sassy singer continues to tell her truth. Her authenticity shines in her songwriting.
At CRS, Hickman was most excited to tell me about her upcoming single, “Small Town Saturday Night.” The song is her take on what it was like living in her hometown. The song is very tongue-in-cheek, a little bit gritty and dark, but it’s her reality with a strong Pistol Annie’s vibe. Pre-save it now and listen on April 14th.
I first saw MaRynn Taylor perform at Nashville’s City Winery this past January when she was named to the 2023 class of CMT’s Next Women of Country. Any time I get a chance to see, meet or interview any of the CMT Next Women, I always take it.
Taylor grew up listening to 90s country and it shows. Her song “Dads and Daughters” had millions of views/streams and will be an anthem at wedding receptions and baby showers for years to come.
In 2022, the songstress released a five-song EP, Something I Would Do (Black River), which provides a glimpse into the 21-year-old’s world, with each track offering snapshots of her present and past. The radio-ready “Every Single Summer” reflects on the Rockford, Michigan native’s carefree days growing up on Lake Michigan, playing outside, and hanging with friends.
Her upcoming single “Make You Mine” will be out on March 31st. It’s a female empowerment song that asks, “what are you going to do to make me want to be with you?”
Taylor states she comes to CRS to meet with all the PEs and talk to all the music directors.
“It’s really just like a huge hang and we all get to share the love of country music and country radio,” she confirms.
McBride and the Ride
McBride & the Ride is an American country music band consisting of Terry McBride (lead vocals, bass guitar), Ray Herndon (background vocals, guitars), and Billy Thomas (background vocals, drums). The group was founded in 1989 through the assistance of record producer Tony Brown.
The trio released three acclaimed albums Burnin’ Up The Road, Sacred Ground, and Hurry Sundown, with hit singles like “Love on the Loose, Heart on the Run,” “Sacred Ground,” “Going Out of My Mind,” and many more.
And while the three have lucrative careers aside from this band, they announced in 2021 that they were reuniting to come back into the studio to make new music.
Because of their upcoming EP in June, this is the first time the band has attended CRS as a group in 25 years.
States McBride regarding CRS, “We like reaching our fans in every different way we can, through media and social media. We still enjoy it, even this process. It’s fun. We were looking forward to it.”
McBride and the Ride recently released a new single, “Marlboros and Avon” a relatable song that will strike a chord with many of us from a certain age.
Their song, “No More Cryin’” was featured in the official soundtrack for the rodeo movie, “8 Seconds.”
McBride and the Ride will be touring this summer, but not at the same pace they did in the 90s. They will be doing Honky Tonks and festivals all over Texas and beyond.
“Our band still rocks, it’s fun and loud in your face,” they reminded.
Be sure to catch up with everybody’s favorite 90s trio any time you can.
Paige King Johnson
North Carolina-born Paige King Johnson offers us a softer side to traditional country music. The three-time Carolina Country Music Award Winner has graced us with meaningful songs like “Baby Don’t,” “Just Like You,” and now the autobiographical “Famous Enough” whose videos were directed by singer/songwriter, Pam Tillis.
Johnson attended her first CRS in 2020 before “everything blew up” and is glad to be back under more normal circumstances.
She confirmed, “There are so many relationships here. You know, not only meeting new people and trying to create relationships as an artist with program directors and people who are in the industry but also, this is the one time of the year that I get to meet back up with different radio people that I’ve seen on the road over the years. And that’s so important. CRS is like a family reunion.”
Her newest song, “Why God Made Small Towns” is the most heartfelt to date as explains the importance of small towns and knowing where you came from.
Be sure to follow Paige King Johnson on all her socials.
When I met Paulina Jayne last year at CRS, she was love and light and everything you would find to find in a female country artist.
Her autobiographical solo-write single, “Big Hair Bigger Dreams,” was the national Discovery pick on Shawn Parr’s ‘Across the Country’ syndicated radio show airing on over 50+ radio stations. Paulina’s single, “Love’s Gonna Always Win,” garnered over half a million streams and radio play on 68 stations. “Drove By,” produced by Grammy Award-Winning engineer and producer, Mills Logan, has over 150,000 music video views and landed on CMT.
But with the onset of megastar Lainey Wilson’s Bell Bottom Country brand, Jayne created a shirt that says ‘Big Booty Country Girl‘ that fans adore. Additionally, her country cover of KELIS’s “Milkshake” had a viral moment on TikTok.
But the biggest news she shared with me is that she will be doing a residency at one of Nashvillie’s newest establishments in the Gulch, The Electric Jane.
Of CRS, Jayne stated, “I’m very grateful for every single person who’s sat in these booths, especially you, and just taking an interest in what I’m doing.”
CRS is the perfect place to connect and be reunited with friends and others in the industry who are normally unavailable.
Be sure to follow her on her website and all her socials to keep up with everything Paulina Jayne.
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