Nashville Notes: iHeartCountry Festival Sets Lineup; Moves at Big Machine, BMI Nashville

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Miranda Lambert attends the 49th annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on Nov. 4, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Here is your weekly roundup of goings on -- artist signings, staffing moves, good news and more -- in the wide world of country music.

Country has a significant presence once again on the 2016 Grammy Nominees album, owning one-third of the compilation's 21 tracks. The material includes Chris Stapleton's "Traveller," Little Big Town's "Girl Crush," Sam Hunt's "Take Your Time," Carrie Underwood's "Little Toy Guns," Cam's "Burning House," Lee Ann Womack's "Chances Are" and Keith Urban's "John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16." The project arrives Jan. 22 with additional material from the likes of Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Maroon 5 and Alabama Shakes.

The third annual iHeartCountry Festival is set for April 30 at the Frank Erwin Center in San Antonio with a lineup that includes Florida Georgia Line, Miranda Lambert, Brett Eldredge, Cole Swindell, Chris Young, Lee Brice and Zac Brown Band. The show will air live on iHeart country stations and will be streamed as well. The 2015 installment was compiled into an NBC TV special. It was unknown at press time if the 2016 model will be headed to the tube.

"Why is this show going away?" That's what Keith Urban asked himself after watching last week's opening episodes of Fox's American Idol, where he serves as a judge in the long-running show's final season. Urban, however, has little time to contemplate that turn of events. He's working feverishly on his next albumRipcord, which he hopes to finish in time for release before the official Ripcord World Tour gets underway June 2. Urban announced a partial set of dates for the tour, which features Brett Eldredge and Maren Morris, on Jan. 11. More shows, including a potential stop in France, are expected at a later date.

Watch Clay Aiken, Kris Allen & Taylor Hicks Talk 'American Idol' Final Season

Charles Kelley's first solo album, The Driver, has received a Feb. 5 release date. That puts it in the marketplace 10 days before the Grammy Awards, where the title track -- featuring Dierks Bentley and Eric Paslay -- is on the ballot. Bentley is meanwhile teasing his next project, a relationship album titled Black, not-so-coincidentally his wife's maiden name. Also on the way is Randy Houser's album Fired Up, due March 11. Its 17 tracks include "We Went," which is currently No. 13 on Country Airplay, and the intriguingly titled "Hot Beer and Cold Women." 

Scotty McCreery has been tapped to deliver the national anthem for a Jan. 16 AFC playoff game pitting the Kansas City Chiefs against the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass.



Big Machine promoted Erik Powell to national director of radio promotion from senior director Northeast regional promotion. 

Sony Music Nashville promoted two executives. Sarah Westbrook becomes vp digital strategy after serving three years as marketing director, while Taylor Lindsey moves to senior director of A&R from director. 

New West hired Tom Osborn as its Nashville-based vp marketing. He was previously Kobalt Music Group vp. 

Luke Laird's Creative Nation publishing company hired Sarah Lai as senior director of marketing and publicity. She had owned the firm Sarah Lai PR. Creative Nation also signed songwriter-producer Tyler Johnson ("Burning House") to its roster. 

BMI Nashville promoted five members of its writer publisher relations department and added a new employee. Recent Belmont graduate Josh Tomlinson comes aboard as associate director. That title was formerly held by new director Penny Gattis. Bradley Collins was bumped to executive director from senior director, Leslie Roberts rose to executive director from director, and David Preston added "senior" to his director title. Executive assistant Erica Glidewell added "director, strategic partnerships" to her job description

Hart Media/Bullseye hired Tom English as GM. He was most recently Warner/Chappell Production Music vp business development. 

Girlilla Marketing added Emily Cohen as an account director, following her work as Rdio senior manager of label and artist relations. Girlilla handles digital marketing for artists including Tyler Farr and Zac Brown Band

Lou Robin was named business manager emeritus for the Cash Trust. He began working as Johnny Cash's personal manager more than 45 years ago

Nashville-based Katy Epley was promoted to Musicians On Call executive vp from vp

Warner Music Nashville signed The Last Bandoleros to a recording deal. 

Producer Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, A Thousand Horses) signed a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell, jointly establishing Low Country Sound Publishing

Round Hill Music entered a co-publishing deal with songwriter Jimmy Robbins ("It Goes Like This," "We Were Us") that includes a partial ownership stake of his existing catalog at Baby Needs New Shoes, owned by Keith Urban

Sony/ATV and Florida Georgia Line's Tree Vibez signed James McNair to a publishing deal

The Academy of Country Music's second round of voting opened Jan. 11 and closes Jan. 19. Final ballots will be accepted Feb. 29-March 7 prior to the ACM's April 3 awards show. 

The Music Health Alliance will hold Get Covered 101 seminars Jan. 12 and Jan. 19. 

Singer-songwriter Red Simpson died Jan. 8 in Bakersfield, Calif. A major contributor to the city's music history, he wrote hits for Buck Owens and had a top five single as an artist with the 1971 release "I'm a Truck.” 

Singer-songwriter Troy Shondell died Jan. 7 in Picayune, Miss., the Associated Press reported. After earning a top 10 pop single in 1961 with "This Time (We're Really Breaking Up)," he became a songwriter in Nashville, where Bob Luman earned a top 10 country hit in 1973 with Shondell's "Still Loving You.”

Ken Kittinger, known for years on Music Row for framing gold records, died Jan. 9 in Murfreesboro, Tenn., The Tennessean reported. A Nashville funeral is slated for Jan. 12.



Nine new members are being inducted this year into the Country Radio Hall of Fame. They are America's Morning Show host Blair Garner; former KHKX Midland-Odessa, Texas, morning team Mike & Dana Schuff; WUSN Chicago personality Lisa Dent; retired CBS Radio/Minneapolis-St. Paul vp/market manager Mick Anselmo; Forever Broadcasting owner Kerby Confer; late singer-songwriter and air personality Jack Reno; WYCD Detroit operations manager/PD Tim Roberts; and former Slone Broadcasting owner Jim Slone. 

Entercom promoted Mike Moore to Portland, Ore., vp programming and Bob Barnett to Rochester, N.Y., vp programming, both rising from the position of operations manager in their markets. The Portland cluster includes country KWJJ. Barnett's jurisdiction includes country WBEE. 

"Just left my job. What am I going to do now? I'm going to Disney World!" -- that's how WYCD Detroit midday personality Jack Shell responded on Twitter after parting company with the station last week. 

Alpha Media/Savannah, Ga., added Allyson Hillman as director of business development for the cluster, including country outlets WUBB and WGCO. A longtime Detroit sales exec, she was most recently Wilks Broadcasting/Columbus, Ohio, director of sales.

CBS Radio/Chicago hired Tim Pohlman as senior vp/market manager, replacing Rod Zimmerman, The Chicago Sun-Times reported. Pohlman held a similar post at CBS Radio/Phoenix for six years. The new job includes oversight of country WUSN.

Shane Parkey took over afternoon drive at WKTI Milwaukee, according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, allowing PD Dayton Kane to move to middays. Parkey was previously an evening personality at top 40 WJHM Orlando, Fla. 

Hall Communications promoted WCTK Providence, R.I., PD Bob Walker to vp programming for all 21 of its stations, reported. 

iHeartMedia/Sacramento (Calif.) promoted Ann Postell to senior vp sales from director, according to The cluster includes country KBEB. 

Also from Cumulus/Wilmington, N.C., hired Barry Fox as operations manager/PD for the cluster, where he'll also take an air shift at country WWQQ. He was PD for adult contemporary WRAL Raleigh, N.C. 

A dozen songwriters will take part in Bob Kingsley's Acoustic Alley during Country Radio Seminar, including Rodney Clawson ("Dirt"), Josh Kear ("Neon Light") and Jimmy Yeary ("I Drive Your Truck"). 

Services were held Jan. 8 for former KTTS Springfield, Mo., personality John Stephens, who died Jan. 2 of lymphoma.



Georgia's on their mind -- and onstage, for a third straight year.

Songwriters Rhett Akins ("It Goes Like This," "Tonight Looks Good On You"), Dallas Davidson ("I Don't Dance," "Kick the Dust Up") and Ben Hayslip ("Honey Bee," "I Can Take It From There") -- collectively known as The Peach Pickers -- are bringing a taste of their home state to Nashville again with their annual Georgia On My Mind fundraiser, sponsored by Jameson Irish Whiskey.

Benefiting the nonprofit Georgia Music Foundation, the May 10 concert has previously welcomed such guests as Luke Bryan, Cole Swindell, Craig Campbell and Randy Houser. This year's guests at the Ryman Auditorium will be announced at a later date, but the show will include a tribute to late Georgian Otis Redding.

This article first appeared in Billboard's Country Update -- sign up here.