Nashville Notes: Miranda Lambert Launching Animal Product Line; New Signings at Rounder, Curb
Here's your weekly roundup of goings on -- artist signings, staffing moves, good news and more -- in the wide world of country music.
NEWS + NOTES
Country went global in a major way this past weekend with Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line and Kelsea Ballerini among the attractions at the CMC Rocks festival in Queensland, Australia, March 11-13, while C2C: Country to Country brought Carrie Underwood, Chris Stapleton and Little Big Town to London March 10-12. Thomas Rhett got good reviews at C2C and is now planning to head back across the Atlantic with his first European headlining tour in November. The nine-concert run launches Nov. 9 in Belfast and concludes Nov. 20 in Bergen, Norway. Four cast members from ABC's Nashville -- Clare Bowen, Charles Esten, Chris Carmack and Sam Palladio -- are also planning their first international tour with five dates in the United Kingdom, beginning June 13 in Manchester, England.
Country consumers who still buy more than one track at a time will have plenty of new albums and EPs to enjoy in the coming months, led by Blake Shelton's next project and Maren Morris' debut album. Shelton's If I'm Honest is expected May 20 on Warner Bros., while Morris' Hero is on the way through Columbia on June 3. Also in the pipeline are Natalie Stovall & The Drive's self-released Heartbreak and "The Blade" songwriter Jamie Floyd's self-released EP, Sunshine & Rainbows, both of which are already out; plus Levi Hummon's self-titled EP (April 1, Valory); Sundy Best's It's So Good (April 22, eOne); Martina McBride's Reckless (April 29, Nash Icon); and Jennifer Nettles' Playing With Fire (May 13, Big Machine). Also coming April 8 is a gospel-themed compilation, Voices: Vintage Hymns With Heart & Soul (Breezewood Productions), featuring such country singers as Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers Band, Restless Heart's Larry Stewart and Oak Ridge Boys Joe Bonsall and William Lee Golden.
Miranda Lambert is launching a MuttNation animal-product line in conjunction with Petmate, with at least some of the proceeds aiding her MuttNation Foundation, which offers rescue and adoption programs. Among the selections are puppy toys, bedding and collars. The line makes its public debut March 16-18 at the Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla.
It was anticipated, but the death of Glenn Frey apparently spells the end of the Eagles. Co-founder Don Henley told BBC Radio 2 that the group's performance of "Take It Easy" with Jackson Browne during the Grammy Awards was extremely difficult and that he doesn't foresee the band touring in the future: "I don't think you'll see us performing again. That was probably it."
'ROUND THE ROW
BMI Nashville promoted Nina Carter to associate director writer-publisher relations from festival coordinator. Carter succeeds Penny Gattis, who became Round Hill senior director of A&R.
Front Row Entertainment Insurance, a company that specializes in the needs of music and movie makers, is opening a Nashville office headed by Tom Corley. Self-employed for the past five years, Corley produced numerous concerts and festivals for AEG Live and TBA Entertainment.
The Mitch Schneider Organization promoted Los Angeles-based Mike Gowen to publicist from executive assistant. Among the acts he has worked with are Wynonna and Dwight Yoakam.
Several artists have signed new recording deals: Jack Ingram joined Rounder, Love and Theft moved to Curb, Texan trio Midland went to Big Machine, and Sony/ATV songwriter Sammy Arriaga came to terms with Los Angeles-based Latium Entertainment.
Songwriter Cale Dodds ("This Ain't No Drunk Dial") agreed to a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell.
Smack Songs signed Green River Ordinance vocalist Josh Jenkins to a songwriting contract.
Sandbox Entertainment has taken on the management and marketing of the John R. Cash Revocable Trust, the brand of Johnny Cash.
Johnny Lee signed with Webster Public Relations for media representation.
The 2016 inductees in the Country Music Hall of Fame will be announced March 29, with Hall member Brenda Lee hosting.
Producer George Martin died March 8. Best known for his work with The Beatles, he also oversaw Kenny Rogers' 1985 country album The Heart of the Matter.
Music journalist John Morthland was found dead on March 8 in Austin. A former contributor to Rolling Stone and No Depression, he authored the 1984 book The Best of Country Music.
South by Southwest co-founder Louis Meyers died March 11 in Austin. He produced The HillBenders' 2015 album Tommy: A Bluegrass Opera, a reinterpretation of the classic by The Who.
Canadian singer-songwriter Ray Griff died March 9 of pneumonia following rotator-cuff surgery in British Columbia, The Calgary Herald reported. He earned two top 15 country hits in the United States as an artist during the 1970s and wrote Johnny Duncan's "It Couldn't Have Been Any Better" and Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton's "Better Move It On Home."
RADIO MOVERS & SHAKERS
Jennifer Nettles is onboard as host of Westwood One's Academy of Country Music nominations special, two hours of programming available for airing April 2-3.
Brooke Hoover started March 14 as a co-host on the KNIX Phoenix morning show, teamed with Ben Campbell and Matt McAllister. Hoover previously spent four years as a personality/assistant producer at top 40 WDCG Raleigh-Durham, N.C.
A trio of personnel moves are affecting Florida country stations, according to RadioInfo.com: Cumulus/Pensacola promoted Chuck Whitaker to operations manager from adult contemporary WMEZ PD, giving him oversight of country WBXM; Entercom/Gainesville-Ocala added general sales manager Peter Rothfuss, who'll work with country WRUF following a two-year run as Entercom/Wilkes-Barre-Scranton (Pa.) integrated marketing specialist; and Cox Media/Orlando, which includes country WWKA, recruited director of sales Evelyn Pacheco from CBS Radio/Orlando.
iHeartMedia promoted Michael Jordan to senior vp programming and Kevin Hughes to senior vp sales for the Kentucky -- Indiana region, RadioInfo.com reported. The territory covers Lexington, Louisville and Somerset, Ky., and Indianapolis. Jordan was iHeart/Lexington operations manager, and Hughes was iHeartMedia/Louisville senior vp sales.
Midwest Communications/Lansing, Mich., hired Mike Scott as operations manager for the cluster, including country WWDK, InsideRadio.com reported. He arrives from classic-rock WRSR, where he handled afternoon drive.
As the United Service Organization celebrates 75 years since its inception, one of its most ardent country supporters, Craig Morgan, is headed on a mission with the agency.
He has committed to an eight-day, seven-country tour led by Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, making his first USO tour as vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. The celebrity squad will also feature Miss America Betty Cantrell, Carolina Panthers defensive back Charles Tillman and Ultimate Fighting Championship stars Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone and Anthony Pettis.
For security reasons, the dates and locations for the tour cannot be divulged in advance.
Morgan, an Army veteran, has long been associated with the USO. He has done previous overseas tours, volunteered and played at numerous care-package-stuffing parties, and received the USO Merit Award in March 2006.
This article first appeared in Billboard's Country Update -- sign up here.