Backbeat: CMA Week Kicks Off With Party at AristoMedia's Jeff Walker's House
Backbeat: CMA Week Kicks Off With Party at AristoMedia's Jeff Walker's House

walker (L-R): CMA Close Up editor Bob Doerschuk, Australian artist Craig Morrison, host/AristoMedia CEO Jeff Walker and publicist Judy Mayes at party at Walker's home in Nashville welcoming international artists and executives. (Photo: Deborah Evans Price)


The 3rd Annual Billboard Country Music Summit -- featuring in-depth artist Q&As with Luke Bryan and Willie Nelson and two days of country music business programming -- takes place June 4 and 5 in Nashville. Head here to get more information.

AristoMedia CEO Jeff Walker and his wife Terri welcomed international artists and executives to CMA Music Fest with a party Sunday night at their Brentwood, TN home, the day before the kickoff of the Billboard Country Music Summit. CMA CEO Steve Moore, Red Light Management's Fletcher Foster, Charles Dorris & Associates president Charles Dorris and Zamek World Marketing CEO Paul Zamek were among those attending as well as a large contingent of international artists including Rick Caballo, Pete Kennedy, High Valley, Travellin Rose, Adam Gregory and Jessica Ridley.

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Guests feasted on a tasty Mexican food spread while mingling around the pool and discussing country music's global opportunities. "You have to trust the people in a particular territory to know what they are doing," Zamek says, advising U.S. artists looking to penetrate foreign markets. "You can't go there with any preconceptions. They live there. They know the market. You have to fall in. You have to be able to accept humility. It's a humbling experience to go from a superstar in America to being a support act on another artist's bill. So [it takes] a lesson in humility, trust and a leap of faith."

For artists willing to take that leap, Zamek says there are both risks and rewards. "You have to forgo definite revenue that you know for certain is going to happen in America to go there and probably lose," he says honestly, "but if you do and you show up and do it regularly, and make a commitment to that market, you can have that audience for 40 years. They are not going to be there for the next album, but for the next 100 albums."

lomax John Lomax III, president, Roots Music Exporters; host Jeff Walker, CEO AristoMedia, and manager Stan Moress inside Walker's home in Nashville. (Photo: Deborah Evans Price)

Walker, a native Australian who moved to Nashville in 1974, has hosted this gathering of international movers and shakers at his home for the past nine years. "A real passion of mine has been growing country music internationally," says Walker, who founded AristoMedia in 1980. "At this time, the Internet is making it a level playing field. You can press a button, particularly if you are independent, and send your music out worldwide through iTunes or one of the various carriers. That's certainly going to help the globalization of country music."

See All Our Coverage of the Billboard Country Music Summit Right Here

Walker has seen an increased interest in international artists looking to perform at CMA Music Fest. "This year we went through 160 submissions, compared to 110 last year," he says of artists seeking performance slots on the two international showcases. "There is more and more interest in people coming to the events. It's exciting to see it grow, and we're getting calls from tour operators saying they want to integrate these two shows as part of their agenda. So we reserved a couple hundred tickets for these tour groups that are coming through."

The CMA Global Artist Party takes place tonight (Monday) at 6pm at The Stage on Broadway. "We're streaming the event to CMT Canada, CMC Australia, Highway FM in France and and Aristo," says Walker. "It will get great international coverage."

ridley (L-R): AristoMedia's Senior VP of Promotion and Marketing, Craig Bann, Canadian artist Jessica Ridley and her drummer Nicolai Drost. (Photo: Deborah Evans Price)

Hosted by O'Shea, the Monday night lineup includes Australia's Bob Corbett, Morgan Evans, Adam Harvey, Joe Robinson, and Craig Morrison; Canada's Emerson Drive, High Valley and Jess Moskaluke; New Zealand's Vickie Evans; Ireland's Lisa McHugh and the UK's Gary Quinn. Hosted by Adam Harvey, the Aristo Global Show takes place at 12:30 Tuesday at the Second Fiddle and features Australia's Baylou and Rick Caballo; Ireland's Colm Kirwan and Pete Kennedy; Canada's Clayton Bellamy, Josh Macumber and Jessica Ridley and the UK's Travellin Rose and Raintown.

Kennedy was excited about performing for the first time at CMA Music Fest. The Irishman arrived a week early to spend time in the studio working on his upcoming album. "I've been in Sound Control Studio with producer Mark Moseley," Kennedy tells Billboard. "I came in town about six weeks ago to co-write and we've been cutting this week. It looks like recording will wrap in September. In October, I'll go on tour opening for Neil Sedaka in the U.K. and in November and December I'll be on tour with the Stylistics. Then we look forward to coming back here [Nashville] in January."

travellin Lee Williams, CEO/founder Django Promotions and CMR Nashville; Irish artist Pete Kennedy; Talia Smith of Travellin Rose, CMA CEO Steve Moore, Kelly Lee of Travellin Rose, Rob Potts, CMA VP/Strategic Partnerships Sheri Warnke, and Jeff Walker. (Photo: Deborah Evans Price)

UK duo Travellin Rose says they always look forward to visiting Music City. "We love Nashville," says Kelly Lee. "It's like a second home."

"Crowds here are so much more accepting of country music," Travellin Rose's Talia Smith adds. "It's refreshing to come here and everyone knows country music whereas in England that's not always the case."

"We'll sing Carrie Underwood or Miranda Lambert and try to incorporate some covers into our set at home," says Lee, "and people will be like, 'No, stick to people we know.' We're like, 'How come you don't know these girls? They are amazing!'"

Rick Caballo relocated to Nashville from Sydney, Australia just 10 days ago. "I'd been coming back and forth for three or four years. I love it here," he says. "I love being here and setting roots down in Nashville."

Musician and fashion designer Rick Caballo with partner Melissa Core, who is wearing a dress and jewelry designed by the Australian native for their new clothing company Corello. (Photo: Deborah Evans Price)

Caballo is working on a new album slated for later in the year and is also in the process of launching a clothing line. "There are dresses, t-shirts and jewelry," says Caballo who designed the dress his partner Melissa Core was wearing at the party. The clothing company is called Corello. "We'll be in full production in August. It will be based here in Nashville. The lyrics for my songs, which are all edgy country rock, is what shapes the designs. We've got Steven Tyler wearing it and some of the guys from Train and Jana Kramer."

Canadian Jessica Ridley is also a recent Nashville transplant. "I've been coming back and forth from Alberta for five years," says Ridley, whose album Fit To Be Tied, released in 2011. Earlier this year, Ridley won ABC-TV's "The Big Time."

brosmer Sarah Brosmer, associate manager at Lytle Management, Bob Saporiti, GM Savannah Music Group and publicist Susan Collier. (Photo: Deborah Evans Price)

"It was a very good platform and it's been a great calling card to be able to show people a footage reel of the show and winning it," Ridley says. "It's been great to get a lot of gigs out of it."

Ridley's performance at the Second Fiddle Tuesday marks her first appearance at CMA Music Fest. She's looking forward to performing in Nashville and touring more extensively in the U.S. "In Canada if you're going to go on a big tour, you're going to travel a couple days in between," she says. "We've got great fans. There's just not as many of them. Down here you can get on a bus and hit seven towns in a couple of hours. It's just a bigger market."