Kellie Pickler, John Rich and Others Talk 'Badass Women,' Copyright Battles at 2016 Radio Show

Courtesy of Radio Show
Country singer John Rich, left, answers a question from Dave Ramsey at the 2016 Radio Show in Nashville, Tenn.

With the annual Radio Show taking place in Nashville in 2016, it’s little surprise country stars took center stage. Some — including Kellie Pickler, Big & Rich and Wynonna — appeared on panels at the convention, held Sept. 21-23 at the Omni Hotel. Others filled out performance slots, including LoCash, who played the kickoff party, and Jennifer Nettles, who headlined the Marconi Radio Awards, where KKBQ Houston was named country station of the year. Newcomer Adam Craig performed at the post-Marconi party, and Danielle Bradbery and Matt Gary entertained at the show’s final session, where Big & Rich also played a pair of songs.

The convention, jointly produced by the Radio Advertising Bureau and the National Association of Broadcasters, drew nearly 2,300 attendees.

In a candid conversation with America’s Morning Show co-host Kelly Ford, Pickler inspired the mostly female audience to form a “sisterhood” or support network. “It’s all about women supporting women and just people supporting people,” said Pickler in the uplifting Q&A, noting that she draws strength from “looking forward and counting [my] blessings.”

She added, “It’s easy to get lost in this business, and the world, so the company you keep will keep your feet on solid ground when you start to drift off.”

Ford noted that Nashville is an easy place to find that sisterhood, saying, “Of all the places I’ve lived, Nashville seems to have the most badass women. Something about this town brings women together.” She called her own close friends her “board of directors.”

The two also discussed pay equality for women, with Ford confessing that at one point in her career, a manager said during a contract negotiation, “Your husband does well,” as justification for not paying her more.

Said Pickler, “If you feel like you’re not being treated fairly, stand up for yourself. There’s always a classy way of doing it.” She also noted, “There’s a difference between confidence and conceit,” while encouraging the women present not to be ashamed of being good at their jobs.

As an artist, however, she cautioned against developing a “sense of entitlement. That’s when you start to get jaded, and I’ve seen that.” Pickler, who is currently between record deals, also warned that artists can’t get caught up in worrying about why radio stations are playing other artists instead of them. “When your song tanks at radio the first day, take another swing. Write another song.”

That’s not to say compromise isn’t sometimes necessary. As someone who was raised on classic female country artists, Pickler says when she first moved to Nashville she just wanted to make a “die-hard country record,” but soon realized “there’s a lot of suits and ties to please” in the business.

Ford noted that she raised her three children while hosting a morning radio show, then joked that she’s not even saving for college because the money goes directly to therapy. She then asked Pickler if motherhood is on the horizon for her and songwriter husband Kyle Jacobs. The singer took a moment to compose herself before responding, “No. We’re happy … Right now that’s just not in the cards for us.” She then joked that because she travels with an all-male band, it’s “the best birth control in the world” because it makes her feel like she already has children.

During his well-attended keynote session, financial guru and radio talk show host Dave Ramsey brought out good friend John Rich of Big & Rich to talk about his role as an entrepreneur. Ramsey, who is based in the Nashville area, observed that there are two kinds of county stars: “Ones that are really smart and can play music, and ones that can play music.” He put Rich in the former category.

Calling himself a “two-time loser” after being kicked out of the band Lonestar, then failing at a solo deal, Rich said, “I realized the one thing I could control was a pen and a piece of paper.” That realization led to a career resurgence as a hit songwriter, soon followed by the success of Big & Rich.

More recently, Rich has launched a line of Redneck Riviera-branded merchandise and later in 2016 will open nightclubs bearing that name in Nashville and Las Vegas. Rich spoke about how he fought to trademark the words “Redneck Riviera” after visiting Gulf Shores, Ala., and seeing it on T-shirts and other merchandise, then discovering that nobody had ever trademarked the term, which had been in use for decades. After first being told he couldn’t trademark a geographical location, Rich ultimately prevailed by convincing a court that the term referred to a state of mind.

While he declined to confirm Ramsey’s assertion that the brand now rakes in “millions of dollars,” Rich said only, “It’s doing very well.”

Rich also revealed how he won Donald Trump’s show The Celebrity Apprentice in 2011. After exhausting all of his other potential donors in charity fundraising competitions during the show’s season, he called Trump and asked him for $100,000. While Trump didn’t give him the money, he told Rich at the time, “Look at the balls on you,” and was apparently impressed enough by the stunt to ultimately hand Rich the victory.

During the seminar’s final session, country radio legend Bob Kingsley interviewed Big & Rich, as well as Wynonna and her drummer/husband Cactus Moser. Rich called the recent hit resurgence of Big & Rich on their own independent label, Big & Rich Records, “a great surprise … American dream kind of stuff” and joked that the label “consists of a P.O. box and a bunch of hard-working people.”

Wynonna and Moser talked about how they reached for a different sound with their current album, Wynonna and the Big Noise, after Moser convinced his powerhouse singer wife that “every vocal didn’t need to be American Idol.”

Still adjusting from her years as half of five-time Grammy-winning duo The Judds, Wynonna confessed, “I’m in a program learning how to live with not everything being extra large,” which includes stepping away from a mentality of chasing radio adds and “another million dollars.”

Responding to a question from a young broadcaster in the audience about how he can make a connection with his listeners, Wynonna shared a story that, she said, dramatically illustrated the power of radio to do just that. She related that she once heard from a woman who told her she had been sitting in a car with a gun to her head, then heard the Judds’ song “Guardian Angels” on the radio and decided not to end her life. 


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