Nashville Notes: Eric Paslay Backs the Pope; Maddie & Tae Promote Healthy Hearing

Maddie & Tae 2015
John Shearer/Getty Images for Dot Records

Maddie & Tae perform at the launch of "Start Here" at The Cordelle on Aug. 18, 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.


There were plenty of events on the concert circuit during the weekend that were held on stages both large and small. Blake Shelton, Kenny Chesney and Lee Brice brought a country contingent to the multigenre iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas. Willie Nelson closed his 30th-anniversary Farm Aid benefit in Chicago with a version of Hank Williams' "I Saw the Light" during a day that included performances from Kacey Musgraves, Jamey Johnson, Holly Williams and Old Crow Medicine Show. Then there was The Cadillac Three. They delivered a show at Nashville club The Cannery Ballroom and wedged in a surprise visit from some guy named Steven Tyler, who joined them on "Sweet Emotion."

The Grand Ole Opry officially turns 90 in November, and the WSM-AM Nashville show will celebrate its birthday during the first weekend of October. The lineup for Oct. 2-3 includes Carrie Underwood, the Oak Ridge Boys, Little Big Town, Trace Adkins, Lorrie Morgan, Joe Diffie and Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers Band.

When Pope Francis addresses Congress on Sept. 24 in Washington, D.C., Eric Paslay will join a group of artists nearby on the National Mall in a Moral Action on Climate Justice Rally. Intended to show support for the pope's stance on preserving the planet, the event also features Moby, Sean Paul, Natasha Bedingfield and Victoria Justice along with a plethora of activists and ministers. The day will also include a live performance of "Love Song to the Earth." The recorded version of that title features Paul McCartney, Jon Bon Jovi, Sheryl Crow and Kelsea Ballerini.

Belmont music business professor Don Cusic draws a connection between Nashville and Liverpool, England, with his 26th book, The Beatles and Country Music. The 268-page volume examines the Fab Four's pre-stardom country roots, their cover of Buck Owens' "Act Naturally" and country artists' translations of Beatle material. Among the Beatles songs that reached
country's top 10 are Sweethearts of the Rodeo's "I Feel Fine," Rosanne Cash's "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party" and Johnny Rodriguez's "Something."


David Friedman joined Universal Music Group Nashville as vp promotion, filling the post vacated by Katie Dean, who transitioned to MCA as vp promotions in June. Friedman arrives from Sony Music Nashville, where he was most recently Columbia Nashville director/national field promotion.

Jean Williams moved to Show Dog Nashville as Northeast promotion and marketing director. She was most recently Westwood One director of affiliate sales. 

Nikki Jimenez accepted a Big Loud Records position as Northeast region director of promotion. She spent the last five years as Cumulus/Memphis director of marketing and promotions.

GrassRoots Promotion has established a second wing, GrapeVine Promotion, focused on small-market radio, project management and blog and streaming promotion. Jill Tomalty leads the division. She was formerly Provident Label Group director of marketing.

SSM Entertainment appointed Patti Olsen-Garafalo as president of the label, whose roster includes Branch & Dean and Kayla Adams. She spent the previous 17 years as the owner of her own indie firm, Patti Olsen Promotions & Marketing.

The Mitch Schneider Organization will add a social media division in October, with services provided by San Francisco-based Michael Brandvold Marketing. Among MSO’s country clients are Wynonna Judd, Billy Ray Cyrus and Dee Jay Silver.

Bison Creek artist James Robert Webb hired Absolute Publicity for media representation.

Tucker Beathard signed a publishing deal with Big Machine Music and a recording contract with Dot.

Bluegrass band IIIrd Tyme Out added Jerry Cole as bassist and tenor vocalist.


Beasley Media Group tapped Soni Dimond as vp corporate communications, four months after joining the company. For 15 years, she ran her own PR firm, Soni Dimond Media. Beasley has country stations in five markets, including WQYK Tampa, WSOC Charlotte and KCYE Las Vegas.

Midwest Communications flipped KDWZ Duluth, Minn., to its classic-country Duke format from top 40, The Duluth News Tribune reported. 

WUVA Charlottesville, Va., switched to Cumulus’ Nash Icon format from urban, according to The Charlottesville Daily Progress.

Renee Vitale joined WDRQ Detroit as local morning anchor, reported. She was previously an air talent for top 40 WDZH Detroit.

Rhonda Rollins was appointed general sales manager for WKDF and WSM-FM Nashville, according to The Nashville Post. She previously held the same position at Cumulus’ urban sister WQQK.


The duo with the Start Here album is the end game for a contest that promotes healthy hearing to middle- and high-school students.

Maddie & Tae have teamed with the Starkey Hearing Foundation for the second annual Listen Carefully campaign, which encourages students to create a 30-second video PSA about noise-related hearing loss. The duo will play a free concert at the winner’s school next May.

More than 3,000 students participated in the first contest.

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