Nashville Notes: Roster Shakeup at Sony Music Nashville; 'Classic Eli Young' Album Coming

Rick Diamond/Getty Images for ACM
Colton Swon and Zach Swon of the Swon Brothers pose backstage during the 9th Annual ACM Honors at the Ryman Auditorium on Sept. 1, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Swon Brothers, Sara Evans and Jerrod Neimann are no longer listed as SMN artists by the label group.

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

When a Sony Music Nashville publicist escorted independent artist Kane Brown on the Country Music Association Awards red carpet in November 2015, it seemed obvious where the newcomer would land: Brown announced the signing via social media on Jan. 27. The Swon Brothers essentially confirmed their departure from Sony by dropping an indie EP, Timeless, on Jan. 29. It’s just a hint at the makeover on the roster since Randy Goodman became SMN chairman/CEO in July. Brown is one of three new acts signed since September, including Maren Morris and LANco. Additionally, Chase Rice, who had engaged the label initially for promotion services, has recorded new music as a fully signed Sony act. In addition to the Swons, artists who are no longer on the roster at the SMN website include Sara Evans, The Henningsens, Josh Dorr and Jerrod Neimann.

The National Hockey League turned its all-star game into an entertainment extravaganza in Nashville the weekend of Jan. 29, and it apparently set a high bar for other cities to follow. After the game, much of the televised player interviews surrounded the party atmosphere downtown and the quality of the music. Players were obviously won over by it all. Some all-stars sat on the ice between games to watch Jennifer Nettles’ performance on Jan. 31, and Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene played guitar as Lee Brice performed "Drinking Class" at a Jan. 29 concert. The NBC Sports Network also put together a one-hour NHL music special, hosted by Kimberly Perry, with Big & Rich, Aaron Lewis, Lee Greenwood and Kristian Bush, among others.

The Eli Young Band has cut 11 new songs with producers Ross Copperman (Dierks Bentley, Brett Eldredge) and Jeremy Stover (Justin Moore, Jack Ingram). The music is being described as "classic Eli Young," meaning closer in sound to "Even If It Breaks Your Heart" and "Crazy Girl" than some of the act’s more recent forays. The first single will be decided within weeks. Outside of a collaboration with Andy Grammer, it will be the first single for EYB since it moved from Republic Nashville to the Valory imprint.

Grand Ole Opry members Trace Adkins and Martina McBride are among the acts slated for the Opry’s broadcast from Country Radio Seminar on Feb. 8. The venerable WSM-AM Nashville show also counts Chris Janson, Easton Corbin, Maddie & Tae, Tracy Lawrence, David Nail and Ashley Campbell among the attractions that night at the Omni Nashville Hotel.



Songwriter/producer Keith Stegall (Alan Jackson, Zac Brown Band) has launched Dreamlined Entertainment Group with Miller Investment Management managing partner Scott Miller. Stegall will serve as president for the firm, a production and publishing house that has distribution through the Universal Music Group’s Caroline International.

The Country Music Association hired Nashville native Meryl Johnson as director of digital strategy. She was previously Warner Bros. Pictures director of digital marketing.

Triple 8 Management added two new staff members. Brooke Meris becomes director of radio tour marketing following a run as Columbia Nashville manager of regional promotion. Renee Schapiro is Triple 8’s new director of tour marketing, succeeding Haley Elander, who shifts to a new lifestyle marketing division. Schapiro was previously director of tour marketing with I.M.P., an independent concert promoter. 

Kathryn Woodard rejoined Hill Entertainment Group as day-to-day manager for Jana Kramer.

Round Hill Music welcomed Patrick Conseil as senior vp creative and international. He will be based in Los Angeles but travel frequently to Nashville. Conseil previously had his own publishing company, Pure Pop Music.

Los Angeles-based photography/video company Crown Pointe Productions is opening a Music City office, owned by Nashville native Michael Maples. 

The Stellas, Brad and Marylynne Stella, signed a songwriting deal with Warner/Chappell.

Sony/ATV and Florida Georgia Line’s Tree Vibez signed a publishing agreement with James McNair

Johnny Cash Museum founder Bill Miller has purchased the Lawrence Records Building at 409 Broadway in Nashville. Located 1.5 blocks from the museum, the new site will feature a "food and beverage concept," according to a release.

Tim Cotton died Jan. 26 of kidney cancer, according to The Tennessean. He spent more than 45 years as a road manager or driver for such acts as The Eagles, Reba McEntire and his brother, Gene Cotton. Services will be held at 2 p.m. on Feb. 6 at Nashville’s Edgehill United Methodist Church.

Singer-songwriter Terri Sharp died Dec. 17 in San Antonio. Among her credits is the title track to the Hank Williams Jr. album Wild Streak. A service is scheduled for April 9 at Impact Church in Kerrville, Texas. 

Texas artist Curtis Potter died Jan. 23 at the Hendrick Medical Center in Abilene, Texas. A former member of Hank Thompson’s band, he had recording deals with Capitol, Step One and Heart of Texas Records.



Stations in Charlotte, N.C., and Indianapolis will battle head to head in the Academy of Country Music’s radio awards. The WKKT Charlotte, N.C., team of Paul Schadt, Meg Butterfly and Geof Knight is a finalist for major-market on-air personality of the year against the WSOC Charlotte show Tanner in the Morning. WLHK Indianapolis talent Dave O’Brien competes for large-market personality with the crosstown WFMS team of Jim Denny, Deborah Honey-cutt and Kevin Freeman. A dozen stations have nominations for both radio station and air personality : major-market stations KMLE Phoenix, WKKT, and WQYK Tampa-St. Petersburg; large-market stations KAJA San Antonio, WLHK and WMIL Milwaukee; medium-market stations WIVK Knoxville, Tenn., WQMX Akron, Ohio, and WUSY Chattanooga; and small-market stations KKNU Eugene, Ore., WXFL Florence, Ala., and WYCT Pensacola, Fla.

Cumulus hired John Shomby as Nash Network director of programming, based in Nashville. He spent 13 years as Max Media/Norfolk-Virginia Beach (Va.) director of programming, with country WGH in his scope. The Feb. 1 announcement follows extensive personnel moves that included the promotion of Charlie Cook to vp, country from Cumulus/Nashville operations manager. 

KUPL Portland, Ore., promoted midday personality Danny Dwyer to music director.

WKHX Atlanta added Ali Mac to middays. She was previously on-air with adult contemporary WGYL Vero Beach, Fla. WKHX also moves CJ Lusk to afternoon drive from middays.

Greater Media, the parent of country WKLB Boston, promoted three vps to senior vp: senior vp/CFO Edward R. Nolan, senior vp/general counsel Ellen Rubin and senior vp corporate communication Heidi Raphael. 

iHeartMedia had two changes among market-management execs, reported: iHeartMedia/San Antonio senior vp programming Lance Tidwell, who was also country KAJA PD, departs; and iHeartMedia/Jacksonville, Fla., adds market president Nicky Sparrow, whose oversight includes country WQIK. Sparrow was previously iHeartMedia/New Orleans senior vp sales. 

WMAD Madison, Wis., has two new programmers, according to Katie Kruz is the new PD, adding that title to her existing PD role at top 40 sister WZEE. Matt Gapske arrives as assistant PD/midday talent from top 40 WBNW Binghamton, N.Y., where he was PD/afternoon drive host. 

Gator Harrison has been appointed iHeartCountry brand coordinator, reported. He continues serving as senior vp programming for iHeartMedia/Chattanooga (Tenn.) and WUSY PD.



A bevy of songwriters is coming to the aid of a singer-songwriter who’s battling cancer. Kacey Jones was one-third of the 1990s comedy act Ethel & The Shameless Hussies, and she competed last summer on NBC’s America’s Got Talent. She also wrote "I’m the One Mama Warned You About," a top 10 single for Mickey Gilley in 1985, under her given name, Gail Zeiler.

Nearly a dozen songwriters will perform Feb. 5 at Nashville’s Douglas Corner Café to raise money for Jones, including Kent Blazy ("If Tomorrow Never Comes"), Rafe VanHoy ("What’s Forever For"), Wood Newton ("Riding With Private Malone"), Alan Rhody ("I’ll Be True to You"), Roger Cook ("One Night at a Time") and Cory Batten ("She Wouldn’t Be Gone").

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