Nashville Notes: Country Stars Sell Boots, Energy Drinks; Curb Beefs Up Promotion Team
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
A year after Indiana faced a corporate backlash for attempting to enact legislation that was widely considered discriminatory, artists have taken a stand against legislation in three Southern states that would penalize gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender citizens. Emmylou Harris, Miley Cyrus, Ty Herndon and Chely Wright joined with CMT on April 8 to oppose a Tennessee bill that would dictate what bathroom transgender students must use. Billy Ray Cyrus, songwriter-producer Desmond Child and actor Chris Carmack, who plays gay character Will Lexington on ABC's Nashville, added their voices on April 11. The protests come in the wake of two rock artists cancelling concerts over similar legislation in nearby states: Bruce Springsteen in North Carolina and Bryan Adams in Mississippi.
Country artists continue to team with non-music entities for business opportunities and branding. Luke Bryan added an HFE line to his Cabela's fashion collection inspired by his single "Huntin', Fishin' and Lovin' Every Day." Kelsea Ballerini became the public face of Boot Barn's Shyanne clothing line. Jason Aldean teamed with Outlaw energy drinks for a summer promotion. Chris Stapleton built a campaign with Ram Truck that was introduced with a commercial during the Academy of Country Music Awards. And Rascal Flatts plans to open a restaurant in Cleveland's Flats East Bank this year, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Carrie Underwood's American Idol collaboration with Keith Urban on "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" was just the start of things to come. She also appears on "The Fighter" on his album Ripcord, due May 6, and the two are playing six concerts together in Australia in December, beginning Dec. 6 in Adelaide and ending Dec. 17 in Brisbane. Urban and Underwood toured together in 2008, matching her Carnival Ride Tour with his Love, Pain & The Whole Crazy World Tour.
Blake Shelton has two tracks in the offing outside of his usual marketing channels. "Savior's Shadow," a song from his May 20 album If I'm Honest that he co-wrote with "Drink on It" songwriters Jessi Alexander and Jon Randall, is being worked to Christian radio. Additionally, he recorded "Friends," written by Shelton and Alexander, for the soundtrack to the movie Angry Birds. Atlantic will release the album May 6, while the film arrives in theaters May 20.
'ROUND THE ROW
Curb brought in three new executives to its promotion team: Chuck Swaney joins as senior director of Midwest country promotion and chart strategy after holding a similar post at Southern Ground; R.J. Meacham takes over as senior director of Northeast country promotion and chart strategy following a run as Columbia director of national promotion; and Andy Elliott comes aboard as senior director of Southwest promotion and radio initiatives. He was most recently Arista regional manager.
APA Nashville hired three new agents: Jeff Hill, Jim Butler and Miles Hayes. Hill and Butler were longtime booking reps at Creative Artists Agency, while Hayes arrives from William Morris Endeavor.
Cold River Records established Placer Creek Music, with Shane Barrett overseeing the publishing company through his own firm, Shane Barrett Music. The first addition to the Placer Creek songwriting staff is Maggie Baugh.
Hedley Entertainment added three employees to its team: creative director CeCe Dawson, office coordinator Debbye Scroggins and senior publicist Chuck Dauphin. Dawson has worked at RareSpark Media, Scroggins is a former Jim Halsey Agency associate, and Dauphin intends to continue freelancing for Billboard and Rolling Stone.
Randy Rogers established a management company, Big Blind Management, in New Braunfels, Texas, partnering with his day-to-day manager, Robin Schoepf. The first signee is singer-songwriter Red Shahan. Management for The Randy Rogers Band will still be handled by 377/Red Light.
Songwriter Trent Summar ("Kiss You Tonight," "Love You") signed a publishing deal with Ten Ten Music Group.
Singer-songwriter Baylor Wilson signed a publishing deal with Sea Gayle and Station West. She has released an EP, Living Right, produced by Station West owner Luke Wooten.
Big Machine signed American Idol winner Trent Harmon to a recording deal with plans to market him as a country artist. The label also signed Idol runner-up La'Porsha Renae in partnership with Motown.
Nashville-based designer Johnathan Kayne has signed on a fashion correspondent for NStyleCountry.com.
Cowboy Troy is a new correspondent for CrankItCountry.com.
Vanderbilt Blair School of Music professor and Sheryl Crow keyboardist Jen Gunderson has established an online course in the music business through Coursera.org.
The date of the 14th annual Source Awards, honoring women in Nashville's music business, has been moved one week earlier to Aug. 23.
RADIO MOVERS & SHAKERS
Chris Kenney was named Cumulus/Wilkes-Barre, Pa., vp/market manager, a job that includes oversight of country WSJR. He was previously Cumulus/Harrisburg, Pa., general sales manager.
Adams Radio Group promoted Sharon Bordwell to corporate controller from general accountant. She remains based in Lakeville, Minn.
iHeartMedia/Louisville, Ky., operations manager Kelly Carls announced plans to retire in August. The eight-station cluster includes country WAMZ.
Tammy Lively rejoined WWKI Kokomo, Ind., as afternoon drive host, RadioInfo.com reported, following several years with WFMS Indianapolis.
Ken "Doc" Medek returns to WGGY Scranton, Pa., as morning co-host, according to RadioInfo.com, rejoining a station where he worked from 1998 to 2010. In the interim, he manned a similar shift at WXTU Philadelphia.
iHeartMedia/Sacramento appointed Curtiss Johnson senior vp programming for the cluster, including country KBEB, InsideRadio.com reported. He was most recently PD for classic rock WDRV Chicago.
Dave Kasper starts April 20 in afternoon drive at WUSN Chicago, according to InsideRadio.com. He leaves an afternoon shift at top 40 WRVQ Richmond, Va.
Inspired by a father's grief over the battlefield death of his son, "I Drive Your Truck" has already built a rich patriotic history.
It grew a little more during the ACM Party for a Cause in Las Vegas when Lee Brice performed it during the April 2 lineup. Brice found a 1992 Chevy Silverado 1500 pickup that had been owned by Troy Gilbert, an F-16 pilot who died in 2006 while serving in Iraq. In conjunction with his performance of "Drive," Brice presented the vehicle's keys to the soldier's wife, Ginger Gurley Gilbert Ravella, in the midst of the Vegas show.
Brice also gave a $40,000 check to Folds of Honor, an organization that helps the families of dead or wounded veterans secure education opportunities.
This article first appeared in Billboard's Country Update -- sign up here.