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Nashville Notes: Eli Young Band Joins Pro-Texas Campaign; Mark Chesnutt Signs With Row Entertainment

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

Little Big Town is in the running for the Billboard Chart Achievement Award, a fan-voted trophy that will be presented during the May 22 telecast of the Billboard Music Awards on ABC. The nomination recognizes “Girl Crush” spending 13 weeks at No. 1 on Hot Country Songs, a record for a group. The balloting pits the band against Adele, Drake, Rihanna and The Weeknd. The awards will also feature Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani performing “Go Ahead and Break My Heart” in their first televised duet since the single’s debut on Hot Country Songs.

Country music is a national format making global strides, but it works on the state level, too. The Texas Department of Transportation has employed Eli Young Band for a 30th-anniversary “Don’t Mess With Texas” campaign that also includes Lukas Nelson and Grupo Fantasma. Previous contributors include Willie Nelson, George Strait and Lyle Lovett. The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development is also beaming a series of live concerts into a high-traffic location in Chicago. Jason Isbell and Old Crow Medicine Show will perform from Nashville on May 24, and Ashley Monroe plays from Knoxville on May 25. Citizen Cope will also participate in the series on May 23 from Memphis.

Two years removed from his three-trophy night at the Americana Music Association Honors & Awards, Jason Isbell is in the running for three more when the 15th annual event takes place Sept. 21 at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. He’s up for artist, song and album of the year, thanks to his project Something More Than Free, produced by two-time nominee Dave Cobb. Chris Stapleton, whose album nominee Traveller was also produced by Cobb, is a double nominee, alongside Lucinda Williams and Margo Price, who landed in the top 10 on Country Albums earlier in 2016. Other finalists familiar to country listeners include Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell and Kacey Musgraves.

The Grand Ole Opry will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the USO during its May 24 broadcast. The show will feature Trace Adkins, The Oak Ridge Boys, Charlie Daniels Band, Lee Greenwood and Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers.



Academy of Country Music CEO Bob Romeo has relinquished his position, the ACM announced May 13. No reason was given for the move. Executive vp/managing director Tiffany Moon will fill the post on an interim basis. 

John Esposito was promoted to Warner Music Nashville chairman/CEO from president/CEO. 

Sony Music Nashville promoted Mary Allison to specialist of label operations. Her previous position, Columbia Nashville promotion specialist, was filled by Christy Garbinski, formerly SMN promotion representative.

The Talent Associates formed UP! Promotion and Marketing, focusing on small labels and independent acts. TTA CEO John Ettinger and vp promotion and artist development Ryan Barnstead will run the division in tandem with new UP! partner EJ Bernas, a promo vet who was most recently Dot director of Southeast promotion.

Former Big Machine royalty and income analyst Brandon Hardy has launched a Nashville-based business management firm, Arts District Financial. He was most recently business manager for several Christian artists.

John Berry signed a recording deal with Mansion Entertainment and Sony RED, and hired Absolute Publicity for media.

Mark Chesnutt agreed to a recording contract with Row Entertainment, which will issue his next album, Tradition Lives, later in 2016.

All-female bluegrass group Sister Sadie signed a recording contract with Pinecastle. The act features lead singer Dale Ann Bradley, a five-time International Bluegrass Music Association female vocalist of the year.

Bluegrass gospel act Kentucky Mountain Trio inked a recording deal with Mountain Fever

Gary West signed a booking and publicity agreement with Hart Street Entertainment.

Kane Brown joined the songwriting roster at Universal Music Publishing Group Nashville

Downtown Music acquired an interest in the catalog of songwriter Charlie Black (“A Little Good News,” “Right On the Money”). 

Jacob Davis signed as a writer with Black River Publishing

Callie Khouri, creator of the ABC drama Nashville, delivered the commencement speech and received an honorary doctorate at the May 14 graduation exercises for Nashville’s Watkins College of Art, Design & Film. 

The Society of Leaders in Development (SOLID) will hold its annual Crawfish Boil at 5:30 p.m. on May 17 in the Sony/ATV parking lot on Music Row.



Brad Hansen was hired as Cumulus/Albuquerque FM operations manager, a job that also has him handling the PD role for three stations, including two country signals: KRST and Nash Icon KBZU. Hansen was previously KWOF Denver PD.

KWNR Las Vegas assistant PD/music director/midday host Lois Lewis has added middays at KNIX Phoenix to her duties.

Big & Rich will host the annual Memorial Day special The Gift, a two-hour program affiliated with Fisher House, an organization that provides housing to veterans and military families undergoing medical treatment. 

WBBI Binghamton, N.Y., midday personality Julie Dunn adds PD stripes at three country stations to her role, which already included assistant PD/music director/midday host at hot adult contemporary WDVI Rochester, N.Y., reported. Dunn is now PD for WBBI, classic country sister WINR and WNBL Rochester. She takes over WNBL responsibilities from iHeartMedia/Rochester PD J.D. Hastings. Her Binghamton ascent follows the departures of WBBI/WINR PD Tom Scott and iHeartMedia/Binghamton operations manager Jim Free.

iHeart Media/Little Rock, Ark., market president Ron Collar is no longer with the cluster, according to Its four properties include country KSSN and KMJX.

My Home Team Media/Clovis, N.M., hired Jessica Banister as market manager, reported. The cluster includes country KKNM. Banister spent the past three years as a RooneyMoon Broadcasting senior sales executive.

Hubbard Radio senior vp programming Greg Solk has left the company, according to Among the chain’s country stations are WIL St. Louis and WUBE Cincinnati.

Former Topeka, Kan., air talent “Radio Rich” Bowers died May 10, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported. Bowers was a steady presence on country stations in the market for 16 years, with a decade at WIBW and six years at KTOP, ending in 2008.

This article first appeared in Billboard’s Country Update — sign up here.