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Nashville Notes: Paisley & Paslay Set College Campus Tour; Josh Abbott Goes Indie; Townsquare Makes Moves

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


Brad Paisley is going back to school in a series of free concerts presented by Zaxby’s on college campuses in conjunction with the launch of the fall football season. Paisley brings opening act Eric Paslay (the names Paisley and Paslay are sure to interest English instructors) when the program kicks off Sept. 6 at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Other shows include a Sept. 10 visit with Pat Green to the University of Texas in Austin and two gigs with Bobby BonesRaging Idiots: Sept. 11 at Baylor University in Houston and Sept. 12 at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. The tour ties in with Paisley’s forthcoming single, “Country Nation,” which mentions a number of college football teams, including Paisley’s home state West Virginia Mountaineers.

Singer-songwriter Paul Simon has joined the lineup for the Oct. 6 All for the Hall fundraiser at the Best Buy Theater in New York. Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood, Vince Gill and Emmylou Harris had already been announced for the annual benefit, with tickets priced at a minimum $100 and floor tickets at $1,000. Simon’s participation is timely: The Simon & Garfunkel single “The Boxer” is featured on the compilation album Dylan, Cash, and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City, released in conjunction with an exhibit of the same name at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum in Nashville. Harris’ version of “The Boxer” peaked at No. 13 on Hot Country Songs in 1980. Buck Owens also turned a Simon song into a country hit: “Bridge Over Troubled Water” reached No. 9 in 1971.

Grammy-winning banjo stud Bela Fleck will be paired with jazz pianist Chick Corea in Two, a live double album due Sept. 11 from Concord Jazz. The set offers concert recordings from an eight-year span since the two musicians hooked up for the 2006 album The Enchantment. They launch a new tour on Sept. 4 with a stop at the historic Hollywood Bowl on the docket for Sept. 16. Fleck, who co-founded New Grass Revival, has been featured through the years on such country hits as Garth Brooks‘ “Callin’ Baton Rouge,” Randy Travis‘ “Hard Rock Bottom of Your Heart” and Ricky Skaggs‘ “Heartbreak Hurricane.”

Following a one-EP stop with Atlantic, the Josh Abbott Band returns to indie status with its next album, Front Row Seat, due Nov. 6 on Thirty Tigers. The 16-track project is a concept album built around his marriage and divorce. Produced by Dwight Baker, of The Wind and the Wave, the package includes songs co-written with the likes of Radney Foster, Zac Brown Band collaborator Wyatt Durrette and hit-cranking writers Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne.


John Hamlin has formed Switched On Entertainment, signing a multiyear production and development deal with CMT, where he spent the last eight years as senior vp music events and talent. Hamlin will continue to work from a CMT office and serve as executive producer for such franchises as CMT Crossroads and Artists of the Year, but will have the opportunity to place programming with other companies. CMT executive vp development Jayson Dinsmore and senior vp music strategy Leslie Fram will have expanded roles in the company’s music, talent and event departments.

Show Dog Nashville director of national promotion and social media Suzanne Durham resigned from her post, effective Aug. 31, to focus on family health issues.

CDX hired Emilee Gross as social media and marketing coordinator. She was previously 144 Entertainment graphic designer and social media coordinator. 

ole/Nashville hired Mike Whelan as senior director, creative. He was previously Sony Music Publishing vp creative services. 

Starstruck Writers Group GM Jimmy Metts left the company when his position was eliminated during a restructuring. 

Tammy Ragusa has launched TNT Artist Development & Integrated Marketing. She remains senior staff writer for Country Weekly.

Drew Womack, former frontman for the now-disbanded Sons of the Desert, signed a songwriting deal with Debbie Z Entertainment. Womack co-wrote Kenny Chesney’s “She’s Got It All.”

Singer-songwriter Trea Landon signed with Dallas Davidson’s Play It Again Publishing.

Big Machine Label Group signed Brett Young to a recording deal and to a songwriting contract with Big Machine Music. 

Highway South artist David Shelby enlisted Kinkead Entertainment for concert booking.

T. Graham Brown signed on with Leroy Van Dyke Enterprises for booking representation.

Mel Tillis joined the roster at Buddy Lee Attractions.

Bluegrass act Mountain Heart added fiddler Molly Cherryholmes. 

Campbell Entertainment Group founder Craig Campbell received the John Henry Family Award from Tennessee Community Organizations for his work on the inaugural Dueling Pianos for Waves, an event that raised money for adults with developmental disabilities in Williamson County.

The Academy of Country Music‘s newly elected officers for 2015-2016 include chairman Paul Barnabee, Sony Music Nashville; president Ken Tucker, Apple Music; and vp Ben Vaughn, Warner/Chappell Nashville. SESAC will host its annual Nashville Music Awards Dinner on Nov. 1 at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum.


Townsquare Media hired Rob Williams as senior vp operations, luring him from his post as Greater Media/Boston vp/market manager. Williams’ addition is one of several personnel moves for the Connecticut-based chain, whose country portfolio includes such stations as KHAK Cedar Rapids, Iowa; KXKS Shreveport, La.; and KUSB Bismarck, N.D. Townsquare also hired vp national client partnerships Darrin Klayman from Westwood One, where he was senior vp network sales. Four people were promoted, including senior vp operations Todd Lawley, vp sales and training Matt Kiger and vps sales Todd Moskowitz and Kelly Quinn. Williams’ post at Greater Media/Boston was filled by Mary Menna, GM for the cluster’s adult contemporary WMJX, effective Aug. 24. Among the five stations she now oversees is country WKLB  

KMNB Minneapolis-St. Paul adds Mike Dubs as night host beginning Sept. 3. He arrives from WUSN Chicago, where he had a part-time role for two years … 

CBS Radio/Philadelphia welcomes Dave Scopinich on Aug. 31 as vp/director of sales for six stations, including country WXTU. He was most recently general sales manager for classic rock WMGK Philadelphia … 

Robb Reel joins WKWS Charleston, W.Va., as morning co-host, RadioInfo.com reported. He had been Reising Radio/Franklin, Ind., operations manager, handling mornings for country KORN  

Rick Dunn and Carly Cash took over mornings at KAWO Boise, Idaho, according to InsideRadio.com. They previously handled that time slot for KUBL Salt Lake City.


Montgomery Gentry takes the headline slot on Oct. 21 when the Ryman Auditorium hosts the annual Concert for Cumberland Heights in Nashville.

Aaron Lewis will open the show, which will raise money for the John Hiatt Fund for Adolescent and Young Adult Treatment at Cumberland Heights, a rehab facility that has served Middle Tennessee since 1966. 

Established in 1996, the concert is the longest-running benefit series at the Ryman, raising more than $2.5 million to date. Previous headliners include Kenny Rogers, Josh Turner, Trisha Yearwood, Ricky Skaggs, Boz Scaggs and Trace Adkins.

Tickets for this year’s edition went on sale Aug. 21.

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