By Megan Gnad
To celebrate New Zealand Music Month in May, a series promoting country artists and landscapes is hitting UK and European airwaves.
Musician Aly Cook, who has toured the UK and Europe numerous times playing shows and festivals, launches Kiwi Country, on May 2 on the Keep it Country TV Channel.
It will then be available weekly on Freeview where it will appear in up to 19 million homes.
Cook says the talented young artists she features are producing videos that are like adverts for New Zealand.
“We don’t need a green screen – we can actually go and stand in it. We’ve got it for real," she said.
"Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit has really taken our landscapes to the world, so that in music videos, is just gorgeous.”
Episode one features music videos from the likes of Jody Direen, The Warratahs, Kaylee Bell and Cam Scott.
Cook hopes to attract much-needed, and deserved, interest for New Zealand musicians, many of whom head abroad to find success.
“People said to me, would there be enough material? Well, actually you’d be amazed, because in New Zealand, they’re just not getting to see it. We just don’t have the outlets for these kids.”
The idea to bring the show to European audiences stemmed from her many UK contacts, including Phil Mack, who started with his own show on a satellite station, Keep It Country TV.
“He said how about putting a show together?"
An accomplished country performer herself, Cook has shared the bill with Rosanne Cash and Laura Bell Bundy and opened for Melissa Etheridge, REO Speedwagon and Huey Lewis and the News.
She has recently been working with former New Zealand cricket batsman, captain and coach John Wright, who has turned country musician.
She describes the project as a true labour of love and hopes it will create exposure for young artists eager to get their music out to the world.
“A rising tide lifts all boats,” she said.
“If I pull this off, it lifts everybody else who is on the show and I want to educate people that it’s a big genre.”
Kiwi Country First goes to air on the Keep it Country TV Channel starting May 2, then weekly from then on Keep it Country TV.
It goes out to the UK on Freeview Channel 87, in Europe on SKY 389 and Freesat 516 online on www.keepitcountry.tv
BROADCAST TIMES ARE AS FOLLOWS:
USA PST 9.00AM
USA CST 11.00AM
USA EST 12.00PM
AUSTRALIA EST 2.00AM (WED)
NEW ZEALAND 4.00AM (WED)
USA PST 6.00AM
USA CST 5.00AM
USA EST 3.00AM
AUSTRALIA EST 8.00PM
NEW ZEALAND 10.00PM
By Megan Gnad
Country singer-songwriter Kaylee Bell has scored her dream gig opening for the Dixie Chicks at their New Zealand Mission Concert.
The event, on April 8, will be the band’s first and only New Zealand show.
As a long-time fan, who grew up listening to the group throughout her childhood, Kaylee was overwhelmed with the good news.
“I'm beyond excited for this opportunity,” she said. “It's the type of thing you work towards, but dream of.”
Kaylee is a rising star in country music, with her latest single Getting Closer (co-written with Morgan Evans) reaching #1 on NZ iTunes country, #4 on all genres and #15 on the new singles charts.
She has played at some of the world’s biggest festivals and shared stages with the likes of Faith Hill and Tim McGraw.
Most recently, she joined Keith Urban at his only New Zealand show in Wellington during the 2016 ripCORD World Tour.
Already the winner of prized New Zealand Apra and Tui awards, she has divided her time between Australia and Nashville, writing and performing with industry greats.
Getting Closer was written in Nashville with good friend and Australian country artist, Morgan Evans, who will also be sharing the stage with Kaylee at the Dixie Chicks’ show line-up.
It was produced by Lindsay Rimes, who most recently had a Billboard #1 charting single with LOCASH.
The song has gained attention from the likes of Urban, Carrie Underwood and Kelsea Ballerini, who tweeted she was; “OBSESSED WITH THE SONG”.
Kaylee is set to tour New Zealand and Australia in 2017, kicking off with a New Zealand Summer Tour, and opening for The McClymonts on their 2017 'The Endless Tour' across Australia.
Her upcoming new single, Next Somebody, written with Brooke McClymont, has received funding, and looks set to be released late April.
For more information, visit www.kayleebellmusic.com
Watch the video for Getting Closer, here: https://youtu.be/ZD1q6vwOoy4
By Megan Gnad
Darius Rucker certainly never forgets his country fans in the UK and cannot wait to be back for this year’s C2C showcase.
After playing The O2 Arena event in 2013, he knows exactly what he’s in for and he’s been pushing to make it happen again ever since.
Playing the Saturday night event, alongside country music’s finest acts - Reba McEntire, Hunter Hayes and Dan + Shay - he’s also looking forward to spending time with other musicians.
“It’s an honor to be playing the C2C Festival alongside so many of my favourite singers, songwriters and fellow artists,” he said.
“For me, I’ve been actively working to make it there and we’re really excited to share our live show with UK country fans again.”
Rucker is no stranger to country music fans, having first attained multi-platinum status as former lead singer and rhythm guitarist of GRAMMY award-winning Hootie & the Blowfish.
After re-emerging in a new light as a country artist, he has gone on to produce four albums, with the fifth in the pipeline ready to be released.
In 2014, Rucker won his third career GRAMMY award for Best Solo Country Performance for his triple platinum selling cover of Old Crow Medicine Show’s Wagon Wheel, off his album, TRUE BELIEVERS.
And he’s still making waves with his fourth studio country album, SOUTHERN STYLE, featuring his latest No. 1 single Homegrown Honey (co-written by Rucker, Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum and Nathan Chapman).
He also has current single, If I Told You, out now and a duet and co-write with rising British country starlet, Fiona Culley, for the film, Life on the Line (starring John Travolta and Sharon Stone).
While the touring lifestyle was something Rucker became used to many years ago, he’s always eager to get back home to his little piece of paradise in Charleston, South Carolina.
He spoke about this a lot on SOUTHERN STYLE, in particular on the bittersweet tune, You Can Have Charleston, set in his beloved hometown.
“That song is all about the place—the topsails and steeples,” he says. “Even though the guy in the song is leaving, you can tell how much he loves the city. It describes Charleston so well, and when you get to that chorus, it’s just unbelievable.
“That is my south, my favorite city in the world. It’s such a big part of who I am. I was born there, and I never plan to leave.
“To me, the South means a laid-back lifestyle, beaches, family, and being able to have a good time when you want to. In Charleston, nobody’s in a rush to get anywhere. And there’s a mentality that there’s room for everybody.”
His heart may remain in the south, but as he gears up for yet another trip, there’s no denying he will be enjoying every single moment of being back on that famous London stage.
By Megan Gnad
Top country musicians are lining up to get behind a project promoting Nashville tourism, with a craft beer range that “embodies the spirit” of Music City.
Music City Light already counts well-known artists, such as Phil Vassar, Charles Esten and Shawn Lacy as its supporters, and the list is set to grow.
The project, initiated by prominent Nashville bar owners, Quinn O’Sullivan and Jon Robb, with Amy Millslagle serving as CEO, builds on the iconic Nashville Music City branding to promote Nashville at home and around the globe.
Made by a Nashville gold medal-winning brewer, Music City Light is designed to be a product that bridges the gap between heavy, craft beers and mass-produced ranges.
Quinn said both himself and Justin had been opening businesses and restaurants for more than 15 years, and had “watched craft beer take over the city”.
“People come to Nashville for beer, whisky and music, but we didn't have our own light beer that represented Nashville,” he said.
“No beer really embodied the spirit of Music City, and when we met Amy, she wanted to do a lot more with the brand.”
Amy said the product would be available throughout Nashville and commemorative packs would feature in the airport, adding the potential scope for marketing to festivals and abroad.
“This is about a great tasting beer, and about locals and tourists experiencing Music City,” she said.
“We wanted a light craft beer that is easier to drink and a light beer that tastes like beer.
“And we wanted to do something that a brand has never done before as we will partner with ambassadors within the music scene.”
Music City Beer Co plans to partner with the Nashville music community in the form of a monthly artist and songwriter endorsement programme.
The beer will provide a platform to both well-known and emerging acts, such as singer-songwriter, Phil Vassar, who served as the inaugural artist.
Through this ambassador role, they were able to merge promotion with his upcoming album release, AMERICAN SOUL.
Ambassador songs to date include, American Soul, (Phil Vassar and Tom Douglas), Day Drinking (Shawn Lacy), and, I Love You Beer (Charles Esten).
By spring of 2017, the Music City Light team hopes to have the product in more than 300 Nashville locations, including restaurants and bars, and in more than 2500 establishments by 2019.
By Megan Gnad
DRAKE WHITE will be fulfilling a lifelong dream when he hits the stage to play for UK audiences at this year’s C2C Festival.
The official Saturday night After Show Party he will be performing at has already sold-out, testament to his rising success and popularity – even though it will be his first time setting foot in the country.
“I’ve always had a nomadic spirit and dreamed of bringing my music to all different walks of life,” he said.
“The band I are excited to come to the UK and spread some folk, country fire to new friends and family.”
Described by Rolling Stone Country as ‘one of the country's most energizing performers”, Drake White may be a new star to many, but he’s been building his collection of songs and experience for years.
The Alabama-native released his debut album, SPARK last year on Dot Records, and has been touring as an opening act on Zac Brown Band’s Black Out the Sun tour, in addition to his own headline dates.
He has also had the opportunity to play on the same stages as Willie Nelson, Little Big Town and Eric Church.
The singer-songwriter’s music is full of hometown stories and memories, delivered in an energetic, toe-tapping style and sound that combines classic country with Alabama soul.
He performs with his talented, long-time band, The Big Fire – who will also be venturing across the pond to C2C – made up of Adam Schwind (Drums), Philip Pence (Bass), Matt McDaniel (Guitar) and Jon Aanestad (Fiddle).
White’s unrestrained upbringing in Hokes Bluff, north Alabama, has inspired many of his songs, as referenced on his popular single, Livin’ the Dream.
“We grew up free. We grew up on 4-wheelers, riding through the backwoods,” he says. “We grew up hunting and fishing and being out in the Appalachian Mountains.
“This record is about balance. It’s me asking, ‘where’s that boy I used to be?’ Oh yeah, we gotta go get him back,” he says. “We gotta go on a hike or camping or grab my wife and go to some foreign country. I gotta feel alive. I gotta go out there and do that.”
Aside from Livin’ the Dream, White wrote or co-wrote all 11 tracks on SPARK, working with producers Ross Copperman and Jeremy Stover to capture the energy of his live performances.
The album immediately shot to No. 1 on the iTunes Top Country Albums and White has been named as Rolling Stone’s 10 Country Artists You Need To Know, Billboard’s Hot New Country Artists to Watch and was recently chosen as one of the CRS New Faces for 2017.
As he is now destined to gain the ultimate UK exposure during C2C weekend, the credits are only set to continue.
“I learned how to play guitar and keep people’s attention around a fire,” he says, of the way his career has developed.
“A spark can start a fire that can keep you alive and sustain you. So this is the beginning for me. This is the first strike of the flint.”
We are extremely grateful for the support of Darius and countless other country music artists who lend their hearts, time and talent to help further our mission - Richard Shadyac Jr., President and CEO of ALSAC
GRAMMY Award-winning country music artist, Darius Rucker, has been honoured by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital at the 28th annual Country Cares for St. Jude Kids® Seminar.
Rucker received the prestigious Randy Owen Angels Among Us Award, which recognises individuals who have made exceptional and lasting contributions to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital through their commitment and humanitarian spirit.
Rucker has championed the lifesaving mission of St. Jude for several years by raising funds and awareness for the hospital.
In 2016, Rucker hosted the seventh consecutive, star-studded Darius Rucker and Friends benefit, a sold-out concert that featured performances by Charley Pride, Hunter Hayes, Drake White, Terri Clark, LOCASH and Scotty McCreery. The annual event has raised more than $800,000 for St. Jude, helping to ensure families never receive a bill for treatment, travel, housing or food.
In 2015, Rucker recorded “Possibilities,” a song inspired by courageous St. Jude patient Brennan. Rucker heard the tune when Brennan presented it to him, and he later recorded it at a session in Memphis with the help of patients at the hospital.
Rucker was surprised during the event with a $50,000 donation to St. Jude, given in his honor from ACM Lifting Lives, in recognition of Rucker’s charitable spirit and work with both St. Jude and the Academy of Country Music’s charitable arm. ACM Lifting Lives works to improve lives through the power of music.
“Darius Rucker’s generosity, passion and humanitarian spirit inspire us all, and we are honored to recognise him with this well-deserved award,” said Richard Shadyac Jr., President and CEO of ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“His numerous contributions and generous donations are a testament to his continued commitment to helping St. Jude save the lives of children suffering from cancer and other life-threatening diseases around the world. We are extremely grateful for the support of Darius and countless other country music artists who lend their hearts, time and talent to help further our mission.”
This award places Rucker among the ranks of only four past recipients, including ALABAMA front man and co-founder of Country Cares for St. Jude Kids, Randy Owen for whom the award is named, country artist John Rich, former ALSAC Chief Operating Officer David McKee (posthumously) and St. Jude Country Cares Advisory Council member, Sharon Eaves (posthumously).
Rucker first gained fame as the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist of the GRAMMY Award-winning American rock band Hootie & the Blowfish. Since then, he has dominated country music charts as a solo artist.
Country Cares for St. Jude Kids is recognised as one of the largest country music industry gatherings in the nation and brings thousands of country music industry leaders together to support the lifesaving work of St. Jude. Since 1989, the programme has raised more than $650 million for the kids of St. Jude. Participants in the weekend event include country music artists, record label management, radio station general managers, promotions staff, national sales managers, programme directors, and on-air staff who seek inspiration and to gain personal experiences that will help them promote and encourage support for St. Jude.
About St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is leading the way the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. It is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to 80 percent since the hospital opened more than 50 years ago. St. Jude is working to drive the overall survival rate for childhood cancer to 90 percent, and say they won’t stop until no child dies from cancer. St. Jude freely shares the discoveries it makes, and every child saved at St. Jude means doctors and scientists worldwide can use that knowledge to save thousands more children. Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food.