Monday, July 27, 2015

Outdoor Songwriting Adventures Lead Chakra Bleu to Success

By Chuck Whiting
MCAU Editor

            NASHVILLE, Tenn. (July 2015) – Some songwriters pen songs in their living rooms, others in the cozy writing rooms at ASCAP and BMI. 

            But for pop/rock/Americana artist Chakra Bleu of Spokane, Wash., successful songwriting wouldn't be possible without solo excursions into the great outdoors. Her "songwriting adventures" as she calls them are a way to bring "wonder, awe and gratitude" into every song she writes.

            On July 31 (Friday), the artist will take her guitar, notebook and pencils to the mountainous Spokane region for what she hopes will be her most inspiring writing sabbatical yet. She will spend almost three weeks alone at a cabin in the rural inland Northwest, writing melodies and crafting lyrics with daily breaks for hiking, roller blading and meditation. This fall, she will do the same thing near Asheville, N.C., in Pisgah National Forest.

Chaka Bleu on one of her 'Songwriting Adventures".

            "The utter peace, adventure and wonderment of the great outdoors calls to my heart and inspires me on so many levels," said Bleu, whose latest single "All of Me" has topped New Music Weekly's Top 40 Indie Chart for five consecutive weeks. "I focus completely and solely on writing songs or melodies at those times. Both cabin locations are close to a lot of mountains and natural water, be it a lake, streams and river, and have access to hiking trails and greenways."

            Chakra starts each sabbatical morning with a meditation (her songwriting multi-vitamin) to clear her mind and free up her creative spirit. She eats fresh organic yogurt while reviewing a new lyric or melody she wrote the night before. She then takes a four to five-mile walk with pen and paper in hand, thinking of ways to expand and/or build on her ideas. 

            The tunesmith plans to write up to a dozen full song melodies during her Washington sabbatical, recording rough versions with a small, portable tape recorder. She will play the melodies back again and again in Nashville before penning lyrics during her October songwriting adventure in North Carolina. 

            "While playing back a melody, I tune into my feelings, asking myself what the song might be about," the artist added. "Before long, I start getting ideas for a particular direction. Sometimes, I just start hearing lyrics, perhaps part of a phrase. Then I start the process of building a story."

            That's just what happened with her latest hit song "All of Me", which currently sits at number one on NMW's Top 40 Indie Chart, number two on NMW's mainstream Top 40 Chart, and number seven on NMW's Hot 100 Chart. The music was written at a lakeside cabin in Washington. She added the lyrics while on a songwriting adventure near Asheville five months later. The melodic theme under the words "I want to know" was inspired from a Chickadee songbird that she heard while on a camping trip in the Cumberland Mountains of Tennessee. 

            To watch the "All of Me" video, visit

            Bleu noted that her song, "Sunflower of My Dreams", was written after she roller bladed through a field of Washington sunflowers. 

            "The sunflowers evoked a feeling of joy and happiness in me," Bleu continued with a smile, noting that the song is featured on her fifth album, "You're The One". "I noticed how they were all facing the direction of the sun. Once back at the cabin, I researched the symbology of the sunflower. The next morning, I started hearing the beginnings of a beautiful melody in my head, which I started writing down immediately. I finished the rest of the melody once back in Nashville, whereby I wrote the lyrics several months later in the Blue Ridge Mountains."

Chakra Bleu rests during a mountain climb.

            Other songs created during her writing adventures include "Footprints in the Sand", "Hidden Mirror", "Retreat to the Center", "Believe in Me", and "You're What's Missing".

            Bleu will take a short break from writing on Aug. 10 to appear on the "Good Day Spokane" talk show, airing live on Fox 28-TV. 

            The artist's passion for hiking, climbing and camping in the great outdoors isn't limited to her two annual songwriting adventures. She set out on her first backpacking trip into the Cumberland Mountains shortly after moving to Nashville in the 1990s. She knew she was addicted soon after she hit the primitive camping trails toting a backpack, cooking gear and flashlights -- although a bad thunderstorm, red ants, ticks and chiggers gave her a few second thoughts. 

            "The desire to know how to backpack more efficiently led me to take some classes at REI," Bleu added. "From then on, I've been backpacking in places near Nashville such as Savage Gulf, Fall Creek Falls, Virgin Falls, Frozen Head, Pickett State Park, and Big South Fork."

            Bleu also has taken numerous hiking and climbing adventures in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Washington and other states in the Northwest. During a recent trip to Montana and Idaho, she joined friends for a rugged outdoor adventure that included climbing a three-pitched granite rock called "Cruel Shoes", riding bikes up and down steep mountain roads for miles, and hiking cliff-hanging trails thousands of feet above sea level. She ended her trip by hiking to a mountain-fed lake on Jenny Lake Trail in the Grand Tetons. 

            The artist says her backwoods jaunts in the South are just as exciting, although with a few annoyances.

            "You can expect to get a few hitch-hikers, namely ticks and chiggers, and see a copperhead snake or two on the trail or swimming in the water with you," she laughed. "I've been grateful not to encounter a wild boar or angry momma bear. Yet, I hang my food at night and depend on my dog's nose and ears to give me fair warning of uninvited critters coming into my camp."

Chakra Bleu enjoys a creative songwriting hike.

            Although Chakra doesn't believe her songwriting adventures are for everyone, she encourages creative types to get outdoors. She's run into a few of her peers during day hikes near Nashville, including Percy/Edwin Warner parks, Radner Lake Trail, Long Hunter State Park, and Montgomery Bell State Park.

            "The delicacies of nature are divine and wondrous," said Bleu, who also sidelines as a visual artist. "I actually get into looking at the details of a petal of a wildflower, counting its petals and looking at its unique shape, color and texture."

            Born and raised in Spokane, Wash., Bleu grew up with a passion for music and the outdoors. She started writing songs in middle school and performing with jazz choirs and grunge, rock and country bands in high school and college. On weekends, she headed to the mountains for hiking and camping. After college, she lugged her guitar and synthesizer to Paris, where she taught English at the French/American Language Academy for a year. She spent the next two years back home in Washington working in secondary education. But a trip to Nashville changed her life. Successful performances at the Bluebird Cafe and other venues convinced her to move to Music City to pursue a professional career as a singer-songwriter. 

            Bleu's music accomplishments have been substantial since then. Her recent single, "The Shadow", quickly climbed various NMW charts, reaching number four on Top 40, number four on Hot 100 A/C, number five on Top 40 Internet, and number one on Indie Top 40 (where it remained for six consecutive weeks). Her sixth album, "Souvenir", generated five top-40 hit singles on various charts, with the song "Addicted to You" receiving "Spotlight" recognition in Cashbox Magazine. Other hit singles from previous albums include "When I Hold Your Hand" and "Hopelessly in Love".

            According to Dave Carew, a writer for the blog Underground Nashville, Bleu is "hands down one of the most original and distinctive pop/rock/Americana artists ever to grace the underground Nashville music scene. Inspired by everything from the styling of bands like Heart and the Cowboy Junkies, to transcendent New Age thought, she has forged, over the past decade, some of the most uplifting, eclectic, thought-provoking, and empowering music ever created in Music City USA."

            For more information about Chakra Bleu or to hear her music, visit To book the artist for an upcoming event, send an e-mail message to   

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Americana Music Association to Stage Mini-Festival at Ascend Amphitheater on Sept. 19

      NASHVILLE -- The Americana Music Association, in partnership with AEG Live/The Messina Group, has announced plans to produce a one-time-only "mini-festival" at the new Ascend Amphitheater on Saturday, Sept. 19 in downtown Nashville during its 16th annual Americana Festival & Conference.

     The one-day celebration of roots-inspired music will feature the legendary Loretta Lynn, Americana stalwart Steve Earle, revered acoustic duo Gillian Welch and special guests Tift Merritt, Eric Heywood, Nikki Lane, Emmy Rose Russell and more. The event will feature two stages with more artists announced in coming weeks.

     Doors will open at 4 p.m. CST. Tickets are $25, $45 and $75 and will go on sale via Ticketmaster on Friday, July 31 at 10 a.m. Details will be provided to Americana Conference registrants as to how to obtain a discounted rate on these tickets.

     The event will take place during the critically acclaimed Americana Music Festival & Conference, presented by Nissan, and is primarily driven to the greater Nashville community.

     "We're proud of the success of our boutique festival and conference, but this event at the Ascend Amphitheater is really for the entire community, not just the folks in the industry attending our business conference" said Americana Executive Director Jed Hilly. "It's a celebration of the great city of Nashville and who better to highlight such an event than Miss Loretta Lynn."

     Lynn was honored by the Americana Music Association last fall with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement for Songwriter award and wowed the crowd with her stunning rendition of “Coal Miner's Daughter.”

     To learn more about the Americana Festival & Conference, visit

'CMA Music Festival: Country's Night to Rock' to Air on ABC Aug. 4

     NASHVILLE – Summer’s hottest artists will perform on “CMA Music Festival: Country's Night to Rock" airing Tuesday, Aug. 4 (8-11 p.m./ET) on the ABC Television Network and hosted for the third time by reigning CMA Vocal Group of the Year Little Big Town.

     Filmed during CMA Music Festival in June, the special features many of today's most exciting Country Music stars, including Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Lee Brice, Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Eric Church, Brett Eldredge, Florida Georgia Line, Randy Houser, Sam Hunt, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Maddie & Tae, Kip Moore, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, Thomas Rhett, Darius Rucker, Cole Swindell, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Chris Young, and Zac Brown Band as they hit the stage during the four-day party and celebration of America’s music.

Little Big Town (Photo by Hunter Berry/CMA)

     “CMA Music Festival: Country's Night to Rock" first aired on ABC in 2005. This is the 11th time ABC is broadcasting the special – which invites the whole country to America's largest Country Music celebration. The annual special will air on ABC through 2021.

     In the weeks leading up to the Aug. 4 broadcast CMA will be releasing sneak peek videos giving fans an in-depth look at CMA Music Festival and the artists performing. Stay tuned to and CMA social channels for the latest updates and news.

     "CMA Music Festival: Country's Night to Rock" is executive-produced by Robert Deaton

Friday, July 17, 2015

CMA Music Festival Sets Daily Attendance Record with 87,680 Fans

            NASHVILLE – 2015 CMA Music Festival sold out seven months in advance prompting large, enthusiastic crowds at the Festival’s numerous free stages and event areas with a record-setting daily attendance of 87,680 fans – besting 2014 numbers by 9.6 percent.
            “The advance sell out speaks to the strength of the event, but great weather and the numerous free stages and activities downtown contributed to our attendance bump,” said CMA Chief Executive Officer Sarah Trahern. “The popularity of our artists and the entertainment value of this Festival is what increased attendance and filled the streets and parks of downtown Nashville.”   
            Attendance figures for 2015 include four-day ticket packages and promotional tickets, as well as attendance in the AT&T U-verse® Fan Fair X, and free areas downtown. In all, more than 500 artists participated in more than 250 hours of concerts on 11 stages (seven of which were free). 

Thousands gather at LP Field (Photo by Dusty Draper/CMA)

            Fans obviously liked what they saw: Tickets for 2016 CMA Music Festival, which will be held Thursday through Sunday, June 9-12, are selling fast with 62 percent of available tickets already sold to returning fans. The national on-sale date is Friday, June 19. Fans can order tickets by visiting or calling the CMA Box Office at 1-800-CMA-FEST (262-3378).
            Attendance in the numerous free areas, including The Buckle, Fan Alley, and concert stages, was brisk and showed significant growth year-to-year. For the first time in Festival history, Chevrolet Riverfront Stage reached capacity Saturday afternoon with 25,000 fans in attendance.
            Crowds at the Bridgestone Arena Plaza increased over 2014 and the new Gildan Broadway Stage at the Hard Rock Café stayed busy all four days. The BMI Tailgate Party stage at LP Field, which debuted in 2012, was a hit with fans entering the stadium for the Nightly Concerts.
            Corporate brand partnerships are a key element to the marketing, fan experience, and support of the Festival with more than 40 different brands participating in the CMA Music Festival.
            “We are pleased to have a number of returning partners, some of which are expanding their presence, as well as many brands that are new to the Festival,” said Damon Whiteside, CMA senior vice president of marketing and strategic partnerships. “This year more than ever, the brand activations enhanced the fan experience and continued to differentiate our Festival with unique and exciting partnerships. The overwhelmingly positive response from our brand partners illustrates the power of Country Music, the appeal of our fans, and the efforts of our CMA Partnerships staff.”
            CMA Music Festival supports music education. The artists and celebrities participating in CMA Music Festival donate their time. They are not compensated for the hours they spend in meet and greets and performing. In appreciation of their exhaustive efforts, the CMA Foundation donates proceeds from the event to local and national music education programs on the artists’ behalf as part of the Music Education Matters initiative. Since 2006, CMA has donated more than $11 million to this worthy cause.
            Keith Urban was introduced as the first Music Education Matters ambassador on Thursday to a standing-room-only crowd of 2,500 people at the CMA Close Up Stage. Urban was treated to a performance by students who have benefited from the program and performed with four guitar players from Nashville School of the Arts, another beneficiary of the program.
            Linda Friend of JFK Middle School, who led the student singers in Urban’s hit “Days Go By,” said: “It’s just sitting there. The talent is sitting there in a lot of our kids, and the instrument in their hands allows them access to the magic that’s in each of our children.”
            On Sunday, Ron Samuels, Chairman of the CMA Foundation Board of Directors, presented a grant check to The Quest Center for Art and Community Development during Charlie Worsham’s fan club party in Nashville. Worsham is a passionate supporter of the Center, which is a music education and resource center located in Dickson, Tenn., a largely rural community with limited access to music programs. The Center makes music education accessible to all members of the community, including individuals with disabilities, while providing leadership and a positive, affordable, and safe environment for students.
            Saturday’s Artist of the Day Chris Young and Farmers Insurance “Thank America’s Teachers” paired up inside AT&T U-verse® Fan Fair X at the Farmers Thank America’s Teachers bus when Young surprised one of his own music educators, Brenda Gregory, with a $2,500 check on behalf of Farmers.
            CMA fans are contributing to the CMA Foundation's worthy and important initiative, too, by bidding on one-of-a-kind experiences and signed items in the Sixth Annual CMA Celebrity Auction, which was held in AT&T U-verse® Fan Fair X benefiting the CMA Foundation. The auction raised $150,000 ($100,000 in 2014) from bids for more than 100 items including meet and greets, guitars, autographed merchandise, and more from stars and celebrities including Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Ariana Grande, Hunter Hayes, Sam Hunt, Little Big Town, George Strait, Meghan Trainor, and Zac Brown Band.
            CMA Music Festival, which started as Fan Fair® in 1972, is about the fans and their relationship with the artists and the music. The theme is universal and in 2015, Festival attendees and media came from all 50 states and 20 countries including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.K.
            CMA continued its practice of interacting with fans through digital and social channels at the 2015 CMA Music Festival, to both inform and reward loyal Festival attendees.
            The free CMA Music Festival app presented by AT&T U-verse® for iPhone and Android saw 38,748 total active users – a seven percent increase over 2014. New app features this year included schedule sharing with friends via Facebook, a CMA Fest radio station powered by Pandora, and a live stream of the AT&T U-verse® Showcase Stage.
            The app featured a popular option for users to create their own personalized schedule – the full schedule PDF was clicked 43,412 times and the FFX Meet and Greet schedule was clicked 19,874 times.
            Additionally, CMA social media streams and news bulletins were integrated, including push notifications to update attendees on weather alerts, schedule changes, and surprise performances. For the first time, CMA was featured as an official “Story” on Snapchat, which attracted at least 5.5 million views.
   traffic increased this year as well:
            * Unique Visitors Week Of: Up 13 percent versus week of 2014 (284,855 total for the week)
            * Unique Visitors YTD: Up 22 percent versus YTD 2014 (1.04 million total for the year)
            At LP Field, fans were invited to post their Festival photos to Instagram throughout the weekend using #CMAfest. During the day, social posts from Twitter and Instagram were featured on the screens at four different stages, powered by Postano. Overall, 28,000 social interactions per day were sent to the video screens at the daytime stages.
            CMA once again partnered with Spotify to create the CMA Music Festival Spotify Jukebox. The Jukebox powered the in-house music that played between performances. Fans were invited to Tweet requests to the Jukebox using #SpotifyCMA.
            In addition, Pandora utilized their unique music discovery platform to suggest artist performances fans could catch on the daytime stages based on performers they like at LP Field.
            2015 CMA Music Festival Research Recap
With so many ardent Country Music fans in one place, opportunities abound for CMA to conduct research with this important consumer group. In particular, CMA focused on how fans engage with AT&T U-verse® Fan Fair X to inform future Festival planning.
            The findings reported are based on on-site intercept research with attendees of Fan Fair X during the four-day event. These results are considered preliminary.
            Overall, 48 percent of attendees were attending CMA Music Festival for the first time. This number jumps to 60 percent among those attending with the single-day Fan Fair X ticket, which is an indicator of success in bringing the Fan Fair X experience to more new people each year.
            * Visitors of Fan Fair X were primarily made up of four-day LP Field tickets holders (81 percent); 11 percent of visitors had the one-day FFX ticket option; and 9 percent purchased a four-day Fan Fair X ticket.  
            * Among four-day LP Field ticket holders, 93 percent were onsite for the Festival four or more days with 30 percent of those attending more than four days of the week-long festivities.
            * 50 percent were drawn into Fan Fair X for a specific scheduled performance or event. Among this group, nearly three-quarters were aware of the performance or event before they arrived, which they discovered through CMA Music Festival marketing sources.
            * For each visit to Fan Fair X, attendees spent an average of two hours inside the venue listening to music and enjoying all the Ultimate Country Music Fan Experiences that Fan Fair X had to offer; the majority of fans visited Fan Fair X each of the four days and many visited multiple times per day.
            * 49 percent of attendees have an annual household income of more than $75,000 (48 percent in 2014).
            * 31 percent of attendees traveled by airplane to attend CMA Music Festival (30 percent in 2014).
            “As the Country Music audience continues to expand among all segments of the population, particularly among the younger millennial and diversity segments, it’s all about the experience,” said Karen Stump, CMA’s senior director of market research. “Our research among Festival attendees about their preferences for on-site experiences serves the very important role of helping CMA to build upon experiences year after year. It is a very important priority for CMA that we integrate the ‘fan voice’ into our event each and every year.”
            The fun kicked into high gear with the expanded CMA Music Festival Kick-Off Concert at the Chevrolet Riverfront Stage featuring SiriusXM Highway Finds. The event, curated by SiriusXM and hosted by SiriusXM The Highway’s on-air talent, included performances by 23 acts featured on The Highway’s Highway Finds, the SiriusXM channel’s ongoing initiative to introduce new Country artists to SiriusXM listeners. Attendance at the Kick-Off Concert increased 26 percent over 2014.
            The epicenter of the Ultimate Country Music Fan Experience was AT&T U-verse® Fan Fair X with meet and greets, concerts, lifestyle exhibits, marketplace, live broadcasts, and more in the Music City Center.
            Little Big Town kicked it off on Thursday with an official ribbon cutting and Q&A session with the fans. At the ceremony, the group announced that they will be returning to host “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock” for the third time. The special airs on the ABC Television Network on Tuesday, Aug. 4 (8 p.m./ET).
            “We just love CMA Fest,” said Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town. “It’s just about the fans. I don’t think there’s any other genre that could do this kind of thing – a weeklong celebration of our fans. I love that our artists all participate. I love that the fans come from around the world and we have this big ol’ party here. Nothing compares to it.”
            Other artists of the day included Hunter Hayes, Chris Young, and Darius Rucker. All Artist of the Day appearances attracted between 2,000 to 2,500 fans. Also popular were special performances by “Nashville’s” Charles Esten, Sara Evans in an exclusive CMA Songwriters Series showcase, Jo Dee Messina, and Kellie Pickler.
            More than 72,000 visitors passed through the turnstiles into Fan Fair X throughout the Festival, which was a 14.3 percent increase over 2014. Four-day ticket holders have free access to Fan Fair X, but fans were able to purchase tickets to visit the popular artist meet and greets, marketplace, and exhibits. Single and four-day ticket purchases for Fan Fair X increased 26 percent over 2014.
            “It was important for people to know that just because they didn’t have a ticket to the Nightly Concerts at LP Field that there were plenty of free concerts and activities for them to enjoy,” Trahern said. “The increase in attendance at Fan Fair X and the increase in ticket purchases is a strong indication that locals and regional residents are attending in higher numbers.”
            Over the four days, 371 artists participated in concerts, events, and meet and greets inside Fan Fair X. Charles Esten, Brenda Lee, Marshall Tucker Band, Darius Rucker, and Darryl Worley all carved out additional time for fans. Other popular meet and greets included Lauren Alaina, Keith Anderson, Kelsea Ballerini, Craig Wayne Boyd, Jessie James Decker, Sara Evans, Florida Georgia Line, Nick Fradiani, Hunter Hayes, Little Big Town, Lonestar, Dustin Lynch, Joe Nichols, Cassadee Pope, Josh Turner, Phil Vassar, Wynonna, and Chris Young.
            Reigning CMA New Artist of the Year Brett Eldredge made a surprise appearance Saturday on the AT&T U-verse® Showcase Stage.
            This marks the third year that AT&T U-verse® has been title sponsor of the exhibit hall experience at the Music City Center. The AT&T U-verse® Showcase Stage featured appearances by 36 of Nashville’s recognized stars and up-and-comers with performances and Q&A’s live streamed on and recorded to be featured as VOD clips on the Country Deep TV, online, and mobile platforms.
            “Once again, AT&T U-verse Fan Fair X gave Country Music fans unparalleled access to the artists and music they love with live performances, autograph signings, and our Country Deep app,” said Brian Collins, Vice President of Wireline Consumer Marketing, AT&T Home Solutions. “We’re proud to be a part of the Festival and we look forward to next year’s CMA Music Festival.”
            Durango® returned to present the Durango Music Spot, which launched in 2004 as a showcase for independent artists, and featured more than 50 performers. The Music Spot was expanded this year and was an extremely popular destination for fans. All performances were broadcast and streamed live by 650 WSM-AM Nashville.
            Chevrolet Riverfront Stage
Gary Allan opened four days of music at the popular Chevrolet Riverfront Stage with an energy-packed morning performance Thursday. It was an auspicious start to a full slate of performances. The stage bustled with a roster of outstanding artists delivering longer sets for the appreciative crowd.
            In all, more than 36 acts performed 30 hours of concerts over the four days with 132,000 fans passing through the gates to watch the performances at Chevrolet Riverfront Stage. Throughout the footprint, Chevrolet logged more than 51,000 vehicle interactions and for the first-time the longtime partner brought their Chevrolet Riverfront Studio to the event featuring a variety of artist meet and greets and radio interviews.
            “We had an incredible week at CMA Fest this year,” said Michael Weidman, National Promotions Manager, Chevrolet. “The crowds have been larger than we have ever seen. Each year we try to bring something new to enhance the fan’s experience. The CMA team is an integral part of that; and they provide all the support we could ever ask for to bring new ideas to life.”
            Bud Light Plaza Stage at Bridgestone Arena Plaza
The audiences at the Bud Light Plaza Stage at the Bridgestone Arena Plaza were enthusiastic and didn’t hesitate to demonstrate their appreciation for the 72 artists performing on the stage during 23 hours of concerts. The exceptional lineup included up-and-comers, established stars, and legends.
            Bud Light brought their popular “House of Whatever” experience to the Festival for the first time this year. The custom-built environment was stationed outside LP Field and included a karaoke stage featuring surprise performances by Brett Eldredge, Kelsea Ballerini, Cassadee Pope, and Dan + Shay.
            “The partnership with CMA Music Festival continues to be an important component for the Bud Light brand because of the authentic connection with Country Music fans,” said Kevin Boyd, Manager, Region Brand Activation for Anheuser-Busch, Inc. “The four day Festival gives us a great platform to enhance an already incredible music experience for fans with meaningful Bud Light engagement and unique experiences. We’ve seen firsthand the growth of the Festival over the years and how loyal the fans are, not only to the artists, but to the partners as well. Bud Light is proud to part of the Festival and look forward to continuing and growing our partnerships with CMA.”
            Belk Park Stage in Walk of Fame Park
For the first time this year, Belk hosted the Belk Park Stage, where concertgoers had the chance to listen to music by soon-to-be stars and established artists with the addition of screens providing everyone a front-row view. The park setting and enhanced staging proved popular with the fans who enjoyed performances by 38 acts.  
            “At Belk, we understand the role that music and the outdoors play in the Southern lifestyle, and the CMA Music Festival brings the best of both to Nashville,” said Jon Pollack, Executive Vice-President of Marketing, Sales Promotion and e-commerce. “The event provides Belk an opportunity to reach its customers in an environment that offers the best in Country Music, through a variety of activities, in a great Southern city. We love bringing our Modern. Southern. Style. to the CMA Music Festival.”
            Gildan Broadway Stage at the Hard Rock Café
This year saw the addition of a new official CMA Music Festival Stage at the foot of Broadway and First Avenue. The Gildan Broadway Stage at the Hard Rock Café rocked with up-and-coming talent each day.
            “The 2015 CMA Music Festival was a very successful event for Gildan,” said Keith Whitaker, Gildan director of marketing. “It provided great exposure for our brand and allowed us to interact with our consumers in a fun and meaningful way. The CMA has been a great partner over the last five years and we appreciate how hard they work for us.”
            Nightly Concerts at LP Field
The Nightly Concerts at LP Field featured more than 28 acts spanning four nights of star-packed shows.
            Pre-show activities Thursday included the national anthem performed by Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, with a welcome by the Mayor of Nashville, Karl Dean.
            Performing Thursday were Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Florida Georgia Line, Sam Hunt, and Rascal Flatts. The evening was bittersweet with the passing of 2015 Country Music Hall of Fame member Jim Ed Brown. During his performance, Alan Jackson performed “Pop A Top” in honor of the format legend.
            Lee Brice, Luke Bryan, Randy Houser, Lady Antebellum, Maddie & Tae, The Band Perry, and Zac Brown Band performed Friday. Restless Heart performed the national anthem.
2015 Country Music Hall of Fame inductees The Oak Ridge Boys were the heritage act of the evening performing, “Elvira” with Little Big Town. The legendary brothers of harmony also honored Brown in their remarks to the press backstage.
            Brett Eldredge, Little Big Town, Thomas Rhett, Carrie Underwood, and Chris Young performed Saturday. The heritage act was Wynonna & The Big Noise, while Kellie Pickler performed the national anthem. Pickler also received the Operation Troop Aid Chris Kyle Patriot Award, presented by Kyle’s parents, Wayne and Deby Kyle, founder and CEO of Operation Troop Aid Mark Woods, and previous award recipients Mark Collie and Darryl Worley.
            Eric Church, Brad Paisley, Darius Rucker, Cole Swindell, and Keith Urban performed Sunday. Neal McCoy was the heritage act. Lee Greenwood performed the national anthem on saxophone.
            During the nightly press conference leading up to the concert, Paisley was presented the CMA International Artist Achievement Award by Trahern and Urban. The banter was quick and clever:
            Urban: "It’s a huge honor to be able to do this for you Brad. I know travel internationally has always been important to you. I know you’ve travelled to Japan. Maybe down to Cabo?"
            Paisley: "International waters."
            Urban: "Maybe we’ll get to do an international tour sometime."
            Paisley: "That would be great. Hey, where are you from?"
            For the fourth year, the BMI Tailgate Party was located outside LP Field with a strong lineup of more than 23 BMI songwriters and artists warming up the audience and providing a popular pre-show destination before fans entered the stadium for the Nightly Concerts.
            CMA granted access to 700 journalists, photographers, producers, and videographers representing more than 240 domestic and international media outlets including: ABC News, ABC Radio Networks, Associated Press, BBC Radio 2 (U.K.), Billboard, The Boston Globe, CMT, CNN, Country Aircheck, Country Music Channel (Australia), Country Weekly, ESPN, Great American Country, “Good Morning America,” GQ, Jezebel, “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” MusicRow, Nashville Business Journal, NPR Music, People,, Premiere Radio Network, Rolling Stone, RTL (France), Sirius XM Satellite Radio, Spin Media, The Tennessean, “Today,” United Stations Radio Network, UPI Newswire, US Weekly, USA Today, The Weather Channel, Westwood One, Yahoo!, and more. Regional attendance was bolstered by unprecedented local media coverage with live morning broadcasts from affiliates WKRN, WZTV, and WTVF, as well as The Weather Channel.
            International media represented 11 countries including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.K.
            As previously announced, the Festival was filmed for a three-hour television special “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock” airing Tuesday, Aug. 4 (8-11 p.m./ET) and hosted for the third time by reigning CMA Vocal Group of the Year, Little Big Town. The special debuted in 2004 and this is the 11th year the special will air on ABC. Robert Deaton is the executive producer.
            The CMA merchandise line was a hit with fans. Sales increased 63 percent over 2014 with a 45 percent jump in online sales. The best seller was the official event T-shirt with the lineup of the Nightly Concerts at LP Field, with 100 percent of CMA’s proceeds from the sale of the shirt going to the CMA Foundation to support music education initiatives.
            For CMA Music Festival information, fans turned to,,,, and signed up for CMA Exclusive, CMA’s e-newsletter.

Country Artist Scott Coner Releases New Song/Video 'Nashville Song'

By Chuck Whiting
MCAU Editor

            NASHVILLE, Tenn. (July 2015) – Hit country artist Scott Coner has released "Nashville Song", a new single and accompanying video that express the highs and lows of working in Nashville's country music industry.

            When it comes to music success, Scott has accomplished much more than the average singer-songwriter. He has recorded songs with country legends such as Charlie Daniels and T. Graham Brown -- even landing a number one hit in Britain with the Tanya Tucker duet, "Maybe She Lied". But the Indiana artist has also faced a number of disappointments, especially on the business side of the industry. His experiences (good and bad) are reflected in the heartfelt, soulful country ballad "Nashville Song".

Scott Coner (Photo by Cyndi Coner)

            "I wrote 'Nashville Song' about my feelings and opinions of the music business," said Scott, who recently taped a concert in Nashville for future airing on You Tube. "In truth, the business side has been hurtful at nearly all levels. But as I have continued on, I have reminded myself that I write and play because I love doing it. I have been truly blessed to work with some great musicians. To me, the song is not about being defeated. Instead, the song is about standing strong and doing things my own way."

            To download the "Nashville Song" song and video, visit the artist's website at, his Facebook page at, or YouTube at

            "Nashville Song", which was recorded at Nashville's Java Jive, was arranged and produced by Scott and engineer Logan Schlegal. The recording features Scott on vocals and acoustic guitar. Members of the Matthew West Band accompany him on background vocals, electric guitar, bass, keyboards and percussion.

            Scott added that the "Nashville Song" lyric is reminiscent of Alabama's "My Home's in Alabama" in the specific way the story unfolds. His wife, Cyndi, helped bring the video to life with scenes from the artist's recording session, as well as popular downtown and Music Row hangouts such as the Ryman Auditorium, Tootsie's, Hard Rock Cafe, Sony Music, Curb, and RCA Studio B. Cyndi, who oversees the Coner family's Cynnamae Media Productions, said she wanted to take viewers on a "field trip" that showed the places where Scott has experienced musical highs and lows. 

Scott Coner Performs (Photo by Cyndi Coner)

            "The lyrics are pretty specific as far as my working with T. Graham Brown and Tanya Tucker is concerned," Scott noted. "But the chorus delivers the other side of the story. I have been in many offices around town and foolishly, I have put my trust in people who were undeserving."

            Scott's lyric gives listeners a realistic look inside the Nashville music industry. Like many singer-songwriters before him, he drove into town with a batch of original songs and a wishful heart. He later heard a lot of false promises, even outright lies from some of the professionals on Music Row. That reality is expressed loud and clear in the chorus with the line,  "If you're gonna sleep with snakes man, you better be tough."

            But any resulting hard feelings were temporary. Eventually, Scott realized that happiness and success could be found in the music itself. He sings with assurance, "Well I just kept plowing ground... I had my song and I had my sound... Nobody's gonna tell me what to do... It seems to me that if you have a plan... You stay on course and you take your stand... Every man finally gets his chance...."

            The artist hopes his fans will understand that sometimes artists need to channel their hurt, as well as their happiness, through their songs and other works of art. He has no intention of ever quitting the music business or allowing himself to become bitter. Songwriting is just as fulfilling to him now as it was when he was 15 years old.

            "As an artist, you find yourself simply wanting to concentrate on the music itself," Scott continued. "I have faith that if you believe in what you are doing, and continue down your own path, the right people will show up. I believe this because it has finally started to take place."

            A self-proclaimed family man, Scott Coner lives with his wife and two daughters on rural farmland near Franklin, Ind. He has recorded songs with a who's who of country legends including Tanya Tucker, T. Graham Brown, and Charlie Daniels. Scott's single "Maybe She Lied", a duet with Tucker on Reedy's Dream Records, hit number one on the United Kingdom's Hot Disk Top 40. Other songs, including "Sanibel" (a duet with Brown) and "Reedy's Dream" (with vocal and instrumental contributions from Daniels) have been heard on terrestrial and online radio stations around the world. Also an emerging author, Scott recently penned the book "Lynyrd Skynyrd: Ronnie Van Zant and Me" with Gene Odom, a survivor of the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash.

            Scott is represented by Nashville-based Whiting Publicity and Promotions.

            To learn more about Scott Coner or to download his songs and videos, visit

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Artist/Instructor Gail McDaniel to Teach Watercolor Painting Course in Atlanta Area

            GRIFFIN, Ga. (June 2015) -- Gail McDaniel, an acclaimed watercolor artist/instructor who has served as an associate member of the prestigious Winsor & Newton Creative Artist Network in London, will teach an eight-week watercolor painting course this summer in the Atlanta area.

            The watercolor painting course will be offered to beginning, intermediate and advanced artists on Wednesday afternoons starting Aug. 5 at Griffin First United Methodist Church, 1401 Maple Drive in Griffin, Ga. Sessions will occur from 1-4 p.m. on Aug. 5, 12, 19 and 26; and Sept. 2, 9, 16 and 23. Tuition is $165 for all eight, three-hour sessions.  Griffin is located approximately 35 miles south of Atlanta.

            McDaniel will provide invaluable insights on composition, perspective, value, color theory and application. She also will demonstrate some of the techniques that have helped make her an award-winning artist, including abstract under paintings, disappearing purples, painting on Masa Paper, white on white, monotype paintings, let it flow, texturize your paintings, portraits, reflective surfaces, and wax-resist Batik. The course is structured to serve artists at all skill levels, from the very raw beginner to the most advanced. McDaniel will close each session with individual critiques.

            Because space is limited for the classes, reservations are required.  Both check and credit card payments are accepted. For more information or to register, contact the artist by phone at (678) 603-1502 or send an inquiry to Individuals can learn more about the artist/instructor and view her artwork at

            "Participants are encouraged to paint their own choice of subject matter, in their own style, at their own speed, all the while being challenged to work out of their comfort zone and having fun along the way," said McDaniel, who moved to the Sun City Peachtree community south of Atlanta in March to be closer to family. "My classes provide opportunities for watercolor artists to develop their skills and find success.

            Before moving to Georgia, McDaniel spent more than 20 years working as a professional watercolorist and art instructor in Franklin, Tenn. During that time, she taught more than 1,300 students in classes and workshops around the world while raising almost $90,000 for student arts supplies through the "Students and Friends of Gail McDaniel Awards".

            "The Atlanta area has an excellent arts community, so I'm really looking forward to resuming my teaching here," McDaniel added. "I'll be demonstrating the techniques, shortcuts and concepts that I have developed or learned by doing, reading or studying with others. I show my students everything I know, holding nothing back. My goal is to inspire them without making them feel overwhelmed."

            McDaniel has trained artists from 36 different states (including Alaska and Hawaii), the District of Columbia, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Guatemala, Japan, Mexico, the Philippines and South Korea. She has taught 11 workshops at historic Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, a landmark where the late Georgia O’Keefe lived and painted.

            In 2002, she and her husband, Ken, launched the "Students and Friends of Gail McDaniel Awards", raising almost $90,000 for the arts in Middle Tennessee public schools. The fundraising effort earned Gail and Ken a nomination in the "volunteer innovator" category of the 2009 Mary Catherine Strobel Award. In 2012, the artist was named the PENCIL Foundation's "Volunteer of the Year".

            The couple also hosted fundraising events such as the "Chase Away The Blahs Party Artistically" benefiting school children in their Franklin, Tenn., home and the "Building Bridges Through Art" exhibition at CharacterEYES Boutique in Franklin benefiting Bridges Domestic Violence Center.

            Before leaving Tennessee, she received an award for "Excellence in Community Service" from the Travelers Rest Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She was inducted into the Cave City, Ky., Hall of Fame and named (as an eighth generation Kentuckian) to the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels as one of  "Kentucky's ambassadors of good will and fellowship around the world."

Gail McDaniel (center) teaches watercolor painting classes (Photo by Chuck Whiting)

            McDaniel gained international notoriety in 2001 when she was named an associate member of the Winsor & Newton Creative Artist Network in London, England, and invited by directors of the "Art in Provence" program to conduct an eight-day watercolor workshop in Dieulefit, France. She studied under 38 noted art instructors to help build her reputation as one of the South's top artists/instructors. -- even accepting a commission to paint a family landmark for former Kentucky Gov. Louie B. Nunn.

            Other commissions have included painting the invitation cover for "A Little Night of Music" starring country superstar LeAnn Rimes; 13 pieces for the annual Nashville Scene N-Focus social calendar; and a promotional streetscape of four homes for Newmark Homes and five other paintings for the Nashville Home Builders Association/SunTrust Bank 2001 "Parade of Homes."

            The artist has showcased her original paintings at 55 solo exhibitions, including the Brentwood (Tenn.) Public Library, the Puffy Muffin in Brentwood, and "Artlightenment" in Nashville. She also has served as a member of the arts faculty of Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art in Nashville, teaching weekly art classes. She created and painted the design for the theme poster and t-shirt for the Nashville Symphony’s "Italian Street Fair" two years in a row.

            For more information about Gail McDaniel or to see her work, visit

'The Ryman Diaries' to Return to Downtown Nashville Public Library on July 30 and 31

            NASHVILLE, Tenn. (June 2015)  Award-winning actor/playwright/director Tom Dolan and author/musician/educator Debbie Mathis Watts will portray Music City legends Captain Tom Ryman and Bettie Baugh Ryman in the multi-media musical stage play "The Ryman Diaries" on July 30 and 31 (Thursday and Friday) at the downtown Nashville Public Library, 615 Church St.  

            The matinee shows, which are being staged during the busy summer tourism season, will begin at 2:30 p.m. in the library's first-floor theater. Admission is $15 for adults, and $12 for senior citizens, students and children.  

Tom Dolan and Debbie Mathis Watts as Captain Tom Ryman and Bettie Baugh Ryman

            Described as a 19th Century love story, "The Ryman Diaries" is a historical drama that depicts the life and times of Cumberland riverboat Captain Tom Ryman as told through the eyes of his wife, Bettie Baugh Ryman. The story covers 70 years of the couple's lives through film media, stage acting, and original musical numbers. It tells of their unlikely romance, marriage, entrepreneurship, raising seven children on a riverboat, ultimate success, Christian conversion at a tent meeting, and the building of the Union Gospel Tabernacle.  

            The play is based on Watts' book, with additional dialog from Dolan. The actors penned seven original songs for the production. Film clips feature flashbacks of young Bettie and historical stills provided by the Metro Archives.  

            "Both Bettie and Tom had the hearts of musicians, so it was totally fitting that they would play and sing," said Watts, a former producer for various shows on TNN: The Nashville Network. "They were true romantics who laid the musical foundation for Middle Tennessee." A veteran educator, professional pianist-vocalist, and author, Watts' theatrical roles include Mollie in "Mousetrap" and Agnes in "I Do, I Do". Dolan has received national acclaim starring as Elwood P. Dowd in "Harvey", Dr. Albert Schweitzer in "Memoirs from Africa", and Sam Clemens in "Mark Twain Live". This fall, the actors will star in a new play in San Diego based on the lives of John and Lillie Spreckels.  

            To buy tickets for "The Ryman Diaries", call (615) 740-5600 or send an e-mail inquiry to To learn more about the play, visit