December 22, 2011 at 3:07 pm , by Ron Kelly
I’ve been writing the Nashville Diaries blog for five months now and things are getting pretty serious between us, wouldn’t you say? I guess that means I can share a secret with you then: I cried when I watched Taylor Swift’s 60 Minutes special over Thanksgiving. I bawled like a little baby, wondering what had overcome me. I guess what overwhelmed me was the way she answered her questions with such poise, all the clips of young girls crying and screaming for her at her concerts, and ultimately my desire to someday affect people the same way she does.
Still, when I saw her at a Christmas party the other day I couldn’t bring myself to tell her how much she had inspired me, let alone even just introduce myself. I’m still wondering why I hesitated—and it’s not that I’m too cool for school (which, by the way, is overrated and dumb). I think it was just that I was afraid of bothering someone who probably hears praise like that all the time yet, when I think about it, that makes no sense at all. True, the saying goes, “If you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything at all,” but I think there should also be a saying that goes, “If you have something nice to say, then by all means, say it!” Well, at least I’ve confessed my sob session to you all and I’ve put it out there in the universe. In the future, though, I’ll try to remember that it’s never inappropriate to pay someone a heartfelt compliment, and that applies to all times of the year, not just when spreading Christmas cheer! (Rhyming is cool.)
Truth be told, emotions always run a little high for me around the holidays. The music business winds down for a bit this time of year and I’m, of course, excited about the holidays but I’m also anxious to tie up various loose ends before everyone takes a break. Don’t even get me started on my tendency to procrastinate when it comes to Christmas shopping. Luckily I have two very proactive sisters who have helped me quickly and painlessly get the shopping done for my family.
So much has happened in the past months that it seems like Christmas has totally snuck up on me. I’m getting ready to put a single out in March (I can’t wait for you all to hear it!) and a full album shortly after, so I’ve been in the studio working on getting everything just right. I also recently opened for Jason Aldean during CMA week in downtown Nashville right by the Riverfront, which was … AWESOME! I’m a big Jason Aldean fan so it was so much fun to share the stage with him. We were promoting an AMC show called Hell on Wheels, which has some very ruggedly handsome men and a post Civil War revenge plot—juicy stuff! I attended the CMA awards the next day, which was fun and surreal. I also spent a day giving interviews to all the radio stations that had traveled to Nashville to broadcast from Music City during CMA week. And then, last but not least, the LHJ Nashville Diaries Sweepstakes winners—Angie and her 10-year-old nephew, Jake—visited me. We got to hang out in the studio and Jake laid down some smooth vocals on one of my new songs!
December 20, 2011 at 2:24 pm , by Ron Kelly
If you drew Martina McBride’s name in the country music superstar Secret Santa and you need a last-minute gift idea, I’m so about to hook you up. “Everybody always says I’m hard to buy for, and I’m not,” McBride tells me. “Just give me bath stuff and candles, and I’m happy!”
What would probably make the Grammy-nominated country singer even happier this holiday season, though, is if you tuned in to the 13th annual A Home for the Holidays this Wednesday, December 21, on CBS. “I was really honored to be asked to do this,” says McBride, who will be hosting and helping the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and the Children’s Action Network shine a light on the more than half a million U.S. children in foster care in need of a permanent home. “It’s a really important show that is literally making a difference to future generations,” she adds, noting that some parents featured on this week’s show had been inspired to adopt from watching prior A Home for the Holidays installments.
The fact that McBride and her husband, John, are blessed to have a family with three beautiful daughters (Ava, 6, Emma, 13, and Delaney, who turns 17 this week) was specifically one of the reasons why hosting this year was important to her. “We kind of take family for granted sometimes,” she explains. “I mean, we decorated our Christmas tree last night and halfway through it I thought, think of all the kids out there that don’t have a family to decorate a Christmas tree with. And yet we take it for granted. We do it every year—it’s a tradition. It really makes you stop and think.”
Categories: Do Good, Entertainment, Family, Fun, Ladies' Lounge, Relationships | Tags: A Home for the Holidays, Adoption, CBS, Children's Action Network, Christmas, Dave Thomas Foundation, Faith Hill, foster care, Gavin DeGraw, Justin Bieber, Martina McBride, Mary J. Blige, OneRepublic | No Comments
October 28, 2011 at 9:49 am , by Ron Kelly
In this month’s installment of her Nashville Diaries, Margaret finds herself so close to releasing her first full-length CD that she can taste it, which leads her to reflect on the musical and personal changes she’s gone through over the past four years. Be sure to read on after the jump to find out how you can ask Margaret a question and maybe have her answer it (complete with a shout-out!) in our next video entry of the Diaries! Plus, you’ll get a fun sneak-peak video of the upcoming album, too.
It was November 20, 2007, when I met Tommy Mottola for the first time. I had my hair styled and my outfit picked out waaaay in advance of the meeting, and I felt confident in the one original song (titled titled “One Way Love”) that I’d submitted to him. As soon as I set foot in his office I started to tremble but I was determined not to blow my big shot. Seeing all the platinum records hanging on the wall and the album covers of music legends that were displayed everywhere, I felt like I could someday be one of those artists. Tommy was very hospitable but, come on, the guy is one of the subjects of a book titled Hit Men and he’d been married to Mariah Carey. My “Spidey senses”—what my dad calls it when you’re on high alert—were in full gear. I was determined to nail the performance, and I did! After I finished my song, Tommy complimented my voice and sense of melody, then followed the praise with this: “I think you’ve got what it takes to make it in this industry, but in order to do so you have to jump into the pool.” I dove in headfirst and almost four years later exactly, I’m still working on getting a platinum record of my own up in Mr. Mottola’s office.
Believe me, it’s easy to get discouraged in this business but I try to remind myself that success is not the result of one big opportunity seized. Remembering that helps me stay patient and it also reminds me that my work is never finished. Having the chance to meet Tommy Mottola is something that I’m so grateful for and, trust me, I wasn’t expecting him to sprinkle some magic dust on my head and make me an instant country music star. That’s not what I wanted as an artist, either. Our meeting, though, did lead to an introduction to James Stroud, my producer and label head. Through James, I’ve been given even more opportunities, and so on. Had I released an album in the projected amount of time—6 months after moving to Nashville—I probably would have set myself back as an artist. There are only so many first impressions one can make, and I’m not sure I was prepared to step out with my first album three and half years ago. In hindsight, I’m lucky to have had the time to grow and to find exactly what it is I want to say through my music. The album I’m about to release this year will be entirely different than the album I would’ve released just a year ago, and even more different than the one I will release in another few years because I’m constantly evolving.
October 20, 2011 at 3:19 pm , by Ron Kelly
Is it possible for an entire NYC magazine staff to collectively crush on a country artist? Apparently the answer is yes. Sonia Leigh blends country, blues, rock and soul so masterfully that I could’ve probably made a fortune selling “I ♥ Sonia Leigh” T-shirts after her recent visit to the LHJ offices. Even despite the fact that she was battling a cold, Leigh (accompanied by bandmate/guitarist Will Harrison*) belted out five tunes for us on the eve of the release of her latest CD, 1978 December, wowing everyone with her thoughtful lyrics and raw, honest delivery. From the tongue-in-(liquored-up) cheek “Bar” to the achingly wistful title track, Leigh more than proved why she’s currently billed as a Listen Up! Artist over at CMT. Some staffers picked up a Janis Joplin vibe, while others threw out names like Lucinda Williams and even Johnny Cash. (The fact that she’s an Arrested Development fan who’s Tweeted us a favorite catchphrase only makes us love her more.)
* “I ♥ Will Harrison” T-shirts sold separately.
1978 December is a release off of Zac Brown‘s Southern Ground Artists label, and Brown (a close friend and mentor) appears twice on the record (“Bar”, “Roaming”). There’s also a great guest vocal from Amy Ray on “Virginia” for all you Indigo Girls fans out there.
Be sure to check out our up-close-and-personal video (below) of Leigh and Harrison entertaining our staff with acoustic versions of “Ain’t Dead Yet”, the highly addictive “My Name is Money” and “1978 December.” Once you’re hooked (and you will be … so just let me know your shirt size), continue on after the jump for bonus footage of Leigh getting us thirsty with the CD’s “Bar” and “A Poem From the Ocean Floor.”
Categories: Entertainment, Fun, Ladies' Lounge | Tags: Amy Ray, Arrested Development, CMT, Indigo Girls, My Name Is Money, Nashville, Sonia Leigh, Southern Ground, Will Harrison, Zac Brown | 5 Comments
September 22, 2011 at 3:26 pm , by Ron Kelly
One week to go! You have through September 30 to enter to win a trip to Nashville, including tickets to the Grand Ole Opry and a visit (plus lunch!) with Margaret in the studio. Watch the video for more details and click here to enter. After the video, read on to find out about Margaret’s continuing work on her upcoming album, all while she planned some downtime on a frantic yet fabulous European family vacation.
When I was a kid, I was convinced that time sped up during the month of August. The threat of a new school year would loom over me and I would lust after the month of June, where there were an infinite number of days to play outside and go to the beach. Now I think it’s downright funny that I used to dread the devastation that is (gasp!) the end of the summer because I love the fall. It’s my favorite of the seasons, for so many reasons. (Uhm, no, that rhyme was not intentional by the way.) Autumn is so full of anticipation and everyone is rejuvenated by their summer that they’re ready to tackle all the big goals they’ve set for themselves. And let’s face it, the clothes and the shoes are so much more exciting in the fall … and it’s not so dang hot outside.
Last I left you all, I was telling you about being in the studio and finishing up the vocals on 5 new songs we’d tracked for my upcoming album. The next steps in the whole process would be the selection of our favorite vocals; an overdub session (where the musicians come back to the studio and add new parts or change existing ones); a background vocals session; a mixing session; most likely another mixing session; and possibly even another one to redo the previous ones, depending on how fickle we are. Ha! As you can see, we weren’t nearly as finished with this project as I’d originally thought in my last post. Complicating things was the fact that I had long-standing plans to go on a big family vacation and the trip was landing smack dab in the middle of all this studio work. It all made me feel a bit anxious but, in hindsight, it was silly for me to worry. The recording process cannot and should not be rushed. My producer and label head, James Stroud, is as down-to-earth as it gets and he understands that while I have my musical family in Nashville, my family back home is very important to me, too. And besides—I was about to be heading off on my very own European vacation!
August 29, 2011 at 7:10 pm , by Ron Kelly
When I first met Coldwater Jane (sisters Brandon Jane and Leah Crutchfield) in June 2010, we were headed to a volunteer afternoon at the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. We all emerged a few pounds lighter (it was very hot in there) and I left very impressed at how how much fun they managed to have that day while also getting a lot of hard work done. Today’s release of their long-awaited debut CD Marionette proves to be another testament to this duo’s ability to put their heads down and get the job done, all while having some fun along the way.
One listen to the quietly defiant opening lines of “Tough As Nails” lets you know what these sisters from Lucedale, Mississippi, are made of: “They can tell me they don’t want me / They can tell me I’m not what they’re looking for / Believe me, honey, it ain’t the first time / It’ll mess with your head, but it ain’t broke me yet.” Don’t be fooled by the pretty music that those lyrics waltz across, sung in a palpably dogged vocal: These two ain’t messing around.
… Unless, of course, they’re answering a few questions for me for the Ladies’ Lounge. Brandon was my willing victim today, gamely matching my Monday silliness and even throwing down a dance challenge of her own to me. Read on after the video of Brandon and Leah’s LHJ performance to find out what the challenge is and how you can be a part of it as well!
So give us the Marionette CD elevator pitch: If you had to convince someone to buy the album in just the time it’d take to ride an elevator with them, what would you say?
It’s a heartfelt record from front to back, written by two honest girls about their lives. Joy, pain, heartbreak. It’s all there. We held nothing back.
I love the fact you two have written or cowritten every single song on the album. Was that a goal you had from the beginning or just the way the album shaped up?
I don’t know if it was a goal as much as we are two women with a lot to say! We could’ve written two albums’ worth between the two of us!
Which track was the most challenging one on the CD for you to write?
“Tough as Nails.” It took about five days for us to finish that song. It’s such an honest depiction of how we both have felt about our careers. It was like an open wound. Lots of choking back tears on that one.
Do you do any covers when you perform live and, if so, which ones are your favorites and would you consider putting them on a follow-up CD?
Oh, yes! We do “If I Needed You,” by Emmylou Harris—and “Red Dirt Girl”. I would love to record those. That is a great idea!! Maybe album #2—thanks, Ron! I also want to do a bluegrass version of Beyoncé‘s “Single Ladies”. Haven’t gotten Leah on board with that one yet.
In my head I’m hearing a killer cover of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” from you two. Should I give up on that dream now, or what do I need to do to bribe you to do it?
OMG! That is so freaking weird. We used to cover that song with our old band! Come to a show and we will whip it out just for you! I love that Carly uses the rhyme of apricot and gavotte in that song. What does gavotte mean? And how do you spell it?! [Editor's note: Gavotte is spelled as such, and you can listen to Carly herself explain what it is here.]
Interview continued after the jump …
Categories: Do Good, Entertainment, Family, Food, Fun, Ladies' Lounge, Relationships | Tags: Beyonce, Bring on the Love, Carly Simon, Coldwater Jane, country music, Marionette, Mississippi, Nashville, You're So Vain | No Comments
August 22, 2011 at 4:59 pm , by Ron Kelly
Find out how to enter at the end of Margaret’s latest diary entry …
It’s only been a month, but I feel like I have so much to catch you up on! I’ve played shows on both coasts, appeared as a guest on GAC’s Top 20 Countdown, tracked 5 new songs in the studio for my new album and even witnessed my older sister’s engagement! I wish I could list “cleaned my apartment” among those things, but there’s always next month … maybe. I try to remind myself to live fully in each moment but, truthfully, it’s been hard to get a grip on everything that’s gone down in the past 30 days. Luckily, though, I have the chance to reflect on everything now and share it with you!
Let’s start with my visit to the GAC studios to chat with Nan Kelley, host of their Top 20 Country Countdown. I was thrilled to be invited on the show, having watched it so many times in the past wondering if and when I’d ever get to be the guest artist. I had the #1 video the week prior to my visit and had no idea where I’d land the week I appeared on the show. I’d watched my video debut at #1, then go to number … nothing, then to #7 and back to #1 again, so I was ready for anything. Nan couldn’t have been nicer and she was so easy to talk to. At the end of the segment, she asked me to read from the teleprompter to introduce my video for that week. (Good sign, I thought. I at least made the countdown!) Then I read the words on the screen in disbelief: “Here’s my video ‘Maybe Tonight,’ at the #1 spot!” At that point, I’d pretty much lost any composure I had during the interview. I was just in awe of my fans who had taken me to the top once again. (Side note: The video went #1 the following week also, so to any of you voting, thank you!)