June 4, 2012 at 4:02 pm , by Ron Kelly
One could say there’s a lot of buzz around this year’s CMT One Country spokesperson. Just as Sara Evans is about to start a chat with me about her role with the country music station’s volunteer initiative, she’s stung by a bee. “It’s good,” Evans casually assures me, barely missing a beat. “It’s a little swollen but I’m fine. I’m gonna live.” Her stoic resilience really shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, this is the singer of the can’t-keep-me-down anthem “A Little Bit Stronger,” a National Celebrity Cabinet member of the American Red Cross and the mom of a blended family of 7 children, all ranging in age from 7 to 13. So while the bee might have picked the wrong lady to mess with, CMT on the other hand seems to have chosen wisely.
“Well, CMT viewers are country fans and country fans are without a doubt, in my opinion, the most charitable, giving, caring, down-home people,” says Evans, who’ll be shouting out to CMT One Country’s volunteer efforts this Wednesday during the 2012 CMT Music Awards. “I’m a farm kid from a town of 1,200 people in Missouri,” Evans continues. “Everything about me speaks to exactly what country fans are. And my mom was really big on always inviting people over and feeding people, helping them out, giving away our clothes—just everything she could do to help people less fortunate than us.”
As she looks forward to her work with CMT One Country, Evans is especially drawn to one of the initiative’s ongoing six partnerships. “I love the BackPack Program,” she says, referring to Feeding America’s growing effort to get bags of nutritious and easy-to-prepare food to students who are struggling with hunger issues at home. Each year, bags of food assembled at more than 150 local food banks are distributed at the end of the week to nearly 230,000 children. “The fact that there are people who can’t afford school lunches just blows me away,” Evans says, “so I’d like to get more involved with that. It’s a really nice, really sweet program.” (It’s also sweet that, in lieu of providing pricey artist gift bags to those appearing at their awards show, CMT makes a group donation to the BackPack Program at Feeding America’s local Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee.)
In addition to being on hand to promote the CMT One Country initiative during Wednesday night’s award show, Evans also has the honor of competing in the Female Video of the Year category, in which she’s nominated for “My Heart Can’t Tell You No.” Asked whom she’d favor in her category other than herself, Evans’ decision comes pretty easily. “I’d probably have to go with Miranda Lambert, [nominated for “Over You”],” she says. “She’s just cool. I met her when she was on Nashville Star and I told her she was going to win. She was so sweet and I like her because she’s remained very humble and down-to-earth. And I think she has a really cool voice.”
Believe it or not, picking an outfit for the awards seems to be the biggest source of stress for Evans, who is currently headlining concert dates across the country and gearing up to promote “Anywhere,” her newest single. “I swear to you, I literally will pick [my outfit] out an hour before the show. I’m such a country girl, so low-maintenance,” the songstress says, before poking a little fun at how she handles the whole fashion decision-making process. “Maybe it’s because I think I’m just so beautiful that everything’s going to look great. Maybe I’m just that delusional,” she offers with a laugh. Well, we don’t buy that for a minute—and we have a feeling she’ll look positively buzzworthy in whatever she chooses to wear.
May 18, 2012 at 12:09 pm , by Ron Kelly
They may have just been crowned the Academy of Country Music’s Vocal Duo of the Year, but Thompson Square certainly flexed some potential Entertainer of the Year muscle when they visited us here at Ladies’ Home Journal a few weeks ago. Shawna and Keifer Thompson not only impressed the room with an intimate, stripped-down set of their hits (be sure to check out the video after the jump), but they also earned an instant, easy rapport with the staff and kept us all in stitches with their hilarious stories and banter. (One coworker enthusiastically emailed me her review after their performance: “It was like a 2-for-1 show—music and comedy!”)
Still, when the husband-wife act landed in Las Vegas last month for the ACMs, they were—to hear them tell it—feeling like long shots. “You’re going up against Sugarland and they’re kind of like the new Brooks & Dunn,” explains Keifer, giving props to the two acts that have dominated the Vocal Duo category since 1991. “We’ve been around a couple of years, but it’s really just been a year and a half that we’ve been in the thick of things. We figured it might take us four more years to even get close.” But luck proved to be a lady—and her husband—that fateful night: T2 hit the country music jackpot and became the first new act to take top honors in the duo category in 20 years.
“It’s hard to process all that’s happening. Just hearing you introduce us in there and saying we’re the Vocal Duo of the Year, it’s weird. It’s a strange feeling,” Shawna admits. “I kind of compare it to getting married,” Keifer adds. “You think you’re gonna have this amazing feeling come over you, like, ‘Oh, we’re married, and this is what it feels like when you’re married.’ But it doesn’t work that way. It probably took us 10 years for us to finally feel like a married couple. And that’s how all of this feels. None of it feels real. It’s truly a dream come true.”
While Keifer and Shawna remain incredibly humble, the award is far from being undeserved. Their breakthrough single “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not” was the most played song on country radio in 2011 and they’ve taken home three American Country Award wins plus multiple Grammy and CMA nominations in the past year. And in a few weeks they’ll be vying for two CMT Music Awards, with a double nomination (for both “I Got You” and “Glass,” their latest release) in the Duo Video of the Year category.
“We don’t have any kids but I’d imagine it’d be harder to say that one’s better than the other,” says Shawna, finding it difficult to play favorites with her video creations. Keifer is equally as torn, but ultimately does reveal a preference. “I thought ‘I Got You’ was a brilliant video. [Director] Wes Edwards did a fantastic job of putting that whole thing together and it was so different,” he says. “ ‘Glass’ is our new single and you want that one to win, too, but from an aspect of what deserves to win? ‘I Got You.’ Hands down.”
Whether they come out on top at the awards show, a win is definitely headed fans’ way when the duo heads back into the studio later this month to work on new music for their next CD. “We actually got about 16 things demo’d and we’re going to start to put some tracks down in preproduction,” Keifer says, noting that there will be a more diverse range of material on the new album than on the first. “We’re gonna have some really beautiful ballads, which we don’t really have on the current album—except for ‘Glass.’ We were just really scared about being pigeonholed with that whole ‘hokey married couple’ thing on the first record.”
The CD will still be rockin’, though, Shawna promises, proving she’s learned some lessons on the road from all of the extensive touring T2 has done. (Currently, T2 is opening for the red-hot Lady Antebellum Own the Night tour.) “It’s hard when you’re a new artist to go out and play new songs for people that aren’t familiar with you,” Shawna explains, “so it’s important to have some energy. When fans come to our show, they’re going to hopefully have a good time and rock out with us.”
For now, you can rock out with Thompson Square by viewing their fun-filled LHJ performance after the jump. You’ll also find some highly entertaining bonus interview moments, in which I get their he said/she said take on everything from KISS-ing on the ACM red carpet, what drives them nuts about each other and why Keifer may start following Blake Shelton’s lead on Twitter.
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
July 15, 2011 at 9:36 am , by Ron Kelly
Who hasn’t dreamed of rolling the dice and taking a shot at becoming a music superstar? It’s a fantasy most of us have probably entertained at one time or another—even if (like me) you couldn’t carry a tune if somebody wrapped it up and put it in a shopping bag with reinforced handles. That’s why we’ve talked singer-songwriter Margaret Durante into being LHJ’s lady on the inside. Margaret is one of Nashville’s freshest new talents and she’s currently living the dream. She’s also getting a taste of the heady highs and lonely lows that come along with living far away from home while she tries to get a high-profile music career off the ground. In a series of guest blogs exclusively for our Ladies’ Lounge readers, Margaret will allow us all to live vicariously through her whirlwind experiences, both onstage and off. Get to know Margaret in her introduction, below, then welcome her to the LHJ family, post a show of support and be sure to check back for further installments of her wild ride.
Hey, readers! My name is Margaret Durante and I’m thrilled that Ladies’ Home Journal is giving me the opportunity to offer you all a behind-the-scenes peek into my adventures down in Nashville. I’m just your average 23-year-old daughter/sister/granddaughter/niece/best friend who also happens to be chasing down my dream of living in Music City and making a name for myself in the crazy music industry. I currently have a single on the radio called “Maybe Tonight” and I’m finishing my first album after living here for four years.
There are four women in my family of five, so an issue of LHJ was never hard to come by in my house as I was growing up. Having the chance now to take you all along on the ups and downs of my musical journey is surreal, and it all started when I teamed up with the folks at LHJ this past June. I joined them at an event they cohosted with CMT One Country on the eve of the 40th Annual CMA Festival, during which 10,000 country music fans descend upon Nashville to attend concerts, meet-and-greets, fan luncheons and a ton of other crazy events that celebrate everything country. That week was a huge deal to me as I’m still fairly new to the scene. It was so great to kick off the week working alongside other artists at this incredible LHJ/CMT event, preparing backpacks of food at the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee for hungry children who might not have the means to eat over the weekend or summer vacation. It was a wonderful way for us artists to remind ourselves that we are part of a community that can use our collective voices to call attention to helpful programs like this. (Click here if you want to help!)
Continue reading Margaret’s first installment after the jump …
Categories: Do Good, Entertainment, Family, Fun, Ladies' Lounge, Relationships | Tags: CMT, country music, Feeding America, GAC, Margaret Durante, Maybe Tonight, Nashville, Second Harvest, Tennessee | 6 Comments
June 16, 2011 at 9:15 am , by Ron Kelly
For the second year in a row, Ladies’ Home Journal kicked off CMA Music Festival week by hosting a volunteer afternoon at Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. This year, though, the afternoon also served as a kickoff for our brand spankin’ new partnership with CMT One Country. Click here to read about how our partnership’s Do Good Rewards program can lead to you winning a trip to the CMT Music Awards in Nashville next year!)
We had some amazing musical talent lending us their muscles and elbow grease for the afternoon, including Steel Magnolia, Jimmy Wayne, Crystal Bowersox, Carter’s Chord, Margaret Durante and Coldwater Jane. Along with reps from both LHJ and CMT, these artists donated some of the very little free time they had during their frenetic week to sweat alongside us prepping supplies for Feeding America‘s BackPack program, which was designed to meet the needs of hungry kids at times when other resources aren’t available (such as weekends and school vacations). By the afternoon’s end, our volunteers had prepped 2,107 bags of food for the program! At the CMT Awards the next night, other musical acts signed some symbolic bags to be auctioned off to raise more funds for the program, to which CMT makes a generous donation in lieu of those pricey artist gift bags other awards shows usually give out.
To keep the spirit of our volunteer afternoon alive, LHJ and CMT are now partnering up for a Do Good Summer Virtual Food Drive. If you’re able, we’d love it if you could contribute to it, which will then in turn provide much needed food to programs such as the BackPack effort. Any amount is greatly appreciated. Of course, if you’d like to volunteer at a Feeding America food bank, that’s another great way to do good and make a difference. As you can see from the slideshow below (with Carter’s Chord’s “Love a Little Bigger” as a musical background), our volunteer afternoon was a lot of hard work but also a lot of fun. Click here to find the nearest food bank in your area. Be sure to let us know how it goes!
For more pictures from our volunteer event, additional info on the BackPack program and stats from Second Harvest, read on after the jump.
All photos by John Russell.
Categories: Do Good, Entertainment, Food, Fun, Ladies' Lounge | Tags: Carter's Chord, CMA, CMT, Coldwater Jane, country music, Crystal Bowersox, Do Good, Feeding America, Jimmy Wayne, Margaret Durante, Nashville, Second Harvest, Steel Magnolia | 5 Comments
June 6, 2011 at 9:09 am , by Ron Kelly
Nashville is gearing up to host its biggest party of the year and I’m just about busting out of my boots. On Wednesday, I’ll be joining in on the fun by camping out on the CMT Music Awards red carpet. I’ll, of course, be gawking at the scene’s hottest acts as they arrive for the show, but also asking them the questions you want to know. It’s country music’s fan-voted awards show, after all, so we thought the fans (our readers!) should also weigh in on what we should ask. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at rckcountrycat so you can keep up with all the excitement in real time.
Some really big names are going to be there: host Kid Rock, Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, Keith Urban, Little Big Town, Sugarland, Luke Bryan, Sara Evans, the Zac Brown Band, Shania Twain, American Idols‘ Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina and more. Even Justin Bieber (who’s nominated with Rascal Flatts for Collaborative Video of the Year) will be there!
So let me know your questions for the nominees and presenters. Fire away and post them below. I’ll do my best to get as many answered on the red carpet as I can. And if you just want to weigh in on who you think should win, let us hear that as well.
In the meantime, continue on after the jump for some videos from the talented acts that will be joining LHJ and CMT for our second annual afternoon of Do Good volunteering at Feeding America’s Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. We’ll be partnering with CMT One Country to help stuff backpacks for Feeding America’s BackPack program, which provides nutritious food to those school children who need it most. In fact, instead of giving out those pricey gift bags full of electronics and other goodies most awards shows give out to talent, CMT opts to make a generous donation to the BackPack program instead. It’s a great idea, and we’re thrilled about helping prep the much needed backpacks for distribution.
Check out the amazing talent we have joining us at out volunteer afternoon at Feeding America, including Steel Magnolia, who are up for best Duo Video of the Year for “Last Night Again” at this year’s CMT Music Awards. We were lucky enough to have Josh and Meghan visit us in the office this year to do a rockin’ acoustic set for our staff. To see videos from the other great artists (Crystal Bowersox, Jimmy Wayne, Carter’s Chord, Margaret Durante and Coldwater Jane) we’re excited to have joining us for our volunteer adventure, read on after the jump:
Categories: Do Good, Entertainment, Family, Fashion, Fun, Ladies' Lounge | Tags: American Idol, CMT, country music, Feeding America, Jason Aldean, Justin Bieber, Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Lauren Alaina, Luke Bryan, Nashville, Rascal Flatts, red carpet, Sara Evans, Scotty MCreery, Shania Twain, Sugarland, Zac Brown | 2 Comments
January 25, 2011 at 10:54 am , by Sonia Harmon
This week CMT premieres its first scripted sitcom, Working Class, about a single mother struggling to provide for her family. Comedienne and actress Melissa Peterman, 39 (who’s well known for her role on Reba and for hosting CMT’s competition show The Singing Bee), plays Carli, a woman who’s funny and endearing, much like Peterman herself. “It’s a show you can watch with your kids,” she said. “I love that it talks about what many Americans are going through now, living paycheck-to-paycheck—it isn’t necessarily a fun subject, but the show deals with it with a sense of hope and a sense of humor. Instead of saying what we don’t have, it’s about saying look at what we do have.”
What makes me a lady: It’s my ability to say, “I need help.” There is no such thing as supermom—so I ask for help from my family and friends.
Favorite guilty pleasure: Bad candy, like nerds, dots and skittles. And watching The Real Housewives series on Bravo. New York is my favorite but they’ve all got something that I enjoy.
Three things on my life list: Do a play on Broadway, have Prince sing at my 40th birthday party, and have my son grow up to be happy and healthy with a great sense of humor.
If I could have a super power, it would be: The ability to make skinny jeans not leave marks on my skin when I take them off.
Ladies I admire: Of course, Reba McEntire! Also Carol Burnett, Tina Fey, my mom and Jane Lynch.
Working Class premieres Friday, January 28th at 8 p.m. on CMT.