country music

Country Spotlight: Margaret Durante’s Nashville Diaries

July 15, 2011 at 9:36 am , by

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.


Margaret at the LHJ/CMT event at the Second Harvest Food Bank.

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 …

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LHJ / CMT Do Good Volunteer Day at Second Harvest

June 16, 2011 at 9:15 am , by


Crystal Bowersox and Brian Walker at Second Harvest.

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.

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LHJ Hits the CMT Music Awards Red Carpet

June 6, 2011 at 9:09 am , by

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 IdolsScotty 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 BowersoxJimmy 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:

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Country Spotlight: Little Big Town

February 9, 2011 at 3:52 pm , by

promoWhat’s better than getting one of those fancy giveaway bags that they’ll be handing out at this Sunday’s Grammy awards? In our humble opinion here at LHJ, it’s having nominees Little Big Town visit your office and strip down three songs off their latest CD, The Reason Why. We were beyond thrilled that the band—Kimberly SchlapmanJimi Westbrook, Karen Fairchild and Phillip Sweet—could join us, as they were also busy rehearsing for their high-octane performance of “Little White Church” with the Roots on last night’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Still, they poured their hearts and soul into their acoustic takes on “You Can’t Have Everything,” “All the Way Down” and “Lean Into It,” which still has staffers stopping me in the kitchen and saying how much they were moved by the song about gritting your teeth, taking your licks and facing adversity head on.

“We were writing the record and we were talking about this great journey that we’ve had as a band,” Fairchild told us about the creative process behind “Lean Into It”, “and how much perseverance it takes just to do the things that we’ve been able to accomplish. Our producer [Wayne Kirkpatrick] played this beautiful hook and then we started thinking about our families and just what’s going on in the States, with people really struggling. So this is kind of our gift back to our fans, about keeping the faith and pushing through.”

As for the instantly addicting “All the Way Down”? “It was just a lot of fun to write and it’s a lot of fun to sing live because, even if people haven’t heard it, they’re usually singing along by the end of it,” Schlapman reveals, with Fairchild quickly adding, “Especially if they’re drinking at a festival. They think they know it!”

Check out LBT’s upcoming tour dates and if you’re lucky enough to live in a city where they’ll be performing, do make a point of catching them. They do not disappoint out on the road.

In the meantime, here’s hoping “Little White Church” will lead these four down the little red carpet this Sunday and right up onto the Grammy stage to grab the Best Country Performance By A Duo Or Group trophy. And if you’re still in the rooting mood, the band vies to become the Top Vocal Group of the Year at the Academy of Country Music Awards on April 3.

So what do you think? Does Little Big Town deserve to take home the Grammy this year? Let us know what you think!

Country Spotlight: Steel Magnolia

January 11, 2011 at 11:11 am , by

SM_WP02_800x600You know it’s a good day at the office when multiple staffers report getting the chills and having the hair on their arms stand up during a guest musical performance. So far the count is up to three thanks to Steel Magnolia’s Meghan Linsey and Joshua Scott Jones, who stopped by the LHJ offices yesterday on the eve of the release of their self-titled debut CD. The album is a fun, fresh-sounding collection of addicting tunes featuring their trademark powerhouse vocals, which have just garnered them a second ACM Top New Vocal Duo or Group nomination. (Fan voting begins on Thursday, January 27, at

“We wanted to make a record that people would leave in their player for six months. To have on repeat,” Jones says of the debut record (in stores today), which is the result of a multifaceted relationship formed years ago with Linsey when they were both solo artists in Nashville. The duo penned the song “Edge of Goodbye” with a mutual friend and had started performing it together at writers nights when Steel Magnolia began to blossom. “People had to tell us, ‘You guys are great together. You should be a duo,’ ” Linsey remembers. “We were just, like, huh? I don’t think you ever think about that as a solo artist. You really have to push your ego aside and [think about] what’s the best thing for the music and the sound.”

The switch in career focus from me to us was admittedly tricky for Jones as well. “I had to check my ego, man,” he says. “I had my own band and I had to kind of swallow a dose of, okay, she makes things sound a lot better. She makes things better for me. In a duo or in a relationship, if you’re really going to make things work you have to start putting the other person first. When two people can come together, agree to do that and start working toward the same goal, that’s when the magic starts. It’s a real blessing that we found a sound—our sound—together.”

“It’s funny,” Linsey adds, “now I can’t even imagine being on stage without him. I’d feel naked. It’s a weird thing.” Weird, maybe. Entertaining, definitely. Their nabbing the second season title of CMT’s Can You Duet is a testament to that. And you can also watch their performance at LHJ and judge for yourself.


Continue on after the jump to read about everything from the surprises you can expect from their live shows to their dream musical collaborations, the one thing that really drives Jones crazy and what he says you should never underestimate about Linsey.

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The Band Perry’s Pumpkin Pie

November 10, 2010 at 10:37 am , by

Kimberly, Reid and Neil Perry have lots to be thankful for. The twenty-something siblings from Mobile, Alabama make up country music’s hot new act, The Band Perry. They’re currently on tour with Alan Jackson, and just last month their self-titled album debuted at #2 on Billboard’s Country Chart. Tonight the band is nominated for Vocal Group of the Year at the Country Music Awards—not too shabby considering that last year, they watched the show from a hotel room.

In a few weeks, the band will spend Thanksgiving—their favorite holiday—in Tennessee with family and friends. We asked them to share their must-have Thanksgiving recipe (and—bonus!—we got the funny story that goes along with it).

Kimberly’s (then Reid’s, then Neil’s) Traditional Pumpkin Pie

“We got the recipe from a great aunt of ours, who’s now passed away, but was almost like a grandmother to us. She was an amazing cook and one of her favorite recipes was pumpkin pie. I’ve made it since I was 10 years old. I called it ‘Kimberly’s Traditional Pumpkin Pie,’ and we had it every Thanksgiving. Read more

Country Spotlight: Josh Kelley

October 4, 2010 at 11:12 am , by

Music has always been a big part of Josh Kelley’s life, and it’s often been a family affair. As a teenager in Augusta, Georgia, he and brother Charles Kelley (now of Lady Antebellum fame) had a band called Inside Blue. They eventually charted their own courses and Josh went on to release six solo albums, hitting the top 5 with his hit “Amazing.” Then, while filming the video for his song “Only You,” Kelley met the woman who’d become his wife, Katherine Heigl. Now the two have a daughter, Naleigh, who they adopted from Korea last year, and the musical tradition continues.

“She’s got great pitch. I can go aaaaaaaaaa and she will find that note,” the beaming dad told me when he visited the LHJ offices last week for a private three-song performance that wowed our staff. “And I sit her on my knee and she can play the drums. I think music will come easily to her. It looks like it’s been in her since the beginning, so I’m pretty excited about that. When we first got her, the guy who flew her over from Korea said she’s going to be an opera singer because she held the same tone the whole time she was on the plane. And it’s like a 17-hour flight!”

Kelley is doing a little soaring of his own these days, having landed a much coveted opening spot for the CMT On Tour dates this fall, featuring red-hot headliner Miranda Lambert and special guest Eric Church. All this while his debut country single, “Georgia Clay,” has broken into the top 40 on the country charts. The nostalgic but upbeat tune was a big hit when he performed it for our office. Check it out here, along with two other songs from Kelley’s upcoming CD, due out in early 2011. For more of my chat with Kelley, read on after the jump.

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