Music Spotlight: Britnee Kellogg

Britnee Kellogg grew up listening to all the good stuff: Waylon, Willie, Dolly, and 90s country. But it was when she was just six years old that her life was profoundly impacted. She attended a Johnny Cash and June Carter-Cash concert. Smitten from the first note, the young girl knew she had found her chosen career.

“I knew that [singing] was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” she recalled.

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Music Spotlight: Jordan St. Cyr

Jordan St. Cyr is from a small town of around 1,200 people located outside Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. As a child, he remembers his dad showing him a few chords on a guitar, and then he took it from there. He attended a youth group at his church, and they asked if anyone was interested in singing and playing guitar. He was soon enlisted to lead worship.

St. Cyr recalled, “My competitive nature took over and I’d spend three, four hours a night just learning these songs and singing. It’s really what helped me learn my craft.”

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Music Spotlight: High Mountain Breezes

Nashville has no shortage of super-talented singers, songwriters, and musicians. For every hit song you hear, somebody somewhere had to write and play the music, engineer and produce it, and somehow get it to radio or streaming services.

Without these studio musicians, we wouldn’t have the quality of music we have today. High Mountain Breezes (HMB) is a collection of Nashville’s finest studio musicians who create music for other artists. But sometimes, these musicians want to make music for themselves, not just to accompany a famous lead singer.

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Music Spotlight: Scotty McCreery

Scotty McCreery

To say 2024 has been a banner year for Scotty McCreery would be an understatement. From his beloved North Carolina State making it to the NCAA Final Four to recently being added to the prestigious roster of Grand Ole Opry members, you would think that there wasn’t much left for the 30-year-old to accomplish.

In 2011, 17-year-old McCreery beat out Lauren Alaina to win American Idol. In June 2018, McCreery married the love of his life, Gabi, and in 2022, they welcomed a son, Avery. Since becoming a solo artist, the Triple Tigers recording artist has garnered five number-one hits, including the fan favorites “Five More Minutes” and “Damn Strait.”

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Music Spotlight: Skip Ewing

Donald Ralph “Skip” Ewing is a musician’s musician. To say that his singing and songwriting are brilliant is an understatement. And he can play almost any stringed instrument.

He said, “I don’t remember when I couldn’t play a guitar. I took a woman’s pink foam curler, took the plastic out of it, and stuck it up under my strings so I could play late into the night without the guitar making a sound.”

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Music Spotlight Follow-Up: Donny Van Slee

Since I interviewed Donny Van Slee back in 2022, I’ve always been intrigued by the chiropractor/country music singer who unashamedly goes to the beat of his own drummer. He was the first person to bring artists like Zach Bryan and Jack Johnson to my attention as they are performers that Van Slee likes to emulate.

Because his life is spread in so many directions, you can imagine my surprise when Van Slee showed up on Reba’s team on NBC’s The Voice earlier this spring. When he sang Lanco’s “Greatest Love Story” he was so good that Reba blocked Dan & Shay so she could have him all to herself. He was confident, showing that he was having the time of his life.

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Music Spotlight: Presley Tennant

Presley Tennant

One thing I have learned about TV singing shows is that the finalists are nearly always as good (if not better) as the actual winner. So, I try to interview as many country singers from these shows as possible.

Presley Tennant is a powerhouse singer from Norco, California, a horse town that is 35 miles east of Los Angeles. She was a finalist on Season 16 of NBC’s The Voice in 2019 when she was just 16. She has often been compared to Whitney Houston and Carrie Underwood.

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Music Spotlight: Flat River Band

Flat River Band

Flat River Band consists of three brothers Andy Sitze, Chad Sitze, and Dennijo Sitze, who grew up in a multi-generational family band. Performing alongside their parents and grandparents, they held residencies at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, and at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

No strangers to success, the Missouri natives have charted #1 hits on the bluegrass gospel charts and have opened for Natalie Maines, Alison Krauss, Ricky Skaggs, Rhonda Vincent, TG Sheppard, and more.

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Music Spotlight: Bettin’ On The Mule

Bettin on the Mule

Anyone who follows my blog knows I like a good hometown rockin’ country band. When I first heard Bettin’ On the Mule (BOTM) from Rockmart, Georgia, I instantly loved their energy.

The “Hometown Rock” pioneers consist of Jacob Wilson on lead vocals, bass, and rhythm guitar, who also serves as the band’s lead songwriter, new member Phil Beavers on lead guitar and backing vocals, Rick Norris on drums and backing vocals, and Shannon “Beef” Wilson on bass and backing vocals for the band.

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Music Spotlight: Due West

Due West is a trio of country musicians who met at a house party in 2004. Tim Gates, Matt Lopez, and Brad Hull are from the western U.S., but like many aspiring artists, they found themselves in Music City.

The three of them were all invited to the same party. As happens in Nashville, when everyone gets together, they usually sing. When Gates started singing, Hull and Lopez chimed in, playing and singing harmony.

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Clint Black Announces 2024 World Tour Celebrating 35 Years of ‘Killin’ Time’

Clint Black

Following three sold-out shows at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, Clint Black is going on tour to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the award-winning album Killin’ Time. He and his electrifying band will play the album top to bottom, along with many other number-one hits.

Black moved to Nashville over 35 years ago with his bandleader and longtime songwriter colleague, Hayden Nicholas, where he readily signed a deal with RCA Records.

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Music Spotlight: Josh Abbott Band

Josh Abbott Band

One of the bands I have been wanting to feature for a while is the Josh Abbott Band. With multiple hit songs having multi-million streams, they are hugely popular in their home state of Texas and across the globe. You may be familiar with the perennial favorites, “Settle Me Down” and “She’s Like Texas.”

They have also teamed up with megastars like Kacey Musgraves in “Oh Tonight,” Carly Pearce in “Wasn’t That Drunk” and Pat Green in “My Texas” to bring their music to an even wider audience.

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Becca Bowen Releases New EP, County Line

Becca Bowen

An artist that I have featured a few times in the past is Becca Bowen. I love her energy, passion, and big, beautiful voice. The South Carolina native mixes her authentic country charm with her background in gospel music and musical theater to bring us a traditional country sound with a soulful approach.

While Bowen has been releasing singles since 2020 and her debut album in 2022, it wasn’t until recently that she became brave enough to release an entire EP, County Line, where she co-wrote every song.

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Music Spotlight: Ashley Anne

Occasionally, you meet an artist, and you know they were born with a gift. At age 17, Ashley Anne wrote/released her first single, “Dear Dolly,” a song that she penned entirely on her own.

And while Dolly Parton is arguably the most popular country star on the planet, most people of Anne’s peer group only know “Jolene” and probably don’t realize that Parton wrote “I Will Always Love You” and may not have ever heard Whitney Houston’s version of it.

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Music Spotlight: Meghan Patrick

A name that kept popping up in my feed and on socials was Meghan Patrick. She is a Canadian Country music singer who moved to Nashville a few years back to make a fresh start. When I interviewed Mitchell Tenpenny in April, I learned he and Patrick had recently wed.

But it wasn’t until I saw her interview on the I Am Second platform, that I found out what all she has conquered to get to where she is today. I knew then that I wanted to tell her story.

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Music Spotlight: David Morris

One thing that I have learned by writing my column is that even though I prefer traditional country music, hip-hop, and rap are tremendously popular with the younger set. There have been a few country artists who have dipped their toes into the hip-hop music scene, but the most successful one I have encountered is David Morris.

Hailing from Charleston, West Virginia, country, hip-hop artist Morris is trailblazing a path by mixing trap-style beats with slide guitars, banjos with catchy hooks, and lyrical mastery with relatable lyrics. Morris has over 120 million global streams and has supported Kidd G and Jelly Roll on tour. The song, “Dutton Ranch Free Style,” recently received its RIAA Gold Certification.

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Music Spotlight: Drew Haley

Drew Haley

The first time I heard of Drew Haley was when I interviewed a remarkable group of country vocalists in 2020 called The Highway Women. I was impressed at how good each artist was and how they easily blended their unique voices.

But like so many who got their start during a pandemic, they just couldn’t keep the momentum going without being able to get out and tour.

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Brei Carter Releases ‘Twinkling Tales of Christmas’

Crossover country and southern pop recording artist, and U.S. Army veteran and Music Spotlight artist, Brei Carter just can’t wait to usher in the holiday season with her new seven-song debut Christmas EP, Twinkling Tales of Christmas. Known for having a festive and vivacious personality year-round, Carter’s new EP is a multi-faceted genre-hopping collection of originals that draws upon her established country, southern pop, soul, and R&B musical influences.

And while many cling to the cherished Christmas carols on which we were raised, at one time, each of those familiar favorites had their debut.

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Music Spotlight: Storme Warren

I often ask artists who influenced their careers. Well for me, not being a musician, the person who has most influenced me is the television and radio broadcaster, Storme Warren. Although I have little desire to become a television personality, I have learned so much about interviewing artists by listening to Storme nearly every day for 16 years on Sirius XM’s The Highway.

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Music Spotlight: Adam Hood

When I was sent the artist Adam Hood to consider, I listened to one of his songs, “22 Days Too Long.” I wondered, “How in the world has he not crossed my radar until now?”

Hood has labeled his music as “southern soul” and has collaborated with artists like Brent Cobb, Josh Abbott, Jason Eady, and Miranda Lambert (to name a few). He is known to the music world as a songwriter’s songwriter as he effortlessly tells stories of everyday life in a meaningful way.

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Music Spotlight: William Michael Morgan

William Michael Morgan has been in Nashville since he was 19. Many country music fans will remember his gold-certified hit “I Met a Girl” from 2016, which continues to be a favorite at engagement parties and weddings.

Morgan hails from Vicksburg, Mississippi, which is the heart of the Delta Blues and a seven-minute drive from the Louisiana state line. His dad introduced him to country music by covering Marty Robbins and George Jones tunes on his guitar. Then, when he was 12, he got his own guitar, locked himself inside, and learned to play by watching YouTube videos.

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Music Spotlight: Alexandra Kay

Alexandra Kay hails from the small town of Waterloo, Illinois, right outside of St. Louis. Like most people I’ve interviewed, Kay grew up singing in church. At a young age, she discovered she had a gift for creative writing/poetry. Her work was entered into contests for young writers. She got some national recognition from her short stories, and her parents were like, “Okay, She ‘s a pretty creative kid.”

Like many her age, Kay was greatly influenced by Taylor Swift. She wrote down her feelings in a journal, and many of these poems eventually turned into songs.

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Music Spotlight: Orlando Mendez

 I’ll admit that I don’t watch music competition shows like I did when I was younger. When I watch TV, it’s usually a mind-numbing procedural or mystery.

But thankfully, a lot of the people I interview got their start on a show and if they are country, they often find their way into my email inbox. Because the competition is so fierce, most of the artists pitched to me are outstanding performers. Orlando Mendez is one such artist and I feel privileged to tell his story.

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Music Spotlight: Whey Jennings

Whey Jennings is as great a performer as you would expect him to be, but his path to stardom has not been an easy one.

When the singer was around six years old, he picked up a microphone that Jessi Colter left on a chair backstage at his grandpa’s show. Young Whey Jennings pranced out onto the stage and began singing “Mamma’s Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.” Jennings’s grandpa Waylon Jennings shouted out, “Hey hold up there Hoss…wait for me!” Waylon went to pickin’ and when the song was finished, the crowd went nuts.

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Music Spotlight: Erin Kirby

Erin Kirby is a country music singer from the small town of Jasper, Georgia, just north of Atlanta. She got her start in music by being in pageants, the kinds that have talent as part of the criterion. She did community service-based, natural pageants that don’t allow makeup for ages nine and under. Erin completed in pageants singing pop tunes until she was about 12 years old. Pageants gave her a place to sing and showcase her talent.

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Music Spotlight: William Beckmann

When I was sent William Beckmann’s song, “She Can’t Be Found,” I was mesmerized. It sounded like something from Johnny or Waylon with a little bit of Elvis thrown in. Surely that young man who I saw on Instagram wouldn’t be singing a song that sounded like it was straight out of 1970s country. I was impressed.

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Music Spotlight: BoomTown Saints

NASHVILLE, Tennessee- Country duo Chris Ramos and Ben Chism who make up BoomTown Saints are an unlikely pair. Until a few years ago, they didn’t know the other existed. I wanted to find out how they ended up together, especially since being a professional country music artist was never on either of their radars.

Ramos is from southwest Florida but has been in Nashville for 25 years, where he started his career being an IT guy and then became a pharmaceutical representative. Eventually, Ramos became an independent consultant helping pharmaceutical companies commercialize their products.

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Music Spotlight: Anne Wilson

As I continued writing my Music Spotlight column, a new name kept popping up: Anne Wilson. In 2022, Wilson won a Dove Award for Pop/Contemporary Song of the Year, “My Jesus.” She won Songwriter of the Year and New Artist of the Year. She also sang a duet with Hillary Scott which won Bluegrass/Country Roots Song of the Year, “Mamas.”

The reason I had never heard of her before is because Anne Wilson, who is 22, has only been singing for a few years.

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Music Spotlight: Pryor Baird

One of my favorite groups to interview is the music competition show’s finalists. To make it to the finales of any of the shows, artists normally have talent in spades. The actual winners are often untouchable, but those who rank in the top 10 are usually fabulous performers.

Pryor Baird is no exception. From Season 14 of NBC’s The Voice in 2018, Baird had all four judges vying for him to be their team. While he would ultimately go with Blake, it didn’t really matter because not only could he sing with a bluesy, Muddy Waters grit, he was different. And more importantly, he was memorable.

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Music Spotlight: Spencer Crandall

I remember the first time hearing Spencer Crandall’s song “Made.”

The lyrics Cause soulmates aren’t found they’re made/ Yeah, we choose each other every day/ Even when we bend, we know we won’t break/ We just bounce back better ’cause/ Soulmates aren’t found/ they’re forged in the same fire/ Work at it even when we get tired/ Making ups out of downs/ doing all that it takes/ ‘Cause soulmates aren’t found/ they’re made stopped me in my tracks.

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Music Spotlight: Conner Smith

One thing that I have learned by writing this column is that the country music that young people like (who are the biggest consumers of digital music) is not always the same as the music that I like.

But sometimes artists can bridge that gap. Twenty-two-year-old Conner Smith is such an artist. I know exactly why he is so popular with the younger set. But it was his writing ability that impressed me most. He is a gifted songwriter. He has been writing songs since age six. He scored his first publishing deal at age 16. Not only that, I also learned that he was born in the same town in East Tennessee where my children were born, Cleveland.

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Kelsea Ballerini to Appear on CMT Storytellers on February 16th

NASHVILLE, Tennessee  –  CMT announced that GRAMMY®-nominated, multi-platinum country superstar and 2023 CMT MUSIC AWARDS co-host Kelsea Ballerini is set to headline the third installment of the famed music series “CMT Storytellers,” premiering Thursday, February 16th at 10p/9c with additional airings on Sunday, February 19th at 11a/10c (CMT) Friday, February 24th at 8p/7c (CMT Music) and Saturday, February 25th at 10a/9c and 6p/5c (CMT Music).

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Music Spotlight: Casi Joy

NASHVILLE, Tennessee- Casi Joy has been singing publicly since she was 5 years old. Her first performance was a talent at her hometown’s local talent show near Kansas City, Missouri. Not being from a musical family, her parents were a little confused by her desire to become a singer.

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Music Spotlight: Ashley Cooke

NASHVILLE, Tennessee- After hearing her on Sirius XM the Highway and seeing her fun and vibrant social media posts, I was instantly drawn to Ashley Cooke. I was excited to feature her in my column.

After winning the coveted Country Showcase at Belmont College, the communications major was just starting her new career path when the pandemic hit and forced the recent college graduate to temporarily move back home.

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Exclusive: Adam Warner Releases ‘Reason to Redneck’ Lyric Video

Adam Warner hails from the farm country of southern Illinois, quite near to where my mother and her family lived. This area is so consumed by farming, specifically corn and soybeans, that you really do feel as if you are in the middle of nowhere.

Just like my mother and aunts, both of Warner’s grandmothers played piano and sang at church. His mother was involved in theater and singing as well. He was certainly not the only one in the family who did music but would be the only one who chose it as a career path.

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