This year's CMA Music Festival brought country fans closer than ever to their favorite musicians through signings and fan parties. While LP Field was the place to be each night to catch some of country's more established singers, the smaller stages throughout the four-day festival introduced some refreshing new talent to the country music scene. Give each artist a listen, I think you'll like what you hear.
One of the most comical musicians I've interviewed, Jake Owen sure knows how to make those around him laugh. When asked about his dog touring with him, Jake informed the press room that his dog was just neutered, adding, "I realize I need to get neutered. I would probably chill out a lot if that happened." Coincidentally, the room erupted in laughter.
While his debut album, Startin' With Me has garnered much success, recent release Easy Does It isn't too far behind. With first single, "Don't Think I Can't Love You," winning praises from critics and fans alike, Owen is sure to be following in the footsteps of country's great legends. Whether it's his heartwarming ballads or edgier, rowdy tracks like "Eight Second Ride," Owen brings his diversity to the table, always leaving room for the unexpected.
Former Hootie & The Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker (photo above) has proven that successful pop rock artists can go country and still maintain that edge and uniqueness they're known for. His debut country album, Learn To Live, graced No. 1 on the country charts while all three singles off the album have received similar success. One of the most down-to-earth musicians, when Thursday night's show at LP Field was postponed three hours because of a storm, Rucker was found mingling with fans in the rain until the show continued. If that's not a true sign of character, I don't know what is. Catch him currently on tour with Rascal Flatts.
With a solid performance Friday afternoon at the Sommet Stage, David Nail captivated the audience with his heartwarming ballads and onstage banter. While hit single "Red Light" is climbing the charts, ballads like "Turning Home" leave a lasting impression on the listener. It didn't hurt that the recent newlywed dedicated a song to his wife onstage, surely making all the sentimentals in the crowd swoon. A self-proclaimed mama's boy, be sure to visit his MySpace to hear tracks from his upcoming release, I'm About To Come Alive due out August 18.
17-year-old Veronica Ballestrini has been garnering attention and numerous fans after launching her music on sites like MySpace and Facebook. Not to mention, current single "Amazing" is gaining quite a buzz. Her laid-back vocals and catchy melodies make for the perfect summer soundtrack. Be on the lookout for a digital release of her debut album, What I'm All About, and tour soon.
Her name says it all. Daughter of Hank Jr. and granddaughter of Hank Williams, music runs in Holly Williams' blood. Her latest release, Here With Me, is a solid compilation of heartfelt tracks. Penning the majority of the album, Holly sings about divorce on emotional song, "Mama." Telling the story of her mother and the positive attitude she displayed when splitting with her father, it's one of the album's most striking songs. With such a stellar release and a tour on the way, Holly continues the strong family legacy.
Having won Top New Duo or Group by the Academy of Country Music and New Artist of the Year by the Country Music Association last year, Lady Antebellum were definitely a favorite among many at the CMA Festival. Hundreds of fans attended their fan party and autograph signing (watch live footage below) and they rocked LP Field Saturday night with hit song "I Run To You" and a solid cover of John Mellencamp's "Hurts So Good." Currently on tour with Kenny Chesney, Lady A is working on a follow up to their debut self-titled album. Giving a preview of one track at their fan party Friday morning, from the sound of it, the album is sure to be another smash for the trio.
Lady Antebellum Webisode of CMA fan party/autograph signing (and a proposal!)
You can also read this article on MarieClaire.com with my complete video interviews.