Country Music

Willie Nelson plots 70th studio album, 'First Rose of Spring,' for April release

Legacy RecordingsCountry legend Willie Nelson will drop the 70th solo studio album of his career, First Rose of Spring, on April 24. The new release comes right before the singer’s 87th birthday on April 29.

In addition to a variety of original material, Willie will tip his hat to a series of other iconic artists in the track list of his new project. The record includes a rendition of Toby Keith’s “Don’t Let the Old Man In,” Billy Joe Shaver’s “We Are the Cowboys” and Pete Graves’ “Just Bummin’ Around,” a tune that’s also been recorded by the likes of Dean Martin and Jimmy Dean

As well as sampling some favorite cover tunes, Willie also called on a couple of notable artists to help him write the material on First Rose of Spring. For example, Randy Houser co-wrote the project’s title track. 

Fans can hear that  track right away, as Willie released the song and its accompanying music video when he announced his new album. 

First Rose of Spring was produced by Willie’s longtime collaborator Buddy Cannon, who also co-wrote several of the songs with the country legend. 

The new album is in keeping with a pattern for Willie, who has consistently put out at least one album every year since 2016. The new release follows his 2019 project, Ride Me Back Home.

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'You Would Think': Tucker Beathard’s new song feels the pain of a one-sided relationship

Warner Music NashvilleTucker Beathard returns with an emotional new power ballad that’s all about the pain of still caring about someone who no longer cares for you.

Called “You Would Think,” the song describes a breakup that ends on one-sided terms -- but Tucker says that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s about a romantic relationship.

“We all had different impressions of it while we were writing it,” he tells American Songwriter. “I was under the impression that it was talking about a kid and his relationship to his father. We kept it open to interpretation and we didn’t specify what we were talking about.” 

Speaking of fathers, one of Tucker’s co-writers for “You Would Think” was his own dad, Nashville songwriting legend Casey Beathard. By this point in Tucker’s career, the father-son duo have plenty of experience writing together, and the singer says they’re typically able to set aside their personal dynamic when they head into the writing room.

“You Would Think” comes off the upcoming second chapter of Tucker’s debut album. The first half of the project, Nobody’s Everything, dropped in 2018. 

It’s also the first song Tucker has shared since his younger brother Clayton was killed in a bar stabbing in Nashville last December. The singer’s relationship with his brothers has previously been the subject of his songwriting, too, and in the wake of Clayton’s death, Tucker posted a clip of his song “Brother” on social media as a tribute.

 Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

“Strait to South Bend”: George Strait reveals plans for Notre Dame Stadium show

Rick DiamondThe King of Country Music has a new stadium show on the books: George Strait will headline the University of Notre Dame’s stadium in South Bend, Indiana on August 15. It’s an unbeatable lineup for country fans, with Brothers Osborne and Chris Stapleton set to open for the legendary performer. 

The newly announced show is one of a handful George is planning for August of 2020. He recently shared plans for a stadium show in Minneapolis; Chris is also serving as direct support for that show, along with Little Big Town. After that, at the end of the month, George will head to Las Vegas for two more dates of his Strait to Vegas residency. 

Notre Dame is a particularly memorable venue for country fans, as it was the site of Garth Brooks' first stop on his stadium tour in October of 2018. Garth’s performance was the first-ever concert to take place in the stadium, which seats over 80,000 people. 

So far this year, George has delivered three performances, all of which have sold out. He's offered limited touring engagements since concluding his Cowboy Rides Away farewell tour in 2014. 

Tickets for the South Bend, Indiana show go on sale March 6 at 10:00 a.m. ET.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Zac Brown Band add new dates & musical guests to Roar with the Lions Tour

Diego PerníaThey may still be in the middle of their 2020 The Owl Tour, but the Zac Brown Band is already expanding on their upcoming summer plans. The group revealed five new tour stops on their 2020 Roar with the Lions run, as well as an exciting new pair of openers. 

Longstanding live favorites Old Crow Medicine Show will join the trek for two newly announced shows in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio and Noblesville, Indiana on September 10 and 11, respectively. 

Following that, ZBB have tacked three California dates onto the end of their tour, on October 23, 24 and 25. Rising country hitmaker Riley Green will join them for those stops, taking place in Chula Vista, Los Angeles and Mountain View. 

Tickets for the just-announced dates go on sale next Friday at 12PM local time. However, members of ZBB's Zamily Fan Club will have access to a pre-sale beginning on February 25. Find more info and a complete list of tour dates at

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Kenny Chesney’s long-awaited, perspective-finding new single is out 'Here and Now”

Warner Music Nashville After teasing new music for several weeks and even sharing the title of his next single, Kenny Chesney’s next tune is finally available for us to hear.

Here and Now” is the name of the song, which serves as an uptempo reminder of the importance of staying present in the moment.

Kenny and his co-writers, including “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” duet partner David Lee Murphy, wrote the song "Here and Now" while sharing cold drinks, soaking up the sun and telling stories about life. 

“This song kind of blew my mind,” Kenny says. “The chorus is everything I feel about that time onstage with No Shoes Nation...that rush of it absolutely being the best place, best moment in the entire world. There’s no rush like it.”

"Here and Now's" release comes just two days after Kenny accepted the Country Radio Seminar Humanitarian Award in honor of all the causes he’s supported over the years, such as his work to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Irma in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The song doubles down on the singer’s message of making the world a better place -- and savoring every moment along the way.

“There is so much in the world we can’t change,” Kenny declares. “You can get so caught up in that, you miss your life. I can’t save the world, but I can make music that makes people happy, play shows that let them forget their problems for an evening -- and occasionally cut a song that maybe reminds all of us what we ought to be embracing.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Country star trivia

Comstock/ThinkstockOn this day in 1958, one particularly rough-and-tumble country legend was transferred to San Quentin Prison after a failed attempt to break out of Bakersfield Jail. Do you remember who it was? ANSWER: Merle Haggard.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Nashville notes

Burke/Triolo Productions/ThinkstockAmericana legend John Prine announced that he’ll be taking a break from touring in order to recover from a hip injury. A post on the singer’s Instagram explained why John’s taking some time off the road, adding that he’ll be back in time for Merle Fest in late April.

Eric ChurchShooter Jennings and more are featured in a new documentary, Chasing Whiskey -- the Untold Story of Jack Daniels. The new film is a deep dive into the history and making of Jack Daniels whiskey. The documentary will be available in select cinemas for one night only on May 11. 

Kree Harrison’s new single, “Make it Easy,” is out today. Her sophomore album, Chosen Family Tree, is due out on June 12, 2020.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Frankie Ballard and wife Christina welcome daughter Pepper Lynn

ABC/Image Group LACongratulations are in order for Frankie Ballard and his wife, Christina who welcomed their daughter Pepper Lynn on February 8.

The couple shared the exciting news in a heartfelt Instagram post on Thursday alongside an adorable photo of a tiny leather jacket embellished with a pink rose, pink floral scarf and uber-cute stuffed animal.

"God gave us a DAUGHTER," she wrote. "@frankieballard I’ll never forget this unbelievable day with you and how my heart grew a schimillion times watching you hold our baby girl."

"Thank you Jesus for my sweet family of 3. My cup is running over and full to the brim. Pepper Lynn you’re a precious angel and beautiful gift from Heaven and I love being your Mommy Cue all the tears," she added.

The first-time parents, who married in March 2017, revealed they were expecting in November. At the time, the "Sunshine & Whiskey" singer had a hard time finding the words to describe how he was feeling about finding out that he would become a father but eventually he spit out, "Shock-tacular, grateful, awe."

"This is our first baby in here," Ballard told People while on the red carpet at the 2019 CMA Awards. "We’ve been excited to become parents for a long time... to have our growing little family is a dream come true."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

28 songs in 28 days: Eric Church's new album is "as far out there as I've gotten"

ABC AudioEric Church doesn't do things like everyone else, and nothing underscores that like the way he created the songs for his new album.

Wearing regular glasses instead of his signature shades, The Chief gave the keynote address at Country Radio Seminar in Nashville on Thursday. The theme was "Chasing Creativity," and he certainly did that with his new project. 

"It was time to do something nuts," he admitted.

To that end, Eric and his band took over a restaurant in the mountains of North Carolina that's closed in the winter, moved all their recording gear in, and set a goal of writing and recording 28 songs in 28 days. 

"I would write a song in the morning, and we'd cut it that night," he explained.  "For me, it's as far out there as I've gotten. But I think by getting that far out there, it really opened up some really great stuff, 'cause I was really locked in creatively: My antenna was up."

"Looking back on what came out of it, it was exactly what had to happen," he explained. "Everybody had to be uncomfortable, including the producer, the band, the writers...they had no clue what they were in for.  I think all that is what made it great."

Asked how many of those 28 songs are actually good, Eric said he's trying to determine that now, but he thinks, "a lot." 

He then played one of the songs, which is either called "Jenny" or "Jenny Let's Go."  He explained that it was inspired by the people who kept on telling him during the recording process that the generator -- which they called a "genny" -- wasn't working.

No word on when we can expect Eric's new music, which will be the follow-up to 2018's Desperate Man.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Carrie, Keith, Luke, Reba & more rock Nashville's Ryman Auditorium at CRS Event

ABC AudioCarrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Luke Bryan and Reba McEntire, all on the same bill?  That's what fans got to enjoy Thursday during Country Radio Seminar, as the UMG record label group hosted its 11th annual luncheon and performance event at Nashville's iconic Ryman Auditorium.

Each year, the label group takes over the venue to showcase its lineup of superstars and rising acts.  The show usually ends with a performance from a surprise artist, and this time it was Reba. 

The country legend has re-signed with MCA Records, the label on which she scored many of her biggest hits, and marked the occasion Thursday by singing her 1984 number one hit "How Blue," as well as "And Still" and "Fancy." 

Carrie Underwood had never taken part in the Ryman event, so fans were thrilled to see her step onstage.  She sang a song which she hadn't performed on her current tour because, she said, it's so personal: "Spinning Bottles" from her Cry Pretty album.

Last year at this event, Keith Urban premiered his song "We Were" and on Thursday, he premiered another new song, "God Whispered Your Name."   And since Carrie was in the house, of course Keith brought her out to sing their hit duet "The Fighter" -- and the audience went wild.

Luke Bryan nearly took the stage without his band, who showed up at the last minute due to, of all things, parking problems.  He performed the title track of his upcoming album Born Here Live Here Die Here.

Dierks Bentley's 90s parody group Hot Country Knights opened the show with "Pick Her Up," complete with mullet wigs, sunglasses, cut off midriff shirts and super-tight jeans.  Dierks actually reached into the fly of his jeans and pulled out a flute, which he then played -- or pretended to play.

Here's who else played what at the event:

Sam Hunt: A new song from his Southside album, "2016"

Jon Pardi: "Ain't Always the Cowboy," from Heartache Medication

Brothers Osborne: A bluesy new song which may be called "Skeletons"

Kip Moore: "She's Mine," in a medley with another song which may be called "Janie Blue"

Travis Denning: "Abby" (which stands for "Any body but you")

Brandon Lay: "For My Money"

Mickey Guyton: "What Are You Gonna Tell Her"

Parker McCollum: "Pretty Heart"

Caylee Hammack:  "Small Town Hypocrite"

Adam Hambrick: "Forever Ain't Long Enough"

Kylie Morgan: "I Break Things"

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Reba McEntire signs to UMG Nashville, readies first arena tour in nine years

Chris HolloReba McEntire dropped a huge surprise on fans today: She is returning to Universal Music Group Nashville, her original label home, which is where she spent the first 32 years of her career. 

Reba spent time with both Mercury and MCA Records, two of the four labels that form UMG. It’s been over a decade since she released an album through the platform: Her most recent project with UMG was her 50 Greatest Hits album, which dropped in 2008. 

In the meantime, though, the singer has kept busy, putting out her most recent album, 2018’s Stronger Than the Truth, via Big Machine Records.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to be back with the family where I started,” says Reba, who celebrated 33 chart-topping singles during her time with UMG. “I am thrilled because my catalogue is here at Universal and I’m really excited to revisit all the songs that I recorded many years ago. We’re going to have a lot of fun.”

To that end, Reba’s hitting the road. On March 20, she’ll embark on her first headlining arena tour since 2011. Rising artist Caylee Hammack will join as opening support for the country legend. 

In addition to her own tour, Reba will spend time in Las Vegas with Brooks & Dunn for the two acts’ previously announced residency. For a full list of dates and info, visit Reba’s website.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

“I Hope”: Gabby Barrett crosses 200 million on-demand streams with rising new single

Robby Klein/Sweet Talk PublicityGabby Barrett’s star continues to rise as her soulful new single, “I Hope,” eclipses 200 million on-demand streams. The song ranks in the top five of all on-demand country streams, clocking in at the No. 3 spot in Country song sales. Moreover, “I Hope” is sitting at the top of the Apple Music country chart. 

The searing breakup anthem is climbing at radio, too: Gabby’s single is in the top fifteen on the country radio airplay charts, and broke the top ten on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. That makes her the first solo female to claim that honor with a debut single since 2017. 

“I Hope” is Gabby’s breakout debut, following her run as a Top 3 finalist on American Idol. Highlighting her soulful, powerhouse voice, the song tells the story of coming off a bad breakup, and hoping that the person who broke her heart received the same treatment at the hands of his next love interest. 

Gabby’s looking forward to a busy 2020 ahead. The singer is opening for Brad Paisley on his 2020 World Tour, which kicks off in May.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

New Amazon mini-documentary, 'Velocity,' offers a behind-the-scenes look at Kane Brown’s career

ABC/Image Group LAAmazon Music has released a new exclusive mini-documentary, called Velocity, about the rise and reign of country superstar Kane Brown

The short film follows Kane’s journey from a budding artist who gained his first fans through social media covers of artists like Randy Travis, to becoming one of the genre’s top three most-streamed artists in the country genre.

“I’m incredibly proud of the family I’ve been able to build along the way, including not only my wife and daughter, but the family I have out on the road that works so hard behind-the-scenes to make it all happen,” notes Kane. “This Amazon Music mini-documentary gives fans a new glimpse into my world, including some of the incredibly hard moments that have led up to this point.”

He adds, “I appreciate everyone and all the fans who have been there since day 1, and hope that anybody that watches takes away one thing: That this is a family. And we want to do you all proud.”

In addition to watching the new film, you can stream the Amazon Original Live EP, Live from Los Angeles.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Maren Morris, Jason Isbell to headline 2020 Railbird Festival

ABC/Image Group LAMaren Morris and Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit have been named as headliners for this year’s Railbird Festival, which will take place in August in Lexington, Kentucky. 

The festival’s roster skews towards Americana and indie rock, with acts like the Head and the Heart, the Decemberists and Shovels and Rope taking the stage. However, mainstream country is well represented at this year’s Railbird Festival, too: In addition to Maren, Tanya Tucker will also perform during the event. 

The second consecutive year of the Railbird Festival will return to Lexington’s Grounds at Keeneland. A national historical landmark and premiere equine facility, the venue will offer festival-goers a curated bourbon experience as well as opportunities to bet on horse races. 

Remaining tickets for the festival go on sale Friday at 10AM ET. By the time the festival takes place on August 22-23, Maren will likely be taking the stage as a first-time mom -- she and her husband, fellow artist Ryan Hurd, are expecting their first child this March.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Kelsea Ballerini previews her next record with new live song at CRS in Nashville

John Shearer/Getty Images for Amazon MusicKelsea Ballerini headlined the Amazon Country Heat showcase at Nashville’s Country Radio Seminar on Wednesday night, and she took the opportunity to share a bit more of her just-announced third album, kelsea

Kelsea treated the audience to the previously-shared song “club,” as well as her current top-twenty single, “homecoming queen?” She also delivered a brand-new, never-before-played-live tune called “Hole in the Bottle.”

Other artists who took the CRS stage on Wednesday included Niko Moon, Gabby Barrett and Jon Langston. Country rockers The Cadillac Three also served up a slice of their just-released record, Country Fuzz.  The trio’s high-energy performance included new songs “Blue El Camino,” “Heat,” and “Hard Out Here for a Country Boy.”

Aside from “club,” “homecoming queen?” and “Hole in the Bottle,” Kelsea hasn’t shared many hints about the track list for her upcoming new project. We won’t have to wait too long, though: kelsea will drop on March 20.  It follows Kelsea’s 2017 sophomore effort, Unapologetically.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Luke Combs adds new, in-the-round dates to 2020 What You See is What You Get Tour

ABC/Todd WawrychukLuke Combs just launched his 2020 What You Get Tour earlier this month, but the country superstar is already making big plans for later in the year: He’s extending the run to include several more dates this fall and winter. 

For the newly-confirmed dates, Luke will mount a new, in-the-round style stage design. Joining him will be current opening acts Ashley McBrydeDrew Parker and Ray Fulcher

Additionally, the fall run will include some landmark dates for Luke, including his debut headlining performance at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. He’ll play the iconic stage on Dec. 1; tickets for that show and the bulk of the rest of the new stops go on sale next Friday at 10AM local time. 

Before launching the next leg of his tour, Luke will deliver six consecutive sold-out shows in April and May. The tour is named for his critically acclaimed new album, What You See is What You Get, which came out last November. 

Here’s the itinerary for the newly announced dates on Luke’s tour: 

9/19 -- Raleigh, NC, PNC Arena
9/22 -- New Orleans, LA, Smoothie King Center
9/25 -- Dallas, TX, American Airlines Center
9/26 -- Memphis, TN, FedEx Forum
10/2 -- Grand Forks, ND, Alerus Center
10/3 -- Sioux Falls, SD, Denny Sanford PREMIER Center
10/15 -- Eugene, OR, Matthew Knight Arena
10/17 -- San Francisco, CA, Chase Center
10/20 -- Billings, MT, MetraPark – First Interstate Arena
10/22 -- Salt Lake City, UT. Vivint Smart Home Arena
10/23 -- Las Vegas, NV, T-Mobile Arena
10/24 -- Bakersfield, CA, Mechanics Bank Arena
11/6 -- Chicago, IL, United Center (on-sale February 28 at 12:00pm CT)
11/7 -- St. Louis, MO, Enterprise Center
11/19 -- Jacksonville, FL, VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena
11/20 -- Fort Lauderdale, FL, BB&T Center
11/21 -- Orlando, FL, Amway Center
12/1 -- New York, NY, Madison Square Garden
12/ 4 -- Boston, MA, TD Garden

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Country star trivia

Comstock/ThinkstockOn this day in 1988, this iconic pair that frequently performed on the Porter Wagoner Show dueted on the Grand Ole Opry together for the first time since parting ways in 1974. Can you guess who it is? ANSWER: Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner.  

Nashville notes

Burke/Triolo Productions/ThinkstockStephanie Quayle is teaming up with Harley Davidson for a three-part video series chronicling her journey from learning how to ride horses to riding a motorcycle. She stars alongside her mother, who teaches her how to ride the chopper. The series launches on May 3.   

The Country Music Cruise has announced its 2021 lineup featuring a special appearance by Josh Turner, along with the Oak Ridge Boys, Lee GreenwoodMark ChestnuttJohnny Lee and more. The cruise sails from Florida to the island of Cozumel in the Caribbean January 24-31. 

Caitlyn Smith will celebrate the release of her new album Supernova with two headlining hometown shows. She'll perform in her music hometown of Nashville on May 7 at the Brooklyn Bowl before performing in her native Minneapolis at First Avenue on May 9. Supernova drops on March 13. 

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

90-day vegan: Luke Combs is determined to "prevail," but "looking forward to a good deer steak"

ABC/Todd WawrychukLuke Combs is now a vegan. 

Yep, you read that right. The deer-hunting, fast-food-loving country hitmaker has revamped his eating habits to cut out all animal products. 

It's not because he's overhauling his health or becoming an activist, however -- it's because he lost a football bet.

You see, Luke bet his keyboard player Neil Tankersley that his home state Carolina Panthers would beat Neil's hometown Atlanta Falcons. To understand the stakes, you need to know that Neil is balding -- save for the back and sides of his head -- and, well, Luke loves to eat. 

"The bet was if the Panthers won," Luke explains, "he had to grow his hair out for three months and wasn’t allowed to wear a hat on stage.  So, you can imagine how terrible that would have looked."

"But, on the other side of the bet," Luke continues, "he decided that I would have to go vegan for three months if I lost."

So how's Luke doing so far? 

"I’m still alive. I’ll put it that way," he says. "I eat a lot of bars, protein bars, lot of veggies.  And, if you’re not familiar with vegan, it’s no animal products whatsoever -- no meat, no cheese, no milk, no butter, no anything good."

Even though the "Does to Me" hitmaker still has quite awhile to go before living up to his part of the deal, he's determined to make it.

"I’ve still got about 70 or 80 odd days left, which is pretty depressing to think about," he confesses. "But I will prevail through the end of this! But I’m looking forward to a good deer steak after this is all said and done."

Look for a big announcement about Luke's What You See Is What You Get Tour coming Thursday morning. 

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

"It was so much bigger than us": Rascal Flatts discuss their 20-year career and farewell tour

ABC AudioWednesday at Country Radio Seminar in Nashville, Rascal Flatts came together for a retrospective look at their 20-year career, which will come to a close in October when they wrap up their farewell tour.

The chart-topping trio discussed their many achievements, such as winning the CMA's Horizon Award, becoming members of the Grand Ole Opry and picking "killer songs" -- classics such as "Bless the Broken Road," "What Hurts the Most" and "My Wish" -- which Gary LeVox described as "songs that have saved lives throughout the world."

Despite the group using the words "sad" and "bittersweet" to describe the impending finale of their touring career, there were still plenty of moments of levity -- mostly made by Jay DeMarcus.  He, Gary and Joe Don Rooney poked plenty of fun at their questionable fashion choices over the years, and shared some hilarious stories about their video shoots.

When asked to sum things up, each man spoke from the heart about the effect that his band mates have had on him.

"Both of you guys saved my life, and gave me reason and purpose," said Jay.  "It's been an amazing ride, and I can't imagine going through all we've gone through in the past 20 years without you guys....I love you both."

Gary spoke about the milestones the group achieved, such as selling out Madison Square Garden and playing Wrigley Field.  "The impact that we was so much bigger than us, and we'll miss it for sure," he noted.

As for Joe Don, he added, "The connection the three of us have together is so powerful and so way could I have hand-picked two other people in this world to do this with. What a blessing it's been."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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