“American Idol” Returns for a 14th Season Tonight with “Really Good,” “Really Surprising” Contestants

Image Courtesy FoxIs this the year that American Idol stages a big comeback?  We’ll find out, starting tonight, as the 14th season of the once-legendary Fox reality competition premieres at 8 p.m. ET.

Last year, viewers were positive about the show’s new judging panel, featuring Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr., all of whom are returning this year.  But still, USA Today reports that for season 13, ratings were down for the third year straight, and for the first time, the show was out-gunned by NBC’s The Voice.  Then, longtime Idol mainstay Randy Jackson left the show, Coca Cola pulled out as a sponsor, and later this season, the show will cut back to just one night a week.

On the positive side, the show is adding a new mentor, Scott Borchetta, the head of Big Machine Records and the man who turned Taylor Swift and Florida Georgia Line into superstars.  And the judges are bullish on this year’s batch of contestants. 

“There’s probably, maybe, five, six, seven people that I think are really gonna be duking it out, and then all the others that we’ve chosen have shown sides that are really surprising,” says judge Keith Urban. “When they get the right song, they really step up. It’s that classic thing where the dark horse can just completely trump the expected winner, and I think there’s gonna be a lot of that happening this season.”

Keith is also happy about the addition of Borchetta.  “I think it’s terrific,” he says. “I think he’s got such a good sense of how to find great talent and how to make the right record and get the right people assembled. I think he’s going to be an extraordinary addition to the whole family.”

Asked what’s changed about this season, host Ryan Seacrest jokes to ABC News Radio, “Jen has a whole new closet of shoes. So her shoes are very different this year. We’ve auditioned some of the shoes. And we’ve also auditioned the contestants.”

Seriously, the host adds, “We brought back a bunch to Hollywood who are really good. They’re all very different…there’s a lot of different textures on the show this year, so looking forward to introducing that crop to the audience.”

As for Scott Borchetta, the newest member of the family, he tells ABC News Radio, “You know, I’m having a blast. Working with these kids, it’s what we do every day at the Big Machine Label Group, as far as developing talent. So the fact that we can get in there and work with them now, before they win….when we’ve been involved with other shows, we don’t get to even talk to them until after they’ve won.” 

He adds, “Now, we have an opportunity to start very early on and really help them develop and make sure they’re ready for what their life could look like after they win.”

Borchetta notes though, that these days, if you want to win a reality singing competition, it takes a lot more than just a killer voice.

“What these shows have done is they’ve kind of leveled the playing field for great singers,” he explains. “So now, you have to be a great singer, but a lot more. You’ve got to have artistic vision, you’ve got to be great socially, et cetera. So I think there’s a real opportunity for us to go in and make them aware of all the things that they need to be, you know, to, to win this and be successful in 2015.”

What fans may be most excited about this season is the prospect of not having to sit through the dreaded results show.  As Borchetta explains, that’s a very good thing.

“In this media moment, we can tell the whole story in one night,” he says. “So many times, whether it’s Idol or The Voice or some of these other shows, that second night you’re going, ‘Alright, I’m waiting around all this time just to get to the last three minutes.’ So now you don’t have to. So now it will be a really great episode every night and every night counts, which I think is, is really important.”

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Nashville Notes

Burke/Triolo Productions/ThinkstockFrankie Ballard will perform “Sunshine & Whiskey” and his new single, “Young & Crazy,” on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! this Thursday night.

Jerrod Niemann‘s wife, Morgan, will be featured on TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress Friday night at 9 ET. The show will feature Morgan’s search for the perfect wedding gown as well as footage from the couple’s wedding in Puerto Rico last October.

Chris Young recently performed his latest hit, “Lonely Eyes,” and a few other songs for MLB.com’s Fan Cave Concert Series. He also opened up about his music career and getting mistaken for Seattle Mariners pitcher Chris Young during show’s interview portion.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Hunter Hayes Thanks Fans for Nod at Tonight’s People’s Choice Awards

Image Courtesy Warner Music NashvilleHunter Hayes‘ fans got him a Favorite Male Country Artist nomination at Wednesday night’s People’s Choice Awards. He’s up against Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley, Luke Bryan and Tim McGraw in the category, and Hunter is especially grateful for the fan-voted nod.

He says, “Fan-voted things are special because, you know, they’re voting from the heart. They see the shows. They listen to the music, and they see a lot of great performances, and they hear a lot of great music.”

Hunter spends most of his life committed to making his albums and live shows the best they can be. Getting this confirmation that the fans like what he’s doing means a lot to him.

Hunter adds with a laugh, “That kind of thing just makes you feel a lot better about yourself and what you’re doing. It’s a big deal, man.”

Hunter will join fellow nominees The Band Perry and Lady Antebellum at the People’s Choice Awards. Lady A will also perform on the show, airing live Wednesday night at 9 ET on CBS.

Here are the People’s Choice Awards nominees in the country categories:

Favorite Male Country Artist
Blake Shelton
Brad Paisley
Hunter Hayes
Luke Bryan
Tim McGraw

Favorite Female Country Artist
Carrie Underwood
Dolly Parton
Faith Hill
Lucy Hale
Miranda Lambert

Favorite Country Group
The Band Perry
Florida Georgia Line
Lady Antebellum
Rascal Flatts
Zac Brown Band

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Brandy Clark Touring with Alan Jackson, Performing on “Good Morning America” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers”

Image Courtesy Becky Fluke/EB MediaBrandy Clark is kicking off 2015 with a spot on a major tour and two big TV performances. She’s headed out with Alan Jackson on his 25th Anniversary tour starting this Thursday in Florida and running through mid-May.  On Monday, January 12, Brandy will perform on ABC’s Good Morning America and NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers.

Brandy is up for Best New Artist and Best Country Album for 12 Stories at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards, airing February 8 on CBS. She won Song of the Year at the CMA Awards last November for co-writing the Kacey Musgraves single “Follow Your Arrow.”

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Lady Antebellum Taking Hunter Hayes and Sam Hunt on Wheels Up 2015 Tour

Image Courtesy Greenroom PRLady Antebellum will launch their Wheels Up 2015 tour with a run through Europe and Australia starting February 28. The North American leg of the trek will launch May 1 in Lubbock, Texas. Sam Hunt and Hunter Hayes are the opening acts on most of Lady A’s dates through the fall.

The group’s Charles Kelley says, “Being able to play off each other on that stage is honestly where we have the most fun, and I have a feeling the crowd will already be on their feet when we get out there after starting the night with Hunter and Sam!”

As part of the tour, Lady Antebellum is extending their 7FOR7 initiative, in conjunction with Quickens Loans, to pay the mortgages of seven families across the country for one year. Lady A started the 7FOR7 initiative by granting seven wishes for seven fans the week their latest album, 747, was released last year.

Here are the Wheels Up 2015 Tour cities:

Oslo, Norway
Stockholm, Sweden
Glasgow, Scotland
Dublin, Ireland
London, England
Ipswhich, Queensland
Sydney, Australia
Melbourne, Australia
Lubbock, TX
Dallas, TX
Houston, TX
St. Louis, MO
Indianapolis, IN
Cincinnati, OH
Holmdel, NJ
Mansfield, MA
Saratoga Springs, NY
New York, NY
Bristow, VA
Toronto, ON (CAN)
Detroit, MI
Cleveland, OH
Sacramento, CA
Mountain View, CA
San Diego, CA
Los Angeles, CA
Phoenix, AZ
Albuquerque, NM
Bentonville, AR
Southaven, MS
Atlanta, GA
Eau Claire, WI
Omaha, NE
Camrose, AB (CAN)
Charlotte, NC
Raleigh, NC
Virginia Beach, VA
Hershey, PA
Hartford, CT
Tulsa, OK
Kansas City, KS
Chicago, IL
Birmingham, AL
Tampa, FL
West Palm Beach, FL
Pittsburgh, PA
Philadelphia, PA

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Reba Is Back with Fiery New Single, “Going Out Like That”

Image Courtesy BMLG/StarstruckReba is back with a brand-new single, “Going Out Like That,” available now at iTunes. It’s the lead single from her upcoming studio album. As soon as she heard the song, Reba knew she wanted to have “Going Out Like That” on her new project.

“When you listen to thousands of songs trying to find just the right one to record, a really great song jumps out at you,” Reba says. “That’s exactly what ‘Going Out Like That’ did to me!”

“Going Out Like That” was originally written from a male perspective, but Reba had the writers tweak the lyrics a bit so she could sing it.

Reba’s next album will be out in April.

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Blake Shelton Will Be Host and Musical Guest on “Saturday Night Live” January 24

Image Courtesy Warner Music NashvilleBlake Shelton will be the host and musical guest on NBC’s Saturday Night Live January 24. He joins the ranks of Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and Taylor Swift as country artists who have performed double-duty on the show. Of course, Blake is one of NBC’s biggest stars these days, thanks to his role as a coach on The Voice.

It doesn’t look like Blake’s wife, Miranda Lambert, will be making a cameo on SNL, though. She’s got a show in West Virginia that night.

Blake was also rumored to be performing the national anthem at the Super Bowl coming up February 1, but his rep tells ABC News Radio those reports are false.

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Garth Brooks Taking World Tour to Denver March 20 and 21

Image Courtesy Pearl/RCAGarth Brooks is taking his World Tour to Denver for the first time in more than 18 years. As always, Trisha Yearwood is on the bill with Garth for the two shows, set for March 20 and 21 at the Pepsi Center. Tickets go on sale Friday, January 16 at AltitudeTickets.com/Garth or 1-844-63GARTH.

Garth may add more shows once ticket demand is determined on the on-sale date.

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Country Star Trivia

Comstock/ThinkstockMiranda Lambert and Chris Young both got their first national TV exposure competing on which singing competition? ANSWER: Nashville Star.

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Scotty McCreery Digging Deeper into His Country Roots on Next Studio Album

Image Courtesy Mercury NashvilleScotty McCreery first got the nation’s attention trying out for American Idol with Josh Turner‘s decidedly country hit, “Your Man.” Since winning Idol in 2011, Scotty has blended his love of classic country with the current pop-influenced sounds of today to produce hits like “See You Tonight.” That’s all changing with his next album, though.

Scotty tells Rolling Stone, “I’m going to make a country music record. That’s what I had to try to convey to the label, and they were all for it. The stuff I grew up with was that kind of music — I want to have some depth and portray a different side.”

Scotty will be writing a lot more on his new album, which he expects to release later this year.

“I love songwriting,” he says. “It’s a way to explore what’s going on upstairs.”

Look for Scotty’s next single to be the lead release from the new album.

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