Darius Rucker to Attend Hermitage Grand Gala at the Kentucky Derby May 2

Image Courtesy Capitol NashvilleDarius Rucker is one of the celebrities scheduled to walk the red carpet at the Hermitage Grand Gala, an official event of the 2015 Kentucky Derby, on Saturday, May 2 in Louisville.

Pop star Ne-Yo and chef Bobby Flay are also attending the gala, and Josh Groban will sing the national anthem prior to the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby. The race will broadcast live May 2 at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC.


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Luke Bryan Leads Country Nominees for 2015 Billboard Music Awards

Image Courtesy Schmidt RelationsLuke Bryan is the lead country nominee for the 2015 Billboard Music Awards with four nods, including Top Country Artist. Jason Aldean and Florida Georgia Line have three nominations each, while Brantley Gilbert has two mentions. The awards are based on music sales, streaming, radio airplay, touring and social media presence for the period of March 10, 2014 through March 8, 2015.

The 2015 Billboard Music Awards will air live from Las Vegas Sunday, May 17 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.  Here are the country nominees:

Top Country Artist
Jason Aldean
Luke Bryan
Florida Georgia Line
Brantley Gilbert
Blake Shelton

Top Country Album
Jason Aldean, Old Boots, New Dirt
Garth Brooks, Man Against Machine
Luke Bryan, Crash My Party
Brantley Gilbert, Just as I Am
Miranda Lambert, Platinum

Top Country Song

Jason Aldean, “Burnin’ It Down”
Luke Bryan, “Play It Again”
Sam Hunt, “Leave the Night On”
Florida Georgia Line featuring Luke Bryan, “This Is How We Roll”
Florida Georgia Line, “Dirt”


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Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Loretta Lynn and Alabama Honored with Off-Camera ACM Awards

Image Courtesy AMA/Dick Clark/ABCThe Academy of Country Music has announced the off-camera winners for the 50th Annual ACM Awards. Luke Bryan will receive the Gene Weed Special Achievement Award recognizing his huge career success in the past few years. Eric Church is getting the Jim Reeves International Award for taking country music overseas with his shows throughout Europe.

This year’s ACM Crystal Milestone recipient is Loretta Lynn, who’s celebrating her 50th anniversary in country music, while Alabama is being honored with the Career Achievement Award. The band was honored as the ACM Artist of the Decade for the 1980s.

These off-camera winners will be recognized at the 9th Annual ACM Honors event September 1 at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.

The 50th Annual ACM Awards are coming up Sunday, April 19 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.


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Lee Brice, Randy Houser, Maddie & Tae and Chris Young Added to CMA Music Festival Lineup

Image Courtesy Curb RecordsLee Brice, Randy Houser, Maddie & Tae and Chris Young have been added to the lineup for the 2015 CMA Music Festival Nightly Concerts at LP Field in Nashville. The shows take place Thursday, June 11 through Sunday, June 14 with Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Florida Georgia Line, Zac Brown Band, and Keith Urban slated to perform.

Brett Eldredge, Sam Hunt, Alan Jackson, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Rascal Flatts, Thomas Rhett, Darius Rucker, Cole Swindell, and The Band Perry are also on the bill. Tickets for the nightly concerts have been sold out since last November.


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Thomas Rhett Is Activating His Fan Army for ACM New Artist of the Year Voting

Image Courtesy CMAFan voting in the ACM New Artist of the Year category starts Wednesday, and Thomas Rhett knows his followers will be working hard to make sure he takes home that trophy.

Thomas tells ABC Radio, “They get up and when they know that fan-voting is going on, they literally — that’s the first thing they do is they wake up, they eat breakfast and they go vote. So, it’s just amazing to have such committed fans.”

Thomas knows his fellow New Artist nominees Sam Hunt and Cole Swindell have a lot of fans supporting them for the win, too.

“It’s a fun, tough category,” Thomas admits. “That’s what I love about the New Artist category. There’s always three people there that have worked their butts off, and have all kind of had equal amounts of success. I guess it’s just gonna come down to who has more dedicated fans than the other one.”

As for this year’s ACM ceremony taking place in Texas, Thomas adds, “It’s gonna be a different dynamic for sure being in Dallas instead of Vegas, so I can’t really go play blackjack before the awards.”

You can vote for your favorites in the ACM New Artist and Entertainer of the Year categories starting Wednesday at VoteACM.com. The winners will be revealed on the 50th Annual ACM Awards, broadcasting live from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, April 19 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.


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Country Star Trivia

Comstock/ThinkstockGeorge Strait‘s son is a co-writer on his brand-new single, “Let It Go.” What is his name? ANSWER: Bubba Strait.


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Nashville Notes

Burke/Triolo Productions/ThinkstockThomas Rhett‘s new single, “Crash and Burn,” will be released to country radio Tuesday. It’s the first release from his upcoming sophomore album.

George Strait has released a brand-new single, “Let It Go.” He’s expected to perform the track on the 50th Annual ACM Awards coming up Sunday, April 19 at 8 p.m. ET.


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Kristian Bush’s Role in Sugarland Becomes Clear Listening to His Solo Debut, “Southern Gravity”

Image Courtesy Streamsound RecordsKristian Bush proved he could sing lead on a country hit with his top 20 single “Trailer Hitch.” Now, the founding member of Sugarland is stepping out in an ever bigger way with the release of his solo debut album, Southern Gravity. If you are a fan of Sugarland’s uptempo hits like “All I Want to Do” and “Stuck Like Glue,” you’ll find plenty of familiar elements when you listen to the new project.

Kristian tells ABC Radio, “I would say that the departure for anybody would be that you’re listening to me sing for the first time, but I would say that the consistency is that you’re listening to records that I make, and you’ve been listening to them for a while.”

Sugarland’s last album, The Incredible Machine, was released in 2010, and Kristian looks forward to listeners getting a better sense of what he brought to the duo as they listen to Southern Gravity.

“You start to understand that I produced those Sugarland records and that I wrote those songs with my friends and with Jennifer [Nettles],” he says. “So, as you listen to this, there are a lot of [familiar] rhythms. There’s a lot of [that same] attitude about how to make records.”

So, is Southern Gravity an idea of what Sugarland might sound like in 2015?

Kristian answers, “I mean, it’s where I am now. It’s what I did the moment we stopped running the bus. This is the next set of music that was made.”

Country fans will hear another familiar voice, Little Big Town‘s Kimberly Schlapman, singing harmony with Kristian on the song “Waiting on an Angel.”


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Trace Adkins Signs New Record Deal; Plans to Release New Music Soon

Image Courtesy Kristin Barlowe/SunshineSachsTrace Adkins has signed a new record deal with BBR Music Group and plans to have new material out later this year. The move makes Trace a label mate of Jason Aldean, Dustin Lynch, Randy Houser and many others.

Trace says of the deal, “When you’ve been doing this as long as I have, you don’t always get the feeling that the sky’s the limit. I feel that way right now. When I sign up for something, I go all-in.”

Trace is currently in the recording studio working on his 13th studio album.


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Steven Tyler Signs with Nashville-Based Big Machine Label Group

Image Courtesy Zack WhitfordAerosmith front man Steven Tyler has officially signed a record deal with Nashville-based Big Machine Label Group, led by American Idol mentor Scott Borchetta. Tyler confirmed he was releasing a country album during a surprise appearance on the Grand Ole Opry last week. That project is due out later this year on Big Machine’s imprint, Dot Records.

Steven says, “My earliest influences put me somewhere between the Everly Brothers and The Carter Family and this project is all about me paying homage to my country roots. I’ve been working with some f**king epic Nashville songwriters, getting my feet wet with their style and groove.”


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