Thompson Square and Eli Young Band Living It Up Down Under This Week

Eli Young Band/Thompson Square via TwitterAustralia is starting to look pretty country these days, as the stars make their way to perform at the annual CMC Rocks the Hunter festival this weekend.

Thompson Square's Keifer and Shawna Thompson enjoyed some sailing on the Sydney Harbor Thursday, while Eli Young Band downed a few beers in Brisbane with their road crew.

Toby Keith headlines the CMC Rocks the Hunter festival. Love and Theft and Kellie Pickler are among the other stars on the bill.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Country Star Trivia

Comstock/ThinkstockJerrod Niemann had a hand in writing which one of Garth Brooks' middle-2000s hits? ANSWER: "Good Ride Cowboy."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Kelly Clarkson’s New Album Is “Left of Center,” Says Recording Engineer

RCA RecordsKelly Clarkson's got a bun in the oven, but that's not the only thing she's got going on: she's also working on a new album that's set for release later this year.  And to hear one of her recording engineers talk, the new music will be a little different from what we've come to expect from the Grammy-winning singer.

Jesse Shatkin, a songwriter, producer and recording engineer who worked on Kelly's 2011 album Stronger and her 2013 holiday album Wrapped in Red, is also working on her new album.  He tells the website MuuMuse that the songs she's choosing sound "a little left-of-center and cool." 

So exactly how left-of-center are we talking about?  "One of [the songs] is kind of an electronic banger, but it has kind of a haunting melody that I think she was attracted to," says Shatkin, adding that Kelly's "really open-minded" when it comes to trying out new sounds.

The new album, when it's released, will be Kelly's official follow-up to Stronger.  It remains to be seen which one will emerge first: the album or Kelly's baby girl, who she's expecting with husband Brandon Blackstock.  She recently tweeted, "Okay my baby is moving like crazy in my belly this morning. Such a cool yet weird feeling."

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Luke, Miranda, Blake, Taylor and Strait Featured in 2014 ACM Awards Zinepak

ACMThe Academy of Country Music will release the Official 2014 ACM Awards Zinepak again this year exclusively through Walmart. The collection includes a 120-page magazine featuring this year's nominees along with a 31-song CD sampler including songs from Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, George Strait and Taylor Swift.

Look for the ACM Awards Zinepak at Walmart and Walmart.com March 18. The 49th Annual ACM Awards broadcast live from Las Vegas Sunday, April 6.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Nashville Notes

Burke/Triolo Productions/ThinkstockThe Band Perry will host their fan club party on June 5 in Nashville.

Jerrod Niemann is featured on the new ACM Sessions concert series live now at CBS.com.

Look for Luke Bryan's Spring Break concerts from Panama City Beach, FL to be featured on The Ellen DeGeneres Show Thursday.

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“Nashville” Recap: “We’ve Got Things to Do”

ABCRayna Jaymes and Juliette Barnes locked horns in a delicious catfight on ABC's Nashville Wednesday night. After signing with Rayna's record label, Juliette quickly undermined Rayna's plans for her career and made the signing announcement prematurely at a party to launch Rayna's new single. The power struggle erupted into a huge fight backstage. They later smoothed things over and performed a new song on the Grand Ole Opry, "He Ain't Gonna Change," which was highly appropriate for closeted country star, Will Lexington.

Worried that rumors of his homosexuality would derail his career, Will asked his girlfriend Layla Grant to marry him. She accepted despite feeling the cold shoulder from Will onstage and in the bedroom earlier in the episode.

The forbidden romance between Teddy Conrad and Deacon Claybourne's girlfriend, Megan, continued despite Megan's request for Teddy to stay away. Teddy and Rayna's daughter, Maddie, rebelled against Teddy's wishes for her to turn her focus from music to school.  Juliette got jealous when her boyfriend, Avery Barkley, approached her about producing music for his ex-girlfriend, Scarlett O'Connor.

Clare Bowen portrays Scarlett on Nashville, and she often uses the songs on the show to help her flesh out her character.

"They're always relevant," Clare tells ABC News Radio. "[Nashville music producer] Buddy Miller is very -- he's meticulous about song choice and finding the right thing for the right character. So, it's all interwoven."

What's even more impressive is those songs tie in with multiple storylines going on at any given time.

Clare explains, "It actually spans over what everybody -- something that everybody in the show is going through in different ways."

The new song, "He Ain't Gonna Change," is now available on iTunes. Nashville returns with an all-new episode on March 26.

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Miranda Lambert Loves Her Second Career as a Dog Advocate

Miranda Lambert via TwitterMiranda Lambert is fully committed to making music, but she's just as passionate about helping rescue dogs across the country with her Mutt Nation Foundation. The organization has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for shelters nationwide, but Miranda still deals with stray dogs on an everyday basis. She and her husband, Blake Shelton, make their home in rural Tishomingo, OK, where Miranda is known as the godmother of all stray pets.

She says of the Tishomingo pet population, "It's a problem there. Nobody gets their dogs fixed, and they're just running everywhere. Everyone knows where I live, of course, so they're constantly dumping them on our road."

Miranda recently held an adoption drive in Tishomingo to find good homes for those stray pets. Next to her music career, Miranda spends most of her time helping her four-legged friends.

"Everybody has that other passion besides music," Miranda explains. "Like, this is my hobby and my passion and my work, but besides that, when I'm not doing music, I'm constantly dealing with animals in some way or the other."

All those rescue animals can thank Miranda's first dog, Delilah, for introducing the country star to the unconditional love of a K-9.

"I guess about eight years ago, I adopted my first dog," Miranda says. "I volunteered at the shelter down in East Texas, and I was going on the road a lot. I was lonely, 'cause I was with all boys, and I just wanted a companion of my own. So, I adopted this little dog named Delilah, and then from there, it just kind of snowballed."

Luckily for her fans, Miranda is now climbing the country chart with "Automatic." It's the lead single from her fifth studio album, Platinum, due out in June.

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Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard Enlists Kat Von D for New Tattoo Honoring His Late Father

Tyler Hubbard via InstagramFlorida Georgia Line's Tyler Hubbard enlisted famed tattoo artist Kat Von D to give him a new tattoo paying tribute to his late father. The new ink is located on Tyler's left forearm.

Tyler posted a picture of himself with Kat on Instagram. The caption reads, "Thanks @thekatvond for an awesome day and an amazing tat that makes me remember the best man I've ever known. #freshink #portrait."

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Taylor Swift Begs Off Making ACM Awards Campaign Video in Her New ACM Awards Campaign Video

Big Machine RecordsTaylor Swift is up for multiple trophies at next month's ACM Awards, but she just didn't have time to make an ACM campaign video. Which we learn in Taylor's ACM campaign video.

In a hilarious new clip, Taylor tells her record label president, Scott Borchetta she's too busy to even talk about making a video. Then while she has Scott on hold, Taylor chats with a girlfriend about the joys of blocking a bad ex-boyfriend on the iPhone, and spends quality time with her beloved cat, Meredith, whom she calls "The Princess of Kittytown."

Taylor is up for Entertainer of the Year and Female Vocalist of the Year at the ACM Awards, broadcasting live from Las Vegas Sunday, April 6 on CBS.

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