Cole Swindell’s Country Stardom Is Right on Time

Image Courtesy CMACole Swindell‘s career has taken off like a rocket with his first two singles both hitting #1 on the country chart. Before he set out as a solo artist, Cole spent three years as a songwriter in Nashville. After superstars like Luke Bryan started cutting his songs, record labels in town started noticing Cole’s singing voice on the demo tapes he made for his songs.

Cole says, “They would be like, ‘Why aren’t you singing these?’”

That encouragement from industry insiders led Cole to book a few shows in Nashville, and he felt right at home on stage. Still, he’s thankful for that time he spent in the trenches writing songs. It gave him a chance to learn the ropes of the music business before he stepped into the spotlight.

“I think everything needs to be ready when you get your shot, ’cause sometimes you don’t get but one,” Cole explains. “I’m gonna give it all I got.”

Cole is nominated for ACM New Artist of the Year, and fan voting is now open at The trophies will be handed out Sunday, April 19 on CBS.

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Carrie Underwood Loves Giving Her Fellow Country Stars a Pat on the Back via Text

Image Courtesy Arista NashvilleCountry stars took to social media to thank their fans and industry voters once the ACM Awards nominations were announced Friday morning, but there were plenty of texts and phone calls between the country artists, too. Carrie Underwood was certainly sending and receiving congratulatory texts with her famous pals, and she likes to keep that kind of digital encouragement going throughout the year.

Says Carrie, “In today’s world of technology, it’s easier to stay in touch even if you don’t get to hang out with people all the time. I mean, I’m texting Jennifer Nettles and Miranda Lambert and Kimberly Perry and Hillary Scott. I have good relationships with those ladies.”

Every time Carrie sees one of her famous pals do something big — like Jennifer Nettles making her Broadway debut in Chicago this week — she likes to shoot them a little pat on the back via text.

“Anytime anybody does anything good or you see pictures of them or whatever, it’s just nice to be able to say, ‘You looked beautiful. You sounded great,’” she explains. “Kinda get that extra bit of support and know you’ve got some more people in your corner. I think that’s really cool.”

Carrie is up for three ACM Awards, including Female Vocalist and Vocal Event and Video of the Year for “Somethin’ Bad” with Miranda Lambert. The 50th Annual ACM Awards will be handed out Sunday, April 19 on CBS.

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Super Bowl 49: Idina Menzel, John Legend Deliver Powerful Pregame Performances

Rob Carr/Getty ImagesIdina Menzel knocked it out of the park at Super Bowl 49 on Sunday.

Wearing all black at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, the Broadway star and Frozen actress sang a wonderful rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It should silence critics who felt her performance of the Frozen hit “Let It Go” during ABC’s Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve special a month ago was subpar.

Moments earlier, John Legend played a stirring version of “America the Beautiful” on the piano.

During NBC’s extended pregame show, Phoenix native Dierks Bentley performed his song “I Hold On,” while Gavin DeGraw sang his hit “Finest Hour.”

Carrie Underwood was involved with NBC’s coverage, too, although not live. The Sunday Night Football singer recorded a new intro for the Super Bowl referencing the game’s two participants, the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots.

Katy Perry headlined the halftime show.

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Alan Jackson’s Country Music Hall of Fame Exhibit Extended to June 21

Image Courtesy Country Music Hall of FameAlan Jackson‘s 25 Years of Keepin’ It Country exhibit has been extended through June 21 due to popular demand. It has been scheduled to close in March. In celebration of the extension, Alan’s 1955 Ford Thunderbird Convertible will be on display at the Hall of Fame February 8 through 16.

Alan saved his money to buy the car at age 15 and worked to restore it with his father, Gene. He drove the car when he first started dating his wife, Denise, but Alan was forced to sell the Thunderbird to get the down payment for their first home. Several years later, Denise tracked down the car and presented it to Alan for Christmas. It has since inspired his 2002 song, “First Love,” and appeared in Alan’s video for “Good Time.”

Fans have a chance to win a “First Love Getaway” for two to Nashville over the Valentine’s Weekend to see the Thunderbird and Alan’s exhibit. From now until February 6, fans who share their first-date stories at the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Facebook page will be eligible to win the trip. Full details on the contest are available at

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Kix Brooks Reveals Which Role on “Nashville” He Had to Turn Down

Image Courtesy Arista NashvilleKix Brooks has appeared in several independent films in the last few years, so it seems a little odd he hasn’t made a cameo on ABC’s Nashville yet. It turns out, the show’s producers approached Kix with a pretty meaty guest role late last year.

He tells ABC News Radio, “They gave me a great opportunity. Made me an offer to play a great part about a homeless person who had been in the music business and was kind of washed up. It was, like, six episodes, and I was just booked.”

The Nashville offer came just two weeks before they wanted Kix to start filming his part, but the shooting schedule interfered with concerts he’d had on the books for months.

Kix explains, “I really, really wanted to do it, but it’s not like you can go cancel shows because you gotta do another one.”

Even though he couldn’t take on that role, which went to film actor Mykelti Williamson, Kix’s winery, Arrington Vineyards, has benefitted from the tourism boom Nashville has created in Music City since it debuted in 2012.

Says Kix, “A lot of people that come to the winery are visiting here because they’ve seen the show, and they want to see it. It’s been a great thing for us.”

Kix is reuniting with his Brooks & Dunn duo partner Ronnie Dunn and their pal Reba for a residency at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas starting this June.

Of note, Reba is taking part in the taping of ABC’s Nashville: On the Record special Saturday night in Music City. Cast members Charles Esten, Sam Palladio, Jonathan Jackson and Chris Carmack are among the other stars slated to perform. The special will air later this spring.

Nashville returns with all-new episodes this Wednesday night at 10 ET on ABC.

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Billy Currington Plays the Romantic Leading Role in His New Video, “Don’t It”

Image Courtesy Mercury Nashville/Jeff JohnsonBilly Currington has released the video for his new single, “Don’t It.” The clip finds Billy taking on the role of romantic lead with his female co-star. He recently shot the video at Nashville’s Roxy Theater with his band backing him up during the performance portions. “Don’t It” is the lead single from Billy’s upcoming, sixth album, and he’ll be singing it on the road this summer opening Tim McGraw‘s Shotgun Rider tour.

Says Billy, “I’ve spent the last few months creating an album with [producer] Dann Huff that I couldn’t be more proud of. I look forward to bringing this new music to life out on tour this summer!”

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Scotty McCreery Entertained the Crowd at the New England Patriots’ Pre-Super Bowl Party Thursday

Image Courtesy EB Media PRScotty McCreery entertained the crowd at the New England Patriots’ Welcome to Arizona pre-Super Bowl party Thursday night in Phoenix. Scotty wore his “lucky” New England Patriots beanie for the performance, and even had his photograph taken with Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

Scotty will attend this Sunday’s Super Bowl in Phoenix to cheer on the Patriots as they take on the Seattle Seahawks.

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Country Star Trivia

Comstock/ThinkstockJay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts is married to a correspondent for CMT. What is her name? ANSWER: Allison.

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Kip Moore Puts a Live Goat in the Bed of Dierks Bentley’s Truck as Payback for Polar Plunge

Image Courtesy MCA NashvilleKip Moore wasn’t happy about jumping into a freezing-cold Percy Priest Lake near Nashville earlier this month for his tour boss Dierks Bentley’s Polar Plunge. To get back at Dierks, Kip painted Dierks’ beloved truck, called Big White, in multiple colors with the name of Kip’s new single, “I’m to Blame,” written on the side. Kip also loaded a live goat into Dierks’ truck bed and filled the cab with foam peanuts. A video of the prank is now posted on YouTube.

Dierks has threatened to vandalize one of Kip’s beloved surfboards when they head out on the Sounds of Summer tour together starting June 5 in North Carolina. Newcomers Maddie & Tae and Canaan Smith are also on the bill.

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Country Stars React to Their ACM Awards Nominations

Image Courtesy Academy of Country MusicReaction from this year’s ACM Awards nominees began very quickly after the finalists were announced via Instagram Friday morning.  Here’s a roundup of some of the stars had to say:

Garth Brooks — “Thanks @ACMAwards for the Entertainer Of The Year nomination! This tour is the best EVER!! love, g #ACMawards50.”

Kenny Chesney — “With two hooks, three rhythm scans and some of the most ingenious wordplay I’ve ever experienced, ‘American Kids’ is unlike anything I’ve ever heard. I knew it celebrates those people who lived life wide-open, colored outside the lines, thought more about life than they get credit for and have fun doing it.” 

Miranda Lambert — “When I looked at the list of ACM nominations this morning the first thing that came to my mind was people. People that believe in dreams and in art. People that play our songs on the radio and that work hard every day to help artists get the music they love to the fans. People who come to the shows and buy the records and sing at the top of their lungs.  People that are willing to leave home for weeks on end so we can get onstage and sing our songs. I’m so thankful to be part of something made up of GOOD people. Thank you all for this amazing life.”

Rascal Flatts’ Jay DeMarcus — “So honored and grateful to be nominated!! Thanks to the Academy, and all our Flattheads everywhere!! #acmawards”

The Band Perry — “We had just landed back in Tennessee early this morning when we found out about our nomination. The recognition by the Academy of Country Music never fails to surprise us and we are grateful to the ACM, our musical peers and most of all to our fans in country music.”

Maddie & Tae‘s Tae Dye — “We have watched these shows since we were little, and the idea of being in there with Brooks & Dunn and The Judds, Big & Rich, Montgomery Gentry, Sugarland…even before Florida Georgia Line...there are so many great duos, and we’re up there with them. It’s crazy.”

Kacey Musgraves — “The sun is shinin’ & I got some ACM love. Thank you!! So happy for my nominated buddies, too. Congrats, y’all! off to the string sesh for the record..”

Brandy Clark — “I’m so honored by the ACM nominations this morning! Song of the Year for  [writing] “Follow Your Arrow” and a nomination for Female Vocalist of the Year! How cool! Congrats to all the other nominees!”

Brothers Osborne — “Just found out we were nominated for a freaking ACM Award today! Kinda freaking out a little. #ACMnominations.”

The ACM trophies will be handed out April 19 on CBS, live from AT&T Stadium in North Texas.

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