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D A Y  T H R E E

Hangin' On, Hangin' In & Hangovers!
Friday, March 1, 2013

Article & Photographs by Raeanne Rubenstein

Read the thrills of day 1 

For those of us (only a few I might add) with Super-human stamina, the early hours on Friday featured a lot of great panels, workshops plus a special presentation by the very famous (no, I do not know if he can sing) Dr. Sanjay Gupta. As for me, though my 2 am intentions were pure, I could not possibly, in a million years, get out of bed on Friday morning. After all, I told myself, what with the most important New Faces of Country Music performance coming up tonight, I needed my strength. But I did manage to stagger over to the convention center at the crack of noon, for the what turned out to be an awesome Black River Entertainment Lunch & Performance at 12 Noon..

I would like to point out that it’s never easy for a new label to get a spot on the highly coveted Noon Luncheon performance slot on any of CRS’ three days, so I was anxious to find out what they were offering that was so special. Well, how does Craig Morgan, Kellie Pickler and gorgeous newcomer Sarah Darling sound to you? And I might add, the room was packed!

Black River Entertainment’s CEO Gordon Kerr, spoke briefly before the music began, stating “Let’s agree with one thing today, someway, sometime, at some point in our lives, each one of us started as listeners. At Black River we love hockey, we love Lacrosse and we love Country Music. And therefore we love country radio! (The crowd cheers loudly, and everyone jumps to their feet.) I want you to understand that we are dedicated to this, we are here to stay and we recognize that we have to work even harder to compete with these labels in order to achieve success. And the reality is, we need your help to do this.”

Brian Rhoades - Black River’s Senior Director of National Promotion & Strategy
So, the reason why we did this event was because one, an opportunity rose and another label gave it up and also were at a level now that we wanted to make a statement that we want them to know that we’re here and we’re not going anywhere and we’re about doing it right and that was part of the intro you saw, because the the Borchetta family owns the company, and they own hockey teams and other stuff.

Raeanne: That’s great. So, you have some really big names on your roster. How did that come about? Like Kellie Picker for example.

Brian Rhoades: Well, Kellie had been released from Sony and they showed an interest in coming over here. And we absolutely showed an interest in having her a part of the family. So that’s just how that came to happen and we’re excited she’s on Dancing With the Stars also,  which is a big deal. And Craig Morgan, he actually was on Sony also, he had been on Stoney Creek before that and he was released from his deal..and he was another chance for use to have established artists to help the billing block, we still need new frontline artists, but also, it kinda gives us a footprint in the community. To keep improving the company and growing the company.

Raeanne: Is there anybody that you’ve got your eye set on

Brian Rhoades: There’s a few. We’re not about to talk about this. *laughs*

Up first was New Artist Sarah Darling who got her start by performing on The Bachelor, and was set to appear on Conan the Monday following CRS. Talking about her new single "Home To Me", she explained, “I was like “oh my god, this is me.” For the very first time, I’m having these moments as an artist and I’m so excited. I actually cried the first time I saw the video, and that’s no joke. When I saw myself with the right song, music, the feel, and everything all together, it’s a really moving experience. This is who I am, this is who Sarah Darling is.”

Kellie Pickler performed next, and she looked quite sophisticated and grown up since we last saw her (on another label). A heartwarming video of Kellie Pickler was shown to the crowd, which featured the story of her father, incarcerated at the time, giving her a small radio as a birthday gift.  She treasured it as a child, and it influenced her decision to get involved with music. Pickler performed her new ballad “Tough All Over,” and closed with the more up-tempo “Ring For Sale.”

Next up was well-known songwriters Josh Osborne and Shane McAnally performing together; the pair’s latest smash  was “Merry Go Round”, a #1 for Kacey Musgraves. But the best part of the evening was the hilarity that ensued when the pair forgot the words to their own song at first, beginning the song with the 3rd chorus instead of the 1st. And even better- they still couldn’t remember, so they asked the audience to remind them of the words. So before they knew it, the whole audience stood up and began singing their song- to them. Only at CRS, folks. Only at CRS!

After the Black River Showcase came to an end, I was introduced to Rich Miller, the radio host for Power Source Country, a nationally syndicated show. (Check it out at I asked him what it is about country music that he finds so interesting. Here’s what he had to say:

I’ve been here at CRS quite a few times and I’m surprised that I haven’t met you before. I always get the feeling that there is always a secret wink, a kind of collusion between country radio and country labels and everyone is in on it.  It seems very chummy and friendly. Is that all genuine?

Rich Miller: Yeah. When you’ve been in this business for a while and I’ve been in this business for over 25 years now, you start to develop relationships that go beyond just a business relationship; you develop friendships and sometimes they become lifelong friendships. So, the people that you’re dealing with are really trying to sail their ship in the same direction as you in radio. We’re all trying to bring the music to the people. We’re just on different sides of the equation, but we’re all going in the same direction.  We have a shared goal and interest.

There must be conflicts too, however?

Rich Miller: Ah, I don’t know about any of those (laughs). I avoid the conflicts. I stay away from those.

Raeanne: Who caught your eye this year?

Rich Miller: Well there is a pair of brothers, I believe they were called the Brothers Osborne. They weren’t the Osborne Brothers, that’s a bluegrass group. They were the Brothers Osborne. I have a real appreciation that music. It really appealed to me personally because I love the mixture of a country story with a more bluesy, soulful kind of feel. Artists in the past like T. Graham Brown have brought that to the table, and I think they bring a little bit of that and there’s not a lot of that on country radio, so it’s good to hear that.”

One of the high points for me was when Vince Gill sang “Go Rest High On That Mountain” in memory of Mindy McCready and just the eloquent way he spoke about her, even though she lived a very troubled life. She was part of the family and a lot of us knew her or had worked with her, you know, there was a lot of emotion when he sang the song. I think it needed to be done and nobody could have done it more eloquently that Vince Gill did.

Raeanne: Do you think it is the country music format that brings out these feelings in people? The camaraderie that comes from living in a small town?

Rich Miller:
 Well, I can’t speak of other formats. I’ve worked in rock radio briefly and a little bit of Top 40, but I’ve been in country most of my career. I know that’s definitely the case of country music because we view it as a family, a lot of us do. For all the years I worked for WSM, it was like a family. We all still keep in touch and In fact this Saturday I’m going to a reunion with a lot of the folks at WSM. We get together once a year, sometimes twice a year and we just have a meal and catch up with each other. So, I do truly believe that country music is a family. If you talk to anybody that works for the Grand Ole Opry or a member of the Grand Ole Opry, they view it the exact same way.”  

It wasn’t very long until it was time for the New Faces of Country Music Cocktail Reception, at 5:30pm, Sponsored by HRT Records The up-and-coming Mark Cooke was the featured artist for the evening, and he sang his heart out as well he should given the decision-making power of the radio and records party-animals in attendance. Cooke, who’s signed to Cotton Valley Records has lived in Nashville for 3 years, trying hard to make it. I asked Cooke about best thing that has happened to him so far. He replied, “I would probably say the new single, “Stay With Me Tonight.” It’s charting pretty good right now and that’s what we’re up here for, to get heard by everybody. The first three singles, they went well. We knew that there was probably a chance that they wouldn’t get to be #1 but we kept chiselling away at that stone. I’d like to thank all the songwriters that gave me the first three songs to make the fourth one better.”

New Faces of Country Music Dinner & Show, at 6:30 pm is country music’s most important showcase for emerging talent. Since the beginning of the New Faces show in 1970, more than 300 acts have taken the stage at this annual event. Tonight, five more newcomers are added to that prestigious list which includes such hit-makers as Reba, George Strait, Alabama, Vince Gill, Randy Travis, Patty Loveless, Brooks & Dunn, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, LeAnn Rimes and so many more. The new acts occupying those coveted spots on this night are aspiring superstars Easton Corbin, Florida Georgia Line, Brantley Gilbert, Kip Moore and one beautiful dame, Jana Kramer.

Easton Corbin who performed "All Over the Road", "A Little More Country Than That”, "Loving You Is Fun" and "Roll With It." Brantley Gilbert introduced “Country Must Be Country Wide”, “You Don’t Know Her Like I Do”, “More Than Miles” and “Kick It In The Sticks” added before closing, “for you guys to support me means the world!” Kip Moore performed a passionate and hard-core set that included ““Crazy One More Time”, “Beer Money”, “Hey Pretty Girl”, and “Somethin’ ‘Bout A Truck.” Florida Georgia Line sang  "Itz Just What We Do, Round Here”, and "Get Your Shine On." Then the band stole the show completely, when they brought out surprise guest Taylor Swift to join them on one song, “Cruise” which brought the enthusiastically cheering and clapping crowd to it’s feet.

Solo lady Jana Kramer also caused quite a stir by performing her songs “Whiskey”, “Over You By Now”, “I Hope It Rains” and ”Why Ya Wanna”, before speaking these heartfelt words.

“Thank you guys so much again for having me on this stage. It took quite the unusual path to get me here because this is the stage I’ve always wanted to be on. Honestly for me, I didn’t really believe in myself in the very beginning. It wasn’t until I recorded this next song in the studio with my amazing producer Scott Hendricks, and John Esposito, that I finally felt the belief that they had in me. Then when I went to see you all on radio tour and then you guys believed in me too, you fueled me. So every time I step on stage, I wipe out all the doubts and everything I was afraid of before now. So, thank you.”

Has reading this story made you too tired for just one more thing? Read on....

And so it went for one more awesome and exhausting year at CRS! But don’t think for a minute that the final Friday night performances was THE END. Certainly not, since the Bridge Bar was packed, the Badge Bar was more packed, and the clubs and Honky Tonks were rockin’ when Taylor Swift announced she has chosen Joel Crouse, Brett Eldredge, Florida Georgia Line and Casey James for guest slots on her The Red Tour, which opened on March 13 in Omaha. Crouse is slated for 11 shows, Eldredge for 14, FGL for seven and James for 14. Ed Sheeran was previously announced for all tour stops, and Austin Mahone joins the bill in stadiums. The tour will include 58 shows in 45 cities, including nine stadium dates.

So that’s it for this year, friends! The show will go on, and CRS 2014 will go on, and hopefully, so will you and I! So let’s get together once again next year, from FEBRUARY 18-22, 2014, to do it all over again! SEE YOU THEN!

Read the thrills of day 1 / Issue 145 - September 2018
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