Highlights from the country-pop crossover star’s hometown concerts
Taylor Swift made Nashville the final stop on the North American leg of her globetrotting ‘Red’ tour, playing three consecutive sold-out concerts at the Bridgestone Arena on Sept. 19, 20 and 21. This video recap of the hometown shows, featuring guest appearances by Luke Bryan, Rascal Flatts, Hunter Hayes and tour opener Ed Sheeran, was posted on Oct. 4. Watch it over here.
Newcomer gains experience working with Miranda Lambert, Eric Church, Taylor Swift and more
At just 28-years-old, newcomer Charlie Worsham knows exactly who he is as an artist, an accomplishment it takes some young artists several albums to get a handle on. Worsham's debut album, "Rubberband," was released Aug. 20 on Warner Bros. Records, and its first single, "Could It Be," is in the top 15 and rising on the national radio airplay charts.
The Mississippi native, who moved to Nashville seven years ago just six credit hours shy of graduating from Boston's Berklee College of Music, co-produced the album and had a hand in writing all 11 songs including "Tools Of The Trade," a collaboration among Worsham and two of his heroes, Vince Gill and Marty Stuart. But Worsham wasn't necessarily trying to make a personal album.
"I'm very hands-on with how I made this record and how I will continue to make records," he says. "But while I sing songs that are definitely inspired by life experiences and those of my friends, it isn't about me. I try to build songs that are great frames that [listeners] can put their memories in, and let their memories be the picture in the song.
"I have a song called 'Mississippi In July' that's one of the more personal songs on my record," he continues, "but I don't hope for people to learn about me [from it]. I want them to hear that song and connect their own part of their life that they can relate to that song, and all my other songs."
Addressing his very involved approach to every aspect of making the album, Worsham says, "In my position right now, I'm trying to break new ground. Sometimes when you're in that process of building the foundation, you have to be a little more hands on."
His confidence in the studio while making this album came from some experience. As a musician, he’d been recruited to play on Eric Church's "Chief" album and Dierks Bentley's upcoming set, "Riser." He says those artists "have taken me under their wing and taught me a great deal."
He's also gaining experience as a live performer. Worsham has been on the road recently opening tour dates for Miranda Lambert and Bentley, but it was Taylor Swift who gave him his first big touring break two years ago when she booked him to open 10 shows on her Fearless Tour before he even had a record deal.
"In true Taylor sweetheart fashion, she remembered those who gave her a leg up early on, and she made a point to pay it forward and give all her opening spots to up and coming artists who really needed it," says Worsham of the tour. "For me, that was more true than for anybody else because I didn't have a record deal at the time. Being on that tour was a big part of me getting attention from labels and eventually signing with Warner Bros."
He'd already finished half of "Rubberband" on his own before signing with the label, and says much of the recording "was a trial and error process. There's many happy mistakes that wound up on the record that are now my favorite moments."
Once signed to his record deal, Worsham quickly began attracting fans thanks to his series of viral "cover challenge" videos. Fans would suggest (via Twitter) an unlikely song for Worsham to cover, then the multi-instrumentalist had 24-hours to record it using instruments and sometimes just objects found around his apartment. He'd shoot video of the process and post it on YouTube when he finished.
Among the songs he made his own were Psy's "Gangnam Style," and Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train." In fact, Worsham's bluegrassed-up version of the latter song came out so well that he sometimes plays it in his live show.
Worsham taught himself how to play acoustic guitar by listening to George Jones' "The Bradley Barn Sessions" album. He later saved up $500 for an electric guitar. But when the one he wanted turned out to be $600, he pulled out his banjo and played for tips for two hours on the sidewalk until he'd earned the extra cash, an early sign of his career drive to come.
He's promised his mother he'll someday finish up his Berklee studies and get his degree (the one class he still needs: Traditional Harmony and Counterpoint). For now, however, Worsham is too busy being a country star on the rise.
Singer’s $300,000 contribution helps Special Warfare military personnel and their families
Backstage at his show last Saturday night in San Diego, Keith Urban presented a check for $300,000 to the Navy SEAL Foundation (NSF) a non-profit organization that serves to support SEAL families and their parent command posts by easing financial burdens, establishing support networks and funding command-sponsored activities.
The donation represents Urban's share of artist and publishing royalties earned from his song "For You," written for the motion picture, "Act Of Valor," which starred a group of real-life SEALS. The song is used during the film's end credits.
Urban's contribution will help fund retreats for 120 SEALs and their families, as well as helping finance the opportunity for more that 500 Naval Special Warfare children to attend summer camp in 2014.
"I have a deep appreciation for the special bond that all of these families feel towards each other and for the commitment that they have made to all of us," says Urban in a prepared statement. "The NSF reminds us to acknowledge the importance and sacrifice that is made each and every day by those serving 'down range,' as well as their loving families."
The NSF is a non-profit organization that provides support and assistance to U.S. Navy SEALs, Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewman, Naval Special Warfare support personnel and their families.
'Duck The Halls' features George Strait, Luke Bryan and more
More details have been revealed about the "Duck Dynasty" cast's upcoming Christmas album, first announced here in June. Special guests George Strait, Luke Bryan, Alison Krauss and Josh Turner will join the colorful cast of the hit A&E reality series on the 13-track album. "Duck The Halls: A Robertson Family Christmas" will be released on October 29.
Check out a two-minute video sneak peak video on the making of "Duck The Halls: A Robertson Family Christmas," including footage of Strait and Bryan in the recording studio, here.
Film begins shooting in South Africa next week
Taylor Swift has been cast in the upcoming film, "The Giver," an adaptation of Lois Lowry's 1993 young adult novel of the same name. Variety breaks news that Swift will join stars Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges in the cast, which also includes Brenton Thwaites, Katie Holmes, Alexander Skarsgard, Odeya Rush and Cameron Monaghan.
Swift, 23, will play a teen character named Rosemary who is mentored by The Giver, Variety reports. "The Giver" starts filming in Cape Town, South Africa, Oct. 7. It's set to hit theaters on Aug. 15, 2014.
Swift recently wrapped the U.S. leg of her Red Tour, and is scheduled to resume it Nov. 29 for the first of three shows in New Zealand, followed by four December dates in Australia. She also has three shows scheduled at London's O2 Arena in early February.
Swift previously had a small acting role in 2010's "Valentine's Day" and provided the voice of Audrey in the animated film "The Lorax."
Singer talks about the song's impact, and why he won't teach us how to Diffie
More than 10 years after his last radio hit, Joe Diffie's name was on everybody’s lips earlier this year . . . three times in a row. That recognition came courtesy of Jason Aldean's hit "1994," which not only lyrically referenced many of Diffie's best-known songs, but also the singer's name itself in its catchy "Joe, Joe, Joe Diffie" chorus. At the Academy of Country Music Awards last spring, Aldean performed the song while a giant cutout of Diffie's head descended from the stage ceiling, Spinal Tap "Stonehenge" style.
This past summer, Diffie released an answer song, "Girl Ridin' Shotgun," which included the lyric "Aldean all up on the radio." The video features cameos from Blake Shelton, Keith Urban, Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley, Danica Patrick, Lee Brice, Toby Keith and Diffie's wife and daughters. Although the song failed to gain any traction at country radio, the video has attracted more than 1.6 million YouTube views.
Between 1990 and the early 2000s, Diffie's songs were a staple on radio, where he earned 17 top 10 hits, five of which went to No. 1 on the Billboard chart. More recently, he's been writing songs with many of Nashville's up-and-coming young acts and touring with pals Sammy Kershaw and Aaron Tippin as part of a package show. The three artists also collaborated earlier this year on the album "All In The Same Boat," which spawned a hilarious video for the title track.
In an interview with MSN Music, Diffie shared his thoughts about Aldean's song, its impact on his career, and his collaborations with the next generation of country stars.
MSN Music: Are you getting used to people referring to you by saying your first name three times?
Joe Diffie: It was cute the first 150 times. (laughs) Naw, it's fine with me, really. It is strange though.
What was your reaction the first time you heard "1994?"
Just kind of stunned. I heard the demo version first. I was on my bus. A few of my band guys were there and I put it on and said, "They mention my name somewhere in this song." We started listening and I said, "What the hell is that?" We were all like "Holy crap. That's unbelievable." It was really an honor and a nice tribute, but it was very strange, especially the first couple of times I heard it. I was just like "I can't believe this."
What were you thinking during Aldean's ACM performance when your giant head descended from the ceiling?
It was a little bit of embarrassment, almost. It's just bizarre, so surreal. But my hat's off to Jason for recording that song. It's revived my career. I've seen a real nice upswing in—for one thing—the age group of people that are coming to my shows. I've always had a variety of people, but now it’s like a lot more young people, college age, and they know every song of mine. I love it. It's been pretty cool.
I was at the CMA Music Festival [in June] signing at a couple of booths and I had a number of 7, 8, 9-year-old kids come up. I think they're just kind of curious [wondering] "Is that the guy he's singing about? That's Joe, Joe, Joe Diffie?" Really, I've got a whole new audience now. You don't get that kind of chance too often.
And you’ve actually put "1994" into your own show.
I just do the chorus of it, because everybody knows it and it's just kind of fun. That song was so popular that I just hold the microphone out and [fans] do [the chorus].
How did your answer song, "Girl Ridin' Shotgun" featuring D-Thrash (Derek Thrasher, pictured on the left with Diffie) of the Jawga Boyz come about?
I've been writing with a bunch of young artists—Tyler Farr, Tate Stevens, Brett Eldredge and Josh Thompson—and just been having a blast doing that. So my managers alerted me about the Jawga Boyz, who I co-wrote the song with. D-Thrash wrote all the "hick-hop" parts. I love how they call it "hick-hop." And then me and [songwriter] Phil O'Donnell wrote the chorus, the part that I sing. We blended them together. It's cool and different.
What has the reaction been to the Jawga Boyz portion of the song?
There's been a few people here and there griping [that] it's rap. [But] these guys [in the band] are countrier than you. They're rednecks. They're chewing tobacco and racing their cars through the mud and hunting deer and drinking beer . . . There will always be people who are purists and I understand. Hip-hop's not my preferred genre of music, but I listen to a little bit of it and it doesn't make me want to throw darts at people or anything.
Why is it important for you to write with some of the newer country artists?
I have really enjoyed the energy and the excitement that they have. It kind of rubs off on me a little bit. I'm not comparing myself to George Jones or anybody by any means, but I kind of get the idea [that they're excited to work with me] because it's how I felt about George and Merle [Haggard] and Johnny Cash. So it's really neat to be in that position. I'm really enjoying it.
Do you take a moment in this writing sessions to teach them how to Diffie, the dance spawned by "1994?"
I wish I knew how to Diffie, but I don't. I think it would look like that old Tim Conway shuffle if I do it.
Singer must also pay a fine and undergo anger-management counseling
Country singer Billy Currington is having a mixed bag of a week. On Wednesday, his new album, "We Are Tonight," debuted at No. 10 on the all-genre Billboard 200 chart, becoming his second straight top 10 entry on the chart. On Friday, he pleaded no contest to a charge of abuse of an elderly person and was sentenced to five years of probation and a $1,000 fine, according to the Associated Press. Currington, 39, was also ordered to undergo anger-management counseling. He previously completed another stint in anger management therapy in 2008.
The charge stemmed from an April run-in with a 70-year-old charter boat captain who motored past Currington's waterfront Georgia home. In exchange for Currington's plea, prosecutors dropped the charge of making terroristic threats, AP reports. He also avoids a trial. Each count had carried a possible sentence of one to five years in prison if he had been convicted.
According to AP, during the hearing, Currington's attorney said his client was extremely embarrassed by what happened. Superior Court Judge Penny Haas Freesman responded: "He should be."
Currington was arrested last April following an incident with tour boat captain Charles Ferrelle, who drove past the singer's Tybee Creek home with two paying customers. Currington became upset and started yelling at the boat. When Ferrelle circled back around to Currington's house on his return trip later, the singer grabbed a camera, climbed in his boat and chased Ferrelle's boat back into his slip. Once on land, Currington reportedly threatened to beat up Ferrelle and "finish him off."
The singer told a local police detective he chased after the tour boat because he was being harassed by Ferrelle and other boaters, who he said were gawking and taking photographs near the private dock of his home, located on a public waterway.
Prosecutors said video police seized from Currington's camera confirmed the tour captain's story, the AP reports. Ferrelle and his passengers told police they had no clue who Currington was.
The singer, who emerged on the country music scene a decade ago, is best known for his six No. 1 hits, including "Must Be Doin' Somethin' Right," "Good Directions," "Pretty Good At Drinkin' Beer" and "People Are Crazy."
Singer shoots to kill in 'Sweetwater' trailer
In his first film role, Jason Aldean stars opposite Ed Harris and "Mad Men’s" January Jones in "Sweetwater." While you have to wait until Oct. 11 to see it in theaters (in select cities), you can check out the film’s trailer here. Aldean makes an appearance about a minute and 20 seconds in.
According to publicity materials for the film, it’s set in New Mexico in the late 1800s, and focuses on a beautiful former prostitute (Jones) trying to build an honest life with her husband in the state's rugged plains. When she catches the eye of a sadistic and powerful religious leader (Jason Isaacs), her life is violently turned upside down. She embarks on a bloody course of vengeance with the assistance of a renegade sheriff (Harris) who has pretty violent tendencies of his own.
So does Aldean's character, apparently. He can be seen shooting a man in the trailer.
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