Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire, Vince Gill also on tap to perform; Six networks to air the special
As first tipped here on Tuesday, Blake Shelton has organized a telethon for victims of this week’s Oklahoma tornados, and he’ll also headline the May 29 concert.
"Healing in the Heartland: Relief Benefit Concert" will take place at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. In addition to Shelton, performers will include Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire and Vince Gill. Shelton, McEntire and Gill are all Oklahoma natives. Lambert currently lives there with her husband, Shelton.
“Everyone has their way to help, and mine as an entertainer is to perform to help raise money and awareness for this tragedy,” says Shelton in a media statement. “This is why I want to do this special and especially hold it in Oklahoma City, which is near ground zero.”
The show will be televised live at 9 p.m. (ET/PT) on NBC, and will also air on cable networks Style, G4, Bravo, E! and CMT either live or tape delayed. Additional performers are still being lined up.
The event will raise money for the United Way of Central Oklahoma May Tornadoes Relief Fund. Donations will be used to fund the immediate, intermediate and long-term recovery and rebuilding efforts in the state.
Shelton and McEntire previously joined forces in 2011 for two other relief concerts after tornados did significant damage in the state that year. The two-sold out concerts—which were not televised—raised $500,000 for the Oklahoma victims that year.
Tickets for the NBC special will go on sale at 10 a.m. (CT) on May 25. Tickets are $25, with a limit of eight per person. They can be purchased at the Chesapeake Energy Arena box office, all Ticketmaster locations, by phone at 800-745-3000 and online at TicketMaster.com.
Singer designates a chunk of her tour proceeds for disaster relief in Oklahoma and elsewhere
Carrie Underwood wrapped her “Blown Away Tour” last night in Abbottsford, BC, with a stunning announcement. The Oklahoma native will donate a whopping million dollars in tour proceeds to help out victims of this month’s devastating tornados in her home state, and other disasters around the country.
Underwood is making her donation directly to the Red Cross, which has been on site in Oklahoma helping the storm victims since the deadly storms struck the area, and responds to 70,000 disasters a year across the country.
“I have watched the devastation in my home state of Oklahoma over the past several days with great sadness,” says Underwood in a press release. “With the help of my fans who attended my concerts over the past year, we can offer the Red Cross a little extra help in comforting those affected by the recent tornados.”
Earlier in the tour, which launched last year, Underwood announced plans to designate funds to support the response and relief efforts in New Jersey in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. That announcement followed her performance in Atlantic City, N.J., and those funds are included in her million-dollar donation.
Proceeds from Underwood’s Canadian concerts will be donated to the Canadian Red Cross.
Special will be shot at next month’s CMA Music Festival
Little Big Town has been chosen to host the summer TV special “CMA Music Festival: Country's Night to Rock,” set to air August 12 (8-11 p.m. (ET) on the ABC Television Network. It’s the first time hosting for the band, and they’re also likely to be seen performing during the special, to be made up of performances shot during next month’s CMA Music Festival in Nashville. Little Big Town is the Country Music Assn.’s reigning vocal group of the year.
The bulk of the performances on the special will be taped at LP Field, Nashville’s football stadium, June 6-9. Artists appearing in the television special have not yet been announced, but the acts booked to perform at LP Field this year include Gary Allan, Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Kelly Clarkson, Florida Georgia Line, Hunter Hayes, Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town, Kip Moore, Jake Owen, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton, Taylor Swift, The Band Perry, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, and Zac Brown Band.
“It’s an incredible honor to be hosting this year’s CMA Fest,” says the group’s Karen Fairchild in a media statement. “We could not be more excited about the party that’s going to break out at LP Field every night!"
Watch the Grammy-winning band talk about hosting the special, and see footage from their CMA photo shoot here.
Singer makes chart history
George Strait is having a terrific week. After celebrating his 61st birthday last weekend, the Country Music Hall of Famer got news Wednesday that his new album, “Love Is Everything,” debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums Chart and No. 2 on the all-genre top albums chart this week, selling nearly 120,000 copies in its first week of release. That’s a sharp increase from the 91,000 first week sales of his last album, 2011’s “Here For A Good Time.” It’s the 40th album of his career, and the 16th to hit No. 1 since Billboard started using SoundScan to track album sales.
In more good news for the singer, the album’s lead track, “Give It All We Got Tonight,” surged up the singles chart this week, landing at No. 1 on the Mediabase chart and No. 2 on Billboard’s country airplay chart. In an ultimately successful effort to get Strait his 60th No. 1 single, country radio stations across the country whose spins are tallied for those charts put the song into overdrive last week, urged on by the MCA Nashville record promotion team. One station in Nashville reportedly played the song nonstop for a solid hour to boost its spin count.
It was all part of an organized effort to land Strait his 60th No. 1 while he was still 60 years old, a goal narrowly missed by just a few days. Regardless of timing, however, the chart topper makes Strait the first music artist in history, regardless of genre, to place 60 songs at the top of the charts, according to his record label.
“I didn’t realize we were making history,” says Strait in a prepared statement. “I just hoped we were putting out music that my fans would enjoy. As always, I’m thankful to the fans and country radio for their support on all 60 of these number one songs as well as my entire career. They are the ones who made this happen.
“This has been a fantastic birthday week,” adds Strait. “I may be 61, but I don’t feel a day over 60.”
Singer says he’ll “call in some really big favors” in booking the benefit
Billboard breaks news that Blake Shelton and NBC are in the process of organizing a benefit concert for the victims of Monday’s deadly tornado that devastated parts of the singer’s home state of Oklahoma.
“We’ll know more about it in the next 24 hours,” Shelton told Billboard at the conclusion of Tuesday’s “The Voice” on NBC. “I’m hoping it will raise a lot of money,” he said. “Obviously it will be televised and will happen really quickly.”
While pointing to his fellow coach on “The Voice,” Usher, Shelton told Billboard, “I can call in some really big favors.”
Shelton and his wife Miranda Lambert opened Tuesday’s episode of “The Voice” with a moving duet on their co-written song, “Over You,” with Lambert taking the lead and Shelton playing guitar and providing harmony vocals. The song was previously an award-winning country hit for Lambert.
“I think it was the perfect song for this situation,” Shelton told Billboard. “The moment was right and I wish things would’ve been different and I wouldn’t have been thinking about performing a song like that.”
Shelton will perform on the show again next week with his new Warner Music Nashville label mate Sheryl Crow, who has appeared as a mentor on the show. Her debut album for the label is slated for release in September. First single “Easy” is climbing the country singles charts.
Pickler lands the mirror ball trophy on “Dancing With The Stars” tonight
Country music stars are having a bang-up week on reality TV shows. Tonight, Kellie Pickler was named champion of ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars” alongside partner Derek Hough. Pickler’s win follows Sunday night’s “All-Star Celebrity Apprentice” upset on NBC that had Trace Adkins besting the runner-up, magician Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller.
Pickler and Hough (pictured on the left) sealed their win with a stunning freestyle dance routine on last night’s show. Tonight’s victory marked Hough’s fourth time winning the competition with a celebrity partner.
The pair bested second place finisher Zendaya, a 16-year-old Disney star, as well as third place finisher Jacoby Jones of the Baltimore Ravens, and the fourth place finisher, Olympic gymnast Alexandra (“Ali”) Raisman.
Adkins, meanwhile, was playing “All-Star Celebrity Apprentice” on behalf of his chosen charity, The American Red Cross, for which he is also a spokesman and member of the charity’s National Celebrity Cabinet. Through participation in the “All-Star Celebrity Apprentice” show, Adkins has raised more than $1.5 million for the Red Cross.
On May 18, Adkins (right) received the Red Cross Crystal Cross Award in recognition of his exemplary support of and service to the Red Cross mission.
The singer first appeared on “The Celebrity Apprentice” in 2008, when he came in second to Piers Morgan.
Smartly, both Adkins and Pickler timed the recent release of new singles around their TV victories. Pickler’s new song is “Someone Somewhere Tonight.” Adkins’ current single is “Watch The World End,” a duet with Colbie Callait.
Toby Keith, Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Reba and more weigh in
America is watching in helpless horror as the tragic post-tornado stories and images emerge from Oklahoma. Meanwhile, country stars who live in the state or were raised there are also reacting to the May 20 tragedy, including one who narrowly avoided the danger.
Ronnie Dunn tweeted on Monday, “Stopped to spend the night in Shawnee, Okla. Just woke up to another tornado hitting Moore. Right in front of it!” In a follow-up tweet, he wrote, “We got out just before it hit. Those poor people. We will help when and where we can.”
The storm also hit close to home for Norman, Okla., resident Toby Keith. He issued this media statement: “This storm has devastated the community that I grew up in. I rode my bike through those neighborhoods. I have family and friends in Moore. My heart and prayers go to those that have lost so much. But Moore is strong and we will persevere. God be with you all.”
God was also top of mind for other stars with connections to the state. Tweeted Tishomingo, Okla., resident Miranda Lambert, “Pray. That's all we [c]an do. Pray for peace for Oklahoma.”
And Checotah, Okla., native Carrie Underwood tweeted, “I'm thinking about and praying for my beautiful home state and the people in it tonight. Growing up in tornado alley, you always know what could happen. It doesn’t change how devastating it is when something does happen. #pray.”
Fellow Sooner Reba McEntire tweeted, “All my prayers go out to the folks in Oklahoma dealing with these tornados. Stay safe everyone!”
Oklahoma native Joe Don Rooney of Rascal Flatts wrote, “My thoughts & prayers are with my home state of Oklahoma. May God’s love & grace be with all affected by these horrible storms.”
Wrote current Oklahoman Trisha Yearwood, "Pray for everyone devastated by these storms, but especially for those families in Moore, OK."
One other Oklahoma native and resident, Blake Shelton, tweeted when news first broke about the damage, but not since. Wrote Shelton, “Just landed in LA and hearing about all the tornados in Oklahoma right now... Get somewhere safe!”
Singer is working with producer Rick Rubin on the new set, due in the fall
Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles has announced the release of her first solo album this fall. She’s working with high-profile producer Rick Rubin on the project.
Nettles has recorded with Sugarland since 2004, when the group started as a trio, later becoming a duo with Nettles and musical partner Kristian Bush. Together, the band has notched five No. 1 singles. Bush, like Nettles, has been pursuing numerous solo projects of late.
Asked about the status of Sugarland, a senior record label representative at Universal Music told One Country, “Sugarland has not broken up. Both artists are just taking a little time apart to explore new things individually and professionally.”
Nettles gave birth to her first child, son Magnus Hamilton Miller in December, and she tells Country Weekly, “I have had a huge milestone in my life reminding me of the beauty of my roots. This album is a celebration of those roots and I am so excited to share it.”
Rolling Stone spoke with Nettles and Rubin, and reports that they’ve been “holed up” for the past month in Rubin’s Shangri-La Studios in Malibu, Calif., working on the project. Among Nettles songwriting collaborators on the album is fellow singer and onetime Sugarland touring partner Sara Bareilles.
In an exclusive interview with Rolling Stone, Rubin says of the album in progress, “It goes in a lot of cool different directions. There’s country, but also blues, jazz, island rhythms, great classic rock moments, and a lot of soul. The organizing principle is Jennifer’s voice and tastes. There’s a lot of styles, but it all sounds like her.”
“This album is different than what I’ve done before,” Nettles tells Rolling Stone. “What I do with Sugarland, primarily it’s stuff that starts with me and Kristian writing together. It’s fun to play with that masculine energy, but for this I wanted to do something really personal—more intimate and emotional.”
Continues Nettles, “It’s a celebration of my roots, and where I am today. I’m a different version of myself than what people might have known before—not only in my songwriting and performance, but even in the sounds on this album. It reflects a more soulful, grittier life. A lot has been lived in the time between the last record I made and now, and you can hear that.
“I’m a working mother now,” she adds. “The timing was right, both in the arc of my life and as an artist. You can get comfortable with certain sounds, and your fans come to expect them. At the same time, I wanted to play with different parts of my voice or my writing. It won’t be a shock or surprise to a Sugarland fan, but hopefully it will bring in new listeners, too.”
While best known for his work in other genres of music, Rubin has plenty of country credentials as well, having produced projects for Johnny Cash and the Dixie Chicks, as well as an aborted project for The Band Perry. Outside of country, Rubin was worked a diverse list of stars as Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Neil Diamond, Beastie Boys, Jay-Z, Aerosmith, AC/DC, Sheryl Crow, The Avett Brothers, Linkin Park, Lana Del Ray, Adele and Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Says Nettles in a prepared statement, “I am absolutely thrilled and wholly proud to be working with Rick. If you ask any musician who is on their producer ‘bucket list’, Rick would be on each and every one.”
Tonight, Nettles is in Las Vegas where she can be seen as a presenter at the Billboard Music Awards airing live on ABC.
about the blogger
Veteran entertainment journalist Phyllis Stark has been reporting extensively on the music industry for two decades. As a freelance writer, her work appears regularly in numerous publications and sites. She previously was Nashville Bureau Chief at Billboard magazine.