Here’s what you will—and won’t—see on Sunday night's show on CBS
Tim McGraw was clearly having a blast during the taping of his network TV special last month in Las Vegas, and his enthusiasm translated to the live audience, who happily hung in for a grueling, nearly four-hour taping that included performance do-overs from multiple stars.
The special, which will be edited down to two hours for broadcast, premieres Sunday night, May 19 on CBS at 9 p.m. (ET). Titled “ACM Presents: Tim McGraw’s Superstar Summer Night,” it’s scheduled for a tough night of television, going head to head with both the “Billboard Music Awards” on ABC and the finale of “The Celebrity Apprentice” (starring Trace Adkins) on NBC.
Taped April 8 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena (where the “Billboard Music Awards” will also be originating live) the 17-song show included McGraw performing four songs solo, and joining forces for duets with Pitbull (pictured with McGraw below) and Ne-Yo, as well as Taylor Swift along with Keith Urban (on guitar). For the show’s finale, McGraw and John Fogerty teamed up for “Born On The Bayou,” joined by Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Urban. Yelled McGraw to the crowd, “John Effin’ Fogerty.”
Also teaming up for a performance were Florida Georgia Line and Nelly. Solo performers on the show are The Band Perry, Urban, Lady Antebellum, Dierks Bentley, Aldean, Bryan, Brantley Gilbert and Faith Hill.
As with most TV tapings, the best moments happened off camera. Between songs, McGraw engaged two sides of the audience in a cheer off, then yelled, “I love my job!” During another stage transition, McGraw spontaneously serenaded the crowd with George Strait’s “You Look So Good In Love” as the crew adjusted his vocal mix.
After wife Hill’s energetic performance of early career hit “Piece of My Heart,” McGraw returned to the stage, imitated one of her sexier dance moves, then quipped, “I get to take her home tonight.”
Debuting new single “Goodbye Town” for the first time, Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley jokingly urged the crowd to “Act like it’s your favorite damn tune in the world.”
During the intro to “Highway Don’t Care,” Swift missed her cue on the first pass because she was goofing around with the audience, telling them “Hi, I’m Taylor, this is Keith.” Swift also provided one of the show’s stranger moments, offering sexy looks and pouty poses that didn’t fit the song each time the camera passed by her. In another odd moment, McGraw’s performance of “One Of Those Nights” began with a filmed bit of backstage business that involves him checking out his reflection in a mirror, reminiscent of onetime “Saturday Night Live” character Stuart Smalley (played by Al Franken), who was fond of telling his reflection, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me.”
Four stars of the show “Duck Dynasty,” a favorite in country music circles, make an appearance to introduce one performance.
Commenting on some of his favorite of the night’s performances, McGraw says, “Florida Georgia Line and Nelly (singing ‘Cruise’) was really cool. That’s one of my favorite things on the radio right now. [And] my wife’s performance sort of blew me away. It kinda caught me off guard when she went out there because she sorta upped the game. I had to go out behind her, and she did pretty awesome.”
Other highlights for the star included several of the non-country artists. “Singing with Ne-Yo was something that was really cool,” says McGraw, who has twice collaborated with the R&B artist previously. “Instantly I became a better singer the minute I started singing with him. He’s just that good.”
Watching Fogerty perform was another highlight for McGraw, who says, “I don’t want to say his age, but I guess he’s mid-’60s . . . and he flat sang his ass off. He just blew us all [away]. We were looking at each other like ‘What are we even doing in this business?’ when we saw him start singing and playing ’cause he’s just truly one of the masters at it.” (Fogerty, for the record, turns 68 later this month.)
As for his pairing with Pitbull, McGraw says, “I met him at the Grammys for the first time. He came up and introduced himself to me and we started talking and when we walked away, I told Faith ‘That’s just a real guy there; [a] real genuine guy.’ When we started putting this special together . . . I wanted him to be a part of [it]. I just really like him. I like the vibe that he brings to the room. He just brings so much energy and so much respect to everybody, and I think that just shows when he hits the stage.”
Ticket proceeds from the live event went to the Academy of Country Music’s charity arm, ACM Lifting Lives, which works to improve lives through the power of music.
Band is joined by Alabama’s Randy Owen in the studio yesterday
The Eli Young Band hit the studio yesterday with legendary country band Alabama to re-cut the latter’s 1983 No. 1 hit “The Closer You Get” for an upcoming Alabama tribute album.
As previously reported here, the tribute compilation, “Alabama & Friends,” is slated for release this fall, and will include hits plus a couple of new Alabama songs. Other artists participating in the project include Toby Keith, Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts and Trisha Yearwood.
The album will feature the three current members of Alabama dueting with other acts, including Aldean, on some of the tracks. Others tracks will not include Alabama.
Eli Young Band is currently on the road opening dates on Kenny Chesney’s “No Shoes Nation Tour.” The group plans to release a new single from their own current album in July.
Pictured, from left, are Eli Young Band’s James Young and Mike Eli, producer Michael Knox, Alabama’s Randy Owen, and Eli Young Band’s Jon Jones and Chris Thompson.
Wynonna, Big Kenny, Larry The Cable Guy also set to perform
For the second year, John Rich is organizing and headlining a Memphis concert to raise funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which is headquartered in the city. “St. Jude Presents John Rich & Friends” will take place June 4 at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts. Rich will perform along with his Big & Rich partner, Big Kenny. Also on the bill are Wynonna Judd, comedian Larry the Cable Guy and actress Lisa Rinna.
Rich, right, and Big Kenny are pictured with St. Jude patient Caleb last year’s concert.
Both Rich and Rinna made St. Jude their charity of choice when they competed on NBC’s “The Celebrity Apprentice,” and each star separately brought in significant funds for the hospital, which does not charge families for care, housing or food.
“One of the greatest honors of my life’s work is to help the kids at St Jude,” says Rich in a prepared statement. “To bring music to their lives, and use music to raise funds for their care is something bigger than a hit song or a sold out concert.”
“From the first time I visited St. Jude years ago, I knew that it was a place I belonged,” says Judd in her own media statement. “As a mother, I look into the eyes of every child and I realize that they could easily be one of my children. As an artist, I ask myself, ‘What can I do to bring a blessing to these wounded and hurting families?’”
Adds Larry the Cable Guy, “I’m so excited to be a part of John Rich’s event. We’ll have fun and git-r-done for St. Jude!”
Rich’s concert will serve as the kickoff event for 2013 FedEx St. Jude Classic. Tickets for the show are still available at Ticketmaster, and range from $40-$80.
The FedEx St. Jude Classic has raised more than $26 million for the kids of St. Jude. In addition to the concert, related events include the Danny Thomas Pro-Am, Window World Pro-Am, Michelob Ultra Party Tent, a Kids Zone and a Saturday night concert after party.
Singer opens up about things she wishes she were better at, including personal relationships
Carrie Underwood is the cover girl for the June issue of Marie Claire magazine, and while she comes across as unusually candid in the interview, the article doesn’t paint Underwood in an entirely flattering light. While the writer apparently put some effort into trying to explain that the singer’s natural reserve should not be mistaken for chilliness, some of the quotes used in the story run the risk of undermining that point.
Underwood on husband Mike Fisher: “He is Mr. Nicest Guy on the Planet. I skew the other way.”
On her family and upbringing: “We were never a huggy family, or a ‘let’s talk it out’ family. Technically I have siblings, but they are quite a bit older than me — I was the accident — so I have the only-child syndrome going on. I’m a little more selfish, a little more independent, a little closed. I do wish I were softer. I wish I were able to form relationships better. But hey, I mean . . .” she says, laughing, “I’m not a sociopath.”
On things she’s bad at: “I’m probably not great at talking or understanding emotional things. I’ll totally listen, but I won’t have a lot of advice to give. I’m bad at calling to check in, the long conversation. But in the ways that really matter, I’m there. I would donate a kidney. The people they hate, I hate.”
On what bums her out: “When people say, ‘She’s hard to talk to.’ This guy I know said, ‘You know what I love about you? I can sit next to you and I don't have to talk.’ And I'm like, ‘Thank you?’”
Her mother, Carole, speaking about her daughter: “She was never really a people person. She liked being outside with animals.”
Best friend Ivey Childers on Underwood: “Carrie didn’t let fame change her. She was never super-outgoing. And she doesn’t feel the need to overcompensate now.”
Fisher on his wife: “My wife is brutally honest sometimes. She doesn’t know how to hide her feelings.”
But the article also includes some great quotes both from and about Underwood, who clearly hasn’t let fame get to her head.
“Maybe my kids will have fun playing dress up in the clothes,” she says of her stage costumes. “But I can’t see saving the stuff for a museum, some giant monument to my awesomeness. That’s Dolly. That’s Loretta. Not me.”
She also shares a funny story about her childhood. “My mom would sew my outfits for talent shows,” Underwood recalls. “She would get material from Walmart. It was a little ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ up in there.”
Finally, friend Brad Paisley reveals an early insecurity he picked up on after Underwood won “American Idol” and the two singers toured together. “On the first tour, she told me, ‘I feel like I am a celebrity for no reason, like people are resentful I didn’t have to play bars for 10 years to get a record deal,’” Paisley says. “I told her she was one of the greatest gifts we have been given in Nashville.”
Kris Kristofferson helped bestow Nelson’s doctor of music degree
Willie Nelson has a new title: doctor. Nelson and fellow stars Carole King and Annie Lennox received honorary doctor of music degrees from Berklee College of Music in Boston May 11 during the school’s commencement ceremony. Lennox delivered the commencement address to the graduating class and their guests.
The school’s president enlisted Kris Kristofferson (pictured on the right) to help present Nelson’s honorary degree. The longtime friends had performed a duet of Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)” at the previous night’s commencement concert, which featured some of the college’s most accomplished students paying tribute to the honorees with performances of music associated with their careers, including Nelson’s “On the Road Again,” and “Crazy.” The honorees all also performed, with Nelson singing “Night Life” in addition to his collaboration with Kristofferson.
In his commencement remarks, Nelson told the students, “The history of music is good, but the future is even better thanks to you folks.”
This year’s honorary doctorate recipients were recognized for their achievements in contemporary music, for their enduring contributions to popular culture, and for the influence their careers and music have had on Berklee’s international student body, according to the school’s publicity materials. King, Nelson, and Lennox join the school’s previous honorary doctorate recipients Duke Ellington, Aretha Franklin, Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones, Smokey Robinson, David Bowie, Bonnie Raitt, Count Basie, Sting, Loretta Lynn, B.B. King, Billy Joel, Chaka Khan, Steven Tyler, George Clinton and Patti LaBelle.
“60 For 60” movement will just miss its goal
The 13-song album also includes what is expected to be the 60th No. 1 single of Strait’s career, “Give It All We Got Tonight.” While an organized movement (“60 For 60”) to land that song at No. 1 while Strait is still 60 years old will, unfortunately, just miss its goal (he turns 61 on May 18), it’s still a sure bet to hit the top of the charts in the next few weeks. The song rose from No. 8 to No. 6 on the Mediabase chart this week, but there are three other ascending titles in line ahead of it, singles by Darius Rucker, Kenny Chesney, and Tim McGraw with Taylor Swift.
“I’m not sure they’ll learn anything about me they don’t already know,” Strait says about the content of “Love Is Everything.” He adds, “I’ve been doing this a long time, and 40 is a lot of records! It’s always fun putting together songs for a new record. It can also be difficult at times. This one was both for sure, but worth every minute. I think it’s my best release in a while.”
Strait wraps up the first leg of his final tour, The Cowboy Rides Away Tour, June 1 at San Antonio’s Alamodome. Dates for the second leg of the tour will be announced later this year.
In the video above, shot by his record label and distributed to the media, Strait talks about the process of creating new music, songwriting, naming the new album and enjoying his farewell tour.
Awards show will air live from Nashville Sept. 18 on AXS TV
The duo Shovels & Rope leads the nominations for the Americana Honors & Awards, announced Tuesday in Los Angeles. The duo (pictured) earned four nominations, including emerging artist of the year, and were followed by Emmylou Harris and Buddy Miller with three nominations each. Both Harris and Miller earned nods in the artist of the year category, where they are joined by fellow nominees Dwight Yoakam and Richard Thompson.
Winners will be announced during the show, set to air live Sept. 18 on AXS TV from the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. They are chosen by the American Music Assn.’s professional members. Jim Lauderdale will once again host the Honors & Awards, while Miller will lead the All-Star Band.
The awards show takes place during the Americana Music Festival, set for September 18-22 at venues throughout Nashville.
Here’s the complete list of nominees.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
“Buddy & Jim,” Buddy Miller & Jim Lauderdale
“Cheater’s Game,” Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison
“From The Ground Up,” John Fullbright
“O’ Be Joyful,” Shovels & Rope
“Old Yellow Moon,” Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
SONG OF THE YEAR
“Birmingham,” Shovels & Rope
“Good Things Happen to Bad People,” Richard Thompson
“Ho Hey,” The Lumineers
“North Side Gal,” JD McPherson
ARTIST OF THE YEAR
EMERGING ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Milk Carton Kids
Shovels & Rope
DUO/GROUP OF THE YEAR
Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale
Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell
Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison
Shovels & Rope
INSTRUMENTALIST OF THE YEAR
Plus, The Henningsens to release an EP ahead of full-length album
Reigning Academy of Country Music entertainer of the year Luke Bryan will release his fourth full-length studio album August 13. The title had yet to be revealed for the project, which includes lead single “Crash My Party.” The album follows Bryan’s most successful album to date, “taillights & tanlines,” which has been certified double platinum for sales of more than two million copies.
Bryan is currently on the road with his Dirt Road Diaries Tour, which is scheduled to run through the end of October. He will perform on the June 5 “CMT Music Awards,” where he is also nominated for four awards.
In other news, plans for new family trio The Henningsens’ recently announced July 2 debut album release have been scuttled in favor of a self-titled EP to be released May 28.
The band is currently climbing the charts with top 20 debut single “American Beautiful,” and recently embarked on Brad Paisley’s Beat This Summer Tour as the opening act.
“With the single doing so well and the Brad tour underway, we really wanted to be able to have something that we could share with fans right now,” said lead singer Clara Henningsen in a media statement.
Each of the tracks on the four-song EP was co-written by Clara, brother Aaron, and father Brian Henningsen, along with some of Nashville’s top professional songwriters.
The full-length album release will be rescheduled by record label Arista Nashville.
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.