Category: CMAs

Stagecoach 2012: Brad Paisley talks Tupac image, new album

La-et-paisley-underwood

Brad Paisley, the headliner for Sunday’s closing night of the 2012 edition of the Stagecoach Country Music Festival in Indio, Calif., has always been an unrepentant techno-geek, so he followed with fascination the worldwide media generated the previous two weekends by the "appearance" of Tupac Shakur during Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s reunion performance at this year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

The thing is, Paisley beat them to the punch by two years, having pulled off a duet with a virtual partner at the 2010 Stagecoach Festival, where he surprised and confounded audiences with the materialization onstage of Alison Krauss, his collaborator on 2004’s “Whiskey Lullaby,” which generated multiple Academy of Country Music and Country Music Assn. awards.

“We did that Alison thing for a while, and it was as good as we could get it at the time,” Paisley said aboard his tour bus parked near Stagecoach’s Mane Stage, where a capacity crowd of 55,000 was waiting for him to go on after Sheryl Crow finished her penultimate set. “We’ve since then come up with some more tricks. It was interesting when I heard about the Tupac thing. The thing that was so interesting about that, the thing that was so shocking, of course, is that it was someone who was deceased. It’s insane. You go, ‘Whoa!’ But wait till you see what we’re doing tonight.”

PHOTOS: The scene at Stagecoach 2012

He was teasing the recurring presence of Carrie Underwood on his current Virtual Reality Tour. After Paisley launched into the opening of their hit duet “Remind Me,” audience members gasped and then cheered when a spotlight went on and there appeared the “American Idol” grad, harmonizing her lines and seeming to trade glances with her singing partner.

But it was an illusion -- like the Shakur "appearance," a realistic-looking video projection, not a true hologram. It's something Paisley touched on before that number, when he told fans: “We call this the ‘Virtual Reality Tour’ because reality is what country music is about. But it can sometimes also take you away from reality. So between the beer and our show, you’re well on your way.”

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Stagecoach 2012: Backstage with Jason Aldean

Click here for more images from Stagecoach

Jason Aldean vividly remembers playing the first Stagecoach Country Music Festival back in 2007, when the Macon, Ga., singer looked out on a very different scene than the one that greeted him Friday night as the opening-night headliner for the festival’s 2012 edition.

Five years ago Aldean was one of the opening acts, charged with trying to capture the attention of a relatively sparse crowd under less than ideal conditions. That was well before he had the biggest selling country album of the year, a feat he achieved last year with his fourth release, "My Kinda Party," which also was named album of the year by the Country Music Assn. and has generated four No. 1 hits, the fifth single on its way up the charts now.

"Man, it's a tough gig," Aldean, 35, said on his tour bus a couple of hours before he and his band would perform. “You go out in the middle of the day, it's 100-something degrees. A lot of times when you play early on, not everybody’s at the show yet -- they’re hanging out in their campers or whatever they doing. It’s not like later in the night, when the weather starts to cool down and everybody comes out. It’s a tough gig, to go out and let people see what it is you do. It’s tough for an artist who has to go on early in the day, and we did our fair share of that stuff.”

PHOTOS: The scene at Stagecoach 2012

This year, however, those early slots were left to others — on Friday it was the Eli Young Band, Brett Eldredge and Sara Evans who were on stage before the sun went down on the Empire Polo Club in Indio.

By the time Aldean arrived, Alabama had pumped the crowd up with a generous dose of clap-and-stomp-along hits largely drawn from its heyday in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Aldean and the other performers Friday also had the advantage of no competition or distraction from music emanating from other stages. In expanding Stagecoach from the typical two days to three this year, event organizers served up a low-key first-day offering, with just a single stage up and running and half a dozen acts playing from late afternoon into the evening.

“To come back here a few years later and go from opener to headliner of the show is pretty cool, especially the first night when you know everybody’s excited to get it going,” he said, stretching out in the back of a tour bus parked next to the Mane Stage.

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Country Music Hall of Fame gets $10 million from Country Music Assn.

CMA Theater CMA Theater
Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum has scored an early holiday gift in the form of a $10-million pledge from the Country Music Assn. that will go toward the museum’s ambitious $75-million expansion campaign, officials announced Tuesday. It is the largest single gift in the nonprofit museum’s history.

The Hall of Fame is in the midst of efforts to more than double its size from the current 140,000-square-foot-building to a planned 350,000-square-foot facility that will include an 800-seat performance space called the CMA Theater.

"CMA and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum are connected by history and our shared interest in preserving the legacy, rewarding excellence, and advancing the future of the format," CMA Chief Executive Steve Moore said in a statement. “We are proud to support the growth of the Hall and we look forward to using the CMA Theater in a variety of ways that will shine a spotlight on the Country Music industry and format.”

The CMA’s pledge brings the campaign to within $10 million of its fundraising goal. When the expansion plan was announced in late July, museum officials said they already had $56.8 million in donations and pledges in place. The project is expected to be completed early in 2014.

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-- Randy Lewis

Artist rendering of the 800-seat CMA Theater that will be part of the expanded Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. Credit: Tuck-Hinton Architects.

CMA Awards: Taylor Swift, Jason Aldean, Band Perry win top honors

Taylor Swift at the CMAs
Nashville’s Country Music Assn. has a well-deserved reputation for déjà vu, having doled out the same awards to the same performers year after year across much of its nearly half-century history. But this year the CMA apparently decided that it’s time to bring some new blood into its ranks, heaping multiple awards on relative newcomers Jason Aldean and the Band Perry, yet saving its top award for Taylor Swift, naming the 21-year-old singer and songwriter entertainer of the year.

Aldean, country music’s unrequited best man for several years -- he's had just one previous CMA nomination -- finally made it to the altar himself as his “My Kinda Party” was named album of the year Wednesday at the 45th CMA Awards. It was a decisive vote of confidence for the Macon, Ga., singer, who got the nod over Swift and her blockbuster “Speak Now” album, which last fall became the first collection in 5½ years in any genre to sell more than 1 million copies during its first week of release. 

“My Kinda Party,” however, is the top-selling country album of 2011 with sales of more than 2 million copies to date; Swift’s album, which has logged nearly double that figure at 3.8 million, was released at the end of 2010.  Aldean, whose four studio albums have sold more than 5 million copies collectively, also received the trophy for musical event for his duet “Don’t You Wanna Stay” with the first “American Idol” winner, Kelly Clarkson.

PHOTOS: CMA Awards 2011 | Red carpet arrivals

The Band Perry won for new artist, and its hit single “If I Die Young” picked up single and song of the year honors for its heart-tugging exploration of youths who feel overlooked or taken for granted, something the young sibling trio doesn’t have to worry about now.

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CMA Awards: Taylor Swift wins top prize, Paisley makes Oscar pitch

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift was named entertainer of the year at the 2011 CMA Awards, and for the first time in years the artist looked genuinely shocked winning the top prize. The entertainer trophy is awarded for an artist's ability to pack houses and put on a live show, and there's no denying Swift is country music's biggest touring force. Yet the artist's "Speak Now" didn't win album of the year, which went to Jason Aldean's "My Kind of Party," and Miranda Lambert was named female vocalist of the year. 

"I'm so happy right now," Swift said, and noted that there's a high level of "camaraderie" in country music right now. She thanked the likes of Justin Bieber, Tim McGraw, Nelly, Jason Mraz, Usher and many more for appearing at her shows. The names appeared to be written on her arm, in largely alphabetical order. 

Most honest reaction: Lambert on winning female vocalist of the year: "Seriously?" This blog was harsh on Lambert and her "Four the Record" earlier, but she's still an artist worth watching. Soon, however, especially four albums into her career, Lambert will have to become something more than an artist with promise.

Stay tuned for a full wrap of the CMAs top winners. Other random notes below:

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CMA Awards: Glen Campbell gets a short, respectable tribute

Glen Campbell

Glen Campbell, the legendary Arkansas-born singer and guitarist, who rose to prominence in Los Angeles in the 1960s and '70s and played on some of the most important recordings ever to come out of this city, announced in June that he's living with Alzheimer's disease. Campbell has been performing and just recently appeared in L.A.  and the CMA Awards, no doubt, had a challenge in honoring a man who has been paying his farewells to fans and the genre.

By and large, the CMAs delivered.

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CMA Awards: Jason Aldean makes his award-show statement

Jason Aldean accepts the album of the year award for "My Kinda Party"
When it comes to crossover country, Jason Aldean represents a sudden sea change. His reliance on  traditional country guitar licks with modern storytelling embellishments is a long way removed from the likes of Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood and Lady Antebellum, just to name a few of the acts who have dominated the scene of late. 

Aldean performed his "Tattoos on This Town" tonight at the CMA Awards, and it's a sturdy hit. It looks back, but without the nostalgia that mainstream Nashville songwriters are so obsessed with. A bit of a surprise, then, that Blake Shelton was named male vocalist of the year, but the CMAs don't aways take easy to change (see Kenny Chesney's entertainer of the year run), and Shelton won for the second year in running. If one were to judge on the award show performances of Aldean and Shelton, however, this should have been Aldean's year.

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CMA Awards: Lionel Richie goes country; Band Perry wins new artist

Lionel Richie performs with Darius Rucker at the CMA Awards
When an artist struggles, go country. One can't help but wonder what longtime country artists think of the likes of Lionel Richie and Natasha Bedingfield crashing their award show — but country has been good to the likes of Kid Rock, Jewel and Darius Rucker, so before one gets desperate, go country. Of course, that theory isn't foolproof; if it were we'd have about a dozen Nicole Scherzinger country records by now.

Nevertheless, Richie was on hand offering a medley of past hits -- "Deep River Feeling," "Stuck On You" and "Dancing On the Ceiling" -- with a slight country makeover. For those who wondered what a Rucker-enhanced version of "Stuck On You" would sound like, they now have their answer. 

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CMA Awards: Taylor Swift, Jason Aldean and, um, Luke Bryan

Taylor Swift at the CMA Awards
With Taylor Swift in the midst of her album cycle for "Speak Now," one can understand why the CMA Awards wouldn't want to keep drafting country's biggest star to open its awards. Instead, she was given a relatively comfortable slot an hour in, performing "Ours" in a family-room-like setting.

Slow Swift, at least at award shows, is the best, nay, better Swift, as the thinness of her voice is less exposed. "Ours," however, is still an odd little song. "Don't you worry your pretty little mind," Swift sings, doing her best to deliver that line without its natural condescension. It's a love song at its most defensive. 

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CMA Awards: The kids get the spotlight, and lose it

CMA Awards: The kids get the spotlight, and lose it
The CMA Awards allowed its newcomers to have lil' mini sets, and Brad Paisley introduced Eric Church as "country's latest outlaw." If that's the case, our musical hoodlums shouldn't be on the lam long. Here's a country cliché that needs to end, brought to the fore by Church: Enjoying a few pints doesn't need to equate stupidity.

Church's hero was a working stiff who's ready to tell his boss to shove that overtime up his behind. All fine and dandy, but his character is also a nobody until he has a drink in his hand and then transforms into a superhero and a fist-fightin' tough guy. It's hard to feel empathy for someone who proudly drinks his wages, so let's give Church a Titus Andronicus record, from a band whose rootsy drunkenness should come equipped with a reading list, and see if he finds a better use for booze than pandering. 

Next up was Thompson Square, whose "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not" is a meet-cute diversion for when the wedding DJ runs out of everything else. It was only Chris Young, who was last up, whose waaaaaaaay old song "Voices" had anything to offer. It was a tale of coming-of-age-confusion, a singer-songwriter story of balancing contradictory advice.

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Madonna's new demo track and the case for aging gracefully

PHOTOS: Country Music Awards red carpet arrivals

 

-- Todd Martens

Photo: Eric Church performs "Drink In My Hand" during the CMA Awards.  Credit: Mark Humphrey /Associated Press

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