Tuesday, April 3, 2012

NEW ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Casey James

NEW ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Casey James
By Bob Doerschuk
© 2012 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.
Casey James was born cool — or, more precisely, in Cool, a tiny Texas town not far from Fort Worth. With both parents playing guitar and singing, James inevitably followed the same path.
His aesthetic grew from a variety of influences — Vince Gill, Merle Haggard, Bonnie Raitt, ZZ Top, plenty of outlaw Country and down-home blues. For all the range his favorites covered, they were united by their fundamentally emotional and expressive approach to music.
This didn’t escape James’ notice. Toughened and polished on the Lone Star club circuit, he chiseled a sound so distinctive that his mother suggested unleashing it before the judges of “American Idol.” Sometimes it pays to mind your parents, as James roared through the auditions and finished in third place for Season 9 in 2010. That exposure earned him a berth on the road with Sugarland on “The Incredible Machine Tour” during early 2011.
Relocating to Nashville after finishing “Idol,” James juggled live appearances with preparations for his debut album. Released in March, Casey James exudes confidence and professionalism. Nine of its 11 songs were co-written by James, including the debut single, “Let’s Don’t Call It a Night” (James, Brice Long and Terry McBride). The slow, sly groove, the way the two-chord verses set up the extended ending of the choruses and the playful sensuality of the lyric make it impossible to walk away without it repeating in your memory. It also establishes James’ accessibility as a writer and performer, qualities that are essential for building listener connections that last.
IN HIS OWN WORDS
BOOK ON YOUR NIGHTSTAND
Republic Commando: True Colors. Yes, I still read Star Wars books.”
PET PEEVE
“Someone squeezing the toothpaste tube from the top. Rage. Haha.”
LUCKY CHARM“I’m not really a believer in lucky charms, but I pretty much always wear three rings on my right hand. I actually feel naked without them on.”
FAVORITE FOOD ON THE ROAD“Oranges.”
PHRASE YOU SAY OVER AND OVER“‘It is what it is.’ It says so much in a great way.”
On the Web: www.CaseyEJames.com

Rascal Flatts Sets Fans A-Twitter on High-Tech Tour

Rascal Flatts Sets Fans A-Twitter on High-Tech Tour
By Joseph Hudak
© 2012 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.
Rascal Flatts may be the star attraction of this summer’s “The Farmers Insurance Presents Changed Tour,” kicking off June 15 in Hartford, Conn., but it’s the fans themselves who will see their names up in lights. Or, more precisely, on the enormous video screens at each tour stop.
Always ahead of the curve in social-media promotion, Rascal Flatts, who on April 3 released Changed, their second album for Big Machine Records, is furthering the unique Twitter initiative they debuted during last winter’s “Thaw Out 2012” tour. The interactive campaign lets audience members display their Twitter handles, tweets and even photos on screens flanking the stage before the band’s set.
It’s a simple but wildly effective bit of digital marketing, and a surefire way of keeping fans engaged. After all, who doesn’t want a few seconds of fame — or a new, exciting way to connect with their favorite artist?
To afford audiences that chance, Rascal Flatts partnered with Mass Relevance, an Austin, Texas, outfit whose software collects, filters and moderates information (in this case, tweets) for strategic use by their clients. The company creates a “visualization” — essentially a Web page branded with the logos of Rascal Flatts and tour sponsor Farmers Insurance — to provide a canvas for the tweets. In turn, the tour projects that visualization onto the venues’ screens. All that’s required is a common AV projector, an Internet connection and laptop, and a predetermined hashtag to group the tweets. For the winter trek, the band selected #ThawOutTour.
“The great thing about this is that the day before you come into a city, you can start talking to the fans in that city by using the hashtag. For instance, right here. They’re just buzzing,” said Rascal Flatts’ Joe Don Rooney, gesturing toward the crowd gathered at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., for “Thaw Out Tour 2012”’s penultimate date. Seated on his bus with Gary LeVox and Jay DeMarcus on a late February evening, Rooney and his bandmates talked at length about why the tweet-to-screen feature is so successful at engaging audiences.
“It becomes a web of people talking about Flatts,” Rooney said. “As long as they use the hashtag, they can say anything and it can go right to the screen.”
That assumes, of course, that the tweets do not contain obscenities, spam or anything else deemed inappropriate for a crowd of Country Music fans.
That’s where the parameters of Mass Relevance’s program come into play. “You can set all these automated rules to filter out, say, profanity, really short tweets or anything with a link,” said Sam Decker, the company’s co-founder and CEO, who provides a similar service for NBC’s “The Voice,” Giants Stadium, Katy Perry and other clients. “The tweets go through those rules in less than a second and, just like that, we’re filtering out half. Then, from the 50 percent that weren’t filtered out, you can approve what goes up live on the screen.”
Oftentimes, that secondary approval process — hand-moderating, Decker calls it — is done off-site, away from the arena or amphitheater, by a member of Rascal Flatts’ management firm, Spalding Entertainment.
“The beauty of the technology is that I literally can moderate from anyplace in the world,” said Amanda Cates, Director, Online Marketing, Spalding Entertainment. “The parameters filter what I’m seeing and that helps me get the most relevant and most premium content available on the screen.”
Some of that high-value content comes straight from the CMA Award-winning trio itself: The band members’ tweets have a direct link to the screen. “They can be automatically approved,” explained Decker, “so Rascal Flatts can have a dialogue with the fans in the stadium from backstage.”
They can also oversee contests for fans to win seat upgrades and meet-and-greet passes.
“We’ve been trying to think of some new ways to take advantage of having such a large database of Twitter followers, like contests and things like that,” said the tech-savvy DeMarcus, who used Twitter in February to reveal he and wife Allison were expecting a baby boy. He also tweeted photos and videos during the Changed recording sessions last summer. “The fans get instant gratification when we’re in the studio. It’s neat for them to feel like they’re more connected to us in some small way.”
“It’s 2012 and you’ve got to roll with the times,” LeVox concurred. “This lets our fans know what’s happening every single day.” Still, he admitted he doesn’t tweet all that much, despite having 25,000-plus followers. “I’ve got carpal tunnel,” he joked. “I thought Twitter was just a way to play fishing and hunting games.”
The tour hashtags do bag big numbers online. From the time they roll into a market to a few days after the show, Rascal Flatts is regularly a trending topic (a subject that receives an exceptional amount of tweets), which sparks interest in the concert and can ultimately help sell tickets and albums.
“We run the tweet-to-screen as soon as the doors open until the first act takes the stage, and then in between sets,” Cates said. “And what we find is that we’re trending in every city we are able to track. I think that helps further drive awareness for what we’re doing.”
It comes down to harnessing the technology that’s available, Decker stressed. “The whole goal of a trending topic is to get not just volume, but meaningful volume,” he said. “Let’s say that one band prints their hashtag on a vinyl banner and hangs it on the arena wall, but another band puts theirs up on the screen and gives people their five seconds of fame. There will be at least a 10-times difference in the amount of tweets that occur when people see that they can be a part of something.”
In other words, it establishes an active community among the fans, even ones who may not be at that night’s performance. “As the tour progresses, the fans know what’s happening (with the hashtag) and those at home are sending messages onscreen to their friends at the show,” said Cates, who added the campaign isn’t limited to Rascal Flatts and what LeVox calls their “fan-ily.”
During the “Thaw Out 2012” tour, devotees of opening acts Sara Evans and Hunter Hayes took advantage of the tweet-to-screen campaign, and fans of Little Big Town, Eli Young Band and Edens Edge will be encouraged to do likewise during the “Changed” jaunt. “Their communities are in there tweeting and talking too,” Cates said. “It pulls the fan bases together.”
DeMarcus believes the secret behind the Twitter phenomenon is that it humanizes celebrities, offering a public glimpse into their private lives, their daily routines, their fast-food meals. “It’s obvious from certain actors who tweet how much their fans adore the fact that they care enough to say, ‘I’m going through a drive-through at In-N-Out Burger right now.’ It’s unbelievable how much it matters to them,” he said.
“It’s an equalizer,” Rooney chimed in.
“If you’ve been in the business for a while and you’re new to Twitter or Facebook, it’s easy to dismiss it as a passing fad,” DeMarcus added. “But it’s not. It’s an effective way to stay connected and pass along information, and is going to be even more effective in the future.”
Decker hopes that Flatts or a similarly forward-thinking act will help Mass Relevance stretch the limits of social media to bring the audience deeper into the cyber experience. “One of the ideas that we’d love to put out there is to host a Q&A or live-by-request performance through tweets,” he explained. “Rascal Flatts would be on their bus and we’d filter in questions or requests via Twitter. It’d be an engaging fan experience as they’re going from city to city.”
Yet the Flatts camp is also aware that Country Music lovers often enjoy a tangible product even more than an abstract tweet. To that end, the band released a special version of Changed as a ’ZinePak. Basically a mini-magazine, the format includes a copy of the CD and a set of collectible Rascal Flatts guitar picks, created by the ‘ZinePak company in New York City.
“It’s a little magazine that folds out and has information about each one of us,” said DeMarcus.
“It’s a little deeper than just an album package,” elaborated Rooney.
“They’ll get to know us as people and what’s important in our life,” LeVox said. “It’s not just us as artists or what they perceive Rascal Flatts to be.”
How will the guys and management help promote the ’ZinePak? Through social media, naturally. Team Flatts will also be using the one-two punch of Twitter and Facebook to spread the word about the Farmers Insurance-sponsored “Star for a Day” contest. By entering on Facebook, fans at each tour date can win their own dressing room, access to backstage catering, and a visit with the band. (A national winner will be awarded a trip to Nashville.)
“It’s all about giving everybody something new,” DeMarcus said.
But it’s also something personal, Rooney believes. “I think Twitter is great, but I think that people love the human touch,” he said, rocking back in his chair on the bus. “Especially when you’re an upstart artist, you can tweet that you’re in a city and say, ‘At this time of the day, I want to meet you guys.’ We do meet-and-greets every night before the show and hear their stories, and that human touch is what they really long for.”
Rooney clearly appreciates the power of the 21st-century “tweet and meet,” as it were. “We have a special moment with fans that you can’t really have through Twitter,” he said with a grin. “But you can set it up through Twitter.”
On the Web: www.RascalFlatts.com

MARK COLLIE’S ALIVE AT BRUSHY MOUNTAIN ARRIVES FROM WILBANKS ENTERTAINMENT MAY 1

MARK COLLIE’S ALIVE AT BRUSHY MOUNTAIN
ARRIVES FROM WILBANKS ENTERTAINMENT MAY 1
Previously Unreleased, Revelatory Album Captures Life Behind Prison Walls

     NASHVILLE, Tennessee — Mark Collie’s album Alive At Brushy Mountain, recorded more than a decade ago inside the walls of Tennessee’s most notorious state prison, finally makes its full-force debut on May 1 via Wilbanks Entertainment.    
     On Oct. 17, 2001, Collie performed a sheaf of new original songs about crime and punishment – nearly all of them heard here for the first time – before an enthusiastic audience of inmates at Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, the forbidding Eastern Tennessee facility that had numbered James Earl Ray, assassin of Martin Luther King, among its hardcore prisoners. (The 113-year-old prison closed in 2009.)
     “God gave me the opportunity to get in there and share something that might make a difference,” Collie says. “I believed the songs could matter,” he continues. “I thought that they could be important, and I wanted to share ‘em. I wanted to make something that people could find hope in, or redemption, or restoration, or forgiveness.”                  
    For the occasion, Collie assembled a crack all-star band and enlisted  Austin-based critics’ darling Kelly Willis, Country Star Shawn Camp, and blues legend Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown as special guests. (In addition to filming the concert, film producer Chris Zarpas and director Thom Oliphant  joined Collie on multiple visits to the prison to document life inside the walls of Brushy Mountain as seen through the eyes of its inmates; the feature-length documentary has been restored for future release.)
    By the time Mark Collie walked through Brushy Mountain’s gates, the Tennessee-born musician was an established country star with five studio albums – four of them for MCA Nashville – to his credit and the top 10 hits “Even the Man in the Moon is Crying” and “Born to Love You” under his belt.
The idea of recording an album at Brushy Mountain was born of Collie’s own experience. He says, “I’ve known people who’ve been in and out of there, friends of mine as well. Also, there was my relationship with and my inspiration by Johnny Cash, who was very encouraging and supportive of me as I worked through this project.”
     Collie had become good friends with the late country luminary, and the young musician – who also has several screen acting credits -- was in fact Cash’s first choice to portray him on the screen. (Collie gives an intense, uncanny performance as the young, tormented Cash in the 1998 short film I Still Miss Someone.)
    It was Cash’s celebrated live albums recorded at California’s Folsom and San Quentin penitentiaries, and the impact an earlier San Quentin performance had on a young inmate named Merle Haggard, that spurred Collie to contemplate a prison recording of his own.
    “Without Johnny going to San Quentin,” Collie says, “there might not have been a Merle Haggard. There were a lot of lives that were made better as a result of that music.”
    Collie began writing his own cycle of prison songs. He debuted one of them, “Maybe Mexico,” in an impromptu performance before an audience of movie producers and filmmakers at Nashville’s Greens Grocery.  Tony Brown, the famed country producer who was then head of MCA Nashville, was in the audience and promptly agreed to produce Alive at Brushy Mountain.   
     David Z, the L.A.-based musician-songwriter-producer who began his career with Prince’s band, signed on as co-producer. Says Collie, “Who better to record a live record than the guy who made what I think is the best sounding live record ever recorded, Purple Rain.”
     From a wish list they assembled, the production team pulled together a top-flight crew of musicians, including guitarist Dave Grissom (John Mellencamp, Joe Ely), keyboardist
Mike Utley (Jimmy Buffett, the Dixie Flyers), guitarist-mandolinist Tommy Burroughs (Memphis’ Riverbluff Clan), bassist Willie Weeks (the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, B.B. King), accordionist Hassel Tekkle (Kix Brooks) and drummer Chad Cromwell (Neil Young, Mark Knopfler), and Camp.  Willis also supplied backup vocals on several numbers.  The music embraces a breadth of American styles – country, blues, gospel, bluegrass, and rock ‘n’ roll.
     The album is highlighted by the striking originals written or co-written by Collie – “Maybe Mexico,” “Rose Covered Garden,” “Second Chance,” “On the Day I Die,” “Dead Man Runs Before He Walks,” “Do As I Say,” and “Reckless Companions” – which contemplate the convict’s lot with compassion, keen detail, and sometimes boisterous humor. In homage to Cash, Collie also performs a storming version of “Folsom Prison Blues.” The album concludes with a rendition of the standard “Gospel Train” by Brushy Mountain’s inmate choir.
     Collie had made an important statement and a career recording at Brushy Mountain. But he had no way of knowing that he had completed what would become one of the great lost albums of its day. Events conspired to keep Alive at Brushy Mountian off the market.
     “The record was being finished, and changes at MCA were happening,” Collie remembers. “Tony Brown was leaving and there was nobody left who’d started the project.  Basically, I was gone, and the record was, as they say,  ‘in the can’.”
     For almost 10 years, in a futile wrangle with record labels and film production companies, Collie tried without success to acquire the rights to Alive at Brushy Mountain. However, a chance meeting with Tim Wilbanks at a charity fundraiser in Alabama led to the formation of Wilbanks Entertainment, which is proudly giving the album the release it so richly deserves.
    Collie views his work at the prison in spiritual terms, and sees Alive at Brushy Mountain as an example of the transformative force of music.
    “I think that’s why God gave us song -- the songs of David, the Song of Solomon. It’s a way for us to hear truths, and to allow that power of the song to help us, to teach us, to heal us, to restore us, and to bring us all closer together.
     “Music saved my life. Having a guitar to play, having a way to express myself saved my life. And I know that there are a lot of guys – a lot better men than me – who made one misstep and wound up in places like Brushy Mountain. It didn’t have to be that way. If I can change one life with this work, it will all have been worth it.”

Country Music News International April 3. 2012

Here is your Country Music News of the day. Your Country Music News is supported by Steel Guitar Nashville, http://www.SteelGuitar.net , HelpCharity, http://www.MySpace.com/HelpCharity , Bobbe Seymour, http://www.MySpace.com/BobbeSeymour , Radio4Humans, http://www.Radio4Humans.eu , Katsy Redstar http://www.myspace.com/KatsyRedstar

You can publish the Newsletter to your websites or forward to your friends. If you want to publish some of the interviews, please contact me.

Hier sind jetzt Eure Country Music News des Tages. Eure Country Music News werden unterstützt von Steel Guitar Nashville, http://www.SteelGuitar.net , HelpCharity, http://www.MySpace.com/HelpCharity , Bobbe Seymour, www.MySpace.com/BobbeSeymour , Radio4Humans, http://www.Radio4Humans.eu , Katsy Redstar http://www.myspace.com/KatsyRedstar

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Country Music News:

Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice Break Record With Chart-topping Hit http://countrymusicnewsinternational.blogspot.de/2012/04/junior-sisk-ramblers-choice-break.html




Country Music Star Craig Morgan Partner to Benefit Folds of Honor and Military Families http://countrymusicnewsinternational.blogspot.de/2012/04/country-music-star-craig-morgan-partner.html

Official Publication of the Country Music Association Of Ireland http://countrymusicnewsinternational.blogspot.de/2012/04/official-publication-of-country-music.html

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Celebrate our first year of Country Music News International and reach up to 200,000 people every day all year long artists! http://countrymusicnewsinternational.blogspot.com/2012/03/celebrate-our-first-year-of-country.html

Großes Gewinnspiel im Wert von € 12.000,- / Huge Raffle with prizes valued at a total of € 12,000 http://countrymusicnewsinternational.blogspot.com/2012/02/ein-jahr-country-music-news.html

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Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice Break Record With Chart-topping Hit


Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice Break Record
With Chart-topping Hit
April 2, 2012 (Ferrum, VA)—Since the release last year of The Heart Of A Song, the second CD on Rebel Records from Junior Sisk And Ramblers Choice, the band has celebrated much success as the project continues to maintain significant support from radio programmers and fans alike. The first single from the CD, "A Far Cry From Lester And Earl" is topping bluegrass charts nationally and has reached #1 for Bluegrass Unlimited's Top 30 National Songs chart for April 2012. In addition, the single has stayed in the #1 position on the Bluegrass Music Profiles Top 30 Hot Singles chart for an unprecedented five consecutive months, (December '11 - April '12), setting a new record for the chart. "Another Man's Arms", also from The Heart Of A Song is tied for the #2 spot on Bluegrass Junction's (SiriusXM) Most Played Tracks and also debuted recently on the Bluegrass Today Singles Chart, moving up to the #8 position for the month of March.

The Heart Of A Song reached #1 on Bluegrass Junction's (SiriusXM) Most Played Albums for March 2012, was #1 on Bluegrass Music Profiles National Top 10 CDs for February and continues to hold firmly to it's #3 spot for the third consecutive month on Bluegrass Unlimited's Top 15 Bluegrass Albums chart. In addition, The Heart Of A Song was listed by music critic Keith Lawrence as his #1 pick for the Ten Best Albums of 2011 (view complete list here). 

Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice continue to tour in support of The Heart Of A Song and can be seen at one of the following venues in the near future:

April 13th - Two Rivers Bluegrass Festival, Leakesville, MS
April 14th - Big Lick Bluegrass Festival, Oakboro, NC
April 20th - Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Jamfest, Ferrum College, Ferrum, VA
April 27th - Footlights of the Blueridge, Rocky Mount, VA
April 28th - Mr. B's Bluegrass Festival, Ladysmith, VA

Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice are sponsored by Two By Two BBQ of Rocky Mount, VA and are also the official ambassadors of the Historic Jonesborough Bluegrass Series. For more information on Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice including tour dates, news items and merchandise, please visit www.juniorsisk.us.

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