Sunday, December 6, 2009


Taylor Swift continues her dominance at awards shows. The country-pop crossover sensation is among the top nominees for the 52nd annual GRAMMY Awards, with bids in eight categories. Her hit "You Belong With Me" is up for Record and Song of the Year as well as Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, while her hit "White Horse" is putting her in the running for Best Female Country Vocal Performance and Best Country Song and her track "Breathe" with Colbie Caillat is giving her a shot at Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals. Meanwhile, Swift's CD "Fearless" is up for Album of the Year and Best Country Album.

Keith Urban is another top country contender. He's up for four awards including Best Male Country Vocal Performance and Best Country Album. George Strait, Lee Ann Womack, Lady Antebellum, and the Zac Brown Band are also in the running in multiple categories, along with Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood, and Jamey Johnson. Brooks & Dunn, Martina McBride, Miranda Lambert, Trace Adkins, Billy Currington, and Sugarland are among the hopefuls as well.

Nominees in select categories for the 52nd annual GRAMMY Awards were revealed in a TV concert special which aired on CBS Wednesday night. Sugarland and Dwight Yoakam were among the stars who participated in the announcement event, which took place at the Club Nokia in Los Angeles. The 52nd annual GRAMMY Awards will be presented in a ceremony at L.A.'s Staples Center on January 31st, also on CBS.

A list of nominees for select General Field and Country categories for the 52nd annual GRAMMY Awards follows.


Record Of The Year:
Beyonce, "Halo"
Black Eyed Peas, "I Got A Feeling"
Kings of Leon, "Use Somebody"
Lady GaGa, "Poker Face"
Taylor Swift, "You Belong With Me"

Album Of The Year:
"I Am...Sasha Fierce," Beyonce
"The E.N.D.," Black Eyed Peas
"The Fame," Lady GaGa
"Big Whiskey & The GrooGrux King," Dave Matthews Band
"Fearless," Taylor Swift

Song Of The Year:
Lady GaGa, "Poker Face"
Maxwell, "Pretty Wings"
Beyonce, "Single Ladies"
Kings of Leon, "Use Somebody"
Taylor Swift, "You Belong With Me"


Best Female Country Vocal Performance:
Miranda Lambert, "Dead Flowers"
Martina McBride, "I Just Call You Mine"
Taylor Swift, "White Horse"
Carrie Underwood, "Just A Dream"
Lee Ann Womack, "Solitary Thinkin'"

Best Male Country Vocal Performance:
Trace Adkins, "All I Ask For Anymore"
Billy Currington, "People Are Crazy"
Jamey Johnson, "High Cost Of Living"
George Strait, "Living For The Night"
Keith Urban, "Sweet Thing"

Best Country Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal:
Brooks & Dunn, "Cowgirls Don't Cry"
Zac Brown Band, "Chicken Fried"
Lady Antebellum, "I Run To You"
Rascal Flatts, "Here Comes Goodbye"
Sugarland, "It Happens"

Best Country Collaboration With Vocals:
Dierks Bentley & Patty Griffin, "Beautiful World"
Kenny Chesney & Mac McAnally, "Down The Road"
Brad Paisley & Keith Urban, "Start A Band"
Carrie Underwood & Randy Travis, "I Told You So"
Lee Ann Womack & George Strait, "Everything But Quits"

Best Country Song:
"All I Ask For Anymore," Casey Beathard & Tim James, songwriters (Trace Adkins)
"High Cost Of Living," Jamey Johnson & James Slater, songwriters (Jamey Johnson)
"I Run To You," Tom Douglas, Dave Haywood, Charles Kelley & Hillary Scott, songwriters (Lady Antebellum)
"People Are Crazy," Bobby Braddock & Troy Jones, songwriters (Billy Currington)
"White Horse," Liz Rose & Taylor Swift, songwriters (Taylor Swift)

Best Country Album:
Zac Brown Band, "The Foundation"
George Strait, "Twang"
Taylor Swift, "Fearless"
Keith Urban, "Defying Gravity"
Lee Ann Womack, "Call Me Crazy"

Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush note they're excited about receiving a GRAMMY nomination. The duo took part in Wednesday night's live televised event unveiling the hopefuls in select categories, and were on hand to learn they were a contender for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for "It Happens." Following the announcement on CBS, host LL Cool J asked the country stars about their bid. Nettles said being recognized by the Recording Academy, quote, "feels good," noting that GRAMMY night is "the biggest night in all of music." Regarding the difference between the GRAMMYs and country music-specific award shows, the singer added, quote, "It's a big honor when we win country awards, but to be here at the GRAMMYs, you know, nominated, that's nice, yeah."

A collaboration between the rapper and the country duo could also be in the making. When asked how it felt to get the nomination, Kristian Bush told LL, quote, "It feels like you need to come play with us," to which LL responded, quote, "Anything can happen. I'm open to it." Nominees in select categories were revealed in a TV concert special which aired on CBS Wednesday night. The 52nd annual GRAMMY Awards will be presented in a ceremony at L.A.'s Staples Center on January 31st, also on CBS.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Garth Brooks is making his official performance comeback. The country superstar teamed up with Las Vegas developer Steve Wynn Thursday October 15th to announce a five-year run at the Encore Theater at the Wynn Las Vegas. The show is being described as a walk through Brooks' musical journey, and are slated to feature solo acoustic performances in an intimate setting. But the singer admitted that his wife Trisha Yearwood would most likely make many guest appearances. Brooks also said he'd be welcoming friends to join him for shows, and suggested that some dates might feature him with his band. He emphasized that his goal was to make each show special, and promised that no two performances would be the same. Brooks, who retired from showbusiness in 2001 to dedicate himself to his now-teenage daughters, added that his children are still his top priority. He noted that he signed on with Wynn with his family's blessing.

Earlier that morning, Brooks appeared on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville where he announced that he was coming out of retirement. At the same time, he said that he didn't see a new album or a tour coming for five years.

Brooks will be playing 15 weekends a year at the Encore, which includes one show on Fridays, two on Saturdays, and one on Sundays. He'll begin his Vegas run on December 11th. Tickets for the first five weeks go on sale October 24th.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


It was sunny and about 70 degrees as Dierks Bentley began his 4th annual Miles & Music Celebrity Motorcycle Ride. Several hundred riders joined Dierks, as well as Montgomery Gentry's Troy Gentry and Wynonna. The group traveled about 15 miles from a shopping center south of Nashville to the Riverfront Stage in downtown Music City. There, Dierks met up with Darius Rucker and Eric Church for a concert. The Ride benefits the Vanderbilt University Children's Hospital, and it took on new meaning for Dierks this year. The night before last year's Ride, his daughter Evie was born in that hospital. Now she's happy and healthy, and getting ready for her first Halloween. Dierks will expand his Miles & Music Ride to his hometown of Phoenix next months, and other cities next year.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Miranda Lambert releases her third album, Revolution, on September 29. She performed the entire project, from start to finish, in a special sold-out show at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium last week. Fans from around the country attended the show, and reacted enthusiastically to the new music. Miranda’s boyfriend, Blake Shelton, co-wrote three songs on the album. Before performing “Me And Your Cigarettes,” she told the audience that Blake was on the road, and unable to join her. Also missing were Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood of Lady Antebellum, who co-wrote “Love Song.” However, mid-way through the show, Miranda acknowledged that there was at least one celebrity in the house. Taylor Swift was seated in the front row of the balcony. She brought her guitar player and a member of the rock band Paramour as her guests. After doing the entire 70-minute album in order, Miranda took a short break, and returned to do three classics: Merle Haggard’s “The Way I Am,” Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” and the Hank Williams song “Settin’ The Woods on Fire.” While singing “Crazy,” Miranda stepped away from the microphone to demonstrate the power of her voice without amplification. Then, she did 5 of her hits, ending the show with “Gunpowder & Lead.”

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Taylor Swift told the sold-out Nashville crowd, "I've been waiting for this night for a long time," and she didn't disappoint. Her two-hour show Saturday night featured numerous costume changes, set changes, pre-taped video segments, and an intimate performance with just guitar and harmony singers. And then, after performing her debut hit, "Tim McGraw," she said, "I've got a surprise for you, and I think you're gonna like it. Here's Faith Hill." The two then performed Faith's hit "The Way You Love Me." She later told the audience "Tim McGraw is in the house." No doubt, he and Faith brought their three little girls as well. The show was punctuated by long periods of applause, where Taylor stood silently and took it all in, obviously enjoying the moment. An hour after the show ended, Taylor and her band were on a plane to New York, where she was to appear on the MTV Video Music Awards.


Saturday night, Carrie Underwood performed for the CMT series "Invitation Only," where she debuted several songs from her forthcoming third album, "Play On." The show featured the reigning ACM Entertainer of the Year in an intimate club-like setting, performing for about a hundred or so people. She also answered their questions on a wide range of subjects. She told them she was a huge Star Trek fan, saying "I should be a Trekkie for Halloween."

When asked which of her new songs is her favorite, she chose "Temporary Home," saying "It was inspired by the book Purpose Driven Life. I feel like I was supposed to write and sing this song." Other new songs included "Undo It," which she wrote with American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi, "Mama's Song," and current single "Cowboy Casanova." "Invitation Only," featuring Carrie Underwood will debut on the Dish Network on November 3, with the CMT debut taking place in December.

Friday, April 24, 2009


Carrie Underwood accepted the Entertainer of the Year trophy at the Academy of Country Music Awards on April 5, 2009. That fact we know. But what happened AFTER she got the award? Country Countdown USA host Lon Helton covered that subject and more during Carrie’s first full-length radio interview since winning country’s top award.

For example, Carrie received the award from actor Matthew McConaughey. Prior to handing out the award, he told the audience he once tried to gain the attention of a couple girls by saying he made George Strait’s boots. In her acceptance speech, Carrie, who was still in shock from winning the award, blurted out, “I wanna see those boots Matthew!” Carrie told Lon that her comments may have been misunderstood. “It was just a joke. It was just something that flew out. Afterwards, I said 'Oh mom I’m sorry!' totally joking again, and then different media outlets said 'Carrie apologizes,' and I really didn’t, because I had nothing to apologize for. I was just being silly. Things come out weird in print.” Carrie had a few moments with Matthew as they walked off the stage. So what did she say to him? “I saw him right after the show, and I was like, “I hope I didn’t embarrass you. I embarrassed myself!”

Also on stage as Carrie accepted her Entertainer award was the host of the show, Reba McEntire. Reba had won the same award in 1994, so she knew how Carrie was feeling. Afterwards, Carrie told Lon she spoke with Reba. “She was so excited I won, so for someone like her to seem so genuinely happy for me meant a lot. She sent me a present which really meant a lot. She sent me a vase from Tiffany’s. It’s beautiful. I have no idea what I’m gonna do with it. Nothing in my house is nice enough to put this near. So it was really nice.”

Carrie told Lon winning the award was totally unexpected. “It had been a wonderful night anyway. I had the Female Vocalist award in my pocket. I could leave now, I’m a very happy girl. And I was just talking with my mom, and it was something I didn’t expect at all. I know my fans love to vote, but the other nominees, it was like I didn’t have a chance!”

One of the “other nominees” in the Entertainer category was Kenny Chesney. She ran into him as she was on her way to the stage to accept the award. Afterwards, Lon asked Kenny what he said to Carrie, and he said “I told her I was proud of her and I wanted her to know that not everyone gets to stand in that spot, so when you walk in there, take it all in.” Lon played that quote for Carrie, who said, “I’ve known Kenny since I started, I went on tour with him, and so much has happened since then. So for him to tell me he was proud of me meant a lot. I also talked with Gary LeVox of Rascal Flatts later that night, who said a lot to me about enjoying the experience.”

One of the other highlights of the night (besides winning the Entertainer award) was when she performed “I Told You So.” The performance was flawless, but what caused people to talk was Carrie's incredible red dress. “It was interesting to figure out the logistics of making that dress work. My stylist showed me a picture of it, and I was willing to try. Then I saw it in person, and it was a lot of fabric! It’s even more fabric than you can see. They may have even made it smaller. Getting into it was a challenge. I thought I was going to have it pre-placed and have me walk into it. The dress stood up on it’s own. So I got into it from the top. It was interesting. I’m glad it was just me and my stylist. Reba was nice enough to let me use one of her side-of-stage changing areas. It took a few people to get me into it. It took five people to carry the dress on the stage. Then afterwards there was something people didn’t see. There was a part of the stage that was supposed to come down so the audience couldn’t see us as we moved off. I waited a second, nobody came, so I just scooped up the dress to get off stage. Everybody laughed, and I hoped it wasn’t filmed, but people wondered why the audience was laughing. That’s why.”

After winning the award, Carrie went to a few post-awards parties. Carrie told Lon she got together with Kellie Pickler and Miranda Lambert at the Sony Music party. “After the show, we had a really good time afterwards. I’m surprised we didn’t do more damage than we did. So it was a lot of fun hanging out with the girls.” Alan Jackson was also at the Sony party, and Carrie gave her mom a thrill by introducing her to Alan. “My mom had fun with him at the ACM after-party. I don’t think she ever met Alan before. So she got to meet him. It was great to speak with him that night, because he was my first concert when I was just a little girl, so to sit at a table and talk about whatever is exciting. He reminds me of my dad, but nicer. He’s probably the same way now as when he started, which is so cool.”

Although she has just won the Entertainer of the Year award, Carrie says there are no plans for a tour this year. Instead, she’s starting work on her third album. “I’m doing lots of thinking about the next album, and lots of writing, we should be going into the studio for the first round within the next couple weeks. We’re writing with a lot of the same people who I wrote with on Carnival Ride. I feel like I’ve found my place as a writer, and I look forward to doing more of it.” As far as singles, Carrie says “I Told You So,” is very likely to be the last single from Carnival Ride. So there may be a few months where there isn’t new music on the radio. “I don’t want people to get tired of me, and it won’t be much of a gap, because they’ll be wanting to release a single before the album comes out.” In the meantime, look for Carrie to perform on the finale of American Idol next month, and then on the Grand Ole Opry on June 9th as part of CMA Music Festival.

You can hear more of Lon Helton’s interview with Carrie Underwood, where she talks about appearing on the Oprah show, performing on the Grammy Awards, and much more on CMT’s Country Countdown USA over the weekend of April 25-26, plus highlights will be posted at
Credit: Official photos courtesy of Getty Images


When country music goes to Las Vegas for the annual Academy of Country Music Awards, there are many planned events, but also a lot that is unexpected. Certainly the Awards TV show on Sunday night is the main event. But there are a lot of other things going on in town, starting with the annual radio remote, where 50 of the nation’s largest radio stations broadcast live from the MGM Grand Hotel. That’s where Country Countdown USA host Lon Helton was camped out, taping video interviews with the stars for the show’s new Video Player.

Lots of country’s biggest stars came by the remote site to speak with Lon, including Faith Hill, who was in town for the Artist of the Decade tribute to George Strait. Faith told Lon about the first time she went to a Strait concert. “When I was 14, I pleaded with my brother to drive me from Mississippi to Houston to see George at Gilley’s. And I told him, ‘I’m gonna open for him someday.’ So when I got the job to open for him, my brother Steve was the first person I called. He epitomizes what is great about country music.”

The host of the ACM Awards TV show, Reba McEntire, came by as well. She previewed her new single, “Strange,” which she performed on the show. While she was there, Lon gave her an award as the most-played country female artist in the history of the Mediabase chart.

Rascal Flatts dropped by the set on Friday afternoon. They’d just flown in from LA, where they attended the premiere for the Hannah Montana movie. Joe Don told Lon they weren’t able to stay for the movie because they had to fly to Vegas. They walked the red carpet, and got to talk with Miley & Billy Ray Cyrus. The other reason they were in Vegas was to host the annual ACM golf tournament, which took place Saturday morning.

One of the celebrities at the Westwood One radio remote was NFL star Jared Allen of the Minnesota Vikings. Lon asked him about the big trade involving Denver Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler to the Chicago Bears. That means they’re now in the same division. “I was just goofing with him the other day. I got to play against him when I was in Kansas City, so now I can play against him in Chicago. So now twice a year, I get to peal the back of his head off the turf! I love the guy, but business is business!”

Other stars who came to the remote included Carrie Underwood, Lady Antebellum, Taylor Swift, John Rich, Heidi Newfield, Jason Aldean, Rodney Atkins, Miley Cyrus, and many more.

Saturday night, after the radio remote, there was a small ceremony where the ACM presented the awards for Radio Station and Radio Personality of the Year. Sugarland was on hand to do the honors. Lon was given his award for National Personality of the Year.

Sunday afternoon, lots of fans gathered outside the MGM Garden Theater for the red carpet activities. The biggest screams came when a black Escalade pulled up, and Keith Urban jumped out. The crowd screamed even louder as he ran to the other side of the car and opened the door for his wife, actress Nicole Kidman. Keith signed a few autographs for some happy fans before heading in for the Awards show. Other stars on the red carpet included Alan Jackson, Trace Adkins, Taylor Swift, and many more.

You can watch all of Lon’s video interviews by going to and clicking on the Video Player.