Celebrating 56 years in business, Curb Records is one of the world’s leading independent music companies. Owned and operated by Mike Curb since 1964, Curb has achieved a staggering 435 number-one singles, over 1,500 hundred Top Ten hits and charted over 4,500 records in total. Curb Records has been influential in the careers of some of the biggest names in country music, including Tim McGraw, Hank Williams, Jr., Rodney Atkins, LeAnn Rimes, The Judds, Dylan Scott, Sawyer Brown, Wynonna, Lyle Lovett, Jo Dee Messina, Hal Ketchum and Desert Rose Band, to name only a few. Their current roster includes some of the top names across multiple genres of music, with one of the biggest on the country side of things being one LEE BRICE.
Bricerecently took the top spot at U.S. country radio with his current single, Memory I Don’t Mess With, a track taken from his hit 2020 album Hey World. Written by Brice, Brian Davis and Billy Montana, the song hit a chord with audiences as it evokes both a nostalgic look at your life and reminds us that some memories are best left preserved in the past, untarnished.
When Brice isn’t selling out arenas, writing and recording songs, or building new brands like American Born whiskey, you’ll find the family man with his wife Sara, their two young boys, and their daughter. With over 3 billion on-demand streams, and over 3.6 billion spins on Pandora, Brice has been enjoying massive success at digital streaming services, as well as at country radio and on the road. His recent #1, the aforementioned Memory I Don’t Mess With, followed three prior chart-toppers; One of ThemGirls, I Hope You’re Happy Now with Carly Pearce, and Rumor, a record which was also nominated in the category Single of The Year at the 55th Annual ACM Awards.
Brice, in fact, is one of the most-played country artists of all time on the Pandora platform, and was the second country artist behind Keith Urban to receive the Pandora Billionaire plaque. Lee is also a GRAMMY nominee, a CMA and ACM award winner, all on top of his nine #1 radio singles, A Woman Like You, Hard to Love, I Drive YourTruck, I Don’t Dance, Drinking Class, keeping company with those we’ve already named. Brice is also a talented songsmith in his own right, Garth Brooks, Jason Aldean, Kenny Chesney and many others have taken his songs into the studio. Brice has performed on numerous TV shows, including NBC’s Today, ABC’s The Bachelor, NBC’s The Voice and FOX’s Miss USA 2018, and also performed as part of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song honoring Garth Brooks which aired on PBS in March 2020.
At the 54th Annual CMA Awards, Lee took home the prize for Musical Event of the Year for his song with Carly Pearce, I Hope You’re Happy Now, while at the 56th ACM Awards that same record won Single of the Year and Music Event of the Year, with Lee and Carly Pearce performed the song live.
Also on the Curb Records roster are duo Rod + Rose (Rodney Atkins and Rose Falcon), and their latest offering is the commitment-filled ballad, Put Me Back Together, which dropped earlier this month. Described as a slow-burning track, the release previews the couple’s forthcoming and self-titled EP, which is due for release in late January 2022.
Together, Atkins and Falcon—married since 2013—are an unstoppable force in life, love and music. She was a rock ’n’ roll princess who was offered a record deal at just 15 and has since written songs which have been recorded by Faith Hill, Lady A and Eric Paslay. He is an established country voice and a working man’s songwriter – the kind who understands how real people feel – with 6 #1 hits to his name, many of which topped the charts for four weeks plus. And now, for the first time, they’ve joined creative forces in an official capacity for Rod + Rose.
Rod + Rose have been singing side by side for years and share two sons: Ryder and Scout. Most recently, the duo co-wrote several tracks for Atkins’ latest album, Caught Up In The Country, whose gold-certified title-cut, featuring The Fisk Jubilee Singers, set the record (at the time) for the longest-running single in Billboard Country Airplay history at 57 weeks.
New single Put Me Back Together was written by Caitlyn Smith, Trevor Dahl, Brenton Duvall, Johnny Price and Kiara Saulters, and was originally performed by electronic music trio Cheat Codes, featuring Kiara, but the lyrics read like the Cliffs Notes to Rose and Rodney’s real life love story. “To me”, observes Falcon, “it’s a song about falling together instead of falling apart during difficult times. 2020 was a challenging year for us and most everyone we know, but we got through it. When life gets messy, we lean on, and into, each other. We aren’t perfect, and it’s not always butterflies and roses; but we stick together, and at the end of the day, we can laugh at all the crazy times we have been through.”
Atkins produced the track alongside Seth Mosley (who has also worked on projects with High Valley, and for KING & COUNTRY), and it follows Rod + Rose’s debut offering, Being Here, Being There which came our way back in August.
Together, Rod + Rose offer the merging of lean writing and pure poetry, straight up country intertwined with a little bit of roots, a perfect merger of love, songs, life and the way two people from different places perfectly complement one another. In a world where differences often drive a wedge, these two use those things to create a whole that embraces it all. And they sound so good doing it.
Now, one of the complaints often levelled at modern day country music – especially where male artists are concerned – is the number of songs that talk about trucks, girls, and beer. And that’s definitely a valid argument, no question about it. But just because a record happens to mention a truck, doesn’t mean it’s automatically a bad song. Like so much in life, it’s all about how you do things. And Curb’s DYLAN SCOTT does it pretty damn good on one of his latest cuts, New Truck. At radio now, the single had already clocked up over 13 million streams by the start of this month when Scott also dropped the ‘live’ video, taking that chance to celebrate being back on the road playing to fans, and using exclusive behind-the-scenes footage from his current shows.
“The first time I heard ‘New Truck,’ it sounded different than anything else I was listening to,” the Louisiana native shares. “We’ve all been in a situation where you and your significant other have broken up, and it’s tough. Every time you get back in your truck, you go back to certain memories of them in there as well. So this song is saying, ‘Man, I need a new truck to quit thinking about her.’”
The release of that New Truck live video follows the release of new single Static back on October 1st. “‘Static’ is a song that relates to a lot of people’s lives, including mine, to a T,” explains Scott. “You grow up in a small town, and all you can think about is leaving that small town, chasing a dream, chasing a dollar, moving to a bigger city. And once you get there, it’s all great. But sometimes you’ve just got to get back out in the middle of nowhere, back to your roots, where there’s nothing but a little static on the radio.” Both New Truck and Static were penned by HARDY, Hunter Phelps, Ben Johnson and Ashley Gorley.
Currently wrapping up a stint touring as the main support for Luke Bryan’s Proud To Be Right Here Tour, 2021 CMT Music Award winner Scott is the total package—a powerful singer with a deep, resonating drawl; an old-soul songwriter with a young spirit; a heartthrob with an easy smile; and a dreamer who followed in his father’s footsteps to Nashville. The double platinum-certified My Girl became his first #1 at radio, followed by platinum Top 5 single, Hooked, then his latest #1, the gold-certified Nobody. His Nothing To Do Town EP hit #1 on the Billboard Country Album Sales chart, and the project’s title-track has been certified RIAA gold, as was his self-titled debut album.
With career on-demand streams having already hit a staggering 1.2 billion, the Louisiana-native has headlined shows and opened for Garth Brooks, Luke Bryan and Chris Young. Scott garnered his first career nomination for Best New Country Artist at the all-genre 2019 iHeartRadio Music Awards and was named among Country Radio Seminar’s coveted New Faces of Country Music Class of 2019. Additionally, he released a seven-song EP honoring legendary singer/songwriter Keith Whitley with An Old Memory (A Keith Whitley Tribute).
~ Memory I Don’t Mess With by LEE BRICE, Put Me Back Together by ROD + ROSE, and Static by DYLAN SCOTT, are all OUT NOW.
Fans of LARISSA TORMEY are in for a double-delight later this month with the news that the singer/songwriter will be releasing not one, but two brand new dvds.
The video collections – THANK GOD I’M A COUNTRY GIRL, and BREATH OF FRESH AIR – will be available from Monday, OCTOBER 18th, released through the Tyrone based MUSIC CITY record label. And for Larissa, teaming up with Terry Corrigan and his team is something that she’s definitely looking forward to…
“Most artists are independent these days, to a large extent, and with only a few exceptions, such as the very biggest names. So one of the biggest challenges for any artist is to find people who you can work with – and work well with – in different areas of your career. That’s the trick to building up the kind of team you need to have around you when you’re not actually signed to a major label. So for me, to be working with Terry again on this double-DVD project is fantastic.”
Larissa continued, “I’m delighted to be able to offer these two video collections to my fans. With the long evenings settling in now, hopefully people will enjoy watching them and enjoying my music. And because I’m working with Terry and Music City, I know that distribution is going to be well taken care of, as it always is with Terry.”
Speaking about their new collaboration, Mr. Corrigan of Music City said, “We’ve been promoting country and Irish stars for over twenty years, and we’re delighted to partner with Larissa in the promotion and distribution of her new video collections, and indeed, on her last three albums as well. Fans should watch out for all of Larissa’s merchandise from their local music suppliers and stockists, and of course, they can order directly from our website at www.musiccitydirect.com, and Larissa’s own website, too.”
If anyone thought that Larissa, who has already enjoyed a busy and successful 2021, even in spite of the well-documented challenges faced by the music industry, might decide to wind down her year with this double-DVD release, well, they’d be wrong. Larissa, whose latest single Crowded Places (from Larissa’s own songbook) is already heading towards five figures in Spotify streams, has hinted that her biggest news of the year might, in fact, be yet to come…
“I’m very grateful to have enjoyed a really good year musically, and that’s what has made dealing with everything else – all of the uncertainty in the music world – easier to cope with. So I want to end this year in a special way. For one thing, to say to everyone, yes…we made it through! But also to remember those who we might have lost along the way, like our neighbour Tom [Lynam], who was the brilliant star of the video for my song, Old Fashioned, but sadly passed away not long after. And as well, I think now is a time when we all need to look ahead too, and remind ourselves that we still have many bright times to come, and many better days and nights to celebrate. So, I’m working on something that I’m excited about, and I’m looking forward to being able to share more about it very soon!”
~ THANK GOD I’M A COUNTRY GIRL, and BREATH OF FRESH AIR, the brand NEW video collections from LARISSA TORMEY, are released via Music City on Monday, October 18th (and available direct from www.musiccitydirect.com and www.larissatormey.com).
COLIN KENNY, known to country music fans nationwide as ‘the singing barber’, is back with new music this week, as the Banagher man releases his latest single, ROCKIN’ AND ROLLIN.’
The latest cut to be taken from his official debut album, ANNIE, Rockin’ And Rollin’ is set to continue Kenny’s rise to prominence as one of the country scene’s newest singer/songwriters of note. Co-written with Tipp man Brendan Carroll, the track’s feel-good, nostalgia tinged vibe comes at a perfect time as venues begin to reopen and ‘live’ music once again becomes an intrinsic part of so many peoples’ lives.
For Kenny, based in Borrisokane where his recently opened hair studio is located, getting back in front of his fans again – in real life – has been a beautiful feeling…
“There’s no feeling like it! And every time you get to introduce a new song, especially when it’s an original and one that you’ve had a hand in writing, you’re reminded of that thrill that comes with having a ‘live’ audience in front of you. There’s a certain kind of buzz that comes from connecting with people like that, and it’s nearly impossible to replicate. I was back out this weekend as part of the Nenagh ‘Live’ event when it came to Borrisokane on Sunday, and then an acoustic session in the Green Bar that evening as well, and I’ll tell ya, it’s good for the soul!”
While Kenny is now back bringing smiles to faces in person again, playing tunes like new single Rockin’ And Rollin’, and previous hits You’ve Got ThatSomething, Will You Dance With Me, Annie?, I’m A Country Singer, and more from his own catalogue, it was his regular Facebook ‘Live’ shows that did so much to keep peoples’ spirits up through the difficult and often lonely times of the last year and more. And even though he’s back on the road again now, he has no plans to call a halt to those intimate performances…
“Definitely not. They’ve become a very important part of what I do now, and they’re a great way of connecting with fans as well. With an actual gig, it’s not always possible for people to travel to see you, but when you do something online, you can have fans joining you from all corners of the country at once, and that’s a lovely feeling. What has happened a lot as well, is that I’d play some of my new songs for the first time during these online shows and that’s proved to be a great and very rewarding way of bringing new material into my set-list. So that’s something that I plan on continuing, for sure.” ~
ROCKIN’ AND ROLLIN’, the brand NEW single from COLIN KENNY (co-written with Brendan Carroll) will be available on all platforms from FRIDAY, OCTOBER 1st, and is also available to request from radio stations nationwide. You can follow Colin on Facebook at Colin Kenny Music.
Just shy of a year ago now, I had the pleasure of hearing from classical-crossover artist GRACE FOLEY for the first time. A native of Killarney, Grace dropped me a line to let me know about her plans to release a Christmas EP – A Time For Christmas – on November 27th of 2020. Unfortunately we weren’t able to plan anything at the time, and between one thing and another it took us until last week to finally sit down for a chat. But I’ll tell you what, never has a first email from someone so guaranteed that they would be featured in OTRT at some stage.
As you’ll find out as our chat goes on, Grace is an exceptionally talented individual, with her gift for singing matched by her gift with words. I can’t remember too much else about the day I first heard from Grace, but I know for certain that all I did while reading her email was either laugh or smile at her sense of humour and her flair for storytelling.
When someone tells you about recording a song in their wardrobe and deadpans that it “was a new experience”, shares that, “Basically, I have been creatinga lot and narrowly avoiding lockdowns all year!”, and – and perhaps most importantly – reveals that she made sure her little dog kept her company and was part of things when she performed on RTE’s Today show with Dáthí O’ Sé and Maura Derrane via Skype…well come on, how can you not like that kinda person?!
So yes, it took a while to plan, but I finally had the privilege of catching up with Grace the day after she had the photoshoot for her album cover last week. And, as I knew she would, Grace lived up to all expectations.
Our chat got underway by talking about how the big shoot day had gone…
“It went really well! It’s a bit crazy to get to that stage, because the cover of your album – certainly in my case anyway – it’s the last hurdle, or the last thing on the to-do list. So it certainly feels very final now. I haven’t seen the pictures yet, so I can’t tell you too much anyway [laughs]. But when I finally see them, and finally see the name of the album on those photos, it’s going to feel way more real. It was the last big thing to be done, so it kind of feels a bit like we’re all there now!”
I get the impression with Grace that a lot of thought goes into everything she does, and that something as important as her album cover would definitely be no different. Did it feel like a bit of a project in itself?
“Yeah, it’s lots of mini-projects. Everything from writing my own songs, to choosing what musicians you want to have on it, onto the cover and the details on that. I definitely wouldn’t be the kind of person who would just say let’s use an old photograph and put a name on it, ya know [laughs].”
Before we moved on to Grace’s new single, I wondered if her album had a title yet, and if she had any idea on when this collection would be coming our way?
“I’m hoping to share the album in the very last week of November, but I haven’t got an exact date yet. I’m going to be releasing it in physical form first – actual cds – and then a couple of weeks later, kind of mid December, it will be available to download online. Just to be a bit different, it’s going to be gradually appearing [laughs]. I haven’t announced the name yet, so I’m gonna keep that a secret for a little longer. But a clue would be that it’s actually the second in a trilogy, and the first part of that was my EP, ‘Unleashed.’ So it’s kind of going to be another UN… [laughs]. And then there’ll be a third Un at some stage in the future to finish off. So there’ll be ‘Unleashed’, ‘Un’-something else, and ‘Un’-something else [laughs].”
Grace’s new single, Caught Up, which will be available on all platforms from October 1st, is also her own song. In talking about it recently, Grace remarked that it’s about, “…people appearing perfectly fine on the surface, but you never know what’s going on in someone’s mind.” Obviously a song that’s quite personal to her?
“It’s really very much related to mental health. I’ve often had panic attacks and that kind of thing. I also go out and wear make-up, and I know a lot of people do the same thing, you put a smile on your face, but you can’t really read what’s going on in everybody’s life, inside their mind and their heart. We can all wear a bit of a mask, so it’s like don’t judge anyone by their cover, because you never know what’s going on underneath that. It’s a circular song, if that makes any sense? There’s a line, ‘Caught up, all in circles on the inside’, that’s the opening line of the whole thing. It’s about going around and around inside yourself, appearing fine on the outside but churning away on the inside. I started putting some ideas for this song together pre-lockdown, and then I got some funding from the Arts Council, which I used on this song and on ‘Goodbye To Dublin’ which I released as part of my Christmas EP last year. Songs you had written yourself, that’s what the funding was for, and I started with this one. Then, because of the pandemic, I was thinking a lot about artists, musicians, and entertainers in general, we’re all very good at putting out great stuff, online concerts and everything. But I was thinking about these poor artists who were probably smiling away, but probably so upset on the inside. So the music video itself, and you’re the first person to hear this, is actually on an empty stage, in an empty theatre. It reflects the mental health of everyone in the entertainment industry. That’s the road I went with the video. It all ties in. It went from being very much my own story, to being one for every artist out there.”
And that video will be debuting on Grace’s YouTube channel on October 10th, which is actually World Mental Health Day.
Grace mentioned anxiety, and one of the things I love to talk to all artists about is what goes through their minds in the minutes and moments before they go on stage, because for a lot of people, that can be an anxious time. Does anxiety affect Grace’s performance in any way at all?
“In a very different way. I would say in the run-up to a concert it’s very hard to keep all of the anxiety in check. It’s not the performance adrenaline. It’s a daily, continuous adrenaline which is very different. Performance adrenaline comes just before you go on, but then it morphs into a nicer adrenaline [laughs]. The practise one keeps you on a little bit of a high over a couple of weeks! Depending on the type of performance, there can be a couple of wobbly weeks before it where you’re going, oh God…will it all be ok?! But that’s different from general anxiety. But yeah, there’s definitely performance anxiety that begins well before the concert, but then that day, it’s a slight excitement. And then just before I’m about to go on stage – and I’ve spoken to fellow artists about this and they’re the same – I’ll stand side-stage and say, ‘Why do I do this to myself?!’ I brought this on myself! Nobody forced me to do this! I don’t have to do this!’ [Laughs]. My legs are ready to run away [laughs]. But afterwards, I’d always say this is the best feeling in the world, and I’ll never question it again. But then the next time, it happens all over again! [Laughs]. I think artists, like a lot of people, can struggle with their mental health. It’s a rollercoaster anyway because artists can often be quite connected to their emotions, because you have to be to do what we do.”
As well as Grace’s forthcoming single Caught Up being an original, she’s also written Together Apart, and co-written Close The Door with Dave McCune. So it’s fair to say that her artistry extends beyond the beauty of her voice and into her songwriting as well. I asked Grace to tell me about that side of her and that side of her life…
“I still consider it a very new side to me. When I was finishing recording ‘Unleashed’ in the studio with Dave McCune in Dublin, somebody said something about how maybe someday I’d sing my own stuff, and I said I’d love to do that. I like to write, I said, but I’d never written a song. In school I always liked English, and I used to write poetry when I was younger, and I wrote a column for a local publication here in Killarney. Then Dave, who was right next to me in the studio at the time, said, ‘Well, I’ve written music myself, so if you ever want to team up, we’ll have a think about it. That stuck in the back of my mind, and I started writing down some ideas. In 2019, when the homelessness crisis in Ireland was becoming more and more apparent, well, like a lot of things when you’re an artist, you’re thinking is there anything I could do. And I was thinking maybe I could sing something. And a bit like with ‘Together Apart’ when the pandemic started, at both those times I thought well why don’t I get my own feelings down on paper? It was driven by a need to say something. ‘Close The Door’ is a song I’m very, very proud of, I wish it had gotten more airing at the time. It was weird, because when I started writing the lyrics to it I knew I wanted to give the proceeds to the Simon Community, but I hadn’t done my research on it. So I didn’t even realise at the time that ‘close the door’ was their slogan. I went to their website the next day, saw that, and I was like, oh my God, this is meant to be! [Laughs].”
“So I wrote the lyrics”, said Grace, “and Dave McCune wrote the melody, and I had some input on the melody too. We got the musicians into the studio in Dublin and they all gave us their time for free. We got the videographer from Tralee, he gave us his time as well. It’s a song I hope we can use again, because unfortunately it’s not a crisi that has gone anywhere. And ‘Together Apart’ was born from the same feeling, wanting to say something about something big that was happening in the world. That’s how it’s happened for me so far. The Christmas one, ‘Goodbye To Dublin’, I did try and sit down and write a song, but they all kind of flowed. There was another one, but it was terrible [laughs], I spent half an hour looking at it and thinking ahhh this doesn’t work [laughs]. So I think I need to be inspired! I think I’m one of those people. Some people have their writing time, I think I need to have inspiration. And at the moment inspiration is a bit low to the ground, I’m afraid, trying to create an album and raise a child at the same time [laughs]. I’m hoping that there’s some bits and pieces in Anna’s short life so far that I’ve written down about her, that maybe I’ll get to write a song about her someday. That’s the next thing that’s in my mind, but we’ll get this album out first!”
As well as some of her own originals, Grace also has a Bryan Adams classic – maybe THE Bryan Adams classic – on the record. So, what I needed to know is was this a particular weakness on Grace’s part, a guilty pleasure perhaps, or the flicker of a long-standing love affair from long before she met her husband, John? What was the story?
“[Laughs] I’d love to say it was something as romantic as that! [Laughs]. Every year for the last few years, when it comes up to Christmas time, I record a song for my parents for their Christmas present. And they very much love the classical-crossover stuff, especially my mom, the Italian and English mix. I heard Katherine Jenkins singing it and I thought it was a beautiful song but it kind of went out of my head. Then I came across the Bryan Adams version and I thought, I wonder if I could sing that? The Katherine Jenkins version was entirely in Italian, then I listened to his one and his is so passionate in English. I didn’t want to sing it in italian because it had been done, but it’s such a romantic song it really lends itself to the classical-crossover voice. So I said I’d try it in English and Italian, and I recorded it for them for Christmas. The minute they heard it they said I couldn’t keep it to myself, that I’d have to release it at some stage. So very selflessly of them, they gave away their present [laughs]. We developed it slightly more than the version we presented to them. We had decided pre-pandemic that I was going to release three singles last year; ‘Danny Boy’, ‘Everything I Do (I Do It For You)’, and ‘Silent Night.’ Little did I know what was going to happen. But I had started to have everything organised in January and February for the year, and that was one of the songs. Everybody probably thinks it’s about John, but with everything I’ve done over the years my parents have given me everything. So I wanted to say, everything I do, I do it for you, to them. The love of a child for their parents is the inspiration for that one.”
What other songs have become presents like that over the years?
“For my wedding, I actually did ‘In My Daughter’s Eyes’, and that’s on the album. That’s kind of blown my mind recently, because towards the end of the time I was looking at my options for the album and I was thinking right, how am I going to manage this. Then I think it was Brendan, down in the studio in Killarney, he said, ‘That song you recorded years ago’ – which I kind of put on my YouTube channel but I didn’t do a whole lot with, I got it mastered at the time and I didn’t even know why I did that! – but he said, ‘That’s a gorgeous song.’ And then, ya know what, after the year that it’s been and with Anna being born and everything, wouldn’t it be nice to have that on there? I had a lot of time away from my family, but I didn’t actually sing that song online during the year but I often thought about it because it reminded me of them. Then suddenly, it shifted, and that song had a new story and I thought I’ll have to think about its new meaning for me. I had a listen to it one day, John and I went out into the car, I wanted to listen to the running-order of the entire album before it went to mastering, so I was chopping and changing it. So we put that on, and I hadn’t listened to it in ages. I completely broke down in tears! It had a different meaning to when I recorded it for mam and dad because now it’s for her, for my daughter. And I’m so glad it’s on the album now. That song has gone on a bit of a journey. I think I wasn’t actually meant to release that properly until now. That song’s been around for a while. So, these Christmas presents, they grow legs! [Laughs].”
When Grace had first got in touch with me, she told me that contralto – how she sings – was “a classical style of singing, but with a dark edge…”
“Well, contralto is the lowest female voice in the classical world. That’s what I am. Sopranos are what you’d hear most often, and tenors you’d hear of a lot in the classical world. They’ve the highest voices. But contralto is the most rare voice type in the world. And over the years, be it in contemporary style or classical, everyone would say that it was very rich, like chocolate, like gold. So there’s lovely colours and lovely descriptions that come with it. And it is, it’s a classical voice, and a classical crossover voice with a dark edge, my voice just has a darker colour. No matter what I sing, be it a happy song or a romantic song, whatever it is, there is a darker sound to it. And that can bring a little bit of a melancholy to the way I sing because there is that…maybe slightly more lonesome sound to my voice. So it was never a decision to sing this way, it’s just the voice I was born with.”
So was it a big surprise for Grace to find out that her voice was one of the rarest kinds in the world? Or how does that happen?
“It was very unusual. And what’s even more unusual is that the first singing teacher that I ever had, Áine Nic Gabhainn , fourteen I think I was, and I didn’t have a clue about classical music or anything. She was listening to me for a bit and, ‘Well!’, she said – and she herself was a contralto, so she always knew how rare it was – and she said, ‘You’re probably one of the youngest I’ve come across to have such a developed lower range, you actually are a contralto.’ And sure I didn’t have a clue what that was! Mezzo is the middle, and contralto is the lowest, and even the mezzo in the college would say, God, you just have a different voice to the mezzo voice, which is Katherine Jenkins, let’s say for example. She wouldn’t sound all that different, but my voice quality would be darker. Even if I’m singing something now, there’s always someone in the room who just knows their stuff, and they’ll say, ‘Oh my God, a contralto!’ I just find it fascinating that somebody will always know what it is [laughs]. It’s kinda cool! It’s been tough too, because when I was younger it was always harder for me to sing the higher stuff, but that’s kind of settled now. It’s a privilege, I think, to have this voice.”
Grace has previously spoken about the tremendous support she’s received from three men in particular; Dave McCune (mentioned earlier in our chat), Brendan O’ Connor, and the great Liam O’ Connor. I asked Grace to explain the importance of kindness like that being shown towards an artist like herself who is on the upward climb in her career…
“I think everyone in this industry, and everyone in any job, you can just do your job, but there’s people out there who go that extra mile when they’re working with you. And especially Dave and Brendan, because I work with them very closely. One of the first people to find out I was pregnant was Dave McCune because I was going up to record with him when I was six weeks pregnant, and no-one knew. Suddenly, I became really unwell, and I didn’t want to cancel because I knew the pandemic was just getting worse and worse. So I said, ok, I’m gonna have to go, but it’s the middle of the pandemic and I look a bit grey so they’re gonna say why did you come in here sick?! [Laughs]. But he treated me so kindly, and he always did, we’ve always had that relationship. But even recently he’s gone that extra mile again, trying to finish off the album. Like, I don’t have a big budget, I’m an independent artist, I’ve had no work for so long. But he’s done so much extra work, especially in the last couple of weeks. I’m aware of how much more he did than he should have done for what he got paid [laughs]. And Brendan’s the same, and it’s not even mate’s rates because we’ve only worked together professionally, but we’ve become friends. During this whole time I’ve been recording some stuff in Dublin, and then Brendan too, I had to tell him quite early on as well that I was pregnant. And I was sayin’ to him, look, don’t let on anything cos’ I was tryin’ to get a bit done before Christmas. I hadn’t publicly announced it at that stage. They’ll both say things, Grace, maybe this isn’t really the way to go with this. But then they’ll both really listen, and it’s a lovely thing to feel so heard, especially when you are an up-and-coming artist. Neither of them care if they’re working with a famous person or an up-and-coming artist, they don’t care. They’ll give you the exact same amount of attention. They’re both very different men, and they’re in different parts of the country, but they’re both an absolute pleasure to work with. And it’s lovely in the industry as well that neither of them are ever like, ‘Oh, but you’ve gone to this other studio to do this…’, you know? They don’t work together on any of the songs, they’ve always worked independently on different tracks, but if I ever mention one to the other it’ll be, ‘Ah yeah, you did that song with Dave…’, or ‘You did that one with Brendan’, so I’m blessed.”
Grace continued, “And then with Liam O’ Connor, he came into my life when I was releasing Unleashed a few years ago. He’s such a phenomenal performer. Obviously living here in Killarney, so I was very ballsy, and I thought is there any chance he might come and play a song at the launch because he’s just so exciting, he’s amazing. We didn’t know each other at all, we probably might just have seen each other at a couple of events, we’d never spoken. But I got his number, gave him a quick text, thought he might say that he didn’t have time, but not only did he ring me back, he took me for a bowl of soup and a cup of coffee one day! We talked for about five or six hours, and he gave me loads of advice. He came along that night, gave a phenomenal performance, stayed around afterwards and had a couple of drinks with us. He came on this album as well, very same thing. He rang back straight away and said yeah, he’d do it, anything to help out. It’s kindness like that during a time when we’ve all been hit. Those men in those studios, they’re busy now, but they were very quiet for a long time. Liam the same. I’ll never forget their kindness.”
Before our time came to an end, I asked Grace about her column for the Classical Crossover magazine, the wonderfully – and aptly – titled Grace Notes…
“I’m quite a storyteller, I think I write columns differently to other people. They’re not just factual factual, I always have a bit of an emotional reaction to things in that. It’s kind of my perception of the world of the arts, different things about it, like online versus ‘live’ performance. That was an interesting one for me to even write. I don’t have a big plan when I’m writing, I just sit down and I start. It kind of helps me figure stuff out when I’m writing it. I write about the role of music in my own life, the role of music in the world, there’s a lot of me in my columns as well. Particularly in that one about online versus in-person performance, it was me thinking out loud. That’s kind of what the column is, it’s me thinking out loud! [Laughs]. I give my opinion on classical crossover music, and look at why people like it. I often ask questions in them, I don’t always get answers back from people, but I still ask the questions. I hope that will make people ask themselves questions about music. When you’re at a concert and you don’t know the artist, or you’ve never been an artist, or maybe you’re a performing artist yourself, if you read one of my columns I’d like to think that you’re not separated from that person on stage. That instead, you’ll be thinking, ‘I wonder are they like that girl that wrote that column? I wonder if they are feeling this way backstage? I wonder are they delighted to be back performing ‘live’ again? I wonder if they miss performing online?’ So yeah, it’s me thinking out loud, and I’m hoping that it will allow people who read it who aren’t performers, to kind of get into the mindset of a performer.”
~ CAUGHT UP, the brand NEW single from GRACE FOLEY will be available on all platforms from Friday, OCTOBER 1st. And keep an eye out for the accompanying video which will premiere on Grace’s YouTube channel on World Mental Health Day, October 10th.
Grammy-nominated artist Cassadee Pope has confirmed the October 15th, 2021 release of her upcoming album, THRIVE, featuring latest single, Tomorrow Night, which is out now to stream and download.
The album, co-produced by Nick Wheeler (All-American Rejects) and Karen Fairchild (Little Big Town), also features previous singles What The StarsSee and Say It First, both released earlier this year.
New song, Tomorrow Night, written by Pope, Dein Guisande and Aaron Chafin, is an upbeat track leaning further into Cassadee’s pop-punk sensibilities and describes a longing feeling that everyone can relate to – whether it is anxiously awaiting a well-earned holiday or anticipating the return of a loved one, we all understand wanting to push the clock forward.
“I had a chorus idea before my session with Devin Guisande and Aaron Chafin that really excited me. As a big Weezer fan, I really wanted to lean into that influence for this track,” says Pope. “It’s a love song at its core, wrapped in walls of guitars and high energy percussion. I hope people relate to this lyric of just wanting to fast forward to the moment you get to be with the person you’re in love with.”
Following a premiere last week with PEOPLE.com, Cassadee went on to share the music video for Tomorrow Night via YouTube. Directed by Kamren Kennedy, the quirky video calls back to the style and feel of the early 2000s as it takes us through all the fidgety ways in which we may try to busy ourselves while aching for the time to pass. The conclusion of the music video features someone near and dear to Cassadee’s heart and who she can’t wait to see every day – her beloved dog, Cuppy!
“I knew I wanted the music video for ‘Tomorrow Night’ to be fun, quirky and early 2000s nostalgic,” says Cassadee. “I wrote the treatment and was so happy that Kamren Kennedy was up for bringing it to life. I’ve never had so much fun shooting a video before. Getting to spend the day shooting with my dog, Cuppy, was such a blast. I hope this video makes people smile and feel like they’ve been transported to a time that was so influential for me.”
Cassadee is a Grammy-nominated, platinum-certified singer-songwriter, and Thrive will be her ninth album when it drops next month. The album’s first single, the aforementioned What The Stars See – featuring Karen Fairchild and Lindsay Ell – is a raucous anthem about longing to see what a past partner is doing since going separate ways. Pope performed the track on The Kelly Clarkson Show where she also revealed what the title of her latest collection would be. The project is special to Pope – blending her influences from her pop-punk days fronting the band Hey Monday, and the country music storytelling and songwriting that she now calls home.
Last year, Cassadee released her first acoustic solo album co-produced by Pope alongside Todd Lombardo. The project followed her album, Stages, featuring hit singles Take You Home, One More Red Light, and If My Heart Had a Heart.
From fronting rock band Hey Monday, to winning Season Three of The Voice and releasing her #1 debut album Frame by Frame, Cassadee has effortlessly re-arranged the lines of country and pop. She has already experienced tremendous success throughout her career, with Platinum-selling single, Wasting AllThese Tears being awarded with Breakthrough Video of the Year at the 2014 CMT Music Awards, and her #1 hit Think of You with Chris Young receiving a 2017 Grammy nomination for Best Country Duo/Group.
Cassadee has toured extensively, joining legendary artists Tim McGraw and Dierks Bentley, playing London’s iconic O2 Arena during C2C: Country to Country Festival, and earning the distinction of the only country artist to perform at 2018’s Warped Tour. Cassadee performed If My Heart Had a Heart on the TODAY show and toured with Maren Morris on her Girl: The World Tour. Cassadee continued to tour throughout the spring of 2019 as the headliner of the 2019 CMT Next Women of Country Tour, which brought the franchise outside of the U.S. for the first time ever.
Put October 15th in your diaries now, because as far as contemporary country music goes, you’ll make few better moves this year.
Rising singer-songwriter OLIVIA LANE is another name to watch out for, and she’s just released her new full-length album HEART CHANGE, whichisalsonowavailable to stream and download also. The album features eleven songs, all of which are written or co-written by Lane, along with well-acclaimed songwriters including Matt Nolen (Eric Paslay, Trace Atkins, Lindi Ortega) and Skip Black (Craig Morgan, Jana Kramer, LOCASH), among others.
“When thinking of what to name this body of work, I had to reflect on what I had experienced in my life over the last few years,” says Lane. “I’m learning heart changes lead to growth, maturity, heartbreak, heart mending and new ways to look at life. They are necessary in becoming our truest selves.”
Olivia’s new collection features the brand new song BREAK, as well as recently released Lois Lane, Woman At The Well, and I Let The Devil In which has received airplay across the UK and Europe following its exclusive first play on BBC Radio 2 in February. Streams for the album tracks released to date have already totalled over 3.9 million, with 2.4million+ views for the official music videos, and features on high profile playlists including Wild Country and PopCo (Spotify), New In Country (Apple Music) and Country Waves (TIDAL).
Most people would probably know Olivia Lane from her appearance on NBC’s Songland, as host of her Living Instead podcast, by the songs that have earned her recognition as one of country music’s new top female artists, or from the highly lauded entrepreneurial spirit that led to the launch of her own publishing venture, Liv Write Play Music.
But, this new album, Heart Change, heralds the arrival of an Olivia Lane her fans have yet to experience. A Houston native, Lane spent time in Los Angeles and graduated from the University of Southern California before settling in Nashville in 2013. Her sweet, soulful voice and insightful songwriting helped Lane earn an enthusiastic following and she continues to grow her audience on her socials and her consistent headlining UK tours. She’s a savvy businesswoman who enjoys being a publisher and mentor.
At her essence, Lane is a singer/songwriter, and entertainer, and she’s excited for her audience to experience the songs on her new album.
Add Heart Change to your music library and you’ll find that it’s a long-player you keep coming back to.
And finally for now, we come to Big Loud Records’ Country riser MACKENZIE PORTER who has released track-one in a series of new songs to come with UNLONELY ME.
Penned by Porter herself, along with Nick Bailey and Craig Wiseman, the song is a light and sunny ode to wanting to rekindle a former flame, and is an infectious country track. “I wrote ‘Unlonely Me’ at the very start of quarantine in 2020,” explains Porter. “I was super resistant to write over Zoom because I’m very much an ‘energy in the writing room’ person, but when I jumped online with Craig Wiseman and Nick Bailey, I started playing those chords and this song just kind of fell out. We wrote it about the beginning of a relationship, but for me personally, it was about feeling pretty lonely at that time. I can’t wait for y’all to hear it.”
This song comes on the heels of the launch of the Buy Dirt Tour withJordan Davisat The Fillmore in Minneapolis, MN. Porter is tapped as support for the tour this fall. From Minneapolis, she will start the three-month club run across the country, stopping at legendary rooms such as Webster Hall in New York City and Joe’s Live in Rosemont, IL. Porter also recently released a new Amazon Original cover of Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn. Featured on the playlist cover, Amazon Music listeners could find Porter’s cover of Torn on the highly coveted Breakthrough Country playlist. They could also find her on Canada Now, Amazon Music’s playlist celebrating the best new Canadian music.
The 2021 JUNO Award nominee for Country Album of the Year is also featured on hitmaker Dustin Lynch’s current single Thinking ‘Bout You that is quickly climbing up the U.S. Country radio charts. About to knock on the doors of the 20s, this song has shown itself to be a massive hit. Selected by Lynch during a blind audition, Porter delivers her signature “girl-next-door vocals” that, according to Billboard, “cut like a blade.”
Recently wrapping her 2021 extension of The Loft Sessions, directed by Caleb Donato and shot at the iconic Bluebird Caféin Nashville, the series originally launched in 2019 with These Days and continued in January of 2020 with a cover of Alanis Morissette’s Hand In My Pocket. With Nashville taking notice of what American Songwriter magazine has called her “authentic heart”, and Billboard paying attention to “her mesmerizing vocals and hook-driven songs”, Porter was also inducted into CMT’s Next Women of Country Class of 2021, joining an elite sisterhood of trailblazers and tastemakers.
Signed to Big Loud Records, Porter is currently enjoying the spotlight thanks to her headline-making Thinking ‘Bout You collaboration with Dustin Lynch at Country radio, plus her own Drinkin’ Songs: The Collection, an arsenal of two years’ worth of new music produced by Joey Moi.
Since moving to Nashville in 2014 from her native Canada, MacKenzie has developed a radiant country style which threads the needle between traditional heart and modern energy, often collaborating with songwriting mainstays like Nicolle Galyon, Craig Wiseman, Natalie Hemby, and Tommy English. Her songs have sparked a list of headline-worthy accolades, including multiple Canadian Country Music Award nominations – four times for Female Artist of the Year, Songwriter of the Year and Fans’ Choice – as well as 2021 and 2015 JUNO Award nominations, both for Country Album of the Year.
In really making her mark, Porter became the first female artist to have three back-to-back #1 singles at Canadian Country radio in twenty-two years with About You, These Days and Seeing Other People in early 2020, following Shania Twain who last achieved that feat back in 1998. Porter also earned her first crossover Top 10 at Canadian Pop radio – a first since 2003 for a Canadian Country artist – with These Days (Remix), and joined CMT’s elite sisterhood of tastemakers and trailblazers as one of their Next Women of Country class of 2021.
The Pandora 2021 Country Artist to Watch has toured extensively on her own, also sharing stages with Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts, Chris Lane, Blake Shelton and Dallas Smith, and co-starred in the Netflix series, Travelers. Her newest release Unlonely Me is part of a series of new music to come.
~ THRIVE, the brand NEW album from CASSADEE POPE, will be available on all platforms from October 15th. HEART CHANGE, the NEW and full-length collection from OLIVIA LANE is OUT NOW, available on all platforms, as is the latest single from MACKENZIE PORTER, titled UNLONELY ME.