Music Spotlight: Alannah McCready

NASHVILLE, Tennessee-  Alannah McCready had two passions growing up: singing and playing hockey. Growing up in Minnesota and getting her first pair of skates at the age of three, it was inevitable that McCready was going to become a hockey star. “It’s called the state of hockey for a reason,” she noted.

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Music Spotlight: Devon Beck

NASHVILLE, Tennessee-  When I listened to songs from Devon Beck’s first EP, One Sided Expectations, the first thing I thought was she sounds like an American version of Adele. Not only that, Beck’s songwriting ability is mature beyond her years and is reminiscent of the songs in Adele’s 21 album. I found out that Beck is just 18 years old and has only been performing for a little over two years.

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Music Spotlight: Rhonda Vincent

NASHVILLE, Tennessee-  Playing music is as natural to Rhonda Vincent as breathing air. She was born into a musical family from Kirksville, Missouri. The Sally Mountain Show, then later the Bluegrass Festival was hosted by her mom and dad and grandparents and aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. She picked up the mandolin at eight and the fiddle at twelve and was performing with the family band at festivals on weekends. They also had a TV and radio show that she sang in as a child.

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Lifest Is Coming to Music City

NASHVILLE, Tennessee-  Life Promotions, organizers of the nation’s largest, family-friendly, music festival, Lifest, is thrilled to bring a new event to the Nashville area, Lifest Music City. This inaugural festival will be hosted July 29-31, 2021 at Hideaway Farm, the former home of country music legend Johnny Cash in Bon Aqua, Tennessee. This scenic farm was the center of Johnny’s universe for over 30 years and is just a short drive from Nashville.

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Music Spotlight: Halle Kearns

NASHVILLE, Tennessee-  Halle Kearns is an artist who always knew what she wanted to do. Her family usually had country music playing in her house and she remembers singing along to 90s country in her car seat.

She stated, “I grew up on Dixie Chicks, Martina McBride, Faith Hill (Ladies of the 90s). The very first song I ever got caught singing on video was the Dixie Chicks song, “If I Fall.”

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Music Spotlight: Tyler Kohrs

NASHVILLE, Tennessee-  The first time I heard Tyler Kohrs sing was on an Instagram video. He has a beautiful, bright voice and his country covers were spot on. But that wasn’t unusual. What was unusual was that he sounded country and talked with a slight southern accent, but is actually Asian-American. That piqued my interest so much that I contacted him directly.

Those of you who watch The Voice may recognize Tyler Kohrs from his tryout this past March. He didn’t get through, but he still did very well where people remarked about it. The story he shares about his experience is one you will want to hear.

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Music Spotlight: Alex Kline

NASHVILLE, Tennessee-  With both of Alex Kline’s parents being attorneys, writing/playing country music wasn’t even on the radar for the teen growing up in California. No one she knew even listened to country music.

Kline’s grandmother was a skillful classical pianist and her father grew up playing piano as well. Her dad would occasionally play classical pieces for the family and her grandmother encouraged her to play as well.

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Music Spotlight: Rhonda Towns

Dawn Records announces a new release from its flagship artist Rhonda Towns, titled “Walking In Your Wonderful Light.” Written by Teddy Hayes and produced by Billy Sherrill in collaboration with Towns, the long-awaited and welcomed single serves as a preview to the Christian, country, and gospel music entertainer’s forthcoming six-track EP anticipated later this year.

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Music Spotlight: Presley and Taylor

NASHVILLE, Tennessee-  Even though they are only 23 and 22, the sister duo known as Presley and Taylor have been a part of the music business for over eight years. And even with the pair being reared in the town of Middlefield, Connecticut, they grew up in a household where Tammy Wynette, Alan Jackson, and Randy Travis played on a constant loop, and weekend trips to their grandparents meant family singalongs of Loretta Lynn standards.

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Music Spotlight: Morgan Wade

NASHVILLE, Tennessee-  As an avid supporter of female singers/songwriters, I always pay attention to emerging new artists. When I listened to Morgan Wade’s music, I liked her immediately because she was different, and that I found her music refreshing.

There is an edge to Wade’s country/rock/pop vocals that sets her apart. And the lyrics to her songs are not that of some bubble gum pop-country princess, but someone who has been there, done that, struggled, and come out stronger in the long run.

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Music Spotlight: Nashvillains

Nashvillains

NASHVILLE, Tennessee-  When I interviewed the Nashvillains I mentioned that they were like a modern country music supergroup. Turns out they agree.  Signed to Fate Entertainment, the newly formed country-rock-infused band is made up of veteran musicians Troy Johnson, Brett Boyett, and Scott Lindsey.

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Exclusive: Dani Taylor Debuts New Single, ‘You Can Thank Me Later’

NASHVILLE, Tennessee  “You Can Thank Me Later” is being exclusively premiered in The Tennessee Star today. The introspective song from Dani Taylor’s self-titled EP  (also released today) is a message reminding her (and the listener) not to continue making poor decisions especially when it comes to dating someone who should be avoided.

The lyrics of the sassy song are reminiscent of a young Taylor Swift but her voice has the sweetness of Alison Krauss mixed in with Emmy Lou Harris’ intentionality.

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Music Spotlight: Jason Charles Miller

Agents send me music to preview. Sometimes I get quite a few in one day. When Aristo PR sent me songs from Jason Charles Miller’s From the Wreckage, Part 1 Album, I thought, “This is good, really good.”

Although metal fans will know, I was not familiar with Miller from the rock band, Godhead. But this new music wasn’t metal at all. It was more like a mashup between Lynryd Skynyrd meets Americana. It was both fresh and familiar at the same time. And it was different than most of the music that is pitched to me.

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Music Spotlight: Tera Townsend

NASHVILLE, Tennessee- Since my “other” job is working with educators, I am keenly aware of bullying and the effects it has on a person.

Tera Townsend is a singer, songwriter, and musician from small-town in Tennessee. She grew up with a speaking disability and ADHD and was mocked and bullied as a child/teen because of her disability.

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Music Spotlight: Cristina Vane

NASHVILLE, Tennessee-  Since I live in Nashville, in my Music Spotlight column I often tell how people ended up here. Americana/Blues/Folk musician Cristina Vane may have the most unique story of anyone I have interviewed.

Born in Italy to a Sicilian-American father and a Guatemalan mother, Vane has always had a tenuous relationship with identity and place. Even though her parents met in America while attending college, she grew up between England, France, and Italy, and was fluent in four languages by the time she moved to her father’s native United States for university at 18.

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Song Suffragettes Celebrate Seventh Anniversary

NASHVILLE, Tennessee- Nashville is famous for its writers’ rounds. The Song Suffragettes is the only all-female writers’ round and they have been consistently performing at the Listening Room on Monday nights for seven years.

Todd Cassetty founded Song Suffragettes for the simple reason of giving female singer-songwriters a place to play their music and be heard. Those who follow country music know that it is not an even playing field when it comes to women getting record deals and having their music played on country radio.

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Music Spotlight: Brett Kissel

If there were ever a darling of the Canadian Country Airwaves, it would be Brett Kissel. Not only has the 30-year-old won numerous Canadian Country Music Association Awards, but he also has three number one hits and numerous top-tens on Canadian Radio.

But the main reason I wanted to interview him was because his music really is that good. His songs are all over the spectrum sonically but they resonate with the listeners.

Kissel admits that absolutely no one in his family is musical. “Not a grandpa, not a dad, an uncle, an auntie, nobody ever played music, period.”

The fact that he picked up a guitar, the fact that he can sing, the fact that he can write songs, and the fact that he moved to Nashville and made a go of it, is nothing short of remarkable.

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Music Spotlight: Craig Campbell

Craig Campbell

NASHVILLE, Tennessee-  Even though I often interview up-and-coming artists, Craig Campbell has been on my radar for a while and he has an interesting story as well.

The Georgia boy is a self-taught pianist. He recalled, “I was captivated by the piano and every spare minute I was at it. After church on Sunday, I would go and pick out the melodies to the songs we sang in church that day.”

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Music Spotlight: Sam Hatmaker

The first time I saw Sam Hatmaker was with the Song Suffragettes before COVID. Every songwriter who is part of the Song Suffragettes collective is amazing, but Hatmaker was unique and different. I knew even back then, I wanted to interview her.

It turns out that Hatmaker is from Knoxville, Tennessee. Her mom did theater and her dad was a performer too. It was natural for her to want to be on stage. When she was ten-years-old, she auditioned and was cast in a Christmas show at Dollywood. That ended up with her working at Dollywood for three years.

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Music Spotlight: Amanda Cooksey

Like me, Amanda Cooksey was not raised on country music. Cooksey started playing piano at the early age of six and began learning classical music. Later on, she took voice lessons and started singing in church in middle school. However, this “super shy” kid did not want to be in the spotlight.

Even though being in front of people wasn’t easy for her, Cooksey always loved music. As a young girl, she found a piano/vocal instructor, Ron Feldman, who changed her life.

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Music Spotlight: Emily Brooke

NASHVILLE, Tennessee-  No one in Emily Brooke’s family was musical. Young Brooke was a cheerleader, not a singer. But like many preteen girls twelve years ago, Brooke was super into Taylor Swift and Hannah Montana. She wanted to learn to play guitar as they did.

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Music Spotlight: Scooter Brown Band

Scooter (Scott) Brown’s path to the music industry was completely organic and unplanned. Growing up he listened to Waylon, Merle, and the Stones, but he never thought to pursue music as a career because he knew from a young age that he wanted to be a Marine.

He always loved music as a kid, but other than sing in the church choir for a while, he really wasn’t connected to it.

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Music Spotlight: Marc Scibilia

Years ago, a friend who was visiting told me about Marc Scibilia. We went to see him at an outdoor concert at Centennial Park. I was told he was recently featured in a Jeep commercial singing “This Land is Your Land.” That was in 2015 at the Super Bowl. To be honest, I hadn’t started blogging yet, so I didn’t pay much attention.

Fast forward six years when a publicist sent a press release about Marc Scibilia releasing a new single, “Rivals” off his Seed of Joy album. I decided to look him up and was truly blown away.

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Music Spotlight: Chris Pierce

Chris Pierce is one of the most accomplished artists I have interviewed. He has opened for legends, like BB King, Al Green, Seal, Aaron Neville, and Colbie Callait. He has a big imprint in the sync world with his music being featured on shows like Brothers and Sisters, In Plain Sight, Eli Stone, What About Brian, and Army Wives to name a few. Most recently, the songwriter gained national attention with “We Can Always Come Back To This”, a song he co-wrote for the #1 NBC primetime series This is Us, peaked at #1 on the Billboard Blues Chart.

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Music Spotlight: Taylor Hughes

NASHVILLE, Tennessee-  Taylor Hughes was born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky. Although she always loved music and did choirs and shows, her mother was an R & B singer was considered the musical one in the family.

Hughes was an athlete with a scholarship to attend college as a volleyball player when she blew her knee out her junior year of high school and the hope of attending college on a sports scholarship was over.

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Music Spotlight: Andrew Beam

Andrew Beam is from Cashiers, (pronounced Cash-ers) North Carolina in the Blue Ridge Mountain area. The son of a bluegrass picking preacher, Beam watched his dad at bluegrass festivals, church socials, and front porch get-togethers.

Although he picked up a guitar when he was five, he didn’t get serious about it until age 11.

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Music Spotlight: Becca Bowen

NASHVILLE, Tennessee- Becca Bowen is an up-and-coming country artist whose Southern Belle exterior and tomboy personality have earned her the nickname “Country Barbie.” This personal fitness instructor is the single mother of two teenage girls.

Raised in South Carolina, as a child, she participated in pageants and talent shows – but her weekends were spent fishing and enjoying the outdoors with her grandfather. She is a true tomboy with a tiara.

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Comedian Jesse Peyton Talks About His Comedic Stylings and Upcoming Show at the Franklin Marriott February 12

Tuesday morning on the Tennessee Star Report, host Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed comedian Jessie Peyton to the newsmakers line to talk about his comedic style and upcoming show on February 12 at the Franklin Marriott.

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Tiffany Ashton Releases New Music

The last person I interviewed face-to-face before the COVID shutdown was Tiffany Ashton on February 29, 2020. Her plans that day were to finish college at UNC-Charlotte in May then permanently move to Nashville.

Two weeks later, we were in lockdown as a nation and nobody went anywhere. Not only that, Ashton was one of the first people I knew who got the coronavirus and it put her out of commission for a month.

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Music Spotlight: Daniel Borge

Daniel Borge is an up-and-coming country music star. When I heard his single, “There I Was” I could tell this song offered the classical country story with a more modern sound. What I didn’t realize was that Borge is from Norway and English is not his first language.

In many ways, Borge’s journey to country music is one of the most unique stories I have heard. However, his path follows one of the most common themes. He learned to sing in church. His dad is a preacher and even though they live in Norway, they played/sang American gospel music.

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Music Spotlight: Mira Goto

Singer/songwriter Mira Goto grew up in a musical family. Her grandmother played the organ at church for many years and she learned to play the violin as a child. She grew up with access to instruments and a family who loved to sing.

As a teen, she thought the guitar was a much cooler instrument so she put her efforts there. Her favorite artist was Alanis Morrisette. “If I ever have the opportunity to do CMT Crossroads, she will be my first pick,” she mused.

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Music Spotlight: Cody Wolfe

When I saw that Cody Wolfe had over 400,000 Twitter followers and over 60,000 Instagram followers, I wanted to see what was going on with this popular young artist.

Cody Wolfe is a self-made man. The Connecticut native taught himself to play guitar when he was 16 and was advised early on that to “make it in this industry,” he would need to write songs. He went to a John Fogerty concert and asked his guitar player, James Intveld, what he need to do to make it in the music industry. Intveld said, “You’ve got to write music first. You have a better chance of being an artist if you are a songwriter first.”

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Music Spotlight: Lilly Winwood

NASHVILLE, Tennesse-  I am often sent songs to review to see if I want to feature the song(s) and/or artist in my column. When I heard Lilly Winwood’s song “Few More Records” I knew this singer/songwriter was talented. But surely this Nashville girl wasn’t related to the Brit rocker, Steve Winwood.

It turns out, surely, she is. Lilly Winwood is the 25-year-old daughter of famed rock and roller, Steve Winwood.

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Music Spotlight: Ethan Payne

NASHVILLE, Tennesse – Years ago, I vaguely remember Luke Bryan giving his guitar to a 13-year-old kid on stage who he met via the Make-a-Wish Foundation. That night, a fire was lit in young Ethan Payne. He knew then that performing country music was what he was born to do.

Diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis as a toddler (18-months-old), Payne was faced with an uphill battle early on. However, that didn’t stop him from following his passions and pursuing a career in country music. I wanted to find out more about this American Idol alum.

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Champion Ken Jennings Will Be First Interim ‘Jeopardy!’ Host

“Jeopardy!” record-holder Ken Jennings will be the first in a series of interim hosts replacing Alex Trebek when the show resumes production next Monday.

Producers announced Monday that Jennings, who won 74 games in a row and claimed the show’s “Greatest of All Time” title in a competition last year, will host episodes that air in January.

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Ty Herndon and Kristen Chenoweth Release ‘Orphans of God’

When country crooner, Ty Herndon announced he was releasing a duet with the talented Tony Award Winner, Kristen Chenoweth, I wanted to find out how this came to be.

With Herndon, he grew up singing from a young age and never really had a choice. He comes from a musical family and they traveled the south singing at camp meetings and tent revivals. He even considered being an evangelist at one point. His family listened to the Grand Ole’ Opry and singers like Tammy Wynette.

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Charlie Brown Holiday Specials Temporarily Returning to TV

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Christmas and Thanksgiving will look quite different this year for millions of Americans across the country, but at least one tradition will make the holidays feel like normal again.

The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) announced this week that the company had reached an agreement with Apple TV+ to allow broadcasts of two Charlie Brown holiday specials to air on TV in November and December. 

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Music Spotlight: Ana Cristina Cash

Naturally, if an entertainment writer from Nashville hears about a singer with the last name of ‘Cash’, they are going to pay attention. When Ana Cristina Cash’s Christmas single, “Mele Kalikimaka” came to across my feed, I listened. What I discovered was that this lady could sing, I mean really sing. The singer-songwriter’s vocals exhibit a broad range, spanning from an expressive contralto to a soaring coloratura soprano.

It turns out that Ana Cristina Cash has been singing since she was a very young child. She grew up in Miami, Florida in a bilingual household with Cuban-American parents. Her parents emigrated from Cuba as teenagers in the 1960s.

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Music Spotlight: Cole Bradley

Country singer and songwriter, Cole Bradley, is a rising star in the North American music scene.

Even though his parents weren’t musical, Bradley’s grandparents were and he started singing at age five. One of his first memories was singing along to Garth Brooks in the back of his Mom’s Toyota.

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Make It Up As We Go Podcast

Before COVID even hit, the multi-talented Scarlett Burke was looking for a way to distribute her music on a new platform. The producer/actress/singer/songwriter was not interested in touring but was interested in sharing her music.

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Music Spotlight: Larry Fleet

I stopped when I first heard “Where I Find God” on the radio. The words to the song were so pure and real that I wanted to hear it again and again. I wasn’t familiar with Larry Fleet but read somewhere that he was from Chattanooga. I had to find out more about this gifted singer/songwriter.

It turns out that Fleet is not from Chattanooga, but currently lives there with his wife of six years and his young son, Waylon. He is from White Bluff in Dickson County just west of Nashville.

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Television Legend Alex Trebek Remembered for Grace and Good Humor that Charmed Viewers for More than a Generation

Alex Trebek never pretended to have all the answers, but the “Jeopardy!” host became an inspiration and solace to Americans who otherwise are at odds with each other.

He looked and sounded the part of a senior statesman, impeccably suited and groomed and with an authoritative voice any politician would crave. He commanded his turf — the quiz show’s stage — but refused to overshadow its brainy contestants.

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Music Spotlight: Wino-Strut and Friends

When I saw/heard David Phillips’ (aka wino-strut) video for his newest single, “Natural Home” I knew this was someone I wanted to interview. The song had an interesting, old school sound that I wasn’t quite sure if it was Americana, Outlaw Country, or Rock’n’roll.

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