If you are unaware of what CRS is, it's basically an Expo for Country Radio, where vendors, stations, labels, and talent meet up to promote themselves, schmooze, and educate themselves on new breakthroughs in the industry. A big focus was put on technology: music monitoring and research, audience research via the Portable People Meter (PPM), and the importance of using free marketing tools on the internet like blogging, Facebook and Twitter. Check out the streaming video of the new media ideas panel on www.crb.org. Very interesting.
Anyways, on to my bragging...Tuesday evening we went to a function promoting Reba McEntire's new album to radio stations. It was a listening party to get feedback on the 4 songs fighting for the first released single spot. After a brief interview with Reba, we were broken down into groups and taken into the plush studio where Reba recorded the album.
"Strange" was my favorite out of the selection, and it was the first played. It had a nice modern rock feel to it that could be attractive to a younger generation of Country fans, and maybe some crossover listeners as well. Now is the time to get a song like that out there, while CHR fans are finally giving Country a chance thanks to one Taylor Swift! The lyrics were great too. Definitely something that could be enjoyed by the whole family.
The last song they played had a cool Classic Rock hook that I loved, but it didn't switch up as much as "Strange," and the other songs were good - but didn't stick out. The other songs were geared toward the classic Reba fans, which works. Typical Reba is still some of the best Country music out there. Gotta keep it real - and she does.
We got to meet Reba briefly, and I'm dying to get my hands on the picture we took with her!
The next night, we saw some Tim McGraw. The show opened with some mediocre acts (Lance Miller, Halfway To Hazard, Lori McKenna, and Catherine Raney) that I have never heard of before, and then a little Randy Owen from Alabama. Faith Hill introduced Randy, which was the highlight of the show up until that point.
Tim McGraw sang all new songs. So new, in fact, he had a music stand set up with the lyrics-just in case. He may not do much on the stage performance-wise, but he gets those lyrics across and makes killer eye contact with the audience. He's very personable, and isn't afraid to laugh at himself. At one point he realized that all of the songs he had sung involved death. It was pretty dang-dere funny! (Use of "Dang-Dere" credited to the host of last night's comedy show at Zanie's)
All of the songs were great. Good Girls and Southern Voice (I think it was) were my favorite. Good Girls tells the tale of two best friends that go out to party. They go to a corn field where one of the girls confronts the other about sleeping with her boyfriend. The song ends with both girls dead - a train hit their car which was parked on the tracks. If she can't have him, no one can. Good song.
Southern Voice is that feel-good American country song that just makes you want to clap and dance like a moron with a beer held high in the air.
I'm really looking forward to the new album, and am so grateful that my first time seeing Tim was in such an inTIMate setting. I will certainly go see him again. That stud!
Oh goodness! Thursday night's Sony dinner cruise was the BEST function I've ever been to. The show opened with Kenny Chesney singing a song off his new album called something to the effect of "We Went Out Last Night." Chesney and his songwriting companion took the stage with an acoustic, lyrics in hand, and no idea of what was going to happen - as they had barely practiced the song. There were a couple flub ups, but it was cool to see that happen, and I'm sure the song will get a ton of spins from the stations that attended the event. They'll have a story to accompany song.
The rest of the night was just superstar followed by superstar. Gretchen Wilson, Martina McBride, Carrie Underwood (with her rhinestone mic), and Brad Paisley to name a few, and all did songs never heard before. Paisley did a song that Paul Williams of Sony labeled "the wedding song of 2009." We were told to feel privileged because the song is going to huge, and we were the first ones to ever here it played live. It was a beautiful song about meeting someone for the first time and thinking you could never feel better, but being with that person keeps on delivering precious moments that are even more amazing. I want to say the song is "Look at Us Now."
I was really surprised by Jason Michael Caroll. I had never heard of him, but I loved every second of his low voice and boyband style.
Special guests: John Kay from Steppenwolf played a few songs with Montgomery Gentry, including Born To Be Wild. Then, Peter Frampton came out as the surprise headliner, and the boat full of top industry people could barely stay cool. Carrie Underwood and Martina McBride came out for a three-some version of "Baby, I Love Your Way."
Unfortunately, I didn't get to catch the Keith Urban show at The Rutledge after the boat - but I think I would rather sacrafice my Urban virginity on a night, when he doesn't have such a hard act to follow.
Friday night, was the last night of the conference and it closed with the New Faces dinner and concert. After nights at the Bridge Bar and various meals at the Renaissance's restaurant - the conference goers were a bit beat, but the performers at New Faces brought it. This event showcases new talent every year. The artists put together a little video prior to their performance promoting themselves.
I guess all artists have the task of trying to "beat" Blake Shelton's video which spoofed the "masturbation incident" that occurred the previous year at CRS. I guess somebody was up in their room "pleasuring himself," but didn't realize that his positioning was just right to project his image on the mirrored ceiling of the Bridge Bar. The bar was obviously jam-packed of industry people, and has since been the ongoing joke of the conference. Blake's video made it like he was the culprit. Hilarious!
So, anyways, The Zac Brown Band, Chuck Wicks, Lady Antebellum, James Otto, and Kellie Pickler were featured at this year's event. I have to say, The Zac Brown Band was my favorite, as they are that hippie, jam band-esque country. More twang than Dave Matthews, but no over-the-top descriptive lyrics.
Kellie Pickler was cute, but she had the same microphone as Carrie Underwood, which was definitely noticeable. She should have switched up the rhinestone color or something. My favorite song from her was "Throwing Rocks Instead of Rice," about crashing a wedding of some guy she loves.
Lady Antebellum had a little bit of hipster flair and reminded me of Fleetwood Mac in a way. They were pretty good, but I think The Zac Brown Band should have headlined the show.
Well, that's CRS for you. If you have anything to do with Country Music. I suggest you get your ass to the next one, or at least hang out at the Bridge Bar and network. You won't be disappointed with the folks you meet. Besides being helpful to your career, they are great people with good hearts who love music and like to have fun.