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5 Questions With ... Eric Church
Eric Church

Photo: The Recording Academy

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5 Questions With ... Eric Church

Country singer/songwriter visits The Recording Academy

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

Country singer/songwriter Eric Church was the recent guest for an installment of The Recording Academy's 5 Questions With … series. Held at The Academy's headquarters in Santa Monica, Calif., Church discussed topics such as songwriting, the significance of Recording Academy membership, music education, advice for young musicians, and his latest album, Chief, and the album's No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200.

"It was insane," said Church on Chief's debut atop the Billboard 200. "Everybody has expectations, but it far exceeded any expectations I had. It really restored my faith in the power of the people [and] in making records and it being about music. People believed enough in the record [and] that week they became the ambassadors for it."


Hailing from Granite Falls, N.C., Church began writing songs and taught himself how to play guitar at age 13. While in college at Appalachian State University, Church formed a band, the Mountain Boys, and upon graduation moved to Nashville where he landed a publishing deal with Sony/ATV Tree, subsequently writing songs for other artists, including Terri Clark's "The World Needs A Drink," which he co-wrote with Casey Beathard. Church eventually met producer Jay Joyce and the two started recording demos, landing Church a record deal with Capitol Records Nashville. Church's debut album, 2006's Sinners Like Me, cracked the Top 30 on the Billboard 200 and peaked at No. 7 on Billboard's Country Albums chart. Carolina followed in 2009, peaking at No. 17 on the Billboard 200 and spawning the gold-certified singles "Love Your Love The Most" and "Smoke A Little Smoke." In April Church was honored as the Top New Solo Vocalist of the Year at the 46th annual Academy of Country Music Awards. Released in July, Chief debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and Country Albums charts, marking the first time a traditional country artist has garnered a No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 without having a previous No. 1 hit single since Tim McGraw's 1994 album Not A Moment Too Soon. Church is currently on tour throughout the United States.

Come back to GRAMMY.com next week to view Eric Church's exclusive performance at The Recording Academy.

For updates and breaking news, please visit The Recording Academy's social networks on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

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2021 In Review: 8 Trends That Defined Country Music

Kacey Musgraves

Photo: John Shearer/MTV VMAs 2021/Getty Images for MTV/ViacomCBS

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2021 In Review: 8 Trends That Defined Country Music

Powerful narratives fueled country music in 2021, between vulnerable heartbreak-driven albums, Nashville veterans getting their spotlight, and Black voices finally being heard

GRAMMYs/Dec 23, 2021 - 07:10 pm

The genre known for three chords and the truth reached new heights of authenticity and storytelling in 2021. After a year of doubt, confusion and isolation in 2020, many country artists returned to the road and their careers with rejuvenated passion, releasing some of their most ambitious projects to date.

Grassroots ways of finding success emerged, with several artists — both established and up-and-coming — unlocking whole new fan bases thanks to social media. The result? Some unlikely hits made it up to the very top of the country radio charts, artists were able to release more music than ever before, and unprecedented cross-genre collaborations came out of quarantine connections.

Read on to learn more about some of the trends, both musical and cultural, that dominated country music in 2021.

Double and Triple Albums

During their pandemic-induced time off the road, many artists found that the one thing they could still do was write songs. By 2021, the plethora of music created in those sessions was recorded and ready for release, resulting in longer track lists and beefier projects.

One such trendsetter was Eric Church, who released a massive, 24-track Heart & Soul album spread out over three discs. Morgan Wallen dropped his 30-track — or 33-track, if you're counting the Target-exclusive and bonus editions — Dangerous: The Double Album in January. The latter made history, becoming the first country album to spend its first 10 weeks at No. 1 on the all-genre Billboard 200; it also spent 43 weeks in the chart's top 10, more than any other album in 2021. (Amid the album’s success, Wallen sparked major controversy when a video surfaced of the singer using a racial slur. He issued an apology and claimed to make donations to Black-led groups, but was promptly shut out from country radio and streaming services, as well as several events and awards shows.)

Thomas Rhett and Jason Aldean also created multiple albums worth of music in 2021. Rhett released Country Again: Side A in April, announcing in November that Side B will arrive in fall 2022 following another album, titled Where We Started, which the star revealed will be out in "early 2022." Aldean had a similar release strategy, dropping Macon, the first half of his double album Macon, Georgia, in November and setting Georgia for April 22, 2022.

Success Stories Years in the Making

Longtime B-Listers finally got their country radio propers in 2021, due to ever-increasing opportunities for artists to create grassroots hits on social media. Walker Hayes' ubiquitous "Fancy Like" went viral on TikTok (particularly thanks to a family-friendly dance craze) and became a No. 1 hit on both Billboard's Country Airplay and Hot Country Songs charts. The song gave the singer — who moved to Nashville in 2005 — his first crossover hit, getting airplay on pop radio and climbing all the way to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Parmalee also took country radio by surprise this year. The band hadn't had a No. 1 since 2013, and their two most recent singles fizzled without ever cracking the charts. But "Just the Way," an unlikely team-up with "The Git Up" star Blanco Brown, saw them cruising back into the top spot.

One more success story came from Lainey Wilson, another Nashville veteran who got her big break with the insightful hit "Things a Man Oughta Know." The song became her first No. 1 on country radio after nearly 10 years of releasing music. Her latest single, a collaboration with resident chart-topper Cole Swindell titled "Never Say Never," is currently climbing the charts.

Classic Hits Found New Life on TikTok

While TikTok was instrumental in creating new hits such as "Fancy Like" in 2021, it was also responsible for revitalizing a few old ones. Reba McEntire's 2001 hit, "I'm a Survivor" went viral thanks to a TikTok spoof trend, with users setting the song to video footage of themselves melodramatically doing everyday chores. McEntire herself got in on the fun, posting a clip of her attempt to feed a pair of ungrateful donkeys.

Shania Twain also reached brand-new audiences with her TikTok presence. She posts snippets of iconic selections from her discography, as well as her hilarious commentary on French fries, sneak peeks at her Las Vegas residency, and the occasional trend trade-off with Taylor Swift.

Career-Defining Divorce Albums

Breakups aren't exactly a new topic for country, but some country artists have gone through very public heartbreaks over the past couple of years. Carly Pearce split from fellow artist Michael Ray after just eight months of marriage, and Kacey Musgraves called it quits with her husband of two years, singer/songwriter Ruston Kelly.

But rather than go through these difficult times privately, both Pearce and Musgraves spun their heartache into gold, with each singer putting out her most revealing, personal and intricately-crafted record to date. Pearce leaned heavily into her country roots to make 29: Written in Stone, while Musgraves expertly defied genre boundaries to release star-crossed, a project so vulnerable that she performed one of its songs on Saturday Night Live wearing nothing but a strategically placed acoustic guitar.

Black Country Stars Broke Through

After the country world said goodbye to the legendary Charley Pride in December 2020, his trailblazing legacy lived on in 2021. Black country stars made waves in several ways this year, from winning awards, to launching business ventures, to making statements on stage and in song.

Hitmakers Kane Brown and Jimmie Allen — the latter of whom is the only country artist up for Best New Artist at the 2022 GRAMMYS — made history with their wins at the ACM Awards (Brown was the first Black artist to win Video of the Year; Allen was the first Black solo artist to win the New Male Artist of the Year). Both of them started their own businesses in 2021 as well: Brown started his own label, 1021 Entertainment (in partnership with his home label, Sony Music Nashville), and Allen launched both a publishing company, Bettie James Music Publishing, and a full-service management and production company, JAB Entertainment.

Mickey Guyton, who first caught attention outside of the genre for her GRAMMY-nominated single "Black Like Me" last year, continued making an impact with her powerful album, Remember Her Name. The album features several vignettes of her experience as a Black woman, including a bouncy anthem "Different" and a poignant ballad "Love My Hair." She delivered a moving performance of the latter track at the 2021 CMA Awards alongside rising stars Brittney Spencer and Madeline Edwards, two of the many promising Black voices in the genre, which also includes Yola, Breland, Willie Jones, and Shy Carter, among others.

Artists Lived Their Truth

Amid the challenges country music faced this year, there were also moments of personal authenticity and joy. Brothers Osborne's TJ Osborne came out as gay in a Time feature, and the sibling duo subsequently released "Younger Me," a compassionate, timely ode to the obstacles they overcame to become who they are today.

Osborne was one of two country acts signed to a major label to come out as gay: The other was Brooke Eden, who came out in January, and later in the year got engaged to her partner Hilary Hoover. She put out the first new songs she’d released in years, and in a Grand Ole Opry performance, she and Trisha Yearwood duetted on Yearwood's classic "She's in Love With the Boy," changing the lyrics to "She’s in love with the girl."

Eden and Osborne are two of a very small — but growing — list of publicly gay country music major players, also including hit songwriter Shane McAnally and Americana star Brandi Carlile.

Dolly Parton Retained Her Reign as Country Queen

Dolly Parton was a major bright spot in the dark year that was 2020. Not only did she lift spirits by releasing her third Christmas album, A Holly Dolly Christmas, but she also made a $1 million donation to fund the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

It’s hard to top that, but this year, Parton continued to trend for her uplifting acts of kindness and legendary musical feats. She sent social media into a frenzy when she celebrated "hot girl summer" — and the birthday of her husband of 57 years, Carl Dean — by recreating the iconic outfit she wore for her Playboy cover shoot back in 1978. She also duetted with Reba McEntire for the first time, landed on the list of Forbes' richest self-made women, and capped off 2021 by setting two brand-new Guinness World Records (and breaking a third record that she already held) for her long-standing chart accomplishments.

Full-Length Collaborations Albums

What’s better than one duet? An album full of them, apparently. Collaborations were hot in country music in 2021, but lots of artists took that one step further, putting out full-length projects featuring a cast of duet partners.

The Hardy-curated Hixtape Vol. 2 dug deep into country lifestyle and party songs, courtesy of some of the biggest names from every corner of the genre. Brantley Gilbert, Brothers Osborne, Jon Pardi, Dierks Bentley and Jake Owen are just a few of the acts who lent their voices to the track list, which features a total of 33 guest artists across 14 songs.

While the Hixtape went ultra-country, other duets albums were genre-spanning. Rapper Nelly put out his Heartland project, featuring Darius Rucker, Breland and Florida Georgia Line. Jimmie Allen went even broader for his Bettie James Gold Edition, which featured everyone from rapper Pitbull to R&B/soul singer Monica and pop star Noah Cyrus.

2021 In Review: 8 Trends That Defined Rock

Here Are The Nominees For Best Country Song | 2020 GRAMMYs

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Here Are The Nominees For Best Country Song | 2020 GRAMMYs

Songs by Tanya Tucker, Ashley McBryde, Miranda Lambert, Eric Church and Dan + Shay receive nods in this songwriters' category

GRAMMYs/Nov 20, 2019 - 06:28 pm

It all starts with a song, and country music in particular has always been a genre guided by light of its brightest songwriters. Here are this year's GRAMMY nominees for Best Country Song, a songwriters' award presented to the storytellers and tunesmiths behind the year's most moving moments in country music. 

"Bring My Flowers Now" (Performed by Tanya Tucker)

Last year's GRAMMY Awards were all but owned by singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile, who was nominated in three of the four general field categories and took home three GRAMMYs including a songwriter award for Best American Roots Song along with her longtime collaborators Phil Hanseroth & Tim Hanseroth. This year, the songwriting trio teamed up with GRAMMY-nominated country legend Tanya Tucker to pen her hit single from her first new album in a decade, While I'm Livin'.

"Girl Goin' Nowhere" (Performed by Ashley McBryde)

Last year Ashley McBryde was a first-time GRAMMY nominee with a nod for Best Country Album. This year, the title track of her debut album, Girl Goin' Nowhere, receives a nomination for both McBryde and the song's co-writer Jeremy Bussey. As the song's key lyric puts it, "Not bad for a girl goin' nowhere," indeed!

"It All Comes Out In The Wash" (Performed by Miranda Lambert)

GRAMMY winner Miranda Lambert, showed she's only getting started, dropping her seventh album, Wildcard, earlier this month to widespread praise from critics and fans alike. The album's single, co-written by Lambert and a trio of GRAMMY winner, Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and Liz Rose, receives a nod for its clever "spin" on dealing with the problems life presents.

"Some Of It" (Performed by Eric Church)

Modern country megastar Eric Church, is no stranger to GRAMMY nominations, with seven so far in his career. He shows up for the third time in the Best Country Song Category, showing his range on the deep and contemplative "Some Of It," co-written by Church, Clint Daniels, Jeff Hyde & Bobby Pinson. Will Church's third time in the category be a charm?

"Speechless" (Performed by Dan + Shay)

Dan + Shay had a breakout year last year, their hit "Tequila," which earned a nomination for Best Country Song and the song earned the duo their first career GRAMMY win for Best Country Duo/Group Performance. This year, they receive a nomination for their wedding modern classic, "Speechless." Co-written by Shay Mooney, Jordan Reynolds, Dan Smyers and Laura Veltz. One can't help but wonder if a win in the category this time around would leave the writing team, well, speechless? 

Check Out The Full List Of 62nd GRAMMY Awards Nominations

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Metallica + More In Atlantic City

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

By Jamie Harvey

It took planes, trains and automobiles to get the hordes of Metallica fans to Bader Field in Atlantic City, N.J., for Orion Music + More on a weekend perfectly bookended by thunderstorms. As metalheads clad in black T-shirts dotted the grounds framed by water and a casino-filled skyline, we embarked on a weekend that promised a unique festival experience. For Metallica fans, and music fans in general, Orion Music + More promised two Metallica shows of epic proportions and a unique way to interact with the band and meet fellow fans.

Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich introduced the first act, Baroness, who opened on the festival's main stage. Their dense guitar tones echoed across the fields that were still wet from the night's storms, bending around each fan and pulling them into the experience. Heavy yet melodic, it was the perfect appetizer.

Texas-based quartet the Sword were introduced by Metallica frontman James Hetfield, who headbanged along as he watched their set and even filmed the crowd with his iPhone from the side of the stage. Their Southern sludge pleased the crowd, as did a cover of ZZ Top's "Cheap Sunglasses."

I caught a few songs from Memphis country rock act Lucero's set before heading across the field. Hetfield introduced Los Angeles' Kyng as a band who was highly recommended to him by "Headbangers Ball" host Jose Mangin. Kyng's killer set inspired the weirdest pit of all time — dozens of men playing what appeared to be a game of football. Kyng's unique combination of heavy beats and bluesy rock vocals had those unaware asking, "Who is this band?" 

As the time approached for night one of Metallica, I thought about how they were my first metal band. Tonight would bring a first-ever performance of their seminal 1984 album Ride The Lightning in its entirety. After a handful of Metallica favorites, including "Master Of Puppets" and "Sad But True," a video introduction kicked off the performance of Ride The Lightning, which they played in reverse order. "Escape" was played for the first time, amplifying what was already monumental. After the album was complete, favorites such as "One" and "Seek And Destroy" ended the night with a spectacular pyro and fireworks show.

One of my favorite newer bands, A Place To Bury Strangers, kicked off day two for me. Their psychedelic combination of electronica and rock seemed an odd fit at surface level, but their always-engaging performance and extremely loud sound drew a good crowd.

Ghost are also a favorite new band of mine, and after seeing them as much as possible already on their first tours, I still get extremely excited as they walk onstage. Band members Papa Emeritus and the Nameless Ghouls were dressed in white for their daytime show, and their satanic melodic rock provided a sort of Black Mass on this Sunday morning. Ghost's carefully curated personality, aesthetic and sound have inspired devout fandom, and on this day those of us already converted stood among the new recruits with their mouths agape at the spectacle.

I ran across the field for Landmine Marathon, who took the honor of playing the heaviest set at a metal-based festival. I've seen them play in dark corners of small rooms for years, and to see them on this stage where their assaulting sound could reach the masses was like watching a wild animal be freed from captivity.

I watched portions of several eclectic sets: the bluesy guitarist Gary Clark Jr.; comedian Jim Breuer doing Metallica impressions; and the Black Dahlia Murder's screams and blast beats, before I experienced the most atypical opener for Metallica — country superstar Eric Church. In a set that featured fire and smoke worthy of any metal show, my Texas roots were showing as I sang along to his cover of Hank Williams Jr.'s "A Country Boy Can Survive."

Metallica's 1991 self-titled release (also known as the "Black Album") was the first metal album I ever owned, and to experience it live was special. Pressed up against the catwalk, I watched these mythical metal statesmen play songs that brought a flood of memories of me dancing around my bedroom, occasionally stopping to wonder why I liked Metallica instead of New Kids On The Block or turn it down at my parents' request. As the band stomped around the stage they played the album in reverse — "Of Wolf And Man" and "Wherever I May Roam" have always been my favorites from this album. Metallica are the product of the simplest metal formula: a perfectly defined riff over a hard-driving beat with vocals that meld into the space in between.

I giggled during Hetfield's nightly "Metallica Family" call-and-response banter, but it rang true. Evidenced the next day by the black metal T-shirts worn by sunburned, worn-out and sore festivalgoers, Metallica is no doubt one of the biggest music families in the world.

(Jamie Harvey splits her time between California and Texas, and is the rock community blogger for GRAMMY.com. She has been to more than 500 shows since 2007. You can follow her musical adventures and concert recaps at www.hardrockchick.com.)

Here Are The Nominees For Best Country Album | 2020 GRAMMYs

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Here Are The Nominees For Best Country Album | 2020 GRAMMYs

Eric Church, Reba McEntire, Pistol Annies, Thomas Rhett and Tayna Tucker are all nominated

GRAMMYs/Nov 20, 2019 - 07:08 pm

The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Country Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Country Album.

Desperate Man – Eric Church 

True to its name, Eric Church's sixth studio album came from a dark place. In the aftermath of the 2017 shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas, Church wrote, recorded delivered his most outspoken work yet with Desperate Man. The now nine-time GRAMMY nominee is also up for Best Country Song this year for "Some Of It" and is seeking his first career GRAMMY win.

Stronger Than The Truth - Reba McEntire

Reba returned to her own strength and truth this year with Stronger Than The Truth, her (quite impressive) 33rd studio ablum. In a career that has blossomed onto TV, film and even the Broadway stage, McEntire's true calling has always been country music, and she's now seeking the fourth GRAMMY win of her career.

Interstate Gospel – Pistol Annies

Country supergroup Pistol Annies arrived as a breath of fresh country air in 2011 with their debut album, Hell On Heels. The trio of Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley, each accomplished artists in their own right, earne their first nomination as a group for their third LP, Interstate Gospel. Lambert is also up for Best Country Song at this year's GRAMMYs for "It All Comes Out In The Wash" from her latest, Wildcard.

Read More: Ashley Monroe Talks 'Sparrow,' Eminem, Pistol Annies & More

Center Point Road – Thomas Rhett

Named after a road in his hometown of Hendersonville, Tenn., Thomas Rhett's fourth album manages a delicate balance between nostalgic and new. Center Point Road debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and earned Rhett his third career GRAMMY nomination.

While I'm Livin' – Tanya Tucker 

Country legend Tanya Tucker delighted fans with her 25th studio album and first in a decade with While I'm Livin'Produced by Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings, the album also earned Tucker three additional nods for "Bring My Flowers Now" for Song Of The Year, Best Counry Solo Performance and Best Country Song this year, bringing her career GRAMMY nominations tally to 14. 

Check Out The Full List Of 62nd GRAMMY Awards Nominations