The Washington Post: How Sam Hunt’s ‘Body Like a Back Road’ became a top contender for song of the summer

The Washington Post describes the “two-minute-and-45-second earworm” as not only the country song of the summer, but also one of the top songs for 2017 across all genres. With the announcement of its 25th week atop the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, “Body Like A Back Road” has broken the record as the longest standing No.1 Country song in the chart’s history.  


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Entertainment Focus: Interview with Country Music Rising Star Jo Smith

Entertainment Focus talks with Jo Smith about her new EP, upcoming music and UK debut at the Nashville Meets London Festival.

Entertainment Focus says, “Rising star Jo Smith is about to be the next big thing in country music, with her single Old School Groove already getting a great response in the States.”

Smith speaks about her music’s influences, collaborations and even fan reactions.

People Magazine: Five Things to Know About Walker Hayes

People Country dives into Walker Hayes’ family life, music career and details everything else in between. Hayes speaks about influences such as his six children, ultra-supportive wife and even his background in classical piano.  

People describes the artist’s lyrics as “wildly creative” and compares him to great legends. Hayes says that his songs are “really just journal entries from my life. I started writing songs about dollar stores, my kids, experiences with my wife. I just started writing about the truth because really that’s my expertise.”

NPR: Walker Hayes’ Mixtapes Keep Country Conversational: World Cafe Nashville

"Walker Hayes details his journey in the industry, shares inspiration for his 8Tracks and reveals the story behind his new single, “You Broke Up With Me.” Hayes also speaks about his opportunity for a second chance in music and details how this time is different than the first time around. "I have ultimate freedom to write the truth. To me that's the biggest difference — and I got a haircut,” Hayes says.”

CMT: Jo Smith's Soul-Searching Evolution

CMT dives deep into the artist evolution of Jo Smith, calling Smith’s current music, "Sassy, frank, warm, bold and real.” Smith candidly admits that it took years to figure out who she is as an artist, but remarks that her journey is filled with gratitude for her past experiences and lessons learned among the way. “That’s the whole thing of learning to listen to your inner voice,” Smith says. “I know that sounds super corny. It took me my first decade in Nashville to know that that little thing inside was what I should listen to.”

Jo Smith is a Rolling Stone “New Country Artist You Need to Know: May 2017

Rolling Stone Country has named Jo Smith one of ten “new country artists you need to know” in May 2017. Rolling Stone Country recommends Smith for fans of Maren Morris, Kelsea Ballerini and Sixties girl groups. 

"I grew up in South Georgia listening to my dad’s country and Motown records, and it was so important to me to blend those influences on my new EP,” Smith says. "My single 'Old School Groove' sets the tone perfectly of who I am as an artist, and I'm so proud the world is getting to hear it."

Sony Music's Monument Records Revived By Shane McAnally, Jason Owen

1/26/2017 by Marc Schneider

Back in its heyday, Fred Foster's Monument Records had quite a knack for signing future songwriting legends, including Kris KristoffersonDolly Parton and Roy Orbison. The label shuttered in 1990 before being revived a few years later, notably breaking the fiery Dixie Chicks. Now, the imprint's iconic name, logo and genre-bending ethos are being resurrected once again, as part of a joint venture between Sandbox Entertainment founder Jason Owen and songwriter/producer Shane McAnally, in collaboration with Sony Music Entertainment.

Sony Music has confirmed the venture, with CEO Doug Morris calling Owen and McAnally a "great team and a terrific addition to the Sony Music family." The revived imprint will operate out of Sandbox's Nashville offices, with support from its parent in New York City. UMG Nashville's Katie McCartney has been brought in as senior vp of marketing and label operations. Kelli Porter, formerly of UMG, has been tapped as manager, marketing & label operations

The label's first singings include singer-songwriters Caitlyn Smith and Walker Hayes, both of whom McAnally says are "impossible to compare to anyone else; they are true originals and originality is what we intend to build Monument on."



"It has always been in my nature to create new paths and identify unique opportunities for artists, especially for those who don’t necessarily fit into one particular box," Owen said in a statement. "I’ve been waiting to find the perfect scenario, to explore that passion and take it to the next level, and this partnership with Shane and Sony is the perfect opportunity to purposefully sign and market excellent music from unique, one-of-a-kind artists, regardless of genre boundaries. It is something that we believe is needed."

Formerly of Universal Music Group, Owen founded Sandbox in 2010 as a full-service artist management and marketing firm. Its clients include Kacey Musgraves, Dan+Shay, Little Big Town and Charlie Worsham, among others, as well as the estates of Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. McAnally has penned tracks for Kenny ChesneyLuke BryanLady Antebellum and others.

Country Music Hall of Famer Fred Foster had singer-songwriters in mind when he co-founded the original Monument with Buddy Deane in 1958. "If your artist can write, you don’t have to go out and break your back searching for a hit," Foster told Billboard last October. "Plus, I also wanted someone that was readily identifiable, that didn’t sound like anybody else. If you’ll notice, all those people (Parton, Orbison, Nelson), you know them immediately."


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Kelleigh Bannen, Shane McAnally Talk ‘That’s Not Country’ Debate in ‘This Nashville Life’ Podcast Read More: Kelleigh Bannen, Shane McAnally on This Nashville Life Podcast


By Kelleigh Bannen October 6, 2016 1:00 PM


Courtesy of Kelleigh Bannen

Every other Thursday, Kelleigh Bannen will provide behind-the-scenes analysis, stories and insight into Music City’s No. 1 export, with help from some of Nashville’s top songwriters, artists, executives and producers. Taste of Country will debut each new episode of her This Nashville Life podcast, and Bannen herself will introduce it as a guest writer. Thoughts and opinions expressed by Bannen are hers alone and do not reflect the opinions of Taste of Country, unless she’s talking about #TomatoGate, in which case, yeah … she’s spot on. 

We’ve made it to Episode 4 of the This Nashville Life podcast, which we’re calling, “That’s Not Country!” This week’s episode features an interview with hit songwriter and producer Shane McAnally. He’s written No. 1 hits like Kenny Chesney’s “Somewhere With You,” Sam Hunt’s “Take Your Time” and most recently, Dierks Bentley’s “Different for Girls.” He’s also the producer behind the song “Forever Country,” which brought together 30 of country music’s biggest acts to mark the 50th anniversary of the CMA Awards.

Have you ever noticed that people love to say, “that’s not country!”

I look up the music video for Sam Hunt’s “Take Your Time” on YouTube. It has over 110 million views and over 12,000 comments. A lot of the comments are people discussing Sam’s “hotness,” or expressing their desire to be his girlfriend. But a lot of the comments touch on liking it because it’s country, or not liking it because it’s country, or liking it because it’s not country and then arguing about what’s country. But that’s Sam. His songs are pretty progressive. Maybe this conversation is to be expected?

Hmm …

So I look up Blake Shelton’s video for “Boys Round Here”. Over 55 million views. Over 15,000 comments. Similar discussion. Hmm …

Now I look up Eric Church’s “Record Year” — 14,933,000 views, over 1000 comments, similar discussion. Some mention of “outlaw country” and whether this song is or isn’t “outlaw country.” But the conversation about what is and isn’t country rages on.

So, why all the time and energy arguing over what is and isn’t country on the internet? Is it just that the internet makes trolls of us all? Brings out our worst? But this isn’t just run-of-the-mill hate. This is a really specific critique. Instead of “I don’t like this,” it’s more like “this isn’t country, so it sucks!”

It got me thinking: what is country music, and what is great country music? Is it as simple as Harlan Howard’s definition of “three chords and the truth”? And why is it that people seem to love to hate on anything that doesn’t meet their definition of “country music”? I wanted to bring Shane in on this particular episode, because who better to talk about what is and isn’t country than someone who has been so heavily involved in songs that span the extremes in country music? On one end we have Brandy Clark and Kacey Musgraves, and on the other we have Sam Hunt. I have to say, Shane really surprised me with his honesty and vulnerability in this interview. And I find his answer to “What is country music?” particularly interesting. Perhaps there is something inherently authentic about connecting over sadness. And if there’s one theme that most people claim they want out of country music, it’s authenticity.

On a comical note, my co-producer Kevin reads us some of the YouTube comments that are on the music video for my 2013 single “Famous.” It’s hilarious and makes me want to hide under my bed.

Ultimately, I think we just scratched the surface with this topic; there’s just so much to say. If you’re interested in continuing to brew on this subject, I would point you to two songs from entirely different perspectives: Walker Hayes’ “Your Girlfriend Does” and Aaron Lewis’ “That Ain’t Country.” Check them out and let us know what you think on Twitter at @KelleighBannen. And you can subscribe to my podcast at iTunes.

As always, thanks for listening.

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