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Music City

By Holly Gleason

From the moment the unstoppable Lainey Wilson hit the satellite stage—performing Little Texas’ “God Bless Texas,” it was clear the 59th Academy of Country Music Awards was going to lean hard into the friskiness and out-yonder kind of country that derives its appeal from the actual country. Dressed in red, the current Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year was the only female nominated in the ACMs’ top category. By night’s end, she’d make it a pair.

In just two years, the Louisiana farmer’s daughter has gone from Best New Female Artist to winning country music’s biggest awards. After debuting her saucy “Hold on Honey,” Wilson not only won Female Artist and Music Event of the Year with rap/rock/country sensation Jelly Roll on his wrenching “Save Me,” she also took home Entertainer; making her the first artist since The (Dixie) Chicks to become an ACM triple-crown winner in just two years.

Onstage she talked of crawling out on the roof, looking up at the stars and the planes overhead, her 13-year struggle and crazy acceleration of the last three, her gratitude palpable. Beyond her Cinderella moment, the night’s other peak emotion had to be Post Malone, who’s been tilting at country for a couple of years, following a strong Stagecoach set by appearing at one of country’s most hallowed awards shows.

Post Malone showed himself to be a fine country singer on the aching ballad “Never Love You Again,” the bouncy midtempo “I Had Some Help” (without track mate Morgan Wallen) and a spontaneous a capella “Ramblin’ Man” with host Reba that delightfully celebrated recently deceased Allman Brothers Band guitarist Dickie Betts. Clearly loving the music, Post has a molasses-and-flannel voice suited to the genre and a delivery that falls into an authentic space, making him a truer traditional vocalist than many artists currently in the format.

Best New Male Nate Smith brought vocal ballast and an intensity to his recasting of 10-week #1 “Bulletproof” with the equally formidable Avril Lavigne, while multiple nominee Cody Johnson’s “Dirt Cheap” offered a bucolic ballad that delivered traditional values. Multiple Entertainer of the Year winner Jason Aldean performed a powerfully yearning “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” to memorialize 2024 Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Toby Keith that brought his family—and much of the audience—to tears.

After years of BroCountry templates, this ceremony displayed dexterity and diversity. Entertainer of the Year nominee Kane Brown created a Sinatra-esque performance on Ray Charles’ “Georgia on My Mind” that was elegant and slightly swinging, Visual Media winner Parker McCollum embraced a George Strait-evoking classicism with “Burn It Down,” and Male Artist of the Year Chris Stapleton conjured a sweltering “I Think I’m Love With You” with surprise guest Dua Lipa that was as penetrating as it was passionate.

And then there was Texan Miranda Lambert, all fringe and Cheshire smile, leaning into “Wranglers.” The winningest artist in ACM history scorched the smoky female-empowerment anthem from the first “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” With an intentional verve, the former Entertainer of the Year suggested that the next phase of her storied career will be the most interesting.

Jordan Davis’ Song of the Year win for “Next Thing You Know” bookends his CMA Song of the Year for “Buy Dirt” in a win that showed the likable vocalist’s life-derived songwriting connects deeply with voters. Life-derived writing also defined Stapleton’s wins for Album of the Year and Artist-Songwriter as well as Luke Combs’ Single of the Year win for his reverent take on Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car.”

Ashley McBryde, presenting Single of the Year with Noah Reid, seized the moment to create some spontaneous musical commentary. After joking about feeling awkward, they sang the nominated songs with new lyrics McBryde had written about Lower Broadway, star bars, flying chairs and publicist intervention, generating the night’s biggest laughs.

Whether putting together pop collabs—Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani, Kelsea Ballerini and Noah Kahan—or the churchy “I Can’t” finale from 17-time host Reba, producers Raj Kapoor and Parick Menton stacked two hours with a sweeping pace suited to the livestreaming platform Amazon Prime provides. For the always-progressive ACM, led by CEO Damon Whiteside and this year’s board chair, Ebie McFarland, their livestreamed awards show offered a dynamic that ramped up momentum and a flow that kept viewers engaged.

Announcing her return as host for the ACMs’ 60th anniversary, Reba fittingly closed the night. With the news of the diamond-anniversary show returning to Amazon, the successful transition from broadcast to streaming platform felt not just complete but visionary.


Sun Label Group, which comprises the labels Sun Records, Gaither Music, Green Hill Music, Rural Rhythm and emeraldwave by Green Hill, has officially launched in tandem with parent company Primary Wave.

SLG will be led by President Paul Sizelove, who will remain in his concurrent role as President of Gaither Music Group. Green Hill Music GM Blake Davis will also retain his position. Each of the labels will keep "their unique structure, individuality and respective teams," according to a statement.

"As we launch Sun Label Group, we stand at the crossroads of musical heritage and innovation,” said Sizelove, pictured. “This venture isn't just about celebrating 160 years of extraordinary sound; it's about forging a future where music continues to inspire, connect and evolve. Our rich legacy across Sun Records, Gaither Music, Green Hill Music, Rural Rhythm and emeraldwave by Green Hill is just the beginning."

Upcoming Sun Records releases include Ruthie Foster's Mileage, Amy Helm's Silver City, Melissa Etheridge's I'm Not Broken: Live From Topeka Correctional Facility, Thompson Square's Shawna Thompson's Lean on Neon and a blues album from ZZ Ward, while Gaither Music is prepping projects with former The Voice winners Chris Blue and Jordan Smith and Gospel Music Hall of Famers the Isaacs.

Green Hill Music will release Fairy Fantasy, a new album from New Age veteran David Arkenstone, while emeraldwave by Green Hill recently issued Out of the Blur, the debut ambient album from Thievery Corporation's Eric Hilton.


Brendon Anthony has been named VP of Big Loud Texas, which he will oversee from Austin in tandem with label co-founders Miranda Lambert and Jon Randall.

Anthony comes to Big Loud Texas from the Texas Music Office, where he served as director of an agency within the Office of the Governor. There, he helped industry partners find success in the Texas music market and drove music-related business development initiatives.

Previously, Anthony was Head of E-Commerce and Artist Relations for direct-to-fan platform ONELIVE Media, where he worked with everyone from Beyoncé to Willie Nelson and Mötley Crue.

"Being a part of growing and supporting the Texas music industry has been my focus for over 25 years and I am thrilled to continue that effort by joining Big Loud Texas," said Anthony, who is also a musician.

"Not only does he bring years of knowledge of the Texas music industry and culture to the table," added Randall of Anthony, "but his legendary and respected musicianship has given him firsthand experience in touring and recording, and a deep understanding of what Texas music artists need in a record label. We are lucky to have him."

As for us, we're just lucky there was food in our refrigerator this morning.


Sony Music Publishing Nashville has inked Brian Fuller to a global pub deal.

A promising newcomer in Nashville’s country music scene, Fuller recently earned his first major label cut as a songwriter with “I Could Be That Rain,” featured on Randall King’s 2024 album, Into the Neon.

Fuller is also set to drop new music this year, including his single “That Girl Can Drive,” co-written with Joey Hyde and Justin Wilson, due 5/24.

“Brian is a special talent – his song sense, unique melodies and ideas set him apart as one of the most promising young songwriter/artists. We are excited to join forces and be a part of his team,” said Aubrey Landon, SMP Nashville’s director of creative.

“I give all the glory and credit to God for blessing me with the amazing team and people at Sony. The first time I sat down and talked with Rusty [Gaston] I felt like he truly cared to hear about who I was and my story. Aubrey has the drive and work ethic of 10 people and I feel so lucky to have her in my corner. Every time I step foot within Sony, I’m welcomed by nothing but smiles and I feel right at home,” added Fuller.

Fuller kicked off his songwriting career in 2019 after moving from Savannah, Ga. to Nashville. Spending his first few years in the city writing, touring and perfecting his craft, he’s since dropped several tracks as an artist, including “Blue Sky Beautiful” and “Tellin’ on You,” and has songwriting projects in the works.

Seen just before celebrating with hot-chicken infused champagne are (l-r) back rowKenley Flynn, Dale Bobo, Josh Van Valkenburg, Anna Weisband, Tom Luteran, Synnovea Cleveland; front row—Landon, Fuller and Gaston.


EMPIRE has promoted Heather Vassar to SVP of operations and Sarah Beth Gerlecz to director of business and legal affairs.

Vassar will continue to spearhead EMPIRE Nashville releases and expand the roster, which she helped grow by ten artists over the past year. Gerlecz, who’s helped expand the pub roster to include multi-genre producers James Maddocks and Yung Lan (Morgan Wallen), will remain a key dealmaker for EMPIRE Nashville’s label and publishing divisions.

Additionally, Hannah Galluzzi joins the company as director of A&R, focusing on development of artists and release strategy. She arrives at EMPIRE after six years at UMG Nashville, where she worked with Sam Hunt, Parker McCollum, Priscilla Block and Jordan Davis.

The news comes on the heels of EMPIRE Nashville’s latest breakout, Shaboozey, whose “A Bar Song (Tipsy)” hit 3m streams in 24 hours and now boasts 65m+ streams globally. The rising country star was also featured on Beyoncé’s COWBOY CARTER, as was labelmate Reyna Roberts. Shaboozey’s album, WHERE I’VE BEEN, ISN’T WHERE I’M GOING, is due 5/31.

Pictured above are (l-r) Vassar, Gerlecz and Galluzzi.


The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and Warner Music Nashville are releasing an expanded version of the box set From Where I Stand: The Black Experience in Country Music. Originally released in 1998, the updated CD collection spans a century of music and traces the many ways Black Americans have created, contributed to and been influenced by country music. The set arrives 5/31, with pre-orders now available here.

The original set’s creation was inspired by Black country artist Cleve Francis and American Baptist College executive Nelson Wilson, who told the Washington Post at the time of its release, “It's a part of our history that's been hidden from us."

The new collection encompasses 82 tracks, with a fourth disc titled “Reclaiming the Heritage” that includes contemporary Black country and Americana artists like Rhiannon Giddens and Rissi Palmer.

"The most beautiful thing to me about the Black country renaissance is that its stars, who are finally starting to get the recognition they deserve, are truly using country music the way that, to me, it was born to be used," Giddens says in her essay. "Their music reflects and highlights a cultural viewpoint that has been traditionally suppressed, shows the best of the American narrative, and, in the end, tells the important stories of now, for the generations of tomorrow.”

Following the set's release, all the music can be heard on the museum’s website via "From Where I Stand: The Online Experience," a free, educational resource containing all the essays, archival visual components and historical track notes for each selection. The online experience will also include music that was unable to be licensed for the physical box set release, including Beyoncé and the Chicks’ collaboration on “Daddy Lessons,” Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road" and Al Green’s version of “For the Good Times.”

To celebrate the release, a variety of artists represented in the box set will participate in From Where I Stand: The Concert Celebration in the museum’s CMA Theater on 6/18. Presented by Amazon and Riverview Foundation, the event will be led by co-producers Rissi Palmer and Shannon Sanders. Artists performing include Blanco Brown, Cowboy Troy, Tony Jackson, Hubby Jenkins, Miko Marks, Wendy Moten, Palmer, Darius Rucker, The War And Treaty and Barrence Whitfield.

Tickets will be available here. Find a sneak peek below.


Warner Music Nashville has announced the signing of South African singer-songwriter Roan Ash. To celebrate the new deal, Ash's major label debut, "Holy Ground," is available now.

A seasoned country-rock poet, Ash has amassed 100m+ global streams independently. Armed with a guitar and emotionally-charged songwriting, Ash only aims for honesty and authenticity.

Ash's influences are lyrical masters like Kris Kristofferson and Don Williams, as well as Bruce Springsteen, Elton John and John Mayer. Ash released his first independent album The Traveller in 2014, followed by 2018’s Whiskey to My Soul, where he found his creative mark.

Finding a natural home for his writing in Nashville, Ash made the life-changing decision to move across the globe and begin writing with Music City’s brightest collaborators.

Pictured above anticipating how popular Nashville Hot Bobotie could become: (back row) Warner Chappell Music SVP, A&R BJ Hill, WME's Jay Williams and Sloane Cavitt Logue, WMN VP, A&R Stephanie Davenport, WMN SVP Legal & Business Affairs Patrick Sabatini; (front row) WMN Co-Chair and Co-President Cris Lacy, Roan Ash and WMN Co-Chair and Co-President Ben Kline.


GSTV, a national on-the-go video network targeting thousands of fuel retailers, has partnered with HYBE subsidiary, Big Machine Label Group, to deliver exclusive musical content to GSTV screens.

Launching with the new “Sound Bites Powered by Big Machine” series, more than 29k locations across the U.S. will offer users BTS looks, new music previews and more from the label group’s artist roster, which includes Sheryl Crow, Mötley Crüe, Tim McGraw, Thomas Rhett and Jackson Dean, among many others.

"Our partnership also brings robust opportunities for our brand partners to engage with Big Machine’s roster of talent in an unexpected and impactful way during a powerful moment of attention and consideration," GSTV EVP, Marketing Kristina Lutz said. "This is great for viewers, for artists and for our retail and brand partners – a true win/win/win.”

BMLG EVP, Label Operations Clay Hunnicutt expressed similar sentiments, adding, "We love being able to treat the millions of music lovers that stop at GSTV locations across the US to fresh, fun content and music from their favorite artists... and maybe even introduce them to their next favorite artist or song.”

The deal brings new offerings for brand integrations, including sponsorship of the BMLG 20-second content segment, integration into custom produced Big Machine content and custom promotions and content with BMLG artists. Something tells us they won't be coming to HITS for content opportunities. Watch a clip of "Sound Bites" below.