Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban show us how it’s done

Carrie and Keith overcome setbacks, never lose sight of ‘The Prize’

Two country artists have chalked up remarkable career achievements in the past few days. And both can serve as an inspiration to those who are just beginning a career in music.

Carrie Underwood

First of all, congrats and kudos to Carrie Underwood who is celebrating a major career milestone. The CMA Vocalist of the Year has scored her 25th Number One with her current single, “Dirty Laundry.” The song marks Underwood’s 22nd chart-topping hit on country radio, but when you add in a Billboard Hot 100 Number One (“Inside Your Heaven”) plus her two Number Ones on the Hot Country Songs chart (“Something Bad” and “Something in the Water”), she has scored a total of twenty five chart toppers.

Meanwhile, a few days ago, Keith Urban made certain of a spot in music history when his single, “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” simultaneously topped FOUR major charts. The song was Number One on Billboard Country Airplay, Hot Country Songs, Country Digital Song Sales and Country Streaming charts.

Keith Urban. Photo credit: American Idol

Urban is only the third artist to achieve this feat, following Jason Aldean (“Burning It Down,” 2014) and Luke Bryan (Play It Again,” 2014). “Blue Ain’t Your Color” is Urban’s twenty-first Billbioard Country Airplay Number One.

It might seem that both Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban are just plain lucky but that is definitely NOT the case. Both artists had to overcome disappointments and setbacks before they achieved the success they enjoy today.

Record deal falls apart

Underwood was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, where her father worked in a sawmill and her mom taught elementary school. At age 14, she went to Nashville and auditioned for Capitol Records. She must have felt she was on the way to fame when Capitol prepared to sign her to the label. But it wasn’t to be: the label’s management changed and, as a result, the plans for her record deal were scrapped.

That might have been enough to discourage most young artists, but not Underwood. Looking back on that roadblock, she said, “I honestly think it’s a lot better that nothing came out of it now, because I wouldn’t have been ready then. Everything has a way of working out.”

She went back to Oklahoma, finished her high school and college education, graduating magna cum laude from Northeastern State University with a degree in mass communication. But music was still her passion and, having polished her musical experience over the years, she auditioned for American Idol and went on to win Season Four, becoming one of the most successful artists, not only in Idol history but also in all of country music.

Urban makes the big move

Keith Urban found a measure of ‘local’ success in Australia after moving there from his native New Zealand. Like Underwood, Urban saw talent contests as a way to further his career, competing in Australia’s ‘New Faces’ show. In 1992, he made the momentous decision to leave behind that local fame and move to the USA where he was a virtual unknown, finding work as a session guitarist and then starting a band, The Ranch, that had some success on Capitol Records. Meanwhile, he was becoming an increasingly successful songwriter, scoring cuts on Toby Keith and 4 Runner, among others.

His solo career took off with a self-titled album that produced his first Number One single with more to follow. But success took its toll and Urban became addicted to cocaine. For many artists, this would be the beginning of the end; the start of a spiral into obscurity.

However, Urban found the strength to fight and overcome his addiction with the help of a rehab program and the support of a loving wife and family. He has gone on to become one of country music’s most consistently successful stars with a string of Number One hits and a mantle full of industry awards. Echoing his own career-launching participation in talent shows, he has served as judge on The Voice in Australia and American Idol in the USA.

Setbacks are opportunities in disguise

In many ways, Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban serve as inspirations for aspiring artists and songwriters. In Underwood’s case, she saw the collapse of her initial record deal not as a career-killer but as an opportunity to go back and work on improving her skills as a performer so she was truly ready for the big time when the Idol opportunity came her way. Urban had the strength of faith in his abilities to leave his homeland and start over in the USA… and then virtually re-start again after beating his addiction.

Both had the perseverance to keep their eyes on the prize. Your music career will inevitably face obstacles but if you see each obstacle as a learning experience rather than as a career-ender, you will be better prepared when the next opportunity presents itself. Make a pledge to yourself to persevere, to develop ‘staying power,’ to persist in achieving your goal of a rewarding career in music. Remind yourself that all of today’s top stars faced times of despair and disappointment. But they persevered until they achieved the success of which they never lost sight!

Protect your online presence!

Check out – and note the ‘official’ in the address if you want to reach the ‘correct’ Carrie! And also check out, because the site named ‘’ belongs to somebody selling paintings, not to ‘our’ Keith. As a further object lesson, let these situations remind you of the importance of protecting your name and establishing ‘official’ websites and social media before anyone has the chance to beat you to it!


Those darn noisy guitars!

Did your dad ever complain about you playing your guitar too loud in your bedroom? Or get upset about ‘that weird music the kids are playing nowadays’? Well, he wasn’t the first to think guitars are the beginning of the end of the world as we know it.

Read these comments by French musicologist Pierre Trichet (1586 – 1644):

“Even in France, one finds courtesans and ladies who turn themselves into Spanish monkeys. Still there are some in our nation who leave everything behind in order to take up and study the guitar… is it because it has a certain something which is feminine and pleasing to women, flattering their hearts and making them inclined to voluptuousness?”

Monsieur Trichet wasn’t the only 17th century musician to view the guitar as an abomination. Here are the thoughts of Sebastian Covarrubias Orosco, writing in 1611, on the matter:

“Since the invention of the guitar there are very few who study the vihuela… the guitar is nothing but a cow-bell, so easy to play, especially when strummed, that there is not a stable-boy who is not a musician of the guitar.”

In case you’re wondering, the vihuela was a string instrument from the 15th and 16th centuries, played in Spain, Portugal and Italy. Those ‘stable boys’ knew a good thing when they saw it. And how many people do you ever see playing ‘air vihuela’?

Guitars: driving people crazy for over 400 years!

Hmmm… the more things change, the more they stay the same! I saw these quotes in Nigel Cawthorne’s “Guitars: Amazing Facts & Trivia,” a book that will fascinate anyone who loves guitars, be they acoustic or electric. You can find the book here at Amazon.

Engaging Christmas for country artists

December 25th extra special for Kacey and Kelsea

Photo credit: The Boot

Two of Country’s sweetest voices are off the market. Kacey Musgraves got her ring on Christmas day, from fellow artist Ruston Kelly. “I didn’t say yes…I said HELL YESSSS!!” Musgraves posted on Instagram Christmas Day.

Kelsea Ballerini’s sparkly new ring!


Then Australian artist Morgan Evans asked Country Music Sweetheart Kelsea Ballerini to be his wife on Christmas Day. The two met when they co-hosted Australia’s Country Music Channel Awards this past March. Kelsea wrote on Instagram: “This morning, nine months and 13 days later, he got down on one knee in the kitchen while I was burning pancakes and asked me to marry him.”

Your music IS your business

Don’t leave your career in the hands of others

“With an artist, everything is hunky-dory until he wakes up and can’t pay his rent. Everything is hunky-dory until he wakes up and realizes he got ripped off.   I mean, you always get these artists who say, ‘I dunno man, I just play the music. I don’t know anything about the business.’ But if you ask a guy who owns a restaurant and he says, ‘Oh, I just cook the food, I don’t know anything about the business’ – that restaurant is gonna fail, y’know?”

Joe Bonamassa, blues guitarist and songwriter, interviewed by Henry Yates in The Blues Magazine.

Blues guitarist and songwriter, Joe Bonamassa

Everyone starting out on a career in music should pay attention to those words of wisdom from Joe Bonamasso, who began playing the guitar at the age of four and opened for blues icon B.B. King when he was twelve years old. It would have been easy for him to concentrate solely on his guitar playing and leave the business side of his career in the hands of others.

But, from an early age, he saw what happened to artists who knew little or nothing about the business side of their own careers. When other people are controlling your management, your bookings, your publishing, your copyrights and your royalties, there’s a good chance that they are more focused on their own interests rather than on yours.

Your music is your business

Of course, as your career expands, you won’t be able to personally handle absolutely everything entirely by yourself: you will need to utilize the expertise of others who are professionals in their field. But it is still essential that you have at least a working knowledge of the major aspects of the music business.

With that knowledge, you can protect yourself from being taken advantage of; you can review documents before you sign, ask questions that demonstrate your familiarity with the subject. In short, treat your music career as your business – because that’s what it is – and you greatly reduce the risk of getting ripped off.

Dolly Parton’s My People Fund helps wildfire victims

$9.3 million already raised

Dolly Parton has always be someone who’ll step up and take decisive action whether it applies to her career or – in this case – to the needs of “her people” in the East Tennessee mountains.

Dolly Parton

In a little more than two weeks after the wildfires that spread across Dolly Parton’s home area of Sevier County, Tennessee, Parton and the Dollywood Foundation launched the distribution of assistance from the My People Fund. During the four day cash distribution, 884 families received their initial support payments.

“It’s a blessing during this holiday season that we are able to help as many families as we have so far,” Parton said. “We know there are more families out there who need our help and we encourage them to be in contact with us before our January distribution.”

The Dollywood Foundation My People Fund provides $1,000 each month to Sevier County families whose homes are uninhabitable or were completely destroyed in the recent Smoky Mountain wildfires. Any family who lost their primary residence (renters and homeowners) due to the wildfires in Sevier County will be eligible. A pre-application for those affected is available at

Dolly’s Telethon

Millions of people watched Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund telethon on Tuesday, December 13 on Great American Country, AXS-TV, RFD-TV and The Heartland Network and during several rebroadcasts throughout the last week. As a result, donations continued to roll in and thanks to generous people from coast to coast and Parton’s friends, the total amount raised has climbed to $9.3 million.

Dolly’s Smoky Mountain Rise to benefit ‘My People’ fund

“As, Dolly said, the response has been overwhelming,” David Dotson, Dollywood Foundation President said. “We will distribute all $9.3 million to the families affected. That will insure all of the money raised will go to where Dolly promised it would go.”

The next distribution is January 26 and 27, 2017 at the LeConte Events Center in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

Charlie Daniels’ Volunteer Jam 2016

Star-studded show benefits ‘Journey Home’ Project

Charlie Daniels surrounded by his special guests
Charlie Daniels surrounded by his special guests

A sell-out event, the Charlie Daniels 80th Birthday Volunteer Jam hit a capacity of 15,784 patrons in the building and was a star-studded show with a portion of the proceeds benefitting The Journey Home Project. The event featured guests 3 Doors Down, Luke Bryan, Kid Rock, Larry The Cable Guy, Chris Stapleton and Travis Tritt with the Charlie Daniels Band for another historic jam. The jam featured a variety of the artists singing standards like “Can’t You See” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”

Surprised by award

Charlie Daniels was surprised with the Rare Country Humanitarian of the Year Award by Randy Travis and Lt. General Keith Huber before playing his mega-hit “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” to a sold out crowd at his 80th Birthday Volunteer Jam at Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday evening.

“Looking back over my 50 plus year career, this is among the top five shows I have ever done in my entire life, Volunteer Jam 2016,” said Charlie Daniels of the momentous occasion.

Charlie Daniels, Kid Rock and Travis Tritt
Charlie Daniels, Kid Rock and Travis Tritt

Since 1974, Daniels has commissioned his musical friends and peers to come together on a “volunteer” basis to hang out, “jam” together, and entertain crowds in an unconventional, laid-back fashion unknown to any other concert event — all while dedicating concert proceeds to worthy causes. This year’s event featured extra special “jam” sessions with some of Charlie’s most prolific friends who celebrated the Country Music Hall of Famer, his birthday, and his many accomplishments.

A portion of the proceeds from the night went to the The Journey Home Project, a 501(c)(3) non-profit co-founded by Daniels and manager, David Corlew, to help Veterans of the United States Armed Forces. For more info on The Journey Home Project, please visit:

Charlie Daniels’ 80th Birthday Volunteer Jam was produced by Mike Smardak of Outback Concerts in association with David Corlew & Associates and Webster & Associates.

Dolly announces ‘My People Fund’

In a video message Dolly Parton has announced a new effort by The Dollywood Company and The Dollywood Foundation to establish a fund to assist the victims of the Great Smoky Mountain wildfires in Tennessee. The new My People Fund will provide $1000 each month to Sevier County families who lost their homes.

Dolly Parton launches 'My People' Fund
Dolly Parton launches ‘My People’ Fund

“I’ve always believed charity begins at home and my home is some place special,” Parton explained. “That’s why I’ve asked my Dollywood Companies—including the Dollywood theme park, and DreamMore Resort; my dinner theater attractions including Dixie Stampede and Lumberjack Adventure; and my Dollywood Foundation—to help me establish the My People Fund.

A ‘hand up’

“We want to provide a hand up to those families who have lost everything in the fires. I know it has been a trying time for my people and this assistance will help get them back on their feet.”

Anyone who would like to contribute to the My People Fund may visit

Headhunters back ‘On Safari’

KY Southern Rock icons still blazin’ after 50 years

My Kentucky buddies are at it again: a new album, that is, from my longtime friends, The Kentucky Headhunters. They’re back from the Rock n’ Roll Jungle, as they put it, with their latest project titled ‘On Safari.

Kentucky Headhunters: 'On Safari'
Kentucky Headhunters: ‘On Safari’

The album, set for a November 4 release premiered on Hillbilly Jim’s Haunted Hayride on SiriusXM’s Outlaw Country channel over the Halloween weekend. That was appropriate, given an album cover that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a ‘Tales From the Crypt’ comic. But judging from the teasers you can hear as part of a 20+ minute EPK at the Headhunters’ website, the emphasis is on their unique blend of Southern rock and blues-tinged country.

A note on the website states that several life-changing events affected the band’s attitude as they recorded the new album. Band members Richard and Fred Young lost their father just three days before heading into the studio to record On Safari, causing the HeadHunters to let their guard down and pour even more emotion into the record, which they have dedicated to the memory of Richard and Fred’s father. Additionally, the band felt a new energy following their first-ever European tour and that energy is evident on tracks that nod at the importance of family and the Southern way of life.

The Kentucky Headhunters. Photo credit: Joe McNally
The Kentucky Headhunters. Photo credit: Joe McNally

Almost fifty years into their music career, the Kentucky Headhunters are still breathing fire and fresh air into their infectious, hard-rocking, unique sound. See ‘em live by all means, but definitely give a listen to their 12th studio album, ‘On Safari.’

Video, sound clips, tour dates and more at

Luke Bryan: A guy who never gives up

Perseverance pays off with 7 more Number Ones

Luke Bryan celebrates seven Number Ones. Picture Credit: Preshias Harris
Luke Bryan celebrates seven Number Ones. Picture Credit: Preshias Harris

Luke Bryan is one of Country music’s nicest guys and he has achieved his much-deserved success largely as a result of his remarkable perseverance in the face of roadblocks and personal tragedies that would dishearten and derail most people from their chosen career path.

When I wrote “The ‘P’ Pod: Seven characteristics shared by the most successful people in the music industry,” I singled out Luke as someone who has personified those seven characteristics: Patience, Presence, Passion, Perseverance, Proactivity, Positive and Prayer.

He should be a role model to anyone who has the goal of becoming a singer-songwriter. I’ll include an excerpt below, after a quick recap of Luke’s recent celebration as his amazing career continues on its well-deserved upward path.

On October 24, he stepped onto the stage of the CMA Theater at the Country Music Hall of Fame for a “Beyond The Stadium Lights” party to celebrate SEVEN Number One hits. He shared the stage with the writers of the hit songs, being sure to emphasize that this event was ‘all about the writers’ who created these amazing songs. In performing the seven songs, Bryan and the songs’ writers took turns singing the verses and choruses, obviously having a heck of a good time together at this once-in-a-lifetime event.

Luke with 'Home Alone Tonight' writers Tommy Cecil, Jaida Dreyer, Jody Stevens and Cole Taylor. Photo credit: Mike Harris
Luke with ‘Home Alone Tonight’ writers Tommy Cecil, Jaida Dreyer, Jody Stevens and Cole Taylor. Photo credit: Mike Harris

The seven Number Ones, with writer credits) are: ‘Home Alone Tonight’ (Tommy Cecil, Jaida Dreyer, Jody Stevens, Cole Taylor); ‘Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day’ (Luke Bryan, Rhett Akins, Dallas Davidson, Ben Hayslip); ‘I See You’ (Luke Bryan, Ashley Gorley, Luke Laird); ‘Kick the Dust Up’ (Dallas Davidson, Chris DeStefano, Ashley Gorley); ‘Play It Again’ (Dallas Davidson, Ashley Gorley); ‘Roller Coaster’ (Michael Carter, Cole Swindell); ‘Strip It Down’ (Luke Bryan, Ross Copperman, Jon Nite).

Luke and the writers shared stories – often hilarious stories – telling how each of the songs came about. At one point, Luke was thanking his mom and dad and said that his dad couldn’t be here. “He couldn’t find anyone to take care of the dogs!” he said. “He’s not coming to the CMAs, either,” he added, rolling his eyes. “Can’t find anyone to look after the dang dogs!”

To cap the evening, Universal Music Group’s Mike Dungan announced that Luke’s album ‘Kill The Lights’ had just been certified Platinum. You can find Luke’s tour news and more at

Luke Bryan and the ‘P’ Pod of Seven Characteristics of Success

Excerpt from “The ‘P’ Pod: Seven characteristics shared by the most successful people in the music industry.” If you’d like a free copy of the entire article, send a request to me via the Contact page.


Photo credit: Preshias Harris
Photo credit: Preshias Harris

A singer-songwriter who embodies the “Seven Ps” is Luke Bryan. He was born in the rural Georgia town of Leesburg and knew from an early age that music was to be his life. When he was 19, he was finalizing a move to Nashville but, just as he was about to leave, his older brother Chris was tragically killed in a car accident. His plans were put on hold as he struggled to deal with the sudden loss.

Luke’s father, Tommy Bryan, knew that Luke had to move on with his life despite the wrenching grief, and encouraged him to load his guitar into his truck and drive to Music City. Once there, Luke was determined to be a success in his chosen career, writing and co-writing at every opportunity. His determination soon led to a publishing deal and he co-wrote songs recorded by Travis Tritt and Billy Currington, among others.

Luke’s perseverance paid off when he was signed to a recording contract by Capitol, and “All My Friends Say,” the lead-off single from his debut album, peaked at number 5 on the Hot Country Songs chart.

He was on his way and was invited to appear at the Grand Ole Opry. His older sister, Kelly, rounded up more than 100 people from their hometown to travel to Nashville and cheer him on. But once again, life threw him a tragic curve: just a few days after that exhilarating event, Kelly suddenly passed away from an undetermined cause.

Such tragedies might derail a lesser person, but Luke found strength from his faith and knew that his siblings wouldn’t want him to give up. Before long, he was back on track with a string of hit albums and Number One singles, and his achievements brought him recognition with dozens of nominations and awards from the CMA, the ACM, CMT, the Billboard Music Awards and more.

Photo credit: Mike Harris
Photo credit: Mike Harris

Luke Bryan has always kept his eyes on the prize. He has always been proactive in his career, making things happen rather than waiting for them to happen and he has patiently persevered even when life seemed to be stacked against him. He has developed and maintained a positive attitude, determined to find a way around each roadblock in his path. By living “The Seven Ps,” he was fully prepared to reach out and seize the opportunity when it appeared before him, strengthened by an unshakable faith.

Again, a reminder: if you’d like a free copy of the entire article, send a request to me via the Contact page.