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.


Kelsea Ballerini celebrates third-in-a-row Number One

Kelsea’s label scores first ‘Gold’ album, too

The invitation to Kelsea Ballerini's Number One party for "Peter Pan"
The invitation to Kelsea Ballerini’s Number One party for “Peter Pan”

A doubly exciting event for Kelsea Ballerini and her record label. The Number One party for her song “Peter Pan,” written by Ballerini with Forest Glen Whitehead and Jesse Lee was held, not at a restaurant or bar, but at the spacious Averitt Hangar close by Nashville International Airport. “Peter Pan” was her third consecutive Number One, making her the first solo female artist to top the charts with her first three singles since Wynonna Judd achieved that feat in 1992 (and the first ‘new’ female artist to ever achieve it). All three singles have been certified Gold by RIAA, making everyone very happy at Ballerini’s label, Black River Entertainment.

Interestingly, she grew up listening to pop music from such artists as Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and NSYNC, until she discovered songs by Keith Urban that moved her to listen more closely to country music artists such as Dixie Chicks, Sugarland and – her biggest influence – Shania Twain. At the age of 19, she signed a deal with Black River Entertainment, resulting in “Love Me Like You Mean It,” “Dibs” and now “Peter Pan,” all of which topped Billboard’s Country Airplay charts. All three cuts are from her debut album, “The First Time,” also RIAA certified Gold – and the first Gold Album certification for Black River Entertainment.  “Yeah Boy,” the fourth track from that album, was sent to country radio October 10. Will that be another chart topper? Watch this space!

Photo credit: Preshias Harris
Photo credit: Preshias Harris

Here’s a photo I took during the Number One party at the Averitt Hangar. Kelsea Ballerini had a lot to celebrate: her third-in-a-row Number One single and Black River Entertainment’s first RIAA-certified Gold album. Kelsea’s tour dates and more can be found here.

Songwriters’ Hall of Fame Gala inspires budding writers

Hit writers’ night to shine

Nashville’s music industry got together Monday night to honor four of songwriting’s finest at the annual Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Gala at Music City Center. Aaron Barker, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Bob Morrison and Townes Van Zandt were inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, bringing the total number of honorees over the years to 203.

I was proud to sponsor the ‘Preshias Music Family’ table at the Gala and it was a pleasure to bring about a dozen young songwriters and singer-songwriters to join in the recognition of these great writers and to hear their amazing stories.

The 'future Stars' in Preshias Music Family
The ‘future Stars’ in Preshias Music Family

We took a ‘photo opp’ just before we headed to our table. Pictured left-to-right are my ‘Class of 2016’: Nick Halsted, Bailey Callahan, Nick DeLeo, Lindsey Rebecca Harding, Carmen Mariea, Justin T. Dukes, Nikki Moore, Hannah Emerson, Anna Barrow, Courtney Bumbacher and Marie Mattei.

Here a few brief notes that, really, are far too brief to describe the achievements of the four Hall of Fame inductees:

Aaron Barker

Aaron Barker
Aaron Barker

It was a very special personal thrill for me to see Aaron receive the honor that is definitely his due. Aaron and I became friends when I joined BNA Records as an intern and he was a recording artist with the label. It was my first job in the music industry and Aaron was so gracious and helpful to this newbie!

The first of Aaron’s songs to be recorded was “Baby Blue” that was a Number One hit for George Strait in 1988. Not a bad start to a long career that included “Love Without End” (another George Strait chart-topper) and many more hits. In his acceptance speech, he encouraged young writers – like those seated at my table – to take advantage of opportunities to write with veteran songwriters, combining “the words and rhythms of today” with the experience that older writers can provide. More about Aaron here.

Bob Morrison

Bob Morrison Photo: Nash Country Daily
Bob Morrison
Photo: Nash Country Daily

Speaking of songwriters with many years of success, Bob Morrison was recognized with his award as a ‘veteran songwriter.’ Among Bob’s huge hits: “You Decorated My Life” for Kenny Rogers, and “Whiskey if You Were a Woman” – co-written with Johnny MacRae and my great friend Mary W. Francis – for Highway 101.

In a long career, Bob has penned chartbusters for acts as diverse as Johnny Lee (“Lookin’ For Love”) and The Oak Ridge Boys (“You’re the One”). A list of Bob’s songs can be found here.

Beth Nielsen Chapman

Beth Nielsen Chapman
Beth Nielsen Chapman

It was inspiring to hear Beth talk of the time when she almost gave up on her dream of being a singer-songwriter after her debut album flopped. She was performing at a hotel in Alabama and Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys was in the audience. He kept asking to hear another and another of her songs. Beth said that his encouragement reset her career compass.

Beth’s story is a life-lesson for fledgling songwriters who feel that they should just throw in the towel when in fact success could be just around the corner. She went on to create such iconic songs as “This Kiss,” a monster hit for Faith Hill as well as songs recorded by Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood, Lorrie Morgan, Alabama and many more. Click here for Beth’s website.

Townes Van Zandt

Townes Van Zandt
Townes Van Zandt

The award to Townes Van Zandt was presented posthumously: he passed away on New Year’s Day 1997 at the age of 53. The award was accepted by his daughter, Katie. His biggest hit was “Pancho and Lefty,” recorded by Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, and he wrote “If I Needed You” a hit for Don Williams and EmmyLou Harris. Van Zandt was regarded as a mentor and an inspiration to a generation of writers who followed in his wake. More about Townes Van Zandt here.

The evening was crammed with amazing performances by artists such as Olivia Newton-John, Kim Carnes, The Indigo Girls, Mac Davis, Phil Vassar, Mo Pitney and many more. Additionally, the Nashville Songwriters Association International was on hand to name the ten songs from the past year that NSAI members had voted on as “Songs I Wish I’d Written.” For a list of those songs, see a story posted at CMT’s website.

An amazing evening and, for the budding songwriters at my table, an inspiration for what might lie ahead in their own careers.

Steve Wariner releases ‘All Over The Map,’ October 28

Wariner’s collaborators include Ricky Skaggs, Duane Eddy, Eric Johnson and more

My dear friend – and fellow Kentucky native – Steve Wariner has a great new album about to drop at the end of October. It really is a special project with a who’s who of guests and family members contributing their combined talent. Please give it a listen!

Steve Wariner. Photo: David McClister
Steve Wariner releases “All Over The Map.” Photo: David McClister

For his 20th studio album, four-time GRAMMY Award winner Steve Wariner knew he had to do something really special. When All Over The Map began coming together, it became clear just what that would be.

The 12-track album evolved into a remarkable tribute to the Grand Ole Opry member’s influences, both living and deceased, in addition to a celebration of his lineage. While packed with acclaimed guest musicians, the set — to be released Oct. 28 on SelecTone Records — artfully showcases Wariner’s own musical talents. In addition to producing the album, he plays guitar, upright bass, drums and both pedal and lap steel, as well as singing on seven of the songs. (The other five are classic instrumentals.) Wariner also penned 10 of the tracks.

Tribute to Chet Atkins

A touching tribute to late mentor Chet Atkins, titled “CGP,” takes its name from the coveted title Atkins bestowed on Wariner: Certified Guitar Player. On the track, Wariner enlisted the talents of the only two other living musicians to have earned the same title from Atkins, Tommy Emmanuel and John Knowles. The album also includes “When I Still Mattered To You,” a song Wariner wrote with Merle Haggard on a cruise ship in 1996 but had never previously recorded.

Ricky Skaggs
Ricky Skaggs guests on “All Over The Map”

Close friend Ricky Skaggs, with whom Wariner won his first GRAMMY in 1992, is featured playing mandolin on “Down Sawmill Road.” Other celebrated musicians featured on the album include: Musicians’ Hall of Fame and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Duane Eddy (“Nashville Spy-Line”), GRAMMY Award winner Eric Johnson (“Meanwhile Back In Austin”), Greg Martin of The Kentucky Headhunters (“Way It Goes”) and Jack Pearson (“Drop Top”).

Wariner family heritage

But it’s Wariner’s own family that provides the bulk of the inspiration for the album, which was 20 months in the making. Throughout the creation of the album, Steve relied heavily on his son Ross, who lives in New York, for advice and consultation on the technical production aspects of the album. He wrote the Western swing tune “Mr. Roy” as a tribute to his musician father, and “Down Sawmill Road” is named for the Kentucky road where his mother grew up. His GRAMMY-nominated son Ryan Wariner wrote and plays on the track “The Last Word.” Wariner reached back deep into his rich family history for the album’s closing instrumental track, “Augustine’s Dream,” inspired by his maternal four-times great grandfather who served in the Revolutionary War.

“Getting to play and record with these wonderfully creative people means the world to me. I am grateful to all! Some I’ve collaborated with before, others… well, it’s pure bucket list for me! This project is the perfect example of what keeps me going…what keeps me excited,” notes Wariner. “Traveling into territory I’ve never been to before. And there’s lots of that here on this album. It’s hard to describe the joy I feel making music with my sons…and family for that matter. Now I know how my father used to feel. I am so very proud of my musical roots and heritage. ”

You can watch a video of the creation of the album cover for “All Over the Map” here.

14 Number Ones; 30 Top Ten hits

In his storied career, Wariner has achieved 14 No. 1 songs and more than 30 Top 10 hits, including such classics as “Holes in the Floor of Heaven,” “Life’s Highway,” “The Weekend,” “I’m Already Taken,” “I Got Dreams,” “Small Town Girl,” “Two Teardrops,” “Some Fools Never Learn,” “Lynda” and more. An award-winning songwriter, Wariner has also composed hit songs for Clint Black (“Nothin’ But the Taillights”), Garth Brooks (“Longneck Bottle”), Bryan White (“One Small Miracle”) and Keith Urban (“Where the Blacktop Ends”), as well as artists such as Country Music Hall of Fame members Alabama, Kenny Rogers, The Statler Brothers, Conway Twitty and Don Williams; pop music icon Peter Tork (of The Monkees); R&B singer Ruben Studdard; bluegrass music’s Del McCoury Band and many more. Wariner is a member of the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame. For more information, visit Steve’s website



‘Inside Track on Music Row’ October teasers

Here are just a few ‘teasers’ from the October 2016 edition of my monthly column, ‘Inside Track on Music Row,’ the longest-running country music column in America. You can read the entire column in the Blog section of my website


Rascal Flatts' Christmas album: The Greatest Gift of All
Rascal Flatts’ Christmas album: The Greatest Gift of All

Chris Young is releasing “It Must Be Christmas” on RCA Records Nashville, and Loretta Lynn is releasing “White Christmas Blue” on the Legacy Recordings label. On a SPECIAL NOTE: Rascal Flatts will release THE GREATEST GIFT OF ALL, their first-ever Christmas album, on Oct. 21. The much-anticipated 10-track collection was produced by Rascal Flatts and features moving and powerhouse performances that the trio is known for, while offering personal touches to some fan-favorite staples of the festive season. The album is available for pre-order at The album opens with a rousing rendition of “Joy To The World and features a sentimental version of “Silent Night” opening with vocals from the children of all three band members, and Stevie Wonder’s “Someday At Christmas.”


Dierks Bentley
Dierks Bentley

Hailed as “King of the Breakup Song,” Dierks Bentley notched his 15th career No. One with “Different for Girls” (featuring Elle King) on both the Billboard Country Airplay and Mediabase radio charts. It is the second consecutive No. One hit off his critically acclaimed album BLACK (Capitol Records Nashville).“This is one of those ‘once-in-a-career’ songs, and I’m so glad we decided to take a risk and release it as a single,” said Bentley. “Being part of Elle’s first No. One country song is a really cool thing too.” Bentley’s ‘Somewhere On A Beach Tour’ was recently extended into the fall with arena dates scheduled through the end of October. More info and tour dates at


Mark Chesnutt
Mark Chesnutt

Traditional country music fans can rejoice because, due to high demand, sold out shows and the success of his brand new album, Mark Chesnutt is extending his Tradition Lives Tour into next year. In celebration of his first album of all-new material in eight years, Tradition Lives, Chesnutt has hit the road to share songs from the new release, as well as his biggest hits, with concert-goers around the U.S. Tradition Lives is available on iTunes, Amazon and at Here’s another item that will be featured in more detail in the November edition of my Inside Track on Music Row column: Chesnutt has been named the official spokesperson of the recently established Texas Country Music Association (TCMA). He is also spokesperson for the TCMA’s charity,Texas Country Cares. More about TCMA here.


Brady Seals
Brady Seals

Grammy-nominated hit singer/songwriter Brady Seals from Little Texas (God Blessed Texas, Kick a Little, My Love, What Might Have Been and Amy’s Back in Austin) and award-winning songwriter/producer Gordon Kennedy (Change The World by Eric Clapton) are kicking off a new weekly concert series, Music City Pickers LIVE! The opening night will be Thursday, November 3, 2016 with two shows (6-7:30pm CST and 8:30-10pm CST), followed by a special performance on Tuesday, November 8th and then two shows every Thursday evening starting in December.

Gordon Kennedy
Gordon Kennedy

This weekly singer/songwriter show will be held at The Factory at Franklin (230 Franklin Road/Franklin, TN) at The Little Brick Theater and will consist of hit writers, prominent artists and guitar pickers. Tickets are on sale now. Schedule for opening night (November 3, 2016) is as follows: 6-7:30pm: Brady Seals, Gordon Kennedy and Larry Stewart (Restless Heart) 8:30-10pm: Legendary mega-picker Ricky Skaggs, Brady Seals and Gordon Kennedy. Full details here.