Country Comes to Town

Country Music Television will again sponsor its now-annual concert series, but this time the tour, with headliner Jason Aldean leading the guitar-driven charge, will have a local stopover.

Officially dubbed CMT on Tour ’08: Jason Aldean, the 20-date outing will visit Murfreesboro and Murphy Center on Thursday, Nov. 13, with the musical aid of featured-openers Lady Antebellum and country newcomer Eric Durrance. In announcing this year’s lineup, CMT representatives noted that Aldean “had been handpicked to lead the (CMT tour) tradition into its seventh consecutive year” behind former tour-headliners such as Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Rascal Flatts and Sugarland.

Per CMT, “Aldean was selected . . . for his electrifying stage show honed from years of performing live in bars and clubs across the Southeast” and for leading “the new crop of young country music stars with almost 2 million albums sold.” CMT executives, in turn, have ensured that the ’08 tour will make its way to a number of cities where college-age fans are in residence, including MTSU, because such concertgoers, CMT reported, “make up the majority of Aldean’s wildly passionate fan base.”

A native of Macon, Ga., Aldean has spent 170-plus days on the road in support of his Relentless CD, his second for Broken Bow Records. The disc’s title track and third single, “Relentless,” recently hit the No. 15 position and was one of the fastest movers on the Billboard country charts. The song is the follow-up to recent hits “We Laughed Until We Cried” and “Johnny Cash.”

Like its platinum-selling Jason Aldean predecessor, which yielded three top-10 singles with “Hicktown,” “Amarillo Sky” and “Why,” his first No. 1, Relentless, was produced by Michael Knox, a fellow Georgian and son of early rock ’n’ roller Buddy “Party Doll” Knox. Aldean’s sophomore effort sold an impressive 98,000 copies its first week and entered Billboard’s country album chart at No. 1.

During a recent interview from Grand Rapids, Mich., the now Nashville-based artist shared that although he has a handful of co-writing credits on his freshman CD, the rapid-fire jumpstart of his career and more than 200 days on the road annually for two years on behalf of his first CD kept him from writing for the Relentless project. Don’t think his imprint isn’t felt within his latest record’s production, however, because he’s all over it, he assured.

“Even though I don’t get producer credits (on the album), it’s something where I’m in there, basically co-producing, anyway,” he said of his latest disc, which has already hit gold certification, with 500,000 in sales. “Right now, I don’t think I have enough time to put everything into it that I’d like to, but eventually, when things slow down, (producing is) definitely something I’d like to do.”

As for the song selection on Relentless, the brunet performer said his voice is one record execs hear loud and clear.

“When it comes to (choosing singles), I have a lot of say. That, and picking songs for the record are where I am the biggest pest to the label,” he said.

Named Top New Male Vocalist by the Academy of Country Music in 2006, Aldean returned to the studio in October to continue recording what will be his third CD for Broken Bow. But make no mistake, for the outlaw-looking, straw-hatted country-rocker is most at home on the road and beneath the live-stage spotlight. He is, in fact, “definitely classified as a live act,” first and foremost.

“To me, if there’s one thing that defines what I do, it’s the live show,” he noted. “I’m much more comfortable live than any other time. (And) to me, if people kinda like the music, but they’re not really a fan, I feel like if we can ever get them to a show, then they can really see what it’s about and have the opportunity to make a fan out of them.”

As for his upcoming show in Murfreesboro, “We’ll do about 90 minutes,” he said.

“I am not sure if we’re going to do something (onstage with Lady Antebellum), but we are going to talk about it the first week of the tour that we’re out and see if there’s something we can do,” he said.

Lady Antebellum: Rising Fast

Joining headliner Aldean on the CMT ’08 circuit is Lady Antebellum, a group whose members?lead singers Charles Kelley (brother to pop’s Josh Kelley) and Hillary Scott, along with multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Dave Haywood?have already racked up some of country music’s most-coveted honors.

Together just two years, Lady Antebellum’s self-titled debut for Capitol Records swiftly made its No. 1 mark on the Billboard charts earlier this year with its freshman track, “Love Don’t Live Here,” penned by the trio. The latest single, “Lookin’ for A Good Time,” recently hit No. 19 on the country singles list.

Per Haywood, Lady A’s album currently is selling about 5,000 copies a week. And with 10 cuts written or co-penned by the trio, the CD’s an authentic representation of the players’ sound. It’s not everyday, however, a new artist is allowed the artistic freedom the trio was granted.

“You know, it was never a discussion with the label of letting us do that,” Haywood said. “We sat down in a big room with 50 songs we’d written and 24 (songs) pitched (to us by other songwriters), and we picked the best songs that represented our project the best. . . . There’s so many great writers (but) it just worked for us that we were able to record many of the songs we’d written.”

Now reigning as the Academy of Country Music’s Top New Vocal Duo or Group, Lady A?with their respective proud mothers in attendance, including Scott’s famous mom, Grammy-winning country songstress Linda Davis?will take a one-day hiatus from the tour to attend the CMA Awards on Nov. 12, where they’re nominated for top vocal group and new artist of the year.

With a fan base that Haywood describes as “across the board (but) . . . not the Taylor Swift crowd,” Lady A’s players say their success has been quick, but their music is genuine.

“We do feel very, very fortunate that we had interest from Capitol, and we know it’s been fast. But you know, it just worked out,” Haywood said. “When it works, it just works.”

Eric Durrance Gets His Chance

Newcomer Eric Durrance, a native of Tallahassee, Fla., nabbed the coveted CMT tour’s opening slot. Still largely unknown in country-music circles, his debut for Wind-Up Records, Angels Fly Away, entered Billboard’s Top Country Albums at No. 70 during its Oct. 4 release week. Influenced by the singer-songwriter sounds of The Eagles, as well as by the tunesmithing of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, Durrance credits his Southern upbringing and family with instilling in him a love of country music.

The CD’s first single is its title track, a touching ballad that aims to stir and inspire. Durrance’s debut was produced by Teddy Gentry, founding member of Alabama, and Mark Bright, who’s worked with Rascal Flatts and Carrie Underwood.


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