A musical celebration of America’s first “Teen Idol”, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Ricky Nelson emerged from “The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet” to establish himself as one of the most important rock artists and influential musicians of the last 50 years, selling over 140 million recordings. The Nelson Family Legacy continues as Ricky’s twins Matthew and Gunnar Nelson present an interactive, multi-media rock & roll concert experience, taking the audience on a musical journey down memory lane. Matthew and Gunnar (triple platinum recording artist Nelson) perform their dad’s greatest hits including “Poor Little Fool,” “Hello Mary Lou”, “Travelin’ Man”, “I’m Walking”, “Garden Party”, alongside their self-penned chart-toppers “Love & Affection” and “After the Rain.” This show is truly a slice of Americana, appealing to multi-generational audiences.
Zach’s powerful and poignant journey spans how a boy with a storybook childhood filled with wonderfully nurturing parents, a strong and supportive grounding in the church, and a warm and loving local community was seduced away by the illusion of rock stardom, and the drug and alcohol excesses that can so often accompany that lifestyle. These days, the Jonesboro, Arkansas-raised and currently Nashville, Tennessee-based artist is a renewed man. He’s a husband, a father, and has also become one of CCM’s leading artists and songwriters by carving a niche with his singular blend of southern rock, country, and faith-filled songwriting, which quickly awarded him his first GRAMMY Award® with his debut album, 2017’s Chain Breaker. With two additional GRAMMY nods among numerous other accolades, he now returns to share his boldly vulnerable and hope-filled sophomore album, aptly titled Rescue Story. Zach’s music pulls from the hard-luck truths of outlaw country, the dirt-road grit of southern rock, the contemporary roots music of alt-country artists, and a firm grounding in classic and contemporary Christian artists that stretches back to his dad’s old Petra records.
Music has always been a part of Lee Greenwood’s life. He started playing the piano when he was seven and the saxophone at 12. In junior high, he started his first group called the Moonbeams. His sister Patricia was the piano player in the band. By the time, he finished High School he played almost all the instruments in the orchestra and was the Drum Major for the marching band. Greenwood was born in Los Angeles California & finished high school in Sacramento in June 1960. He passed on track & music scholarships to the College of the Pacific along with a professional baseball career to pursue his passion for music. He also elected to skip his high school graduation ceremony to begin work at the Golden Hotel & Casino in Reno Nevada with his own band, the “Apollos”. That turned out to be a great choice. The California native was discovered in 1979 by Larry McFaden, who saw him performing in a show at the Nugget Casino in Sparks, Nevada. Larry was the bass player and bandleader for Mel Tillis. He brought the singer to Nashville and got him signed to the Halsey Agency, who booked The Oak Ridge Boys. He began working with producer Jerry Crutchfield who would record with Lee for the next 20 years. “Choosing songs to record is always exciting,” says Greenwood. “I’m a songwriter as well and I love lyrics that have depth and emotion. I’m thankful for the many writers & artists who have contributed to my career”. With seven #1 songs & 25 charted singles to his credit, choosing songs proved to be a success for Greenwood. His country hits include: “It Turns Me Inside Out”, “Ring On Her Finger Time On Her Hands”, ”She’s Lying”, “I Don’t Mind the Thorns If You’re The Rose”, “Dixie Road”, “Somebody’s Gonna Love You”, “Going Going Gone”, “You Got A Good Love Comin”, “Fools Gold”, and “Mornin Ride” while he already garnered several crossover hits such as “Touch & Go Crazy”, “IOU” and the duet with Barbara Mandrell, “To Me”. Lee Greenwood has won numerous industry awards including, Male Vocalist of the Year from the Academy of Country Music in 1983, two Male Vocalist of the Year awards from the Country Music Association in 1983 & 1984 and a Grammy for Top Male Vocal Performance in 1985 for “I.O.U.”. The CMA also named “God Bless The U.S.A.” its Song of the Year in 1985. “God Bless the USA” went far beyond what Greenwood expected when he wrote it in the back of his tour bus in 1983. The song has been in the top five on the country singles charts three times (1991, 2001 and 2003), giving it the distinction of being the only song in any genre of music to achieve that feat. It was also #1 on the pop charts after 9/11/01. In addition, CBS News voted “God Bless The U.S.A.” the most recognizable patriotic song in America. In 2011, Beyonce offered her version of “God Bless the U.S.A.” as a download, with the proceeds going to the 9/11 firefighters fund in NYC. It has been performed by contestants on “American Idol” twice & was the winning song in 2011 Dancing with the Stars competition on ABC. It is performed at all military and patriotic events throughout the year all across America. “USA” has also been in several movies and is now part of the film shown by The Department of Homeland Security when new citizens are sworn into the United States. Greenwood says, “USA is the song I always felt the need to write. I wanted to have something that would unite Americans from coast to coast and instill pride back in the United States. The song represents my family, my community, and those men and women who have paid the price for the freedoms we all love and enjoy.”
Multiple chart-topping singer/songwriter Jake Owen’s new single “Made For You” is rapidly climbing the Billboard Country Airplay charts. With eight #1 songs to his name, “Made For You” follows Owen’s fastest-rising career #1 single, “I Was Jack (You Were Diane)” and most recent #1 single, “Homemade.” Owen’s songs have resonated with listeners and audiences everywhere with 2X PLATINUM anthem and Most Played Song of the Decade “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” PLATINUM-certified hits “Beachin,’” “Anywhere With You,” “Alone With You,” “The One That Got Away,” and GOLD-certified “American Country Love Song.” Owen’s sixth studio album, GREETINGS FROM… JAKE, produced three Top 10 singles, including two #1 singles and his current top 30 and climbing “Made For You.” Signed to Big Loud Records, Owen is reunited with award-winning Joey Moi, who helped produce his breakout Barefoot Blue Jean Night album, which landed at #1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and garnered four consecutive #1 hits. Owen is gearing up to join Moi once again to record his seventh studio album.
The dictionary defines harmony as “a combination of musical sounds considered to be pleasing”. The music world could define harmony as “The Lettermen”. For more than 50 years, The Lettermen– Donovan Tea, Bobby Poynton, and Rob Gulack, each of whom are entertainers in their own right—have kept the meaning of harmony alive with their soft, romantic, harmonic blend of music which is as popular with their fans today as it was in 1961 when they recorded their first hit, “The Way You Look Tonight”. For The Lettermen debut single record in the summer of 1961, Capitol Records decided to put a romantic ballad on the B-side of “That’s My Desire”, which was an attempt at a doo-wop single, figuring radio stations would have to play the A-side because the B-side was so sweet, and slow, and did not necessarily encompass the commercial sound of the day. The B-side was “The Way You Look Tonight”. Soft, melodic, and romantic, it was a departure from the rock ‘n’ roll music of the day. Eventually, listener requests made it a must for radio station playlists nationwide. The song shot to No. 13, on the Billboard chart. The group’s second single that year did even better. “When I Fall In Love,” another soft, slow ballad hit No.7, establishing The Lettermen as the most romantic singing group of a generation. To their credit, The Lettermen have over 75 albums— numerous certified gold – and a myriad of hits including “When I Fall In Love”, “Come Back Silly Girl”, “Theme From A Summer Place”, “Goin’ Out Of My Head/Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You”, “Put Your Head On My Shoulder”, “Hurt So Bad”, and “Shangri-La”. The Lettermen have also enjoyed international success touring Japan, The Philippines, China, Thailand, Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong, Germany, France, South America, Canada, Mexico, and even Saudi Arabia. They have sung and recorded in many different languages and have received eighteen gold records internationally. Even though there have been personnel changes over the years, the one thing that has remained constant is the vision that Tony Butala first dreamed of – that unique three-part harmony as only The Lettermen can achieve. Though musical tastes have changed over the years, The Lettermen legacy continues. Harmony will always endure the true test of time– just as The Lettermen have stood the test of time.
There’s a very good reason that Rolling Stone magazine, in their iconic issue “500 Greatest Rock and Roll Performers” said of the Drifters “No group has done it this well for this long–no one, not even the Rolling Stones.” That’s quite an accolade to live up to but hopefully, on their latest tour, the Drifters will once again prove Rolling Stone to be the sage of rock and roll. Through their historic journey which began in 1957, the Drifters have had no less than 5 legendary lead singers including Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Clyde McPhatter and Ben E. King. Such stalwart and famed individual lead singers as Charley Thomas, Bill Pinkney, and Johnny Moore have passed through the group over the years, each recording their share of Drifters hits. And today, as has been the case for nearly 25 years, their star lead singer is Jerome Jackson who also performed as the lead singer for the Main Ingredient in the 1970s. There are many “firsts” for the Drifters; they were the first group inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with fellow inductees The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and the Supremes. Just reflect for a moment if you will, on that class of Rock and Roll stars that the Drifters were an integral part of. They were the first musical rock and roll group to include string instruments into rhythm and blues music with their hauntingly beautiful song, “There Goes My Baby”. They were the first musical group to sell two million records with their pop classic “Up on the Roof”. Their classic tune “Under the Boardwalk” is the most played R&B disc of all time. They have sold over 200 million records across the world; a feat that has only been outdone by Michael Jackson, the Rolling Stones, and Adele. They were part of the longest-running sold-out concert show in Las Vegas history. For fifteen years, every night along with the Platters and the Cornell Gunther Coasters, sold-out first at the Sahara Hotel, then at the Hard Rock Café, and finally, at the Paris Hotel. No other show has come near that level of success anywhere. Their performance last year for President Bush Senior, at his 90th birthday party, was the sixth president that the Drifters have performed for over the last 35 years from the Inaugural Balls of President Reagan, Clinton, and Ford to President Nixon’s birthday party and President Obama’s daughter’s graduation–when history is made, the Drifters have been part of the celebration.
That they are still roaring and soaring should be no surprise. That’s just how they are built. TESLA may have been born in the mid-80s eruption of leather, spandex, and big hair, but this band has never been about those things. Hardly. Their bluesy, soulful sound is strongly embedded in the roots of organic, authentic, 1970s rock and roll. The same roots that produced bands like The Allman Brothers, Grand Funk Railroad, AC/DC, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Aerosmith. The ground started shaking up in Sacramento, CA, in 1984; gold country that would soon be producing some platinum. They started out as City Kidd, until someone suggested they change their name in honor of eccentric inventor Nikola TESLA, who pioneered all things electrical – and who, like any revolutionary rock and roll band, made magic working with the basic forces of nature. A blizzard of industry showcase gigs and TESLA quickly scored a deal with Geffen. Their 1986 debut album, Mechanical Resonance, would eventually go platinum, nestled comfortably in the Top 40, and produce the iconic hard rock hits, “Modern Day Cowboy” and “Little Suzi.” Today, Mechanical Resonance lives on as one of the most successful and acclaimed debuts of the era. But it was the follow-up that truly pushed things over the edge and started to solidify the legacy of the band. 1989’s The Great Radio Controversy brought in many new legions of fans, thanks to a potent one-two sonic punch. The first single, “Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out),” scored huge with hard rock audiences, while the poignant ballad, “Love Song,” provided a softer counterpoint. This helped push the album into the Top 20 and double-platinum sales figures. All of a sudden, TESLA, who cut their teeth opening some of the biggest tours of the 80s from Def Leppard to David Lee Roth, had earned full headlining status, and the brakes were off. In 1990, TESLA helped reshape the face of modern hard rock music by stripping down to the Five Man Acoustical Jam, a loose, informal collection of their biggest hits peppered with rock and roll classics by the Beatles, Stones, and others. Not only did the format reveal just how sturdy and rock solid the band’s catalog was, but it also inspired every major band after them to perform similar acoustic, storytelling shows, going back to the basics. TESLA’s daring experiment also produced their biggest hit single, a cover of Five Man Electrical Band’s “Signs.” Another platinum album, Psychotic Supper, was released in 1991 and as the early 90s gave way to Seattle’s grunge wave, TESLA, unlike many other bands of their era, managed to keep pushing forward thanks to loyal fans and their ever-present unpretentious approach to the craft. After a worldwide arena tour as headliners, they released Bust a Nut in 1994. Then, internal band conflicts shut everything down until 2000. After a four-year break, they exploded back onto the scene with a sold-out hometown show at the Arco Arena in Sacramento. TESLA was back, on their own terms. They started their own label and released their own music. The fans had never gone away, and TESLA was still selling hundreds of thousands of albums. Only now, they were in full command of their own destiny, in all its rugged, ragged glory. For the last 18 years, they have continued to release new original music, live sets, and more. They are as productive as they have ever been. 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of one of TESLA’s most iconic albums, Five Man Acoustical Jam. The upcoming 2020 tour will feature performances of the most seminal tracks from this ground-breaking acoustic record. TESLA also visited the legendary London recording studio Abbey Road in June 2019 where they performed, recorded, and filmed a semi-acoustic set that will become their next live album, Five Man London Jam. The new record honors songs from the original live album combined with the wealth of hit songs they’ve crafted over their 30-year legacy. TESLA has endured many of the same taste-changing challenges that affected many in the post-grunge world, but through it, all, their blue-collar work ethic and dedication to the faithful fan base has helped them not just survive, but thrive. “That’s TESLA? I know that song. I love that song.” You hear it every day. Younger audiences follow the band because they know the music is real. Older audiences love that a band styled on the classic 1970s model can still kick ass all over the world. TESLA is a band for the ages. All ages. They were never a flavor of the month. TESLA’s legacy is alive and well as they continue to record and sell out venues all over the world. As comfortable, rugged, and dependable as your favorite pair of boots, they endure. TESLA is a celebration of the greatest spirits of rock and roll.
Masterful country music stylist, Gene Watson, from Houston, Texas has been thrilling audiences for more than 50 years. The depth of emotion in his singing, his brilliant phrasing, his jaw-dropping range, and the power in the lyrics he chooses are all factors in the awe he inspires in both fans and his musical peers. A proud member of the Grand Ole Opry, Gene Watson’s tally of 75 charted titles, 23 top-10 hits, and 6 number-one singles has also led to membership in the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame and the Houston Music Hall of Fame. Radio listeners are still transfixed whenever classics like “Farewell Party,” “Fourteen Carat Mind” or “Love in the Hot Afternoon” are played. Watson is one of the rare singers who still sings in the same key as he did 30 years ago and his audiences respond with standing ovations night after night when he nails the octave jumping last note on his most requested song, the now country classic “Farewell Party.” Considered one of the finest pure-country singers of his generation and known as “The Singer’s Singer,” Watson offers up one of the best traditional country shows in the business. His stunning voice captivates audiences and keeps his fans coming back again and again.
In the last seven years since his debut, Cole Swindell has racked up over 4 BILLION global career streams, an impressive 10 No. 1 singles; 11 No. 1 singles as a songwriter; one 1 billion+ audience reaching single (“You Should Be Here”), nine Platinum singles (two singles at 2x Platinum); a Platinum-certified debut album (Cole Swindell) and a Gold‐certified sophomore album (You Should Be Here), his No. 1 hit “Break Up In The End” was named the NSAI Song of the Year (2019), as well as numerous songwriting including being named the NSAI Songwriter/Artist of the Year (2016) and Music Row’s Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year during his debut (2015). The Grammy‐nominated multi‐Platinum rising superstar has toured with the biggest superstars in country music including Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line, Dierks Bentley, and officially became a headliner on his own Reason To Drink Tours in 2018. Swindell has sold out all four of his Down Home Tours in support of the Down Home Sessions I, II, III, IV. The Georgia native kicked off his headlining Down To Earth Tour in March 2020 before it went on pause amidst the COVID‐ 19 and shortly after released his now multi‐week No 1 single “Single Saturday Night.” He is currently on tour with Thomas Rhett’s Center Point Road Tour. Swindell has played on some of the biggest stages in the world including making history being the first-ever live radio and TV broadcast from the 57th-floor terrace of 4 World Trade Center, overlooking the Freedom Tower where he performed his hit “You Should Be Here.” He has played high‐profile national television performances on NBC’s Citi Concert Series on TODAY, ABC’s Good Morning America, The Ellen Degeneres Show, Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, ABC’s CMA Fest specials, CMA and ACM Awards, MLB Network, NASCAR and Sports Illustrated among others.
Comprised of Bobby Bones and Eddie “Producer Eddie” Garcia, Bobby Bones & The Raging Idiots is a band who has earned a reputation for “their comedic deliveries” (American Songwriter), and now has the whole world singing and laughing with them. Bobby Bones is an award-winning radio and TV personality. iHeartMedia’s The Bobby Bones Show is the #1 Country morning show, broadcasting to over 180 stations with millions of weekly listeners. The Bobby Bones Show recently garnered its second Country Music Association Award for National Broadcast Personality of the Year and fourth ACM Award for National On-Air Personality of the Year and earned Bones the title of youngest-ever inductee into the prestigious National Radio Hall of Fame. Bones breakout TV series for National Geographic, “Breaking Bobby Bones, is streaming now on Disney+. He has served as the official in-house mentor on ABC’s “American Idol,” won season 27 of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” and serves as host and executive producer of Circle Network’s “Opry.” Producer Eddie first met Bones while working as his producer for a local TV station. Together they produced daily segments highlighting the local and national music scene and would later create a late-night talk show on the same station, aptly titled “The Almost Late Show with Bobby Bones.” Eddie moved to Nashville with Bones to serve as the show’s media producer but quickly found himself on the air performing with Bones. The Raging Idiots started while Bones was in high school, then later as a “fake” opener for his solo comedy act. The band was reinvented again in 2014 for a single charity event for no more than 40 people. Soon after, they decided to do one more show for charity in Wichita, KS, selling over 3,000 tickets and fueling their drive to continue to use humor and music to help various communities. Since then, The Raging Idiots have rallied together to raise millions while sharing the stage with superstars Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Garth Brooks, Brooks & Dunn, and Luke Bryan. Most recently, their sold-out 5th Annual Million Dollar Show raised over a quarter-million dollars for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, helping to bring Bones’ and The Bobby Bones Show total for the cause to over $16 million. The duo released its AWARD WINNING EP on May 14. The project follows the success of fan-favorite hits like “The Target Song,” “Hobby Lobby Bobby” and “The Emoji Love Song” and features three fresh new tracks anchored by “comedic deliveries that blend, but don’t overshadow their actual, legitimate musical talent” (American Songwriter). Most recently, Bobby Bones & The Raging Idiots kept “music and laughter flowing” (Sounds Like Nashville) as they headlined the inaugural BOBBYFEST —an all-day, family-friendly music festival hitting two cities over two days —New Braunfels, TX (9/4) and Wichita, KS (9/5), which also featured performances by Russell Dickerson, Maddie & Tae and more.
By now the story of Grammy-winning, multiplatinum hip-hop superstar-actor-entrepreneur-philanthropist Nelly’s meteoric rise to stardom is a well-known, oft-recited part of hip-hop history. The standout member of the St. Louis rap collective the St. Lunatics inks a deal with Universal Motown Records, drops a sizzling single called “Country Grammar” with a familiar nursery rhyme hook, and follows it up with a debut album of the same name that spawns three humongous hits, spends seven weeks atop the Billboard 200 chart, scores three Grammy nominations, and sells an astonishing 9 million copies worldwide. That, of course, is the abridged version of a story that began years ago in a part of St. Louis known as University City. It’s the story of a young man whose life was so unsettled that he moved from place to place, from family member to family member, and hung out on the streets with “the big dirties” who introduced him to the underbelly of the city. But Nelly’s is also a story of achievement—overachievement, even. As a child, Nelly, born Cornell Haynes, Jr., was always the fastest runner, the best catcher, the hottest player on the team. He was so gifted, in fact, that he almost ended up in professional baseball instead of music. Much to the delight of the legions of fans that now rank him among hip-hop’s premier artists, Nelly charged onto the hip-hop scene in the summer of 2000 with his groundbreaking debut album, Country Grammar. The critical acclaim, accolades, and awards rolled in almost as fast as the record sales. Country Grammar snagged four Grammy nominations, two for Best Rap Solo Performance (“Ride Wit Me,” “Country Grammar”), Best Rap/Song Collaboration (“Where The Party At,” with Jagged Edge), and Best Rap Album (Country Grammar). Nelly also topped Billboard’s 2000 year-end chart as the Top Male Rap Artist, and he was nominated for two Source Awards, an MTV Video Music Award, two BET Awards, an American Music Award, and a Soul Train Music Award.
Howard and David continue to prove that the trail they’ve ridden to fame has been as unique as their music itself—music that is now celebrating over 40 years of success. The road that started on the pop music charts in the ’70s, took a winding turn into country music in the ’80s, paving the way for duos to come, such as Brooks & Dunn, Montgomery Gentry, Big & Rich, and previously—The Judds. But before the road forked into country, the musical odyssey of brothers Bellamy started creatively smoldering in their home state of Florida, before exploding nationally amidst the ’70’s pop music culture of L.A. The brother’s first official gig was in 1968, playing a free show with their father at the Rattlesnake Roundup in San Antonio, Florida. They honed their early skills playing Black clubs throughout the south, and singing backup for artists such as Percy Sledge, Eddie Floyd, and Little Anthony & The Imperials. Within a few months, the brothers moved north, immersing themselves and their rock/country sound in the Atlanta market, where the Allman Brothers were the emerging kings of the music world. With the dawning of the Age of Aquarius on the horizon, and America embroiled in a smoke haze of drugs, civil unrest, and an unpopular war, The Bellamy’s music picked up the hard-driving edge that bespoke the times. Songwriting had become David Bellamy’s drug of choice during the long road gigs he and Howard were regularly pulling bodies and equipment to and from. It was his songwriting that was posed to soon provide the duo a national breakout. The break came in the form of the hit, “Spiders & Snakes,” written by David and recorded by Jim Stafford. The song became a smash, eventually selling more than three million units worldwide. It became the catapult that rocketed the brothers onto the L.A. music scene. Young and impressionable, Howard and David fell into the musical circle of the greats of the day: Bob Dylan, James Taylor, and Van Morrison, as well as West Coast-based country rockers like Poco and the Byrds. It was a creative shoe that fit. Now known by their music and the company they were keeping, The Bellamys officially lifted off the launch pad in 1976 when their single, “Let Your Love Flow,” became an instant smash in both the U.S. and Europe. It stayed on the international charts long enough to build a huge international fan base for the hip young brothers that endures to this day. In Germany alone, it perched at No. 1 for more than two months. The love was indeed flowing as The Bellamys jammed for audiences on their sold-out concerts and shared stages with the likes of Loggins & Messina, the Doobie Brothers, and the Beach Boys with their patented blend of rock/country music. True to their musical roots, their style and their songwriting were moving steadily more towards their raising. By the late ’70s, The Bellamys were emerging on the country charts with another bona fide smash. “If I Said You Had A Beautiful Body (Would You Hold It Against Me),” originally scrawled on a dinner napkin by David, rocketed them to the top of the country charts the way “Let Your Love Flow,” had done in the pop market just a few years earlier. It proved to be the first of a string of fourteen No. 1 singles in the U.S. alone. Success followed success: “Dancing Cowboys,” “Sugar Daddy,” “You Ain’t Just Whistlin’ Dixie,” “Lovers Live Longer,” “Do You Love As Good As You Look,” “Redneck Girl,” “For All The Wrong Reasons,” “I Love Her Mind,” “I Need More Of You,” “Old Hippie,” “Too Much Is Not Enough,” “Kids Of The Baby Boom,” “Reggae Cowboy” and “Crazy From The Heart,”…all have lined the corridors of The Bellamy’s musical history and their walls with platinum and gold. Along the way, Howard and David created a patent on the newly cool “duo” category in country music. In the era of the 2000s, The Bellamy Brothers hold the record in both the Academy of Country Music (ACM) and the Country Music Association Awards (CMA) for the most duo nominations. Numerous GRAMMY nods have also been directed toward the brothers. Internationally, the story has been the same—though the titles may be different. The Bellamys have released more than two-dozen hit songs outside the U.S. that were never released here. With a sharp eye on the songwriting skills that have been the bedrock of their success, Howard and David concur that their career is unique in their international finesse for matching their songs to the market. “For the international releases, you have to have a strong melody,” notes David. “The lyric is very important, but internationally the melody is something fans can lock into, even if they can’t understand the lyrics.” Howard and David continue to perform and film TV specials in Europe and around the world.
“It felt like the beginning of the next chapter in my life,” says Sam Hunt of finishing his second studio album, SOUTHSIDE. Daring in both its emotional heft and sonic explorations, the set arrives on April 3. Hunt made his remarkable debut back in 2014 with Montevallo, a revealing self-portrait told via a pastiche of sounds native to Hunt’s Georgia hometown: country, hip-hop, and R&B. The collection went triple platinum and logged four No.1 Country Airplay singles, a first for any male in the history of the genre off of a first album. Singles like “Leave the Night On,” “Take Your Time,” “House Party,” and “Break Up in a Small Town,” all platinum-certified in their own right, each also enjoyed true crossover success. All four cracked the Top 30 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100. But fame and fandom have curious effects on creativity, Hunt found. And while working on his follow-up, there were moments where he felt the weight of public perception and expectation. “I knew too much,” he says, “there was a lot more to consider. I didn’t know what I wanted to say—how I wanted it to sound.” He stopped writing entirely for two years. “I questioned what was next for me,” he confides. He searched for a breakthrough with a variety of pop and hip-hop producers, all eager to try on a variety of sounds. (“I did a lot of over-thinking,” he quips, recalling the quest.) Direction arrived instead when Hunt reunited with names familiar to those who’ve studied the Montevallo liner notes: powerhouse songwriters Josh Osborne (Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw) and Shane McAnally (Kacey Musgraves, Thomas Rhett) and songwriter-producer Zach Crowell, who helmed the soundboard for SOUTHSIDE. “There’s a beauty to writing with people who know you well,” he says, “people who you spend a lot of days with—people who you have had conversations with about what you want to do and people who know what your limitations are. They know what’s authentic, in terms of what kind of song you want to write.” Re-embracing that team became an obvious choice. “The progress spoke for itself,” he explains. “The greatest thing about them is that they have opinions and they’re assertive. We all take that approach with each other in the studio.” In doing so, it brought him back to the way he used to pen songs, straight from the heart. “I had to lose some of the calculation,” he recalls. “It had become too mechanical.” It became about, again, “letting the emotion lead; using more heart than the head when it comes to writing.” In Osborne, in particular, he found a partner in his heady approach to songcraft. “When we have an idea, Josh and I will sit and talk out all the ways not to write it, and all the best ways to write it,” Hunt explains. It takes time, but the extra effort is, for the 35-year-old, a necessary part of the process. “We put a fine-tooth comb to a song. He’s willing to do that—a lot of people won’t.” Together, they fashioned songs that snake between open-hearted, Nineties country (“2016,” “Let It Down,” “Breaking Up Was Easy in the 90s”), sizzling R&B (“Nothing Lasts Forever”), and brooding speak-singing confessions (“That Ain’t Beautiful,” a set standout). “Young Once” sees Hunt turn nostalgia into the sounds of the future, laying a soulful missive over airy atmospherics and a glitchy drum loop. And on “Sinning With You,” he ruminates on his ever-evolving faith over choral effects and reverb-soaked strings. One-upping the old adage that country music is just “three chords and the truth,” here, he makes magic with only two. Hunt has sent shockwaves through the industry before, moving the very mainstream of the genre towards his hip-hop inflected fare following the release of Montevallo, and he finds welcome new terrain again with the irresistible “Hard to Forget.” Currently climbing the Airplay and Hot Country Songs charts, Hunt warps a Webb Pierce sample (1953’s No.1 “There Stands the Glass”) into a drop, mixing in a boom-thwack beat. The results are downright euphoric; a true celebration of musical innovation.