As we begin the 1st full week of 2015, it’s your Idols/Voice Gone Country 2014 Look Back & 2015 Preview! This went so long I had to split it into 2 posts. Here in Part One, check out 2014 recaps, sales info and 2015 new music updates (including new cowrites!) for Lauren Alaina, Janelle Arthur, Danielle Bradbery, Kristy Lee Cook, Bucky Covington, Josh Gracin, Kree Harrison, Casey James, Scotty McCreery, and Kellie Pickler! Programming note: Craig Wayne Boyd will certainly be part of Idols/Voice Gone Country moving forward. I’m waiting to have a little more post-Voice music to talk about where he’s concerned.
Lauren Alaina had a challenging but ultimately positive 2014 dealing with family issues (including the divorce of her parents, and their subsequent marriages to other partners), and also underwent successful vocal cord surgery in August before returning to studio in October. She made a triumphant return to the Opry stage in mid-November, debuting 2 new songs that both directly address what she has been through in the past year. Check out video of those performances here:
“I’m Doing Fine” (Lauren Alaina / busbee / Emily Shackelton)
Lauren has continued to write throughout the year, earning raves from cowriters like Sarah Buxton:
Recent cowrites to surface include:
“Get Your Summertime On” (Lauren Alaina / Matt Dragstrem / Heather Morgan)
“Honest Mistake” (Lauren Alaina/ Nathan Chapman)
“It’s Not You It’s Her” (Lauren Alaina/Nathan Chapman)
“Second Wind” (Lauren Alaina/ Sarah Buxton / Jesse Frasure / Tina Parol)
“Single” (Lauren Alaina/ Ashley Gorley / Luke Laird)
“Watchin’ You Watchin’ Me” (Lauren Alaina / Shane McAnally / Josh Osborne)
“Wake Up Sleeping Beauty” (Lauren Alaina/ Tina Parol / Emily Shackelton)
For a complete list of Lauren’s sophomore album cowrites to date, see this post.
Looking ahead: Lauren looks ready to continue the rollout of new music. She played the Opry on 1/3/2014 and will play a WJVC-promoted “Girls With Guitars 2” gig along with a variety of other up & coming country ladies (including Kristy Lee Cook and breakthrough act Maddie & Tae) on 2/5.
Janelle Arthur continued to work on original music and made several appearances at the Grand Ole Opry. She rolled out a number of original songs, all of which she co wrote, at a StageIt show in July, which you can watch here:
Set list: “Room For You” (Janelle Arthur/Jason Delkou), “Pine Hill” (Janelle Arthur/Marty Dodson/Jennifer Hanson), “Love You Anyway” (Janelle Arthur/Dana Jorgenson), “Hold On,” “She Needed You More” (Janelle Arthur/Dana Jorgenson, “What You Asked For,” “Shut My Mouth” (Janelle Arthur/Dana Jorgenson), “Front Porch Swing” (Janelle Arthur/Dana Jorgenson), “Six String” (Janelle Arthur/Dana Jorgenson)
She performed several of those original songs at Dollywood and other full-band gigs:
“Room For You” (Janelle Arthur / Jason Delkou)
“Front Porch Swing” (Janelle Arthur / Dana Jorgenson
Later in the year, Janelle guested on the recent Christmas EP from Arista Nashville trio The Henningsens, joining them on “Silent Night”
And keeping with the Christmas spirit, she performed “O Holy Night” at the Opry
Looking ahead: Janelle mentioned in her StageIt interview that she is readying new music to shop to labels, and that she intends to release a full album whether or not she is signed.
Danielle Bradbery earned her 1st t15 hit at country radio with “The Heart Of Dixie” (cowritten by Brett James / Caitlyn Smith / Troy Verges) which peaked at #12 on both the Billboard Country Airplay and Country Aircheck/Mediabase charts in late February 2014. Follow-up single “Young In America” (cowritten by Whitney Duncan / Jaren Johnston / Kylie Sackley), which Danielle promoted with an official video, hit the same wall that follow-up releases from all newbie solo females at country radio have hit since 2007, and peaked at #49 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart and at #46 on the Country Aircheck/Mediabase chart.
Danielle kept busy throughout the year with live performances. She was the primary opener on the spring leg of Hunter Hayes’s We’re Not Invisible tour (https://www.mjsbigblog.com/danielle-bradbery-joins-hunter-hayess-invisible-spring-2014-tour.htm), during which they reprised their well-received duet of Hunter’s #1 hit “I Want Crazy.” Hunter also joined Danielle for a performance of “Endless Summer” from her debut album (he plays on the song on the record, too):
Danielle’s regular insertion of pop covers into her tour set list evolved into an idea for Fan Request Covers, which she posted on her official VEVO channel throughout the year. She began with a cover of Great Big World’s “Say Something,”, and continued with covers of Colbie Caillat’s “Try” and Ariana Grande’s “Problem”, among many other selections (one of her better ones was her cover of Adele’s “Set Fire To The Rain.”).
Later in 2014, Danielle would join the 2nd leg of Scotty McCreery’s See You Tonight tour as primary opener, and sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” to kick off a Monday Night Football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Texans. Additional TV performances included one of “I Will Not Forget You” at the National Memorial Day Concert broadcast on PBS, and a short clip of “Young In America” on the CMT Awards, at which a momentary capture of her bored face launched one of my favorite memes of 2014 (see link).
Looking ahead: Danielle will be the secondary opener for 3 shows on Miranda Lambert’s Certified Platinum tour (March 19, 20, and 21 in Birmingham, Alabama, Bossier City, Louisiana, and Biloxi, Mississippi). She has been writing and recording new music. Co written titles include:
“Be You” (Danielle Bradbery / Nathan Chapman / Kylie Sackley)
“Boy Meets Girl” (Danielle Bradbery / Nicolle Galyon / Jimmy Robbins)
“If I Were A Cowboy” (Danielle Bradbery / Luke Laird / Hillary Lindsey)
Here is a Vine of Danielle recording a currently unidentified song in studio, which hints at edgier lyrics and a more contemporary sound for her upcoming album:
Kristy Lee Cook spent a lot of 2014 working on new music before releasing her new single “Lookin’ For A Cowgirl” (cowritten by Kristy Lee with Bridgette Tatum) via Broken Bow Records. The assertive Aldean-esque rocker has not charted since going for adds on 11/24/2014, when it picked up 9 1st week adds. “Lookin’ For A Cowgirl” has received 16 adds from the published Mediabase country panel to date. Check out the recently released lyric video for the single here:
Kristy Lee Cook’s new cowrites include the following titles:
“All Kinds Of Crazy” (Phil Barton / Kristy Lee Cook / Lindsay Rimes / Brian White)
“Call Me Country” (Kristy Lee Cook / Michael Longenecker / Luke Sheets)
“Mama’s Boy” (Kristy Lee Cook / Michael Longenecker / Luke Sheets)
“Bad A” (Kristy Lee Cook / Michael Longenecker / Luke Sheets)
Looking ahead: Kristy Lee will continue promoting her single with a performance on WJVC’s “Girls With Guitars 2,” also featuring Lauren Alaina.
Bucky Covington self-released a new single called “Buzzin'” (Brad Hull) in April. It’s a song he co produced with Dale Oliver. Check out a live performance of the song here:
In July, Bucky signed a deal with F3 Entertainment for management representation and signed with Buddy Lee Attractions for booking representation. The happiest news of all came in October when Bucky’s fiancee of 4 years Katharine Cook gave birth to their 1st child, a daughter named Kennedy Taylor Covington.
Looking ahead: Bucky maintained a steady stream of live gigs in 2014 which will presumably continue into 2015. With the release of “Buzzin’,” he indicated he has plans to release a full album.
Josh Gracin got a lot of people worried when he appeared to post a suicide note on Facebook in mid-August. After an outpouring of concerned messages, Josh was escorted by police to a hospital, where he was evaluated and released. He subsequently checked himself in to an inpatient facility, noted that he had been battling depression apologized to his family. By the end of August, Josh was back to work, teasing new songs that appeared to address some of the personal difficulties he had been facing.
Looking ahead: Josh continues to write new music and play the occasional live gig. He hasn’t announced any 2015 shows yet but his tweets point to him writing intensively these days.
Kree Harrison had a relatively quiet year with 1 bucket list-worthy milestone as she continued to work toward a full album of new music. She debuted several new tunes in May, and subsequently showcased her originals at high-profile Nashville venues like 3rd & Lindsley, where she performed the upbeat “You Can Count On Me” (Chris DeStefano / Catt Gravitt / Kree Harrison):
As the year came to a close, Kree took the stage at the Opry at the Ryman Auditorium, where she was introduced by the legendary Emmylou Harris. Emmylou Harris would subsequently invite Kree and her friend/songwriter Kate York to perform a stirring version of “Silent Night.”
Kree also performed “You Would’ve Wanted It That Way,” a pre-Idol original that Kree cowrote with Trent Dabbs and Natalie Hemby that night at the Opry, and the Opry has posted official video of her performance:
Kree also sang background vocals on “Keep It To Yourself,” the 4th and final single from her good friend Kacey Musgraves’s debut major label album (the song is cowritten by Musgraves with Luke Laird and Shane McAnally). “Keep It To Yourself” peaked at #32 on the Billboard Country Airplay charts, because a gold album that outsold practically all the newbie dudebros wasn’t enough of an indication that Kacey Musgraves has a fanbase worth country radio’s consideration.
Looking ahead: Kree continues to gig around Nashville, and hopefully, her growing collection of originals will at least translate into a publishing deal and the full album she has said she intends to make and release.
Casey James began the rollout of music from his sophomore album with live performances of nine new songs, including his new lead single, “Fall Apart,” which started to pick up airplay on SiriusXM The Highway in late September, but has yet to go for adds at country radio. CaseyJ also collaborated with The Doobie Brothers on a duet remake of their song “Jesus Is Just Alright” for their duets/tribute album Southbound, which was released on 11/4/2014. Meanwhile, news broke late in the year that CaseyJ had quietly married longtime girlfriend Kelli Pentzer earlier this year. Congratulations to the happy couple!
Looking ahead: We will hopefully see CaseyJ’s new single going for adds at country radio, which is at least temporarily leaning less “bro” though no less male.
Scotty McCreery had an eventful 2014, scoring his 1st t10 country radio hit with “See You Tonight,” a song he cowrite with Zac Crowell and Ashley Gorley, which peaked at #8 on both the Billboard Country Airplay and Country Aircheck/Mediabase charts in March. He followed that up with a 2nd consecutive t10 country radio hit in “Feelin’ It” (cowritten by Frank Rogers and Matthew West), which peaked in December. Scotty promoted “Feelin’ It” with a return performance on American Idol Season 13 and an official video. He also released a special video for “The Dash,” an album track cowritten by Preston Brust and Kyle Jacobs (who is also Kellie Pickler’s husband), to honor the story of Lance Corporal Andrew Carter, a relation to Scotty’s bass guitar player.
Scotty headlined Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium for the first time in February during the winter leg of his See You Tonight tour, and brought along Danielle Bradbery for the fall leg of the tour. Scotty also overcame the trauma of being robbed at gunpoint at a friend’s apartment, and resolved a dispute with his former manager Todd Cassetty about fees owed for services rendered. Late in the year, Scotty announced a $60k donation to the 12.14 Foundation, whose goal is to “build a landmark Performing Arts Centre in Newtown, Connecticut, in memory of those lost on December 14, 2012.” The donation came from his 12/4 fundraising concert at the Toyota Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, Connecticut, which also featured Danielle Bradbery.
In mid-November, Scotty achieved platinum certifications for 3 of his singles, “I Love You This Big” (his AI coronation single and a t15 radio hit), “The Trouble With Girls” (also from his debut album Clear As Day), and “See You Tonight,” for a combination of sales and streams (at a 1:100 ratio to sales) totalling 1 million or more.
Scotty closed out the year with a performance on the Fox & Friends Christmas special:
Looking ahead: Scotty confirmed in multiple interviews including this one that his next single will be the lead single off his next album, and that he will begin work on said album this month. In a new Rolling Stone Country interview, Scotty stated his intention to make “a country music record” with “some depth,” along the lines of the standout track on his sophomore album, “Carolina Moon.” He says, “I’ll play the game a little, but I’m going to try to stay true to what I love,” and that his new album is expected in Q3 or Q4 of this year. As confirmed by Gary LeVox, Scotty will also be the primary opener on the upcoming Rascal Flatts summer tour (which if history holds will be among the Country Megaticket shows that take place at LiveNation amphitheatres).
Kellie Pickler had another busy year, touring Australia for the 1st time in March as Toby Keith’s primary support act. She also collaborated with popular Australian country act Jasmine Rae on the duet “Bad Boys Get Me Good” (co written by Jamie Floyd / Jasmine Rae/ Shannon Wright), which they promoted with a video.
Speaking of which, Kellie maintained a solid presence on TV, guest co-hosting on ABC’s The Chew in April and July and co-hosting ABC’s The View in mid-November, where she also performed “Selma Drye,” a tribute to her grandmother from her most recent album, The Woman I Am. Kellie’s ongoing relationship with ABC (remember, she is a much beloved Dancing With The Stars champ) didn’t stop there: she also was a guest performer on Season 2 of ABC’s Nashville, where she performed the 3rd single from The Woman I Am, “Closer To Nowhere” (written by Carson Chamberlain / Wade Kirby / Phil O’Donnell):
Kellie continued to run into a wall at country radio, with “Closer To Nowhere” peaking at #59 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart. But she forged ahead with a vinyl release of The Woman I Am in late June, followed by a special pink vinyl release of The Woman I Am to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, with proceeds going to Gilda’s Club NYC.
Kellie also expanded her sponsorship and philanthropic profiles with partnerships with Rockin Refuel (a line of protein beverages), PANDORA Jewelry, and Team Lung Force (which raises awareness and funds to fight lung cancer).
By now, Kellie’s support for US troops is well-established, and she deepened her work there when she embarked on her 8th USO tour in December, after performing at the 2014 USO Gala in October. Kellie was also joined by Staff Sargeant Baily Zimmerman for a fun performance of “Red High Heels” at this year’s ACM’s Salute To The Troops, which aired on CBS in May.
Last but not least, Kellie continued to play the Opry, performing both her own songs, like “Closer To Nowhere” and classics like Patsy Cline’s “Walking After Midnight,” which you can see here:
Last Known Sales:
The Woman I Am (album, released November 2013): 47k through 1/19/2014
Looking Ahead: Kellie is working on new music, as confirmed by this tweet from late November:
— kellie pickler (@kelliepickler) November 22, 2014
Known co writes & cuts include:
“Fireflies & Honeysuckles” (Kellie Pickler / Gordie Sampson / Caitlyn Smith / Troy Verges)
“Satisfied” (David Grissom/Chris Stapleton) – check out Grissom’s original version here.
“Trailerhood” (Kyle Jacobs/Ruston Kelly/Kellie Pickler)