The 2013 Country Music Awards, Starring 'Duck Dynasty'

Look, country music, we’re trying to work with you here. You are an original American artform. You spring from a deep storytelling tradition of struggle and woe, describing universal truths about the human condition in a plain but somehow poetic way. Sometimes it just seems like you’ve lost the plot completely, but then our faith is often restored by some of the artists working a bit outside of the mainstream, from Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson to the legendary Steve Earle or his son Justin Townes Earle.

But then the 2013 Country Music Awards happen and make the entire genre look like a caricature of big hats and mediocre pop masquerading as country. When the headlines coming off your awards show all highlight a parody performance by the redneckiest reality TV stars ever (Duck Dynasty), rather than a surprise win for Entertainer of the Year by respected country star George Strait, you better start doing some soul-searching. And how about the “Pinnacle Award” being awarded to a pop star who hasn’t recorded a country song in years (Taylor Swift)?

Then again, there were more good moments this year than last. In addition to Strait’s win, we got a tribute (featuring Strait and Alan Jackson) to one of the all-time greats, George Jones, who died this year, and nods to Kenny Rogers, an appearance by Alison Krauss, and Dave Grohl rocking the drum kit with the Zac Brown Band.

Below is the full list of winners. Until next time, save country music.


George Jones' Funeral Will Be Open To The Public

The loss of music legend George Jones is being felt around the world, so it only seems fitting that the celebration of his legacy be open to all who are in mourning.

According to a press release sent out Monday morning, a funeral for Jones will be open to the public this Thursday, May 2nd, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. The service is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. (EST). In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that contributions be made to the Grand Ole Opry Trust Fund or to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

“George would have wanted his fans and friends everywhere to be able to come and pay their respects along with his family,” Jones’ publicist, Kirt Webster, said in a statement.

Everyone here at OurStage HQ has their own memory associated with Jones’ career. For some, he was the first artist they shared with their grandparents. For others, Jones was an inspirational tale of how one could be an outlaw, grappling with life’s struggles, and still find success in mainstream America. Whatever he was to you, we’d love to hear it. Comment below and let us know what the life of George Jones meant to you. (more…)

Sound and Vision: Why Recording Artists Should Look on the Bright Side of Piracy

I’m a music fan that didn’t have a lot of pocket money as a kid. I bought what I could afford and taped the rest off radio or made a tape from my friend’s copy of the album.

That’s what John Taylor of Duran Duran recently told Time Out Melbourne on the subject of illegal downloading. When I read Taylor’s comments, I applauded as if his band had just completed a rousing encore of Skin Trade. Finally, a pop star who understands what it’s like to be low on cash but high on music.

Back in the old pre-Internet days, before iTunes, Amazon and having access to the latest hits 24/7 on YouTube, if you couldn’t afford to pay to listen to the music you loved anytime you wanted to, you had to improvise. For me, and, apparently, for Taylor, that meant pushing a tape recorder up the speakers of the radio, waiting for your favorite song to come on, pressing play when it did, and praying for no outside noise to interfere with the sweet music coming from the speakers.


National Q&A: Aaron Lewis

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsAaron Lewis’ iconic career with Staind made him an alt rock idol but he’s proven he’s the “Country Boy” behind the hit song. Town Line, Lewis’ five-song country debut, is slated for release this spring. Lewis has been on an acoustic tour during which he plays several of his country tunes such as “Forever” and “Grand Daddy’s Son,” plus some of his Staind hits including “Outside” and “It’s Been Awhile.” As Lewis and Staind start the countdown to the band’s massive tour, which begins next month, and look ahead to a new album release this summer, Lewis took time to talk to OurStage about his career, his music, and just what he see ahead.

OS:  What do you plan to play on your next solo dates?

AL: I’m just going to play my normal set that includes the five songs on my country release. The whole rest of the evening is the [Staind music]. We’ll see how that goes and we’ll see what the [audience] enjoys. There will likely be a lot of Staind fans.

OS: What song from the new album do you most remember writing?

AL: “The Story Never Ends”” the first song off the record. It came to me in a beer stand in Paducah, Kentucky [when I was on a hunting trip]. I looked up at my [friend] and asked him if he had a pen and paper. I got back to the camp and sat down with the guitar and went to the studio that day and was bouncing back and forth between the hunting camp and recording.

OS: How did it come together?

AL: I kind of played a cord progression and half figured it out. The rest of the guys were sitting there and I was just thinking about what we were doing. Within an hour, I had it recorded.

OS: That’s amazing that it came together so quickly.

AL: The problem is that I don’t have any control over it! It can happen that easily or not at all!

OS: A lot of fans are surprised that you have recorded a country album. What brought you to that?

AL: I grew up with country. I spent a lot of time with [my] grandfather, especially a lot in the summertime. He lived twenty-five minutes from our house. I stayed there all summer [when I was young] and he was a country music fanatic. It was always on, always, always, always.

[Not long ago when] I heard Kid Rock playing old country music, it  brought back all sort of memories. It kind of is the soundtrack of my childhood and I haven’t really been able to escape it since. Now I’m always listening to country. I love “Willie’s Place” [on satellite radio].

OS: So what was the first country song you wrote?

AL: “Country Boy” was my first attempt at writing a country song. It’s heavily laden with stereotypical country lines about whiskey and granddad, don’t tread on me. A lot of that was very cliche, but a lot of it was [written in a] very tongue-in-cheek manner. I was trying to write a country song that when it was finished and people started hearing it, they could [relate]. It really got me to thinking about country [music] more. It’s really in my brain now.

OS: What has the reaction been from your band mates and fans who enjoy your rock?

AL: Everybody is very supportive of me doing this. It has affected things a little bit [for Staind] especially in the recording process. I wanted to record a Staind album when my solo was released. This was the first time in my career that I ever had a deadline [as I did to finish the Staind album for a release this summer]. I never had this kind of stress where it had to be finished by this date or we will be severely financially punished. That caused some inner turmoil.

OS: What does your country debut mean for Staind?

AL: By contract I will tour behind the new record I put out and at the end of that I probably will have found time within the touring schedule go back into the studio in Nashville. When we are done with [tours for] Staind, I will take time off and be with the family and start into the solo cycle and a new record and tour.

I have never been opposed to making music with Staind but as I get older and life goes on, I am missing things”I never can rewind and get them back. There will come a point that I never want to do it like this anymore.

Find out more about Aaron Lewis’ music and tours on his Web site.

Don’t miss Lewis’ “Country Boy” video below that includes Charlie Daniels, Chris Young and George Jones.

Your Country's Right Here: The Roys Talk Family, Music and How Fans Inspire Them

The Roys may be the toast of bluegrass music, especially after having just won the prestigious Inspirational Bluegrass Artist of the Year award from the Inspirational Country Music Association, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their feet firmly on the ground.

The duo are hard at work writing for their next album, the follow up to the critically-acclaimed Lonesome Whistle that included the hot single “Coal Minin’ Man,” that went to No. 1 on Power Source’s Bluegrass Top 35 chart and HotDisc International Top 40 Chart.

They also recently announced that they will host the First Annual Christmas 4 Kids Celebrity Golf Tournament in April, soon after they return from their first ever Australian concert tour. The tournament is yet another facet of Christmas 4 Kids, that developed from the Christmas Caravan founded in 1982 by Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn and the Oak Ridge Boys to help needy children over the holidays.

Siblings Elaine and Lee Roy took a few minutes to chat with OurStage about how they developed their passion for bluegrass, how they write such terrific songs and what their fans mean to them.

OS: Wow, you have had some year!

ER: We are very excited. In one year, our lives have changed a whole lot.

OS:  How did you come to play bluegrass? I’m sure your high school friends were playing rock and pop, so that couldn’t have been cool.

LR: Our mom and dad listened to nothing but traditional country and bluegrass. Our grandpa was playing the fiddle and mandolin and banjo and our aunts and uncles played music all the time. We were around that so much, I remember, from the time we were really, really young. I can remember mom and dad playing Merle Haggard, George Jones, Bill Monroe. That’s what we were around, that’s what we listened to our whole lives.


Sound And Vision: Justin Timberlake as Elton John and Six Other Wish-List Music Biopics

Every great screen biography of a music superstar needs three key ingredients to really sing: 1) An icon with the greatest story never told. 2) A talented lead actor or actress gunning for an Oscar nomination”singing talent and striking resemblance optional (Angela Bassett didn’t sing a word in What’s Love Got to Do with It, and she looks nothing like the film’s subject, yet she was Tina Turner). 3) Kick-ass songs.

Fantasia Barrino
as gospel great Mahalia Jackson is coming soon. The Elton John Story (aka Rocketman) is reportedly finally in the works (I’d cast Justin Timberlake over mentioned favorite James McAvoy and pray that he can nail a British accent), as is Aretha Franklin’s (with or without Halle Berry, the Queen of Soul’s No. 1 choice), Anne Hathaway as Judy Garland and Sacha Baron Cohen as Freddie Mercury.

Robert Pattinson was announced as a possible Kurt Cobain at one point last year, but it’s hard to imagine that we’d get the true story as long as Courtney Love is around to kill it or put her spin on it. Ryan Gosling has the chops to pull off Cobain, but he’s already in everything and he’s several years older than Cobain was when he committed suicide. Note to aspiring biopic producers: One doesn’t have to cast a “star” as the star. Some biopics (Amadeus, starring Tom Hulce as Mozart; La vie en rose, with Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf) do just fine without huge names.

Now that she’s gone too soon, too, it’s probably only a matter of time before we get Amy Winehouse‘s “untold” story. Note to aspiring biopic producers: Tabloid-era stars are best left alone unless, as with Eminem’s 8 Mile, the focus is on life before they were famous. Otherwise, we’ve already seen the action play out in the pages of Us Weekly and People magazine.

But what about those biopics in various stages of development and non-development? Here are six that I’m dying to see.

1) David Bowie: The star. The spectacle. The songs… Iman. I can’t think of a rock icon whose story is more deserving of the screen treatment. It would be a shoo-in for the Best Costume Design Oscar, and with a star like Jonathan Rhys Meyers (who already played a Bowie-esque figure to perfection in the 1998 film Velvet Goldmine), an actor worthy of the material.