New Artist Spotlight: Frankie Ballard
frankie-ballard1 His soul is Country. His style is to play loud and raw. His voice is husky and hard, toughened perhaps by rocking rough-and- tumble clubs near his hometown of Battle Creek, Mich. And in his slashing guitar, there’s a heavy dose of Southern rock flavored by the blues, as if Jerry Reed and Johnny Winter were jamming ZZ Top songs with Waylon Jennings.

Put it all together and you’ve got Frankie Ballard, whose music grabs the listener by the shoulders and yells, “It’s time to tear it up!” Ballard started singing at age 5, when his dad began spinning Elvis records for him. Still, he devoted most of his time to sports until he turned 18, when he first picked up a guitar. With ferocious dedication, Ballard woodshedded for hours every day, until he felt strong enough to land gigs at Motor City blues venues. His chops and stage presence grew to the point that in the summer of 2008 he won Kenny Chesney’s “Next Big Star” regional competition for Michigan.

After opening for Chesney in Grand Rapids and Detroit, Ballard scored a publishing deal with Sony ATV Music Publishing and a record label deal with Warner Bros. Records. Relocated to Nashville in April 2009, he connected with some of the top local songwriting talent and eventually started turning the results into the sizzling set to be featured on his upcoming self-titled debut album, produced by Michael Knox.

Written by Dallas Davidson and Marty Dodson, Ballard’s first single and music video, “Tell Me You Get Lonely,” starts quietly with a beat that intensifies as it locks onto a steady medium pace. His vocal is rough but expressive, and on the harmonies in the chorus he maintains that feel while hitting his parts flawlessly. Other tracks crank it up (“While the Sun Sleeps,” by Rhett Akins, Davidson and Ben Hayslip) or slow it down to a last-call plea from one who’s sipped too much but loved not enough (“Sober Me Up,” by Davidson and Ashley Gorley). In all settings, Ballard tempers heartache with humor and lets his guitar tell the story too.

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Luke Bryan's Star is Exploding with the Release of his Third Album, Upcoming Tour

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — If Luke Bryan had a different birthday, he might have been a star athlete instead of a music star.

He was born on July 17th. That meant he made the Georgia age cut-off to start kindergarten barely a month after his fifth birthday and was grouped in with other kids who were sometimes a year ahead of him developmentally.

"I was the youngest kid in my grade," said Bryan. "If I would've been held back a year, I don't even know if I would even be doing what I'm doing, because I think I would've been further down the road athletically," Bryan said in a recent interview. "I think because I wasn't the best baseball player at the time or whatever, I kind of focused more on music and it took me down a whole 'nother path."

Bryan, 35, is thankful for how things turned out.  Last month, he released his third studio album, "Tailgates and Tanlines" and it debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's country albums chart with more than 145,000 copies sold in its first week. He is also launching his first major headlining tour this week, and last week, he garnered a CMA nomination in the new artist category.

"I think he is one of the most on-fire artists right now," said Lady Antebellum's Dave Haywood, who co-wrote Bryan's first No. 1 hit, "Do I," with Bryan and Lady A's Charles Kelley. "I think he's our next big superstar. He's such an entertainer."

Bryan has built on the success of his sophomore album, "Doin' My Thing," which produced three back-to-back No. 1 singles. He co-wrote eight of the 13 songs on the new album, including the lead-off single, "Country Girl (Shake It For Me)." The song was a top five hit and has registered over 1 million downloads.

"I think with this one, I've just been able to put together a more well-rounded album than I guess than the previous two," said Bryan. "This one, I just felt like it's got a little bit of everything that people may want on there. I've got a couple songs on there that are a lot more serious than I've ever done, and then I've got some fun and light stuff. Case in point, 'Country Girl (Shake It For Me)' being about as fun and as light as you can get."

Bryan penned the tune with Dallas Davidson, his long-time friend and one of Nashville's most sought-after songwriters, thanks to hits written for acts like Blake Shelton and Keith Urban. Davidson and Bryan grew up in the same area of Georgia and went to college together.

"Luke is at the top of his game right now," said Davidson. "I've always told my publisher, 'Luke Bryan gets first shot at any of my songs.' That's the law."


Lady Antebellum Talk Album's Huge Expectations, 'SNL' and Tour
1187569-lady-antebellum-617-409 Early indications are that Lady Antebellum can expect a big first week, and beyond, for its third album, "Own the Night." But the country group is taking nothing for granted, according to Dave Haywood.

"You never quite know what's going to happen when the record comes out, as far as what people respond to and what they like," Haywood tells "We put a couple (of songs) out on iTunes already, and the response so far feels great. The couple that we put out feel great, so I think that's the ultimate test for us."

"Just the Kiss," the first single from "Own the Night" -- which comes out Tuesday -- hit No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart and No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has already gone platinum. Its successor, "We Owned the Night," is currently at No. 21 on the country survey and climbing.

"We feel like we've got some good opportunities come up," Haywood notes. "More than anything we're just ready to get some new stuff out there. It hasn't been terribly long, I guess, but in reality, for us, we wrote a handful of these songs almost two years ago, so we've had them for awhile and can't wait to get them out there."


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