Ridiculously Talented – Chris Stapleton

I’ve been meaning to post this one for a while, but my blogging has suffered as of late. However, I couldn’t go on any longer without featuring singer/songwriter Chris Stapleton. Because he’s Ridiculously Talented.

As a songwriter Stapleton has penned big hits for George Strait, Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, Darius Rucker, Tim McGraw and many other top artists. More often than not he makes them sound better and come alive when he’s the one actually singing them.

As a vocalist, Chris was the lead singer for the ultra-talented bluegrass band The Steeldrivers for a few years and then went on to front a rock band. Now he’s where he belongs, as a country music solo artist, and recently released his first single “What Are You Listening To.”

It really doesn’t matter what genre he writes, performs, and sings – it’s phenomenal. If country radio knows what’s good for them and their listeners, they’ll take ownership of Stapleton and allow the masses to hear his music. There’s a huge void that he can help fill to bring back more passion and authenticity to the format.

Here’s a taste of music, but don’t let this be the only Chris Stapleton music you listen to. Go deeper. Trust me.

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Before Social Media And Branding Were In Style

Over the last five years, I’ve enjoyed being more involved with social media marketing and branding. The more directly engaged I get with each proficiency, the more I realize I’ve been doing both of those responsibilities, and most of what goes with them, a lot longer than that; before there was such a thing as social media and branding.

Allow me to explain this recent revelation.

Finding my career in radio and the music industry were the only things I wanted to do coming out of high school and into college. My first on air gig was at the college rock station in Claremore, OK and eventually I joined the big country station in Tulsa, KWEN (K95FM). I was a DJ and a promotions assistant. When I eventually moved to Nashville, it was my goal to work for a major label behind the scenes and help artists achieve their dreams. That happened at MCA Nashville and several record labels to follow, where I was fortunate to do promotion and marketing for some of the biggest artists in country music.

Ironically, as much as I purposed working behind the scenes, I’ve actually been on the front lines at each and every job I’ve ever had. At the radio stations I may have been unseen in the studio, but I was also a direct representative of the station. Developing relationships one by one, taking listener phone calls, and meeting them at concerts, events, and remotes. The original social media and brand management!

At the record labels, it was mostly behind the scenes promoting the artists, but in essence I was on the forefront of each label as well. In the thick of it as a representative and face of the label. Developing and maintaining relationships with radio, fans, and listeners alike and networking with all of them to enhance the brand of our artists and of the label. I was a promotion guy, but I was also a brand manager, image builder, and social marketing guy. It came with the territory and was part of the job I really loved.

The same has held true for my non-radio/label work with All Access, Compassion International, and World Vision.

I think this applies to many people who have done the work of social marketing, branding, and imaging, but didn’t have a title or the responsibility in their job description. It was just part of the gig.

The modern social media and branding I do today isn’t much different than what I’ve done my entire career. Obviously there is more technology, strategy, and analytics in the mix, but the basic principle remains. Engage people one by one, develop relationships, give them quality content, and invite them to come along for the ride. It’s a recipe for success in the radio and music industries, and it always will be if we don’t forget what the point is – connecting to fans, listeners, and clients.


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Favorite Music Of 2013

Recently Updated

Best Musical Groups of 2013:

Imagine Dragons, Mumford & Sons, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Paramore, Little Big Town, The Lumineers, Daft Punk, Dawes, The Mavericks, Fall Out Boy, Zac Brown Band, Skillet

Best Female Musical Artists of 2013:

Holly Williams, Brandy Clark, Plumb, Lorde, Kacey Musgraves, Pink, Ariana Grande, Ashley Monroe, Ella Mae Bowen

Best Male Musical Artists of 2013:

Bruno Mars, Will Hoge, Marc Scibilia, Justin Timberlake, Wade Bowen, Gregory Porter, Jason Isbell

Best Albums of 2013:

  • Holly Williams “The Highway”
  • Tedeschi Trucks Band “Made Up Mind”
  • Daft Punk “Random Access Memories”
  • Imagine Dragons “Night Visions (Deluxe)”
  • Will Hoge “Never Give In”
  • Brandy Clark “12 Stories”
  • Vince Gill & Paul Franklin “Bakersfield”
  • Lorde “Pure Heroin”
  • Justin Timberlake “20/20 Experience”
  • Dawes “Stories Don’t End”
  • Plumb “Need You Now”
  • Marc Scibilia “The Shape I’m In” (EP)
  • Alan Jackson “The Bluegrass Album”
  • Ashley Monroe “Like A Rose”
  • The Mavericks “In Time”
  • Thousand Foot Krutch “Megamorphosiz”

Best Singles of 2013:

  • “Drinkin” – Holly Williams
  • “Strong”- Will Hoge
  • “Kings & Queens” – Audio Adrenaline
  • “Merry Go Round” – Kacey Musgraves
  • “Locked Out Of Heaven” – Bruno Mars
  • “Need You Now” – Plumb
  • Dawes “Most People”
  • “What Have I Done” – Leann Rimes
  • “Demons” – Imagine Dragons
  • “Get Lucky” – Daft Punk
  • “Brave” – Sara Bareilles
  • “Counting Stars” – One Republic
  • “Light Em Up” – Fall Out Boy
  • “Roar” – Katy Perry
  • “Alone Together” – Fall Out Boy
  • “Mirrors” – Justin Timberlake
  • “Royal” – Lorde
  • “Team” – Lorde
  • “Safe & Sound” – Capital Cities
  • “Hold My Hand” – Brandy Clark
  • “Pray To Jesus” – Brandy Clark
  • “The Highway” – Holly Williams
  • “Waiting On June” – Holly Williams
  • “Just Give Me A Reason” – Pink w/ Nate Ruess
  • “Sick Of It” – Skillet
  • “Berzerk” – Eminem



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Ridiculously Talented: Holly Williams

She’s been making waves for the last 10 years since the release of her debut EP in 2003. From there, Holly Williams has been developing a loyal following in the U.S. and Europe from her honest music, heavy touring schedule and critical acclaim for her 2004 and 2009 album releases.

If you’re not familiar with her story, Holly is the granddaughter of Hank Williams, Sr., the daughter of Hank Williams, Jr., and half-sister of country singer Hank Williams III. It’s an important family history and pedigree to be sure, but Holly has been blazing her own significant musical trail. Her most recent album release, “The Highway”, has proven once again that she stands on her own as a Ridiculously Talented singer and songwriter.

With rootsy authentic lyrics and music deeply planted, something that is sadly lacking in today’s contemporary country music, “The Highway” is one of the best albums of the year. There are too many outstanding songs to highlight, but following are a couple of them to enjoy. If you haven’t yet, please do yourself a favor and check out the rest.

“Waiting On June” From Songfacts: The song is about Holly’s grandparents, but not her famous one, Hank Williams Sr. Rather, this song is about her grandparents on her mother’s side, telling the story from the perspective of her grandfather. Holly’s grandmother, June Bacon White, died in 2009, and the song’s lyrics are an accurate portrayal of her life. “Even the order of the children work out in the lyric,” says Holly. “The cook, everything. So that’s the song that is really hard for me to get through when I sing it live. Usually people come up to me crying. It wrecks the family emotionally. But it’s such a sweet memory to me of my childhood and what my grandparents left. So that’s definitely my most proud songwriting moment, I think probably ever.”
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Blues Power

Blues Power, originally uploaded by Mike Severson.

New Orleans blues man doing his thing.

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World Vision Continues to Expand Presence, Sends Country Music Songwriters to Dominican Republic


(Nashville, Tenn. – July 9, 2013) Global humanitarian organization World Vision continues to follow its mission of giving back to children, families and their communities worldwide. This past month, World Vision sent a group of artists and songwriters to the Dominican Republic to give back and meet with families in need.

Participating artists and songwriters included Ella Mae Bowen, Russell Dickerson, Elenowen (The Voice), Melissa Fuller, Natalie Hemby (“White Liar,” “Only Prettier,” “Pontoon”, “Tornado”), Molly Hunt, Luke Laird (“Downtown,” “Beat This Summer,” “Pontoon”, “One Of Those Nights”) and Matt Wertz. Other artists who have previously worked with World Vision include Sarah McLachlan, LoCash Cowboys, Scotty McCreery (American Idol), Carter’s Chord, Gwen Sebastian (The Voice), Kris Allen (American Idol) and Patty Griffin.

The songwriters also had the chance to meet with the families in which their efforts would be helping. While in the Dominican Republic, the group traveled to a school in Santo Domingo where both the songwriters and the children performed music for each other. Each songwriter got to experience firsthand the work of World Vision and their impact on foreign communities.

“This special group of songwriters are not only incredibly talented artists, but people of strong character who want to do something beyond themselves,” said World Vision’s Mike Severson. “We were honored to have them journey with World Vision and look forward to collaborating with each of them in some way.”

The World Vision experience not only helps communities in need, but it also leaves songwriters with a sense of fulfillment from their journey.

“By taking this journey, World Vision has opened my eyes not only to the adversity, but also to the advocates,” said Country music songwriter Natalie Hemby. “World Vision is reaching through the cracks of humanity and planting hope throughout the World… One child, one family, one community, one country at a time.”

World Vision launched the annual event for Country music artists and songwriters to network with each other while helping a community in need. Plans are already underway for next year to return to the Dominican Republic.

 About World Vision: World Vision is a Christian relief, development and advocacy organization that helps children, their families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. For more information, visit http://www.WorldVision.org.

Photo L to R: World Vision’s Michael Bianchi, CAA’s Megan Sykes, Molly Hunt, Luke Laird, Natalie Hemby, Nicole Johnson (Elenowen), Josh Johnson (Elenowen), Russell Dickerson, World Vision’s Claudia Martinez, Matt Wertz, Melissa Fuller, Ella Mae Bowen, and World Vision’s Mike Severson


Jeff Walker – AristoMedia – (615) 269-7071 – jwalker @ aristomedia.com

Mike Severson – World Vision – (615) 496-6023 – mike @ seversonfarm.com

Charles Dorris – World Vision – (615) 236-1684 – charlesdorris @ gmail.com

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Guest Post: Ella Mae Bowen – World Vision Songwriters Trip to The Dominican Republic

The following is a guest post from singer/songwriter Ella Mae Bowen, who was one of the incredible artists on the recent World Vision trip. Her own blog site, including this original post, can be found here.

Hello, friends!

I feel as though I have finally processed enough to share with you about a recent trip I was blessed to be a part of. This blog will come in two parts: this musing/ summary, and then another tumblr post of just pictures (my favorite. :)

Let me first give you all a little explanation for this trip. Why would 9 singer-songwriters, two charity executives, two film crew and one Dominican donor liaison be riding around a Caribbean island on a commercial bus? Well… .his wasn’t just a mission trip. This was a trip geared towards music and songwriting- The goal being both to grow the light shining on World Vision and to give a greater purpose to a part of our creativity by what we got to learn and experience. What made the potential impact sink in for me, was hearing this while on the trip:

3,000,000 children are sponsored by World Vision world-wide.

1,000,000 of those children were sponsored through what is called “The Artist Program” meaning, touring musicians are representing World Vision from the road and, through their music, getting children sponsored. World Vision is important to music, and music is important to World Vision. How cool is that?

So, here’s your cast of characters:

Luke Laird: songwriter extraordinaire, you actually just need to look up what he’s written. If you like Country music, you will die. (Not really die, but you know…) One of the best people I know in Nashville. His heart and his art are the real thing.

Natalie Hemby: Well, also, just look her up. One of my songwriting heroes and favorite people and artists. Big sister to all the ladies and a professional at loving on all the babies we came across. Her heart is as bigger than I could say.

Melissa Fuller: AMAZING Alternative artist, writer of anything, one of the most talented & genuine people you’ll ever meet, and my friend. She’s the artist most responsible for this trip happening and has been involved with World Vision for a long time. Love this girl (and the way she inspires me) so.

Molly Hunt: Pop artist who’s voice and melodies will make you weep, a legitimate angel on earth, and my best friend of 3 years. Stunning inside and out. You need to watch for this girl. I don’t know where we would’ve been on this trip without Molly.

Russel Dickerson: Phenomenal Country Singer, Songwriter and Performer you will be hearing much more from! Such a sweet dude and so real. And he found my purse when I lost it. Good people. :)

Elenowen: The married folksy duo that is Josh and Nicolle Johnson. The children just flocked to them and they held us together like glue. You must hear their harmonies and haunting lyrics. And just go look at them, too. They are straight out of an Anthropologie catalog. Legit, awesome folks.

Matt Wertz: You may know and love his records… Let me tell you, he is just as lovable. The life of the party, our alpha-male and a singer-songwriter I really admire.

Michael Bianchi & Mike Severson: World Vision Reps. Michael heads up the artist program, and Mike is a Country music rep for the artist program who really worked to make this trip a reality. They both work here in Nashville. Amazing what these guys do everyday and amazing that they made this trip happen.

David & April: Photography and film gurus that work with World Vision… and our personal comedians. I definitely felt like they could each be your dream fun aunt or uncle. Awesome. And really really good at their job.

Claudia: Our Dominican Donor Liaison, Translator, & Lifeline. She’s now one of my heroes. Passionate about people, speaker of 5 languages, giver of the best hugs. One cool woman.

So… we were all in a bus-you-take across-the-city-to-work bus. I felt like setting the scene was important. Onward now. :)

The first day, we flew into Santo Domingo and drove 3.5 hours down the coast to Barahona where we stayed the first two nights. While here, we visited World Vision Area Development Programs all between Barahona and the Haitian border, which was about an hour away. This area was extremely rural.

We experienced lively & beautiful, but emotionally full days, and then came back to our seaside motel and shared traditional family style dinners in a little cabana by the big ole’ blue sea. I never wanted to leave.

I could tell so many stories about what we experienced while there. The Dominican island is very poor in the western region. The Caribbean resorts you hear about are on the eastern coast. A large portion of the people we were meeting while staying in Barahona and driving out to small villages were Haitian immigrants or the children of.

The highlight of this portion of the trip, for me, was meeting a young woman named Francia. She was a Haitian girl, born to her mother in the Dominican. Her father had passed away. When she was fourteen, she was told she couldn’t attend school past the 8th grade because she did not have a birth certificate (a problem many Haitian immigrants face and have to leave school because of.) Over the course of some months, through hard work and the help of a relative, she got her birth certificate. Once she saw that process, she knew she could help other young people who needed to locate or receive their birth certificate. She helped at least 178 other children within the course of a year. In her words, she never expected anything in return.

However, word got around to World Vision who is developing her village, and Francia was nominated for a prestigious youth humanitarian award at age 16. She won! She got to travel to Holland to receive 100,000 Euros for her small, impoverished village and to deliver a speech. Let that sink in for a moment…

100,000 Euros is about $130,000 US dollars. But it is equivalent to a whopping 5,409,414 Dominican Pesos (where there is also frequently less to no tax.)

She helped develop her village in many ways. 13 homes were built. World Vision also has added a computer lab and small station to buy groceries.

Francia is now 18 and lives with her mother and her daughter Esperanza, who’s name means “hope.” She lives humbly, but she dreams of becoming a lawyer and standing up for children’s rights. It is most important for her to see her daughter grow up healthy and happy and receive an education.

Not only was she a hero in her village, but now she is a hero to all of us. I told her, as Claudia translated, that I couldn’t believe we were the same age and that I only wish I could be half of the young woman she already is. By then I was crying. We we all were. Sweet Natalie Hemby prayed over Francia and Esperanza while Claudia translated her prayer. It was something I will never forget. Natalie and Melissa stayed up all hours, I believe, that night in Barahona working on a song for sweet Francia. It is beautiful and I hope you all hear it soon!

On to the second half of the trip, which we spent in the city of Santo Domingo. As Claudia put it, the poverty there is more hidden, but no less real.

We stayed in a beautiful hotel that felt just like America. It looked mostly like a mini-Miami, but with parts of the city dating back to Columbus’ settlement. However, there are many hidden crevices in the city slums that are indeed very poor, dangerous and dirty. People who live very well and people who live with nothing are crammed all together in rows of shops and houses as motorcycles zip by and street salesmen shout. Many homes are above stores on dirty, busy (sometimes violent) streets. This is not really the kind of poverty you would see on a commercial asking you for money, but it is real, nonetheless and just as worth witnessing.

Because I am so long-winded, I will get to the highlight of this half of the trip. Namely, meeting the child and I am beginning to sponsor, Anny Leydi.Ella Mae Bowen & Leydi

I met she and her older sister at a World Vision Area Development office. I think we were both nervous but excited. She is so beautiful with a deep knowingness in her eyes. She will be 11 in October. She sparkles. That hug was one of my favorite hugs I have ever and will ever receive. I cannot wait to get to know her better and grow with her.

While I am here, let me say this… If child sponsorship is something you have considered, I am 100% confident that World Vision is the best route to take. I say that, not because of new friendships, but because I experienced it firsthand. There is no idea of “this money will buy shoes and pay for school and it will be good for the child as long as it keeps coming.” That approach means that an element of the child’s success is highly dependent on you and your decision to continue. Though that may be true to some extent, that is not how World Vision chooses to see or approach it. What you are sending will intricately help the child, their family and the area that they call home. I wish I was more eloquent in this explanation, but in the words of Michael Bianchi, “World Vision wants to go into an area and work to put ourselves out of a job.” Meaning, the people are being empowered. Money may buy things that will make money for a family, for example, rather than a charity acting as a powerful source that gives them a check. The people are truly being given a hand up, not a hand out.

In light of that, and in closing, the thing I will remember most is the people. Their smiles, their unwavering desire to help themselves and empower others… Their joy in hard work… Their prayers for each other…. Their prayers for us- Matchless beauty and strength.


Stay tuned for pictures :) Love always and God bless!


Here is the link to World Vision’s main website and the twitter handles of all the artists on the trip:

http://www.worldvision.org/ (there is a specific page for every country, including the DR)







Natalie Hemby

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