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New math: dividing and adding (7/15a)
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The zigzagging course of a singular career (7/12a)
KG lets 'em have it. (7/15a)
We thought it was just the hangover.
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They're complicated.
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Music City

CMA Foundation Executive Director Tiffany Kerns manages the staff, oversees developing and executing their strategic plan in conjunction with the board, as well as directing and managing all the financial investments made in music education across the country. It’s one of the CMA’s primary missions—millions have been raised and awarded thus far—and it gives the Bradenton, Fla., born University of Tennessee grad an across-the-board perspective on today’s country artists, their teams and the impact they’re having on the world around them. “I see artists utilizing their platform to create positive change and social impact. They’re interested in being well-rounded and supporting causes publicly by partnering with organizations and brands.”

With all the disruption, what’s the biggest hurdle?
Social impact only works if it’s authentic, sustainable and scalable. Unfortunately, there are many organizations that are not having a deep impact in their communities because they don’t have the resources and knowledge. We really try to look at how we educate artists on the causes they are passionate about, guiding them on having the greatest impact on their philanthropy. It’s critical that an artist be confident in the mission of the organization before getting involved.

Best lesson learned?
You cannot do this work alone. Leaning on each other for expertise is a great resource. Often we try to shoulder it all, but we are so much stronger when we work together.


When efg Mgmt’s Nikki Boon was finishing her degree at MTSU, after stints at North Central University and Belmont, she ran into a guest speaker from one of her summer classes at an industry function. Introducing herself to Martha Earls, the woman breaking ground with Kane Brown, the Grand Rapids, Mich., native found herself being offered an internship. With a head for social media that matches Brown’s gift for audience development, Boon soon built out a marketing/creative direction/new business platform. Not bad for a young woman who came to Nashville on a Dr. Pepper scholarship, looking to make her mark in the music business. “People love a great song,” she believes, “more than they care about the confines of a genre. ‘I don’t love (genre), but I love (artist)’ is something I hear all the time.” Pictured below is Boon with Brown and Earls.

How has breaking artists changed?

Artists need to completely understand their brand and be unapologetically authentic. When artists start releasing music, if fans don’t have something to connect them to the person, then it just becomes one song—they love that song, but they don’t really know the artist. Forming a true connection with the fans that goes past the music, I believe, is what creates a long career.

Best lesson learned?

Don’t ever let your comfort zone limit you. When I started out, I was always intimidated by industry events. I would try and talk myself out of going, because I didn’t know who I’d talk to, but I forced myself to go. And every time I did, I would meet one more person or make a new connection.


Originally from New Zealand, Milly Olykan had lived in England until the Country Music Association tapped the forward-thinking former tour manager and manager to come to Nashville a year ago as the org’s VP of International Relations and Development. One of her roles involves the Introducing Nashville series, which takes artists to Japan, Germany, Sweden and the U.K. as a means of exposing them to nontraditional audiences. With the Olykan-launched British/Irish C2C Festival at London’s The O2 now CMA’s crown jewel, attracting over 80,000 in the U.K., she focuses on developing and strengthening the organization’s international networks to help promote both artists and the genre in foreign markets.

With all the disruption, what’s the biggest hurdle?

The challenge for us internationally—where there isn’t Country radio— is how do you get country music in front of fans who aren’t engaging with a country playlist, or fans who think they don’t like country music, but only because they haven’t listened to a lot of it. Internationally, we’re working on shifting perceptions about what country music is. It’s a very broad genre, it’s evolving and it has a lot of subgenres.

Best lesson learned?

I have a few to choose from, but I’d say there is no formula. You can apply that to the music business, to your career or to any part of life.


Katie McCartney has a big job. As SVP of Marketing & Operations for ubermanager Jason Owen and turbo-songwriter Shane MacAnally’s Monument Records, she not only launched the Sony reboot, she’s handling the day-to-day strategies, development and operations of the company. With the successful launch of singer/songwriter Caitlyn Smith and breaking country star Walker Hayes, the Gorham, Kan., native is readying Teddy Robb, Brandon Ratcliff and Anna Moon for their shots, as well as overseeing the podcast Shady Ladies of Music City. “With all the additional outlets and discovery tools, it can be difficult to perfectly time out releases to be firing on all cylinders at once,” she admits. Pictured is Michael Baum from SMACKManagement, Owen from Monument, Hayes, McCartney and McAnally from Monument and Robert Carlton from SMACKManagement

How has breaking artists changed?
We really focus on true artist development. In order to break an artist, you have to build step by step, so if you stumble, you never fall back to the bottom. The direct connection that artists are able to have with their fanbases immediately following artist discovery is the biggest opportunity we have. That direct line allows us to super-serve fans, building a strong foundation for a career-lasting base.

Best lesson learned?
Surround myself with people who are smarter than me in different areas, and who are willing to challenge me. Taking in different perspectives provides a much wider view.


Pictured is Michael Baum from SMACKManagement, Owen from Monument, Hayes, McCartney and McAnally from Monument and Robert Carlton from SMACKManagement


Partners George Couri, Bruce Kalmick and Norbert Nix, along with Thirty TigersDavid Macias, had a Top 10 2018 airplay label, with multi-platinum releases from Russell Dickerson and Scotty McCreery, who have two of the Top 50 Country Streamed Songs YTD. This year, McCreery spent two weeks at #1 on Country radio with “This Is It.” 2019 has also seen the company sign its third act, Gone West, led by two-time Grammy winner Colbie Caillat. Look for some big announcements later this year, as well as new music from Dickerson.


Universal Music Group Nashville has upped Katie Dean to SVP Promotion for MCA Records Nashville today (7/15). Prior to her near 15 years with UMG Nashville, Dean held positions with AristoMedia, CMA, Lyric Street Records and MediaBase.

In 2015, Dean was named the head MCA Nashville’s promotion team, leading them to back-to-back hits for Jordan Davis, a Top 20 single for George Strait, as well as five #1s for Sam Hunt. Other artists on the roster include Kassi Ashton, Clare Dunn, Vince Gill, Kip Moore, Kacey Musgraves and Josh Turner.

“I am truly excited for this promotion for Katie,” says Royce Risser, EVP Promotion. “Katie is not only one of the best promotion people in Nashville, she’s also one of the best people I know, period. I’m so proud of the leader she has become since taking the helm of the MCA team.” Dean adds, “The MCA roster of the 90s is why I fell in love with country music, it’s an honor and privilege to work with this team to maintain the MCA legacy while we break the next generation of superstars.”


Radio Disney Country has set up shop in Nasvhille with a new studio on Music Row. Located at 1217 16th Ave S A, the studio will serve as the home for their "Let The Girls Play" Radio Disney Country feature—hosted by Kalie Shorr and Savannah Keyes—as well as countless new audio and video content opportunities, events and activations. 

Peep RDC host Kalie enjoying the new Nashville digs below. 


by Holly Gleason

Rachel Wammack doesn’t have any college debt. Realizing beauty pageants have talent portions, the Alabaman from the musical hotbed of Muscle Shoals took her experience playing the marimba in her high school percussion ensemble —and a massive voice—all the way to being crowned Miss University of North Alabama. Not that she’s a typical pageant girl. “I couldn’t walk,” she jokes. “I didn’t look super-fit in a swimsuit. I’m a laid-back musician/hippie. But some judge saw I had talent and took a chance.”

Her high school band director, who espoused the hypothesis that “Music is motion,” tailor-made an arrangement of Irene Cara’s “Flashdance… What a Feeling” for marimba, and Wammack practiced it till she had it down. With her vocal prowess and skill on this unusual instrument, she took both Talent and Miss Congeniality at the Miss Alabama competition.

At 17, while Wammack was playing piano in the local Marriott’s revolving bar, her powerful soprano caught the ear of  Sony Music Nashville’s Jim Catino. In the moment, the A&R head remembers thinking, “Her voice was amazing, but it was her writing. Her originals felt like covers of songs I’d missed.”

Wammack wasn’t sure what to think when he introduced himself. A trip with her father to Nashville to meet the executive didn’t put her on the road to stardom either. “Why would people go in these little houses and just write?” she wondered.

Instead, she got her degree in professional writing at UNA. But while she studied, she kept in touch with Catino, sending demos and voice memos every few months as her writing evolved. She also got her heart smashed, then lived life—including pulling double shifts in a hotel bar—while trying to figure out what she needed to do.

“I’d call Jim every three or four months, asking about sending some more songs. He always said yes,” she remembers. “Everyone needs someone in their life who doesn’t say, ‘This is good’ or ‘This is bad.’ They just say, ‘Keep going.’ He did that for me.”

“Damage,” her first single, is sung from a bartender’s point of view about the pain life inflicts, while “Something People Say” offers the shattering point of heartbreak in staggeringly clear terms. Like Tammy Wynette, Carole King, Grace Potter or Adele, Wammack has the ability to take life by the throat and empathetically deliver the emotional truth in people’s crisis points.

“Music is a healer that way,” she offers. “The core of ‘Something’ was an experience I had to go through to write that song. I don’t like to dwell on stuff like that—such a messy breakup that affected me to the core. But God uses it for others. When I heard the line, ‘Maybe our words are just umbrellas for the rain,’ the co-writers were acting like it was just another line. And I was like, ‘No! That’s so important.”

Knowing from her time as a bartender that “People just want to pour their story out and be understood,” Wammack realized how powerful her current song—one that could have been pulled from Adele’s own highly personal repertoire—could be. “I live in a small town, and everyone knows your crap,” she adds, “So the people back home are gonna know what it’s all about. But for everyone else, it’s a good place to find hope and healing.”

That applies doubly for the gregarious writer/artist. With the single starting to take hold at SiriusXM, Wammack is engaged to be married next year. The groom? The final addition to the bartending team that helped fund her initial year in Nashville.

“I thought he was going to be one more twerpy guy who was just going to flirt with me,” she laughingly admits. “But he was different, respectful and hard-working. He was always asking to be on my shift, but he didn’t know how to tell me he liked me.”

She’s written a song—“The Other Side of the Bar”—about what happened, but it’s not yet recorded. With her literary background, she recognizes the power of juxtaposition. “Usually, the songs are about people falling in love on the side of the bar where the customers are sitting on the barstools. This is about what happens to two people who’re actually taking care of the people ordering the drinks.”

Admitting she’s a lousy bartender, Wammack confesses, “I can remember a million lyrics, but I can’t remember the portions for margaritas or martinis.”

But as long as she can pop a champagne cork, the woman who used to walk out on the train bridge between Muscle Shoals and Florence and write lyrics is probably going to be OK. Though she learned about the rich musical history of where she’s from in a high school elective class, she understands the power and pull of her hometown.

Aretha Franklin and Etta James both came to Muscle Shoals for the music, and everything that’s embedded in me comes from that same place. I didn’t know that they used to say the river’s singing—I found that out later—but I know I’d go out there, sit and write lyrics, because it was so inspiring. You could feel it, and I took it all in.”