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Team Lipman doubles up. (11/26a)
Season's bleatings (11/23a)
Deck the Grammys with boughs of Holly. (11/24a)
Rolling out our U.K. Special print issue (11/24a)
Olivia, the Biebs, H.E.R., Doja Cat, Billie and Jon Batiste lead the way. (11/24a)
Stuffing (in face).
Music City

Sony Music Publishing Nashville has upped Josh Van Valkenburg to EVP, Creative.

In his new role, Van Valkenburg will be responsible for leading the team’s A&R strategy, supporting SMP Nashville’s roster, developing new talent and delivering creative opportunities for the company's songwriters. He reports directly to SMP Nashville CEO Rusty Gaston.

Throughout his career, Van Valkenburg’s signings have garnered 70+ #1 hits on Country radio.

He's worked with chart-topping writers and producers like 4-time BMI Songwriter of the Year Ross Copperman, Jon Nite, Lindsay Rimes, Chris DeStefano and 2021 ASCAP Songwriter of the Year Josh Osborne, as well as artists like Brett Eldredge and Chase Rice.

Van Vaulkenburg has also provided creative support of SMP’s contributing songwriters and producers on Gabby Barrett’s #1 hit, “I Hope.”

“Our Sony Music Publishing family is committed to lifting up and empowering all of our songwriters, from Nashville to the entire world. This ethos begins at the top with Jon Platt and Rusty Gaston, to whom I am so grateful for this opportunity,” said Van Valkenburg.

“Josh is one of the smartest music publishing executives I have ever met. He leads the way in thinking strategically with every songwriter on our roster, and he takes actions that lead to results. We couldn’t be prouder to have him on our team,” added Gaston.

Prior to his new role, Van Valkenburg held the position of SVP, Creative and has spearheaded SMP Nashville’s creative efforts since 2015. He’s been with the company since 2005, launching his career at EMI Music Publishing, and was later promoted to the A&R team as Creative Manager in 2008 before joining Sony/ATV as Creative Director in 2012.


Luke Combs has got his lucky seven. The country superstar’s latest single, “Cold as You,” is the seventh Country radio #1 to come from his Sony Music Nashville set What You See Ain’t Always What You Get—breaking the record for most #1 singles at the format issuing from the same album. The track is Combs’ 12th consecutive Country #1 overall.

Combs is on one helluva roll. The newly minted CMA Entertainer of the Year debuted his new song, “Doin’ This,” on the awards-show telecast on 11/10 and just announced his first-ever stadium dates, which kick off next year (5/22) in Denver. He also considers himself fortunate that he has members of his team to blow off our calls.




Warner Nashville’s Ingrid Andress brought her headlining Feeling Things tour to Music City on 11/18, where the multi Grammy-nominee was surprised backstage with plaques commemorating the gold certification of her debut album, Lady Like, along with the project’s #1 single, “More Hearts Than Mine,” which is now certified 2x platinum.

Pictured above before enjoying a heaping platter of hot chicken sandwiches are (l-r) rogue Manager/Co-Founder, Blythe Scokin; WMN’s VP, Radio & Streaming, Tom Martens; Sr. Director, Artist Development, Clark Tedesco; Andress; SVP, Radio & Streaming, Kristen Williams; SVP, Commercial Partnerships, Tim Foisset; and Sr. Director, A&R, Rohan Kohli.

Photo Credit: Acacia Evans


The Academy of Country Music, Prime Video and MRC have revealed that the 57th ACM Awards will be held at Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium on 3/7.

Exclusively streaming on Amazon Prime Video next year, the event marks the first major awards show to be broadcast solely via a streaming platform. 

“We are thrilled to return to Las Vegas to celebrate country music’s Party of the Year in this incredible brand-new stadium and on the Prime Video streaming service for the first time ever,” said ACM CEO and executive producer Damon Whiteside. “We can’t thank the city of Las Vegas and Allegiant Stadium enough for welcoming us for the 57th Academy of Country Music Awards—a party so big only a stadium can hold it!”

The 57th ACMs is executive produced by R.A. Clark. Submissions for the categories are open through 11/30. For more info, click here.


Interview by Holly Gleason

In the wake of Niko Moon's SESAC Songwriter of the Year win, we revisit Holly Gleason's conversation with the singer/songwriter/musician.

Niko Moon may be the biggest good-vibe guy in Nashville. Not because he was Zac Brown’s secret collaborative weapon, having a hand in “Homegrown,” “Loving You Easy,” “Beautiful Drug” and “Keep Me in Mind.” Nor because he’s a go-to songwriter for Dierks Bentley, Rascal Flatts and Morgan Wallen, with a #1 of his own in “Good Time.” 

The Tyler, Tex.-born, Georgia-raised multi-instrumentalist just naturally leans into the happy and seeks the uplifting. The son of a drummer who went full-time into truck driving to support his family, Moon was raised on a healthy diet of John Prine and Patty Griffin, but also steeped in the OutKast/Atlanta school of funk rhythms. The result makes the happy-go-lucky writer/producer the third point of a triangle with Jack Johnson and Michael Franti, whose 2019 LP Stay Human, Vol. 2 Moon co-produced.

With his 2020 Good Time EP and current single “No Sad Songs,” Moon has found the sweet spot for intriguing rhythms holding small-town values in a roots-music vat that expands modern country. His hooks are pure gold, but the vibe is total platinum.

Your dad was probably your first real influence, wasn’t he?
My dad was a truck driver his whole life, but he’s a drummer too. There was a time he was driving during the day, then gigging at night. I remember being little, going to see him play. It was the coolest. Then he made a decision that it was better for his family to just drive. He worked two jobs a lot; some days, he’d be up and gone at 4am and wouldn’t be home ’til after dinner.

He drove for The Atlanta Journal Constitution for a long time, dropping papers at their delivery centers. He drove for a delivery service during regular business hours. Later, he worked for a cleaning company, cleaning offices after hours. I always respected him for that; to make that sacrifice for his family, that really stuck with me.

Your dad really loved music.
If there was a first song I heard as a baby, it was something by John Prine. My dad was such a fan of songwriters, to just sit and really listen to what they did with the story and the language. He was always singing to me. There’s a rhythm to that too.

He was never the type of father to sit me down and tell what’s right and wrong. He lived his life being an example. We grew up very working-class. We were living in this trailer for a while and we didn’t have a dining room; when Thanksgiving came, we just pulled out the ironing board and put the turkey, mashed potatoes and everything on there. We had the heating go out once, but he made it an adventure. Pulling the mattress over to the fireplace, getting the wood and making a fire. It was “camping out,” and we didn’t see it as worry.

That explains your attitude. Are you more good-time vibe or romantic?
I wasn’t always romantic. That came from my wife [singer/songwriter Anna Moon], who I write with all the time now. Before her, I had it in my head you had to be “a troubadour.” It’s all travels and lonely, smoking a lot of cigarettes, drinking whiskey. You know, this Jack Kerouac way of living, where you have to suffer for your beloved art. It was a story I invented.

So you thought love songs were dumb?
I thought there was something soft about writing love songs. Then I met Anna, who’s a fantastic songwriter. She affected me in so many ways. I got really comfortable in trying to understand my life, my path and what it needed to be.

You have that small-town ethos.
I grew up one hour north of Atlanta; Anna grew up one hour west of Atlanta. We grew up in different towns, but it’s the same town, really. You get past the cities, and you’re listening to the same music and doing the same things. 

A lot of the songs are love songs to my hometown, which is not the eighth wonder of anyone’s world, just a little place off Interstate 20 that’s not next to the ocean, doesn’t have a mountain with some beautiful view. But my family, my friends, my memories are there—and that’s special. So when people hear these songs, I hope they hear their life and their town too.

As a writer, what’s more important, the words or the beats?
The songwriter in me who loves Prine and Patty Griffin says it’s the words. But at the end of the day, it’s the rhythm—it’s the more elemental thing. I want my music to get both kinds of people—the ones who get swept up and the ones who really dive in and analyze every line. But the heart is the deeper root. Between the head and the heart, it’s the heart, always.

Which explains the way you use grooves and rhythm changes. 
OutKast and the way their drums sounded, they hit so hard. I had a little Chevy S-10 pickup. My goal was to blow out my speakers every day rolling up to school with OutKast.

Their music, like Prine’s, is really euphoric.
I’m always looking for the meter and where to change it up. That comes from OutKast. I think about the head bob—how your head either bobs down or back. Between the vocal flow and the drumbeat, you can change how people bounce. When I sing, I may realize I’m jumping the downbeat a little bit in the verse, so when I’m getting to the chorus, I hit it straight-up. Prine had that too. The conversational thing that moved with the rhythms. Same deal.

You co-produced Michael Franti. He’s another rhythm guy.
We’re good friends, but he is. There’s so much joy in his music, between the reggae he’s doing and his whole vibe. I love harnessing that positivity. That glass-half-full way of thinking is fantastic. Bob Marley was a huge influence on both of us. But Michael’s also about the details. We listened to hundreds of kick-drum samples to find the perfect one. He knows that rhythm matters in making people feel.

How’d you make the transition from writer/producer to artist?
I said, “Let’s take a month and unpack who I am, my sound and what I want that to be.” I wanted to think about my influences, how I wanted to bring them together, what I resonate with.

Happiness isn’t some specific thing or achievement. For me, it’s my wife, my dog, my family. So, to make country music that makes people feel really happy? That seems to be it. You know, there’s a magic when music really moves you. That’s what I’m going for.


Opry Entertainment Group and Twitch have partnered to offer a free livestream experience for its first-ever Opry NextStage Live in Concert event.

The collaborative event—hosted by 2019 Opry NextStage artist Tenille Townes—will put on a Grand Ole Opry-style, fan-interactive show that includes live performances, exclusive backstage interviews hosted by Travis Denning and more.

Held at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House on 11/21, the event features a lineup that will celebrate the 2021 Opry NextStage artists, including Priscilla Block, Parker McCollum, Niko Moon, Jameson Rodgers, Hailey Whitters and Lainey Wilson, as well as special performances by Townes and Denning. 

“For nearly a century, the Opry has built a rich history of connecting fans to the artists they love,” said Jordan Pettit, Opry Entertainment Director of Artist Relations & Programming Strategy. “We are thrilled to partner with Twitch to create this special opportunity to share these rising stars with a broader audience for a one-of-a-kind interactive experience.”

Opry NextStage launched in 2019 with Riley Green and Tegan Marie as part of its inaugural class in addition to Denning and Townes. The 2021 NextStage class also features Grammy-nominated Yola, who was the featured artist in October. 

The Opry NextStage Live in Concert will be available to stream on the Opry’s Twitch channel at 8pm CST with pre-show backstage interviews and artist Q&As beginning at 7pm CST. For in-person tickets, click here.


As part of Gaylord Opryland Resort’s 38th annual A Country Christmas, UMG Nashville is hosting the Parade of Trees.

The event will display Christmas trees decorated by Grand Ole Opry members Alan JacksonCarrie UnderwoodDarius RuckerJosh Turner, Keith Urban and Reba McEntire, along with Eric ChurchGeorge StraitLuke Bryan and Mickey Guyton

Along with their trees, each artist has donated a “Once in a Lifetime” VIP experience—including fly-aways, VIP concert experiences, exclusive merchandise and more—to benefit the First Responders Children’s Foundation. Proceeds raised will provide scholarships and mental health services to children who have lost a parent in the line of duty. 

The Parade of Trees will be on display in the resort’s Garden Conservatory through 1/2 as a self-guided tour, while VIP experiences will be available for bid online until 1/12.

For tree themes, the experiences and more info, click here


"When I started in this business, this is how we did staff cuts," chortles Warner Chappell Music Nashville boss Ben Vaughn during a SESAC-presented company party to celebrate a momentous week. In addition to taking BMI and SESAC Pubbery of the Year, Team WCM cheered the CMA rampage of writer Chris Stapleton, who took Song, Single, Male Vocalist and Album; CMA wins by Brothers Osborne and Old Dominion; a BMI Songwriter of the Year win for Jesse Frasure; a SESAC Songwriter of the Year trophy for Niko Moon; and no fewer than 52 performance awards overall, 10 of which went to first-time writer winners. Seen just before Ben hurled his axe and split a shot of Pappy precisely in half are (front row, l-r) SESAC's Abbey Watson, Diana Scarfo and Shannon Hatch; Vaughn; WCM's Phil May and Katie Jelen; SESAC's Lydia Schultz; and WCM's Jessi Stevenson, Kayce Russell and Christina Wiltshire; and (back row, l-r) WCM's Bethany Mako and BJ Hill; SESAC's ET Brown; WCM's Bryce Sherlow, SESAC's Scott Jungmichel; and WCM's Will Overton and Spencer Nohe.