Last week, country music’s “family-band” recording trio The Henningsens paid a VISIT to Public School 22 in Staten Island, New York, for a visit and performance with the fifth graders of the acclaimed PS22 Chorus. The chorus joined The Henningsens for a rendition of the trio’s hit debut single, “American Beautiful,” as well as a cover of this week’s #1 Billboard Pop Song radio airplay smash, Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors.”
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We learned from Us Weekly that Kristen Stewart was driven by a girlfriend to country singer Taylor Swift’s place and “spent all day” there before returning home. A source close to Stewarts now ex, Robert Pattinson, told Us on May 18 that the Twilight costars were taking a break from their four-year relationship. The two have been having ongoing problems since Stewart’s fling with Rupert Sanders, and a recent fight over Pattinson’s birthday party pushed them over the edge. Though Stewart and Swift, 23, aren’t known to be close friends, the “Begin Again” singer is no stranger to a bad breakup having previously dated John Mayer, Jake Gyllenhaal, Harry Styles and other Hollywood hunks. The two megastars also share a mutual friend in Taylor Lautner. Stewart is good pals with the 21-year-old actor, having starred alongside him in The Twilight Saga films over the past five years, and Swift dated him for three months in 2009. On Sunday, Pattinson was photographed moving his possessions out of Stewart’s L.A. home in his pickup truck. “They’re both good people. It was just not the right thing for either of them right now,” recalls a friend.
It looks like second place on American Idol can still bring you some fame. Runner-Up on this season of American Idol, Kree Harrison, has been added to the Grand Ole Opry bill, set for Tuesday, June 4. That’s the same week that CMA Music Festivities kick off in Nashville. Kree told CountryMusicIsLove.com all about the call she received from the Opry, “I’m speechless. It has been my lifelong dream to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. I am so honored to be invited!” Kree’s debut single “All Cried Out,” is available now at iTunes. There is a star-studded line-up for June 4th too! Some of the other performers that night are: Kellie Pickler, Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, and Lennon and Maisy from ABC’s “Nashville.”
Darius Rucker’s new album, True Believers, featuring his current single, “Wagon Wheel,” is out today. When people listen to this album, Darius says, “I want people to walk away with two or three songs that are so much about them as it is about me. You know, because that’s when you know you’ve really done something when somebody puts a song on and you’re singing it, but in their head they’re singing it. It’s them. They wrote it. It’s their life. That’s what you try to do with songs. That’s what I’ve really tried to do with this record is to just write songs that people are going to take and feel like it’s their song, not a Darius Rucker song.” True Believers is Darius’ third country album and he says, “I think the first two records, especially the first record, I wanted people to know how much I love the music.” The second album was almost a continuation of the first album, but Darius says for the third album, “It was totally different… this is an important record. Now we gotta wow them, we gotta get some songs that are really going to blow people away… I couldn’t rest on the last two records because even though they had been successes, I had to really go out and prove to everybody that we could make a great record.” Something else that was different with this third album is that Darius recorded it at his house and he says, “I think being at home just made me, relaxed is the big word, but it also made things easier. I mean, I think even [my producer] Frank was saying when we were doing the vocals that it seemed so much easier. We’re getting the good stuff instantly.” Darius says being able to record at home in South Carolina made it not feel like work. “That was the thing about the first two records and doing everything in Nashville. I felt like I was working. You know, I’m going to work. And when it was this record, you know it was drop the kids off at school, go get some lunch, and then go sing or a while and then go pick the kids up from school. And it was so [good] just being home and having fun.” Darius enjoyed the recording process so much that he says, “I want to do the rest of my records like that.” Darius will performing and promoting True Believers this morning on ABC’s Good Morning America, and then look for him tomorrow night on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
After a hard-fought battle against his friend Penn Jillette, Trace Adkins was crowned the overall champion on last night’s All-Star Celebrity Apprentice. For their final task the two men had to create a unique ice cream flavor for Walgreen’s DeLish brand, they had to create a TV commercial and organize an ice cream social including entertainment and star power, selling tickets for as much money as they could raise. Trace created Maple Macadamia Mash-Up ice cream and he managed to raise $664,000 through his party, although $100,000 of it didn’t count toward his final total because Tim Tebow delivered the check after the deadline. Some of the other guests at his party included Billy Ray Cyrus, Wynonna, Thompson Square and The Oak Ridge Boys. Before the winner was announced, Trace felt he deserved to win because he said, “I think I delivered the best ice cream, I made the best commercial, I put on the best show, I brought in the biggest celebrities and I raised the most money.” For winning last night, Trace won an additional $250,000 for the American Red Cross, his chosen charity this season. If our math is correct, going into last night’s finale Trace had already won $710,000, combined with the $664,000 he brought in and the $250,000 grand prize, that means Trace won $1,624,000 for the American Red Cross this season on All-Star Celebrity Apprentice. The charity is close to his heart because they helped his family when their home burnt to the ground back in 2011, but also, because as he said last night, “There’s a Red Cross volunteer right this second helping somebody in this country.”
Congratulations to Taylor Swift who was the huge winner at last night’s Billboard Music Awards. She took home the overall Top Artist Award and seven other awards, including Top Country Artist, Top Country Album, Top Country Song for “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” Top Billboard 200 Album for Red, Top Female Artist, Top Billboard 200 Artist, and she tied with Carly Rae Jepsen for Top Digital Songs Artist. Taylor, who is known for writing and recording songs that are all about falling in love, breaking up and every emotion in between said during her acceptance speech for Artist of the Year, “To the fans who come to the shows, who buy the albums, I just want you to know this one thing – You are the longest and best relationship I have ever had.” The awards were based on album and digital singles sales, radio airplay, touring, streaming and social interactions on sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, VEVO and Spotify.
Kenny Chesney played to over 43,000 fans at Milwaukee’s Miller Stadium this past weekend and he used the opportunity to wish his good friend George Strait a happy 61st birthday by getting the entire crowd to sing “Happy Birthday” to him. Kenny filmed them singing and promised to email it to George. He also chose that show to debut the song “When I See This Bar” off his Life on A Rock album, with special guest Eric Church (who does not sing on the version on the album). “’When I See This Bar’ is the kind of song you have to have lived,” explains Kenny. “Most people do, they just never step back and realize what all those lost nights, afternoon beers and friendships really mean. They make you who are, get you through tough things and get you laughing… Obviously, ‘When I See This Bar’ is important to me; I know Eric’s been there, too, and knows that power of place, so it was great to get him up there.”
Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland has announced she will release her first solo album this fall. She’s working with well-known producer Rick Rubin, who has worked with artists such as Johnny Cash, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Beastie Boys, Jay-Z, Aerosmith and AC/DC. “I am absolutely thrilled and wholly proud to be working with Rick,” says Jennifer. “If you ask any musician who is on their producer ‘bucket list,’ Rick would be on each and every one.” Jennifer’s partner in Sugarland, Kristian Bush, has been pursuing his own solo projects while Jennifer has been on maternity leave, after giving birth to her song Magnus, back in January. There was no indication made whether the two would work as a duo again in the future.
Kellie Pickler has one final night of dancing to do tonight before she and her partner, Derek Hough, find out if they will take home the coveted mirror ball trophy on this season of Dancing with the Stars. Kellie is competing in the finals against Jacoby Jones, Aly Raisman and Zendaya. Her final dances will be a contemporary routine and the Cha Cha. All four competitors have received perfect scores from the judges in the last few weeks, so Kellie definitely has some stiff competition tonight. The two final episodes of this season of Dancing with the Stars airs tonight and tomorrow night on ABC.
John Rich has put together a special event called “St. Jude Presents John Rich & Friends” on June 4th in Memphis. He’s invited his partner Big Kenny, along with Larry the Cable Guy and actress Lisa Rinna from this season of Celebrity Apprentice All-Stars to be part of the event, which will serve as the second annual concert tee off for the 2013 FedEx St. Jude Classic. You may recall two years ago when John competed on Celebrity Apprentice and won over one million dollars for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which provides care to children fighting cancer and other deadly diseases, all while ensuring that no family ever has to pay for anything. “One of the greatest honors of my life’s work is to help the kids at St Jude. To bring music to their lives, and use music to raise funds for their care is something bigger than a hit song or a sold out concert,” said John. More information about “St. Jude Presents John Rich & Friends” can be found here.
Taylor Swift recently appeared on the season finale of the FOX show New Girl and she’s done some acting in movies and on television in the past, but these days she says in order to take time away from her music to be in a movie, she would have to be obsessed with the role. “I would love to do a movie that I was so obsessed with that I couldn’t think of anything other than shooting that movie,” says Taylor. “And if that happens, you will see pictures of me on set shooting that movie. And if you see me shooting a movie, you’ll know that I was so obsessed with the idea of it and the script and the story and felt that it was so important, that I couldn’t possibly not do it.” For now Taylor’s biggest priority is her music and her Red Tour and she says, “Because I love music and I love touring and I love seeing you guys all the time it’s really hard to take time away from doing that; I don’t like to, and so if I were to take time away from that to shoot a movie, I would be so in love with the movie that it would be impossible to turn down.”
Kenny Chesney is featured in a four page spread in the new Entertainment Weekly, talking about everything from the discipline and focus it takes to maintain ten years at the top, reality TV competitions, playing poker with Willie Nelson and more. Kenny met the interviewer at the Paradise Cove Beach Café along the Pacific Ocean where he used to be a regular back in 2007. “It was one of those interviews that felt more like talking with a stranger you’d sit down next to at a bar on a slow afternoon,” said Kenny. “Nowhere to go, nowhere to be and a whole lot of life to philosophize about… Only this stranger knows a whole lot about me, and what I do!” Toward the end of the interview Kenny addressed when he might slow down in his career and he said, “I haven’t thought about it. It’s hard to say, because I think once you got a song in your heart, you’re gonna find a way to get it out. I love what I do too much.”
George Strait will celebrate his 61st birthday tomorrow, and he’s on the verge of celebrating his 60th #1 song of his career, which gives him more #1 songs than any other artist in history, including Elvis and the Beatles. When George thinks about what he’s done right to get him to this point in his career he says, “I don’t really know exactly how to answer it because I think the most important thing is the songs. That’s what this business is all about.” So he gives a lot of the credit to the incredible songwriters who have given him so many of his hits. And once he has the songs, he says, “We go out and tour we just try to do the best shows we can. I’ve had great fans. They’ve been so loyal over the years and I’ll see fans sometimes that have come out during the 80’s and they’re still coming out and that’s pretty special.” Plenty of other artists cite George as one of their musical heroes, idols, influences, whatever you want to call it and they have incredible respect and admiration for his career so far. Justin Moore says, “George I’ve seen a number of times and he’s kind of like Elvis Presley. He don’t move near as much but what I mean by that is he can stand there and do any little thing and nobody takes their eyes off of him. Whatever ‘it’ is, obviously he has it, to go along with an incredible sense of what songs to cut and write and he sings the snot out of ‘em. He to me is the prime example of what country music should be. He’s everything good about country music.” Eric Church shares one of his favorite memories involving George Strait that perfectly illustrates why he is the King of Country Music. He says, “My wife and I one night, we’re both huge music fans and George Strait fans, and we sat down one night and we tried to name songs, whether they’ve been number ones or top fives or top tens or our favorite song. We tried to go back and forth all night long and before we did it we got out a bottle of Jack Daniels and we were going back and forth. And you know you’ve had a successful career and you’ve made your mark when the Jack ran out long before we’d even covered a third of the songs that had impacted our lives from George. I think there’s a reason he’s called King George. I am a fan. I will always be a fan and I’m indebted to the impact he’s made on my music and on all music.” Dierks Bentley considers George Strait one of his musical heroes and he says, “I love George Strait as much as anyone else in this town and he still typifies what’s cool about country music. I think he’s the coolest thing there is as far as country music goes and it’s just good to see that he’s still going strong – still making great records, still cutting great songs.” Brian of Florida Georgia Line wears his love for George Strait … a lot. “I’ve got this vintage George Strait shirt and I get yelled at all the time because I wear it just about every other show,” he laughs. “But I got it off eBay. I think it’s from the 1991 tour and it’s all just shredded up basically.” But he loves the shirt because he says, “When I think of George Strait I think of country music and he’s just got that voice. You know immediately it’s George Strait and it’s kind of always been that way. He’s a legend for sure.” Darius Rucker has a lot of favorite George Strait songs, but if he was forced to pick just one ultimate favorite he says, “I guess my favorite is ‘Give It Away.’ I wish I’d written that song. I wish I’d cut that song. Some day 15 years from now, 10 years from now, I may cut that song. It’s the perfect country song and the way he sings it, his delivery, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything countrier than that.”
This past Sunday night when Tim McGraw was performing in Atlanta, he stopped his show about midway to come to the rescue of one of his fans. According to Paula Whitten, about halfway through Tim’s show she passed out in the pit from the heat. He apparently saw this happen and without hesitation he jumped down and tried to help her. Paula told Kicks 101.5 in Atlanta, “I remember waking up and there was Tim McGraw sittin’ next to me handing me water.” The whole ordeal lasted about three or four minutes, but all Tim was concerned about was making sure she was okay. Paula says, “He was talking to me and talking to the medics to try to get me up.” Once he knew she was in good hands he resumed his show.
Trace Adkins will find out if he can beat out Penn Jillette for the title of All-Star Celebrity Apprentice when the finale airs Sunday night on NBC. This is the second season that Trace has made it to the finals. The first time he was runner-up to Piers Morgan, and he says the only real difference this time around is that he knew what he was getting into. On his first season he says, “I just kind of felt my way through the first few weeks that I was there. This time I knew that was not going to be an option because everybody that was there had played the game before. So I walked in day one and said, ‘I’m in charge and I’m going to be the project manager on the first task and I’m the man and y’all are all gonna have to beat me.’” Trace says he was also brutally honest on the first day with his fellow contestants. Someone was complaining about something and Trace told everybody, “Okay, let’s just get this out of the way right now. If any of our careers were going great, none of us would be here. So I don’t want to hear any of this divanashvi, prima donna bull*** from any of y’all. I ain’t gonna put up with it for one second. If I’d have had a hit last year, I wouldn’t be here.” Going into Celebrity Apprentice All-Stars Trace predicted the outcome would be just as it is, with him competing against Penn Jillette for the title. “I know Penn. I’ve been around him, I’ve been to his show, been backstage and hung out with him, I’ve watched him on television,” says Trace. “I’ve been familiar with him over the years, and from day one I figured if I was gonna win this thing, I’d have to go through him, and that’s the way it turned out.” The finale of Celebrity Apprentice All-Stars will air Sunday night at 9pm ET/8pm CT on NBC.
ACM Presents: Tim McGraw’s Superstar Summer Night will air this Sunday night on CBS, featuring a ton of music and entertainment to celebrate the summer. Artists scheduled to appear during the two-hour special include Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, Ne-Yo, Pitbull, Lady Antebellum, Faith Hill, Florida Georgia Line, The Band Perry, John Fogerty and Nelly. The special was filmed in Las Vegas back in April and Tim says there is so much great music to look forward to. “Florida Georgia Line and Nelly (singing ‘Cruise’) was really cool. That’s one of my favorite things on the radio right now… My wife’s performance sort of blew me away. It kinda caught me off guard when she went out there because she sorta upped the game. I had to go out behind her and she did pretty awesome, so her performance was great.” Some of the highlights for Tim included several of the non-country artists. “Singing with Ne-Yo was something that was really cool,” says Tim, “because when you sing with him, instantly I became a better singer the minute I started singing with him. He’s just that good.” Watching John Fogerty sing and play guitar was another highlight for Tim. “I don’t want to say his age, but he’s, I guess he’s mid-60s or something like that, and he flat sang his ass off,” says Tim. “He just blew us all (away) – we were looking at each other like ‘What are we even doing in this business?’ when we saw him start singing and playing ‘cause he’s just truly one of the masters at it.” Some people might have been surprised to hear rapper Pitbull was going to be a part of the special but Tim explains, “I met him at the Grammys for the first time. He came up and introduced himself to me and we started talking and when we walked away, I told Faith that’s just a real guy there; real genuine guy.” So Tim says, “When we started putting this special together, it came around to talking about Pitbull being a part of it. Of course I remembered meeting him and I wanted him to be a part of the special. I just really like him. I like the vibe that he brings to the room. He just brings so much energy and so much respect to everybody. And I think that just shows when he hits the stage. And man, he can flat get it, I’ll tell you that.” ACM Presents: Tim McGraw’s Superstar Summer Night will air Sunday night at 9/8pm ET.
Florida Georgia Line, David Nail, Scotty McCreery, Brett Eldredge, Greg Bates, Lauren Alaina, Phil Vassar and Craig Campbell are among the artists who will be participating in this year’s City of Hope’s 23rd annual Celebrity Softball Challenge, which will happen June 8th, the Saturday of CMA Music Festival. The annual softball game is often full of fun and mischief, all in the name of raising money for City of Hope, a leading research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases. Tickets for the game are available now through Ticketmaster. For more information about the 23rd annual City of Hope Celebrity Softball Challenge visit cityofhope.org/softball.
For the second year in a row, Thomas Rhett is going to use his fan club party as a way to raise awareness about and serve Second Harvest Food Bank. Partnering with the volunteer organization Hands on Nashville, Thomas will invite his fans to join him at Second Harvest to sort food to be distributed to local food banks. Thomas is one of the artists involved in the nationwide Outnumber Hunger campaign, which allows people to secure meals for their local food banks simply by entering codes online off of packages of participating General Mills products. “Last year’s party was such a blast and we really helped make a difference, sorting over 4,000 pounds of food,” says Thomas. “To be able to have this kind of interaction with my fans all while doing something good for my community… there is no other way I would want to kick off CMA Fest.” But it won’t be all work and no play for Thomas’ fans. He’ll also treat them to a VIP lunch and an intimate performance, including his latest single, “It Goes Like This.”
George Strait has one date left on the first leg of his farewell “The Cowboy Rides Away Tour,” on June 1st at San Antonio’s Alamodome, and he hints there could be some big things in store for the second leg, which will kick off in 2014. He recently told Country Countdown USA, “We’ve got some surprises up our sleeve, so next year’s gonna be fun.” One of those surprises could be Kenny Chesney. George teased, “Kenny and I have been friends for a long time, we worked together in the stadium days, and other times too. Don’t be surprised if you see him out next year with us somewhere. We’ve got some big plans.” George and Kenny recorded the duet “Shiftwork” together back in 2007, and Kenny opened for George 13 years ago as part of the George Strait Country Music Festival, so it would not be a surprise at all if Kenny wanted to be part of the George’s final performances. You can get more details about The Cowboy Rides Away Tour on GeorgeStrait.com.
The Voice is adding a new twist this season by bringing back the celebrity guest mentors to work with the top ten contestants on the show. In the past they’ve only worked with the contestants during the battle rounds, but now Sheryl Crow will return to the show to help Blake Shelton coach his three remaining contestants. Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott will return as an advisor for Team Adam, rapper Pharrell Williams will re-join Usher and Cee Lo Green will actually be making a return to The Voice as a guest mentor for Team Shakira, since her original celebrity guest mentor, Joel Madden, has a scheduling conflict. You can see the guest mentors back on The Voice this coming Monday on NBC.