Southern Belle in Training

Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle Blog || Est. 2012 || Virginia Beach, VA

November 22, 2021

Radio 101: Music Row Live During CMA Week in Nashville - 2021 Recap

      Earlier this month, I had the work opportunity of a lifetime. My co-host, my boss and I traveled to the home of country music, Nashville Tennesee, to broadcast live from Sharla McCoy's Music Row Live event during CMA Awards Week. I documented the trip in real-time on my Instagram Stories, but I've been wanting to share a more in-depth recap of everything here on the blog.  I've been working full-time in radio for four and a half years now, but this was the first work trip that I've ever had the chance to go on. And what a first trip it was! 

Our broadcast set up for Music Row Live.

     The two big country music awards shows that happen every year are the ACMs (Academy of Country Music) and the CMAs (Country Music Association). The ACMs are typically held in Las Vegas sometime in the spring, and the CMAs typically in Nashville in November. Prior to working full-time in country radio, I assumed that all that happened for each of these annual events were just the televised awards shows themselves. I had no idea that there were lots of radio and record industry networking events, parties, and broadcasting opportunities in the days leading up to country award shows.

     In the average year before COVID, I've been told there would be tons of CMA Week broadcast opportunities in Nashville for those in the radio industry. These events function kind of like conferences or trade shows, where each station would set up a small area to broadcast remotely in one giant room, and country artists and their entourages would travel from station to station, giving brief interviews. Some artists would hit all the events that week, and some would only hit certain events, as there would be multiple happening around Nashville at the same time. 

     Last year there weren't any in-person CMA Week events for radio, and this year things were still off to a slow start back. Some of the larger annual radio broadcast events were still cancelled for this year. But one CMA Week event, Sharla McCoy's Music Row Live, was a go for this year! Sharla's CMA events are typically more intimate than some of the other ones, and a limited number of stations get to attend. My boss and Sharla happen to be very good friends who go way back, so Sharla reached out to 97.3 The Eagle a few months ago inviting us to be some of this year's lucky attendees. There were only like 10-15 stations present this year, so we were honored to be part of this small group. 

Guitars for the radio stations in attendance that were signed by all of the country stars who came to Music Row Live! I believe we will be auctioning off our two guitars for charity.

      Music Row Live was held this year at the iconic Starstruck Entertainment Studios, which is right on Music Row itself in Nashville. Sharla took so many COVID precautions into planning the event, and I think one of the main reasons that she picked Starstuck as the venue was so each radio station could have their own individual room to broadcast in, instead of everyone being out in one giant sectioned off room, like some of the other broadcast events used to do pre-COVID. Our station staff got put into a writers' room- the whole time I was there I kept wondering what famous country songs had been written in the very room we were in. 😊

     Sharla McCoy herself is amazing- I need to give her a shout-out! She worked so hard to make sure everything about her event ran flawlessly- from the COVID precautions to the schedule for each day, and making sure all of the radio people had constant access to drinks and snacks (there was an awesome snack room that I made hourly visits to- haha!). Sharla also hired an awesome team of interns that assisted all of the stations, and they were all fantastic. Thank you Sharla and team for everything! 

Left to right: Sharla, my co-host Cash, my boss Eddie and me!

     Our Music Row Live events were three days long. Sunday was a half day, and Monday and Tuesday were very full and long days. My boss would set up our recording equipment each morning in our little room, and Cash and I would wrap up interview prep for the artists. Then they would start arriving! Over the course of the three days, we met and interviewed 40+ country artists! There was rarely a dull moment, during the short breaks in between artists, we had a continuous stream of record label reps and execs who stopped by to say hello to my boss (he's been in country radio a long time and truly knows everyone!). We would take a lunch break everyday, and everyone from all the radio stations in attendance would come out to the lobby of Starstruck to eat and enjoy a lunchtime acoustic performance from an artist! Our performers were Ian Flanigan (from the Voice), Cam, and Dillon Carmichael. 

     Since we met so many artists in such a short amount of time, it would honestly be tough for me to share all of them with you here. (This would be a very long blog post if I did that!) Instead, I wanted to highlight a few of the more well-known country artists that I got to meet and interview, and also a few country newcomers who really stood out to me / impressed me, and that I think should be on your radar if you listen to country. 

     Let's start with some of the bigger stars:

Kelsea Ballerini- I was so excited to meet her! She is so incredibly kind and sweet in person, it felt like interviewing an old friend.

        John Rich of Big & Rich - he was so nice and shared some Nashville local recommendations with us.

Eddie Montgomery of Montgomery Gentry- it was hard not to get emotional when he spoke about launching his solo career following the passing a few years ago of his musical partner Troy Gentry.

American Idol and North Carolina's own Scotty McCreery! Something cool about Scotty and his wife still reside in North Carolina, he just travels in to Nashville when he needs to for work.

Dustin Lynch! Super nice guy, he just radiated positivity in his interview with us.

The only two country stars that I truly felt starstuck to meet... married couple Maren Morris and Ryan Hurd! 

Carly Pearce is such a delight! Not only is she absolutely gorgeous, but she is so funny too!

Lee Brice! He's so nice and down to earth, and told us a fun story about Virginia Beach!

     Many of the artists that we met were experiencing their first Music Row Live and CMA Week- just like me! It was so inspiring to talk to so many new artists- most of them have been grinding away in Nashville for between 5-10 years (some even more), just waiting for their big break to come. It was so inspiring to me to hear their stories of perseverance, and I related to many of them based on my own career! Here are my favorite new artists that I met (check out their songs if you're a country fan): 

Priscilla Block! She got her big break last year through TikTok! I absolutely love her voice and her first few singles.

Nate Barnes! He has an incredible story of getting discovered for music- and leaving his life and former career back home in Michigan to take a risk and move to Nashville. I can't wait to follow his future success!

Elvie Shane! Super cool and chill guy, another artist that it felt like we'd been old friends with for awhile. And I just love that the lyrics behind his first hit song are all about being a step-father!

Frank Ray! He left a career in law enforcement back home in New Mexico to pursue his Nashville music dreams. He is incredibly nice and just had such positive energy! 

Dillon Carmichael! His voice and music reminds me of Luke Combs- so if you like Luke I think you'll love Dillon. He was one of our lunchtime performers one of the days!

     You can see all of the 40+ artists that we met and interviewed in my IG Story Highlight HERE, and you can listen to all of the radio interviews that we did HERE!

     Lastly, I wanted to answers a few questions that y'all sent me on Instagram about Music Row Live:

  • Were there COVID precautions taken for the event? - I so appreciated how many precautions Sharla took with organizing her event this year. Proof of full vaccination or a recent negative COVID test was required for everyone! All three of us there from 97.3 The Eagle are fully vaccinated. 😊
  • Were you able to recognize each artist by name? How did you keep track of everyone you met? The bigger stars yes, but definitely not all of the smaller artists, especially since for the two longer days we didn't have many breaks between interview guests and it was all one after another after another! That's why I was so thankful that we were assigned an awesome intern, Chris, working for the whole event with our station and a couple of the others that were broadcasting near us. He would let us know the next few artists on schedule to meet us, and also give helpful reminders when we were running over time with an interview. 
  • Were any of the artists rude or not what you expected in person? One of the things that I've enjoyed the most about my first few months in country radio is learning how this part of the industry truly is a family, and that extends to the artists as well! Every single person we met from the 40+ artists, to the record reps and execs, to the other radio people there, were all so nice! Some of the artists definitely are a little more outgoing than others, but every single one of them was nice, and so gracious to us in our radio interviews. 
  • Did you know in advance which artists you were getting to interview? A little bit! We found out a few days before leaving for Nashville who the first artists were that we'd be seeing on the first day, and then once we arrived we found out the schedule for the other two days. There were a couple last minute cancellations for a couple interviews, but there were also a couple awesome last minute additions! 
  • Why didn't you stay to attend the CMA Awards? It just didn't work out for us this year, but that doesn't mean that it can't in a future year! Country radio folks absolutely can and do attend the CMA Awards, and I would love to get the chance to see the main event in a future year!
  • At Music Row Live, do the country artists that you met just go from room to room meeting and interviewing with different radio stations?  Yes- that's literally exactly how it is!

   One more reminder- you can see all of the 40+ artists that we met and interviewed in my IG Story Highlight HERE, and you can listen to all of the radio interviews that we did HERE! My Travel Diary blog post from my first trip to Nashville (for vacation not work) in 2019 can be read HERE

     This was truly the career experience of a lifetime! I hope to have the chance to go to Music Row Live in a future year again, and finally attend the CMA Awards as well. So far country radio has been very good to me! 😍

      God Bless,

       xoxo Annaliese 


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