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Country Radio Seminar 2020: The 8 Best Things We Saw

Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP, File

Country Radio Seminar 2020 (CRS), hosted on Feb. 19-21 at Nashville's Omni Hotel, brought country music's radio personalities, future stars and established names together to discuss airplay trends and share new music likely to impact the charts and other measures of music industry success between now and CRS 2021.

Here's eight quick takes from sessions attended by the Wide Open Country staff, from Rascal Flatts' sense of humor to Mickey Guyton's depressingly serious take on the state of the music business.

Rascal Flatts' Jay DeMarcus Shows Off His Comedic Talent

Rascal Flatts' award-winning singles stand the test of time, which is more than you can say about the trio's early aughts fashion choices. As attendees of the trio's CRS Q&A learned, Gary LeVox, Joe Don Rooney and would-be Christian comedian Jay DeMarcus aren't above poking fun at their wardrobes for past photo shoots or public appearances.

-- Bobby Moore

Eric Church Opens Up About Entertainer of the Year Loss

Eric Church's Q&A session offered lots of insight into his past and current creative process, including vague details about cutting 28 songs in 28 days for a new album. More poignantly, he answered the question many fans would've asked him: What hurt most about Garth Brooks winning the CMA's Entertainer of the Year award?

While Church tries not to focus too much on industry awards, he acknowledges that the loss hurt for not just his loyal fan base but also the support staff that keeps his show on the road.

"To me, it's a trophy and that's what it is," Church said. "But not for the people who push those carts and the fans. That was who I hurt for. Your crew, your team, your fans. Other than that, it's a trophy. I'm still going to play the same show. When you start making decisions to try to win trophies, then it becomes detrimental to your overall vision."

-- Bobby Moore

Garth Brooks Unplugs For a Room Smaller Than Those 'Dive Bars'

The third and final songwriters' showcase during the first Bob Kingsley's Acoustic Alley event since Bob Kingsley's October 2019 passing wasn't a multi-artist "in the round" style sharing of songs and stories. Instead, transcendent pop culture figure Garth Brooks came out and wowed a room much smaller than those so-called "dive bars" with covers of Keith Whitley and James Taylor plus a one-man acoustic rendition of "Friends in Low Places" that could've packed nearby Nissan Stadium.

-- Bobby Moore

Scotty McCreery Wins Heated Ping Pong Tournament

An exhilarating, surreal and sometimes hilarious ping pong tournament pitting country stars against radio personalities took place right after Brooks' Thursday night acoustic set. The athletic prowess and competitive fire of former college baseball player Brett Young helped him work his way through several winning match-ups, including one against Lady Antebellum's Charles Kelley. Yet in the finals, not even Young could topple your tournament champion, Scotty McCreery.

-- Bobby Moore

Carrie Underwood's Q&A

During Carrie Underwood's Friday afternoon Q&A, she talked a lot about how self-care is important for touring musicians. She takes working out away from home so seriously that she took a cue from fellow fitness enthusiast Tim McGraw and added a trailer to her tour convoy that's a dedicated gym with all the equipment needed to never miss leg day.

Read Wide Open Country's article on Underwood's CRS appearance here.

-- Bobby Moore

Miranda Lambert Talks Music Roots

Courtesy of CRS/ Kayla Schoen Photograph

During her hour-long conversation with Cindy Watts, Miranda Lambert shared how the Lone Star State shaped her career path in more ways than one. While she grew up idolizing Texas-born artists such as Lee Ann Womack and Jack Ingram, her high school choir, which she helped organize, played a pivotal role in Lambert's legacy.

"My mom and I started a petition to get a choir. I was so shy. I didn't want to talk in front of people or anything, but I went in front of the school board and explained why I thought it was important to include singers in all these high school activities that were so praised," Lambert said. "They agreed. So the first day we had a choir, 65 kids signed up...The Lindale Choir just came and sang with me in Dallas at the American Airlines Center. They still have a choir 25 years later, which is amazing. I'm proud of that."

Read Wide Open Country's article on Lambert's CRS appearance here.

-- Bobbie Jean Sawyer

Runaway June, Ingrid Andress Highlight 'New Faces' Show

Courtesy of CRS/ Kayla Schoen Photograph

As female artists fight to be heard on country radio, they're recording and releasing some of the best songs the genre has to offer. Ingrid Andress and country trio Runaway June (Naomi Cooke, Hannah Mulholland and Jennifer Wayne) reminded CRS attendees of that fact as they took the stage at the 2020 New Faces concert on Friday, Feb. 21.

Andress delivered a powerful set, which included her debut single "More Hearts Than Mine," the only debut song by a solo female artist to hit the top 20 on Billboard's Country Airplay Chart last year.

Runaway June, who released their debut full-length album Blue Roses last year, were another highlight of the night. Their heartfelt "We Were Rich," about growing up poor, is -- in a just world -- a clear hit. The trio closed out their set with "Buy My Own Drinks," the first top 10 hit on the Country Airplay chart by an all-woman group since 2005.

-- Bobbie Jean Sawyer

Mickey Guyton Makes Powerful Statement During Team UMG's Ryman Showcase

The fact that Mickey Guyton isn't all over country radio is just plain wrong. Listen to her 2015 debut single "Better Than You Left Me" or 2017's "Nice Things" if you're not convinced. Unfortunately, the nonsensical and sexist ideas (i.e. the oft-repeated lie that "male artists perform better" and "women don't want to hear women") that keep women off country radio also keep country fans from hearing great songs and voices.

During UMG's showcase at the Ryman Auditorium, Guyton earned a standing ovation for the gut-wrenching "What Are You Gonna Tell Her," which addresses sexism, racism and sexual harassment and sent a powerful message in an industry that has stifled women's voices for too long.

"If you work hard, that's enough/ Skin's just skin and it doesn't matter/ And that her friend's older brother is gonna keep his hands to himself/ And that somebody's gonna believe her when she tells," Guyton sings. "But what are you gonna tell her when she's wrong?/ Will you just shrug and say 'It's been that way all along'/ What are you gonna tell her when she figures out/ That all this time you've built her up just so the world could let her down?"

Guyton wrote "What Are You Gonna Tell Her" with Victoria Banks, Karen Kosowski and Emma-Lee.

-- Bobbie Jean Sawyer

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Country Radio Seminar 2020: The 8 Best Things We Saw