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Luke Bryan Takes on Beyonce and One Direction at the 2014 AMAs


Image Courtesy ABCWithout a doubt, Luke Bryan is the country torchbearer at this year's American Music Awards, as the only artist from the genre nominated in the all-inclusive Artist of the Year category. Luke confesses it's a little hard to believe he's up against the likes of Beyonce and One Direction.

"Anytime I'm in the room with all of music, I get really, really inspired. I'm very flattered. I always think about representing country music in the best way I know," he says. "I just love being in that room. It's always fun going out to the AMAs and seeing all of the talent in the room. And knowing that this year I'm nominated in the category of overall artist is really, really hard for me to wrap my head around. It's amazing."

Even though he's also competing against Jason Aldean and Blake Shelton for Favorite Male Artist in the country category, Luke vows he won't let the pressure get to him.

"I just wanna go out there and enjoy it. I love meeting all of the people in all of music. At the end of the day, I think we're all in there to make the art of music better. Hopefully, I can represent Nashville."

On the female side, Carrie Underwood squares off against Miranda Lambert and Kacey Musgraves for Favorite Female Artist - Country. Carrie says the fan-voted awards remind her of the beginning of her career.

"I'm excited to be nominated for an AMA. I see every day on my Twitter feed, people have been retweeting and doing all that stuff, which is really cool. They've always had my back, and seeing their enthusiasm about voting for me is something that is really cool because that's how I got here in the first place with American Idol," she remembers. "So, it makes me feel good to know that there are still people out there that are voting their fingers off."

Whether or not Florida Georgia Line is able to wrestle the country Band, Duo or Group trophy from Lady Antebellum and Eli Young Band, Tyler Hubbard thinks it's just fun to get to rub elbows with artists from other kinds of music.

"It's a huge honor, to be honest, to be a country artist and then to be able to be at an all-genre awards show feels great.  It's definitely humbling, and so it's cool," he says. "And we're excited. You get to see a lot of cool people and meet a lot of nice people and see a lot of different, basically, music cultures. It's neat for us, you know. "

Garth Brooks, who's up for country's Favorite Album, is set to perform on the show, while his fellow nominee Brantley Gilbert will help hand out one of the trophies. You can find out who wins Sunday, November 23 at 8 p.m. E.T. on ABC.

The nominees in the country categories for the 2014 American Music Awards are:

Favorite Male Artist -- Country
Jason Aldean
Luke Bryan
Blake Shelton

Favorite Female Artist -- Country
Miranda Lambert
Kacey Musgraves
Carrie Underwood

Favorite Band, Duo or Group -- Country  
Eli Young Band
Florida Georgia Line
Lady Antebellum

Favorite Album -- Country
Garth Brooks, Blame It on My Roots: Five Decades of Influences
Eric Church, The Outsiders
Brantley Gilbert, Just as I Am

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Ashley Monroe and Dan + Shay Head "Home for the Holidays"


Warner Bros. NashvilleAshley Monroe and Dan Shay are set to sing alongside Jennifer Hudson, Train, Earth, Wind & Fire and Katharine McPhee on the upcoming A Home for the Holidays special. This is the 16th year for the Christmas tradition that pairs musical performances with heartwarming stories of children adopted from foster care.  The show airs Friday, December 19 at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.

Ashley also recorded a new version of the Amy Grant classic "Tennessee Christmas" for Amazon's new All Is Bright holiday playlist.

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LBT's Kimberly Schlapman Wants You to Lend a Ham This Holiday Season


Sandbox EntertainmentThis holiday season, Kimberly Schlapman from Little Big Town wants you to lend a ham. The play on words is part of a campaign to inspire folks to donate food to feed hungry families.

"I'm excited to join Smithfield in their effort to lend a ham to those in need this season," Kimberly says with a wink. "Since I was a little girl, Smithfield has always been a part of my family's holiday tradition, and to now have the opportunity to help provide that to someone in need means the world to me."

For every act of kindness posted on Twitter or the Smithfield Facebook page with the hashtag #LendAHam, the company will donate a serving of protein to a local food bank. Kimberly also teamed up with Smithfield to surprise Thanksgiving shoppers with $100 gift cards, in hopes of inspiring them to do good deeds themselves. You can see the video that captures Kimberly going undercover as a grocery cashier on YouTube.

The campaign goes through Christmas Eve, with Smithfield planning to donate up to a million servings to help feed the hungry this holiday season.

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Trisha Yearwood and Lady A Go Viral for No Shave November


Image Courtesy Vector ManagementTrisha Yearwood and Lady Antebellum are going viral for No Shave November. Typically, for the campaign, men grow beards and mustaches to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. But when Trisha heard about a female friend in the business who vowed not to shave her legs for the month, she decided to help her out, taping a YouTube video that changed the words of her first hit to “She’s Got Leg Hair Like a Boy.”

Then, Lady A got in on the act, with a little help from Meghan Trainor. The trio changed the lyrics of “All About That Bass” to “I’m all about that beard, no stubble.” So far, Team Lady Antebellum has more than tripled its $1,000 fundraising goal, with more than a week still left in the month. Meanwhile, Trisha’s friend has raised nearly thirteen times her $100 goal.

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Lee Ann Womack Adds Steel Guitar to Thanksgiving Day Performance of National Anthem


Courtesy Sugar Hill RecordsTexas native Lee Ann Womack will sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before the Dallas Cowboys’ Thanksgiving Day game, and she’s got something unusual planned -- steel guitarist Paul Franklin will accompany her.

“When I was asked, I didn’t just want to go and sing, I wanted to really invest this performance of our national anthem with something that makes us all reconsider what the song is expressing,” she says. “If you’ve ever heard... or really listened to Paul’s musicianship and the emotions he brings out... I think having him play opens up so many aspects of what Francis Scott Key was celebrating when he wrote that.”

Lee Ann’s first CD in seven years, The Way I’m Livin’, came out this fall. Paul Franklin’s collaboration with Vince Gill called Bakersfield was recently nominated for a Grammy.

You can watch Lee Ann and Paul perform at 4:30 p.m. ET on FOX, before the Cowboys take on the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium.

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Country Star Trivia


Comstock/ThinkstockWhat was Luke Bryan's least successful single on the country charts? ANSWER:  "We Rode in Trucks" only made it to number 33 in 2007.

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Billy Gilman Reveals He's Gay


One Voice ProductionsBilly Gilman has come out as gay.  The 26-year-old singer made the announcement via a YouTube post on Thursday, the same day his friend and fellow country artist, Ty Herndon, revealed he was gay.

“It’s taken me a good many weeks to figure out how I was to approach this video that you’re watching right now,” Gilman begins the video. “But today, actually, a fellow country artist and friend made it easier for me to make this video. And I wanted my fans, who have stuck by me for many, many years, to know.”

Gilman went on to explain that he decided to come out after he was spotted with his partner by a local reporter.

“We filmed a video for the single ‘Say You Will’ in Rhode Island and was getting ready to do an interview with a reporter, locally," he recalls. "And coincidentally I ran into this reporter at a local fall festival with my partner, someone who I am happily now sharing my life with."

"This reporter took a picture of us and it was in that moment that I knew that I’d rather it be from me, than you reading it somewhere else, and probably filled with not truth,” he adds.

Gilman also expressed his displeasure at the Nashville establishment, which he claims discriminates against gay artists.

"Being a gay male country artist is not the best thing," he says, explaining, "You know, if people don’t like your music, that’s one thing. But after having sold over five million records and having a wonderful life in the music industry, I knew something was wrong when no major label wanted to sit down and have a meeting and listen to the new stuff."

Gilman, however, had nothing but praise for his fellow artists.

“I want to say that all of the country artists that literally I grew up in front of, Keith Urban, Vince [Gill] and LeAnn Rimes and all of these wonderful friends of mine, have been nothing but supportive," he insists. "Not that they knew, but they have been such wonderful people.”

“So I thank you for your support," he concluded, noting, "I know some people won’t agree with this. And that’s OK. To each his own. But I felt it was time for me to be honest and to be truthful. I love you all and from the bottom of my heart, I thank you.”

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Nashville Notes


Burke/Triolo Productions/ThinkstockThe new CD from two-time CMA Vocal Group of the Year the Mavericks will be released February 17 by the Valory Music Co. It's titled Mono.

When she's not dueting with Blake Shelton on his new single "Lonely Tonight," Pistol Annies' Ashley Monroe is busy finishing up her next solo album with Vince Gill.

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Darius Rucker Enjoys His European Adventure


Image Courtesy Chris Hollo/OpryWhen Darius Rucker wraps up the European leg of his True Believers tour this Sunday in Dublin, Ireland, chances are he'll have taken in a historic building or two in his spare time.

"The thing I really love to do is I love to go around and see old churches and museums and stuff," he says, "because we think if something was built in the 1800s, we think it’s old. You know, you go over there and something was built in 39 B.C. and it’s still up. I think that’s pretty cool."

Darius's trip took him to Berlin and Munich, Germany, in addition to England and Ireland. The "Homegrown Honey" hitmaker says he also appreciates the differences in the audiences.

"I love going over to Europe because the cultures are so different. From here, you go state to state, and there’s differences in accents and everything, and the cultures are a little different. But when you’re in Europe, you go from country to country, just like you go from state to state, and there’s different language and totally different cultures, and I love being a part of that.'

As Darius prepares to slow down for the Christmas season, fans all across the globe can celebrate with his first yuletide album Home for the Holidays, which is new this year.

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Miranda Lambert Raises $66,000 for Rescue Dogs


Image Courtesy Becky FlukeMiranda Lambert’s custom Ram Laramie Longhorn truck helped raise nearly $66,000 for her MuttNation Foundation. The truck itself netted just shy of $55,000 in an online auction, with the remaining $11,000 coming from signed guitars, CD’s and 2015 concert tickets.

“I’m happy to see everyone come together to raise so much money for MuttNation Foundation, which is so close to my heart,” Miranda says. “I appreciate Ram for donating the truck to me to auction off and for making this all possible. So many dogs will have happier holidays and lives thanks to this generosity.”

In the past seven years, Miranda’s charity has raised more than two million dollars to help make life better for animals. So far, Miranda herself has adopted seven dogs.

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Ty Herndon Comes Out to "Entertainment Tonight"


Valeisha Kelly-PedigoAfter years of speculation about his sexuality, Ty Herndon officially went on the record, acknowledging that he's gay in an interview with Entertainment Tonight on Thursday. "I went to great lengths to cover up that fact to be a country star," Ty says, "and today I get to tell the world that I'm an out, proud and happy gay man."

“I have an awesome relationship that I’ve been in for a good number of years,” he says, “[I] love him very much and he loves me.” Ty even went on to say he hopes a proposal from his partner of five years might follow his public revelation.

Rumors about his orientation date back to a 1995 incident where an undercover male police officer accused the country singer of exposing himself in a park. Ty says he doesn’t remember much about the episode.

“I wish I had really great recall or memory about that. I think I had been up for like six days doing drugs. The night and the day was really a huge blur for me,” he recalls.

Ty also reveals that both his wives knew about his homosexuality. “I had a lot of people around me that I trusted at a time and I was like, ‘Hey, you know this about me but the world doesn’t. So I’m gonna need to call on your services for a little while.' It was unfortunate that I had to do that, but I felt that’s what I had to do to have my career.”

In the nineties, Ty scored three number ones with “It Must Be Love,” “Living in a Moment” and “What Mattered Most.” His last top 40 country hit was 2001’s “Heather’s Wall,” which went to number 37.

The 52-year-old says this month’s CMA Awards give him hope that country music is becoming more accepting of the LGBT community. “Kacey Musgraves won Song of the Year for “'Follow Your Arrow'…and two amazing songwriters that happened to be gay wrote that song.” His most recent CD is 2013’s Lies I Told Myself.

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Country Star Trivia


Comstock/ThinkstockWhen did Kenny Chesney first appear on the Billboard Country Singles chart? ANSWER:  Kenny went to #59 with "Whatever It Takes" in 1994.

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Grammy Foundation Offers Fans Chance to Get Closer to Miranda, Carrie & Taylor


Image Courtesy Sony Music NashvilleIf you’d like to get up close and personal with Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift or The Band Perry, now is your chance. You can bid on one-of-a-kind experiences with the superstars from now through December 10 at CharityBuzz.com.

Carrie will treat the winner of her package to a backstage tour of the Grand Ole Opry before her concert, while Taylor’s top bidder will be invited to the pre-show party. A one-on-one Skype session with Hunter Hayes is also up for grabs.

The second annual holiday auction helps the Grammy Foundation and MusiCares pay for educational programs and help members of the music community who’ve fallen on hard times.

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Nashville Notes


Burke/Triolo Productions/ThinkstockThe CMA Foundation will present Kix Brooks with its first-ever Humanitarian Award at a ceremony in January of next year.

Joe Nichols sings his hit "Hard To Be Cool" live from Murray State University this Saturday at 11 a.m. E.T. on CMT Hot 20 Countdown, celebrating the school's win in the "Hot County College Town" sweepstakes.

Trisha Yearwood recently performed an improv rendition of "She's Got Leg Hair Like A Boy" to help a female deejay who resolved not to shave her legs to raise money for No Shave November for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

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Kenny Chesney Relives the Most Surprising Show of His Career


Image Courtesy Sony Music NashvilleKenny Chesney won't head out on The Big Revival Tour until next year, but he gave fans a foretaste with his free Flora-Bama-Jama show back in August. Two years ago, he did a similar thing, offering his fans a preview of his Brothers of the Sun Tour, with a beachside show on an outdoor stage that turned out to be one of the most memorable of his career.

"The Wildwood, New Jersey show a couple years ago was the most -- surprised me a lot," he recalls. "The connection we had with that audience was unbelievable. Not that -- that didn't surprise me. It was just that in that environment that it would be so wonderful."

For Kenny, it solidified the notion of his very favorite place to perform his music -- the beach.

"It was a learning experience for me, because I love that environment," he confesses. " If I could do every show, every show that I do from now on and smell the ocean, that would be really great. And smell fried food and smell spilled beer and see people out there really loving that atmosphere, 'cause it's the atmosphere that I really love. When I'm busy on the road, and when I'm out there in the middle of the grind, that's what I think about. So, I loved playing out there in Wildwood, New Jersey that night."

Fans who can't wait to see Kenny's new tour next year can relive the memories on the Internet. The Wildwood, New Jersey show is available on YouTube, while the Flora-Bama-Jama is streaming at CMT.com.

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Garth's Man Against Machine Debuts at #1 on Country Chart, #4 on Billboard 200


Image Courtesy Sony Music/Pearl RecordsGarth Brooks debuts at number one on the Top Country Albums chart this week, selling 130,000 copies of his first new studio album in 13 years. Man Against Machine is his fourteenth collection to bow atop the country charts. Garth's last studio effort predates the beginning of the digital age; Scarecrow moved 466,000 units in 2001, enough to also claim bragging rights on the all-genre chart.

This time, Garth wasn't able to best an impressive third-week showing for Taylor Swift's 1989, which more than doubled his numbers with 312,000 buys to land at number one on the Billboard 200. New CD's from Foo Fighters and Pink Floyd placed Garth at number 4 on the overall chart.

If Garth's numbers seem lackluster, his own GhostTunes may be to blame. That's the only place Man Against Machine is available digitally, and Billboard says the site didn't report its downloads to SoundScan.

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"Nashville" Recap: "You're Lookin' at Country"


Image Courtesy Bob D'Amico/ABC

Nashville's version of the CMA Awards aired Wednesday night, but the action was mostly in the audience and backstage.

Rayna Jaymes swept the night with six wins, but she didn't thank her fiancé, Luke Wheeler, whom she beat out in four of those categories. Since they had a small fight about signing a prenuptial agreement on the way to the awards show, Rayna's slight led Luke to down doubles throughout the night.  Those drinks led to a showdown in the bathroom backstage, where Luke told Rayna she wouldn't have this success if not for the press she got off their engagement. Rayna finally thanked Luke when she won Entertainer of the Year, and they made up in their bedroom after the show. However, Rayna got a text from her ex, Deacon Claybourne, so there may still be some heat left in that flame.

Juliette Barnes was feeling very insecure about only having one nomination at the CMA Awards. Sitting with her baby daddy, Avery Barkley, and his judgmental father didn't help the situation. While Avery's dad came down hard on Juliette's background, Avery ended up standing up to him. While reassuring each other that they wouldn't turn into their screwed-up parents, Juliette told Avery they are expecting a baby girl. Avery took Juliette home after the show, but he didn't give in to Juliette's subtle invitation to stay the night.

Gunnar Scott and Zoey Dalton got into a big fight when Gunnar's son, Micah, went missing at the CMA Awards ceremony. As Gunnar's named was called as the winner in the Song of the Year category for writing "Ball and Chain," he was out on the concourse looking for his son. Once Gunnar found Micah, he blamed Zoey for not watching the boy closely enough, and walked off. At the end of the episode, Zoey broke up with Gunnar, saying she didn't want to make him choose between her and his son.

Layla Grant was lampooned at the CMA Awards for her ditzy image, created by the producers of her reality show with closeted husband/country star Will Lexington. In the end, Will agreed to hold Layla and comfort her after she got upset about all the negative attention.

New Artist of the Year winner Sadie Stone, played by Laura Benanti, got an unwelcome text from her ex-boyfriend, who inspired her latest hit, "You Can't Stop Me." You can download Laura's recording of that song now at iTunes.

Nashville returns with a Christmas-themed episode December 3 at 10 p.m. ET, on ABC.

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Sam Hunt and Chase Rice Book Monday Night Dates with Late Night


Image Courtesy David McClister/UMGBoth Sam Hunt and Chase Rice have Monday night dates with late night in the weeks to come.

Sam performs his new single “Take Your Time,” the follow-up to his chart-topping “Leave the Night On” on the Late Show with David Letterman on November 24. He’s currently looking at adding dates to his Lipstick Graffiti Tour, as the first round of shows sold out in most cities.

The following Monday, December 1, Chase will do two songs on Jimmy Kimmel Live! -- his top five hit “Ready Set Roll” plus his new tune “Gonna Wanna Tonight.” He’ll have at least 16 sold out solo shows under his belt by the time he joins Kenny Chesney for his Big Revival Tour next year.

Both shows air at 11:35 p.m. ET, with Kimmel on ABC and Letterman on CBS.

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Hunter Hayes Cancels St. Louis Concert as Missouri Governor Declares State of Emergency


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Hunter Hayes is cancelling his Thursday night concert at Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis, as the nation waits for the grand jury decision on whether a police officer will be charged in the shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown in August, a case that has led to protests and unrest in nearby Ferguson, Missouri. 

In advance of the announcement of the grand jury's decision, the governor of Missouri has declared a state of emergency there.

In a statement on his website, Hunter says the decision is "out of respect for Missouri Governor Jay Nixon's declaration declaring a state of emergency in Missouri."

Some heartbroken fans took to Hunter's website to express sentiments like "PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE reschedule this concert. You don't understand how upset thousands of girls are because they don't get to see you. I have been looking forward to this for months and months."

Ticket holders can get refunds at the point of purchase for this concert, and Hunter assures fans they only need hold out a little longer, promising he'll be back in St. Louis next year.

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Blake Shelton is Now Officially Sexy, Thanks to People Magazine


Courtesy: NBCAfter an entire year of kidding Voice co-star Adam Levine about being People’s Sexiest Man Alive in 2013, Blake Shelton is now officially swoon-worthy himself. The magazine says it seems fitting the 38-year-old should make this year’s A-list, if only to see how the Maroon 5 front man can get back at him. The pair’s comical bromance also landed the two on the list of “Sexiest Best Friends in Hollywood.”

Keith Urban may turn a few heads with his contribution to People.com’s “Talk Dirty: 10 Sexy Quotes from 10 Sexy Guys.” The Aussie superstar says he keeps his marriage to Nicole Kidman hot with “Nice sex texting.”

Brett Eldredge is the only country bachelor to rank among the “Sexiest Guys Still Up for Grabs,” while revealing a penchant for women from the West Coast. “You’ve got to love California girls,” he says. “You know, being a single guy, out here I’m always like, ‘Wow, there are so many beautiful girls in L.A.’”

Tim McGraw represents the 40’s as People runs down “Sexy at Every Age,” while Nashville’s Sam Palladio is one of England’s “Hottest Guys from Around the World.” The issue proclaiming actor Chris Hemsworth 2014’s “Sexiest Man Alive” is out Friday.

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