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Dot RecordsMaddie & Tae were so set on keeping their debut album, Start Here, squarely in the country format, they taught veteran producer Dann Huff a thing or two about making a country album. Dann started out playing guitar on classic albums from the likes of Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Madonna before coming to Nashville to produce hits for Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, Faith Hill and many others.

Maddie & Tae's Maddie Marlow tells ABC Radio, "With Dann Huff, you know, he's, like a rocker at heart, but he loved it, because it was such a challenge. He was like, 'I think this is the most country thing I've ever produced.'"

Over the past decade, the fiddle and steel guitar have been replaced on a lot of country songs with drum loops and loud electric guitars. Maddie & Tae employed a few of those tricks on their debut hit, "Girl in a Country Song," in an effort to prove a point about the state of modern country music.

As for the rest of Start Here, the duo's Tae Dye says their latest single, "Fly," is a better representation of what you'll hear on the rest of the project.

"Everything's country," Tae explains. "The way we write our music. The way we present it. Everything about it."

Maddie & Tae also keep it country with their honest lyrics on "Sierra" -- a song about calling out a female bully -- and "Shut Up and Fish" -- an ode to women looking for a no-nonsense kind of guy.

Tae says of their lyrical approach, "It's a really bold message, so we decided to take those messages head-on. In country, that's what you get to do. You get to speak about things that haven't really gotten talked about."

She adds, "It's like the big elephant in the room. It's like, 'Let's address it and make light of the situation.'"

Look for Maddie & Tae to perform on NBC's Today on Tuesday, September 1.

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Burke/Triolo Productions/ThinkstockJana Kramer's new album, titled thirty one, will be out October 9. The project features Jana's latest single, "I Got the Boy."

George Strait's final show on The Cowboy Rides Away tour is out now on digital and DVD platforms. The star-studded concert features collaborations with Kenny Chesney, Eric Church, Jason Aldean, Alan Jackson and more.

Newcomer Clare Dunn is showing off her impressive guitar skills in her debut video, "Move On."

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Richard Gabriel Ford/FilmMagicCarrie Underwood has scored a new TV gig.  She'll serve as a guest judge on the 14th-season finale of Project Runway next month, joining Heidi Klum, Tim Gunn, Nina Garcia and Zac Posen at New York Fashion Week, People magazine reports.

Season 14 began on Lifetime earlier this month.

Underwood has another TV role lined up for later in the year, when she and Brad Paisley co-host the 49th Annual CMA Awards November 4.

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Capitol NashvilleLady Antebellum's Charles Kelley and his wife, Cassie, are expecting their first child in the spring. The little one will join Dave Haywood's son, Cash, and Hillary Scott's daughter, Eisele, in the Lady A daycare backstage at the band's shows.

Hillary tells E! News Charles and Cassie know the sex of their baby, but they aren't announcing it just yet.

"They're going to be the most amazing parents," Hillary says. "It's just so funny to see how Charles is starting to look at the world differently and through a different lens, and as Cassie continues to carry this baby you're forever changed, and the pregnancy process starts that change, even for the dad, too."

Look for Cassie Kelley to talk about her fertility struggles on ABC's Good Morning America Friday.

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CMALuke Bryan's oldest son, Bo, went from being the "alpha male" in the house to being the middle child when Luke's 13-year-old nephew, Til, moved in with them last year. The adjustment hasn't fazed Bo or his younger brother, Tate, though.

"It's been amazing watching them do so well with it," Luke tells People. "They treat Til like their brother, and Til does the same."

Til has even helped Bo and Tate improve as athletes.

Says Luke, "When I come home, they're throwing the baseball a little farther and hitting the ball a little harder. I know that's 'cause Til's been out in the yard with them."

Til came to live with Luke and his wife, Caroline, late last year when his father, Luke's brother-in-law Ben Cheshire, passed away. Til's mother, Luke's sister Kelly, died in 2007. When it comes to guiding his family through the loss, Luke leans on his faith to see him through.

"I think with everything that's happened in my family, I just have to lean on my faith and the understanding that God has a plan for all of us. We just wake up every day and do our best."

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Sandbox EntertainmentShania Twain is raking in the cash on her Rock This Country farewell tour. According to Billboard, the trek has grossed $40 million so far. More than 407,000 tickets have been sold since Shania launched the tour in June.

Shania will continue the Rock This Country tour this fall with a six-week run of shows starting September 12 in Spokane, Washington.

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James Minchin IIIJennifer Nettles has signed a new contract with Big Machine Records and will release a new single this October. A new album will follow in early 2016.

In celebration of the new music, Jennifer is headed out on the Playing with Fire tour in October with special guests Brandy Clark and Ryan Kinder. She's currently filming her part as Dolly Parton's mother in the new NBC TV movie, Coat of Many Colors, airing December 10.

Here are Jennifer's new tour dates:

10/23 -- Atlanta, GA, Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
10/24 -- Clearwater, FL, Ruth Eckerd Hall
10/25 -- Melbourne, FL, King Center for the Performing Arts
10/29 -- Newark, OH, Midland Theatre
10/30 -- Bethlehem, PA, Sands Bethlehem Events Center
10/31 -- Mashantucket, CT, Foxwoods Resort Casino
11/13 -- Red Wing, MN, Treasure Island Resort & Casino
11/14 -- Elkhart, IN, Lerner Theatre
11/15 -- Windsor, ON (CAN), The Colosseum at Caesars
11/20 -- Silver Spring, MD, The Fillmore
11/21 -- Hampton Beach, NH, Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom
11/22 -- Westbury, NY, Theatre at Westbury
11/27 -- Johnson City, NY, Magic City Music Hall
11/28 -- Salamanca, NY, Seneca Allegany Casino
12/3 -- Dallas, TX, House of Blues - Dallas
12/4 -- Bossier City, LA, Horseshoe Bossier City
12/5 -- San Antonio, TX, Majestic Theatre
12/11 -- Reno, NV, Silvery Legacy Resort and Casino
12/12 -- Indio, CA, Fantasy Springs Special Events Center
12/13 -- Temecula, CA, Penchaga Resort and Casino

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Sony Music NashvilleCarrie Underwood's latest single, "Smoke Break," is all about stepping back from the worries of your life and giving yourself some time to breathe. While Carrie doesn't have a cigarette in her hand while she's taking a break, she finds it incredibly useful to just sit and think when she's facing a problem.

Carrie says, "It puts things in perspective, and you can come back and actually solve the problem. I just go somewhere where it's quiet. You know, that's kind of my way of handling things. Go sit out on the porch for a second. Just have a moment where nobody is talking at me, you know?"

After taking some time away from distractions, Carrie usually finds the answer to the problem was right in front of her.

She adds, "I think that's kind of a good tool that anybody could use. Just step away from [the problem]. Go to your happy place."

"Smoke Break" is the lead single from Carrie's upcoming, fifth studio album, Storyteller, due out October 23.

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Comstock/ThinkstockWhat is Miranda Lambert's middle name? ANSWER: Leigh.

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Warner Music NashvilleCountry duo Dan Shay consider themselves experts when it comes to hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurants in Nashville. If they're downtown, the guys love to go to Las Palmas. While making their debut album, Where It All Began, the duo's Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney spent a ton of time at a little place called Nacho's in the Music City suburb of Bellevue.

Dan tells ABC Radio, "When we were writing most of our album out at [our producer] Danny Orton's house, we went to this place."

Shay chimes in, "I thought you were gonna say we wrote most of it at Nacho's, which is probably true."

Since they were just getting started on their country career, Dan and Shay didn't have much money to buy tacos and burritos. They found a way to make it work.

Says Dan, "We would just get, like, a huge basket of chips. I had, like, 20 baskets of chips."

After 30 minutes of eating chips, the waiters would start to wonder if Dan and Shay were ever going to order. That's when the guys would order a small bowl of the tortilla soup.

Shay says with a laugh, "That's like 89 cents. It's the dream."

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Burke/Triolo Productions/ThinkstockMiranda Lambert got together for a writing session with her "Automatic' co-writers Natalie Hemby and Nicole Galyon this week. She posted a photo of the spread she laid out for the get-together, including turkey wraps and wine.

 

Carrie Underwood will show off her Calia by Carrie Underwood fitness and lifestyle apparel at New York Fashion Week coming up September 10. According to Women's Wear Daily, the show will take place at a new venue, The HQ. Fans will be able to buy the merchandise immediately at the event.

Lauren Alaina launched her new web series this week with a segment about the most awkward encounters she's ever had with her fans.

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Capitol NashvilleLuke Bryan wrote his sexy new single, "Strip It Down," thinking about his wife, Caroline. It's an indication of where the couple's marriage is these days, which means you likely won't see Luke and Caroline headed for divorce court any time soon.

It's a bright spot for country fans in a summer that has seen Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert end their four-year marriage. Jake Owen and Reba have also announced splits from their respective spouses.

"Any time we hear of couples in the public eye breaking up, me and Caroline talk about it," Luke tells People. "It really hurts our hearts that people arrive at that and can't work it out. Yeah, you do think about it in this business. Caroline and I just say our prayers that we're happy and that things are good."

Luke and Caroline look forward to growing old together as Luke celebrates his 40th birthday next summer.

He adds, "Caroline says growing old is a privilege, so you gotta understand it like that."

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Womanista/Greenroom PRLady Antebellum's Charles Kelley and his wife, Cassie, are expecting their first child in spring 2016. The couple faced infertility issues as they tried to conceive the child. Cassie will be talking about their fertility struggles on ABC's Good Morning America Friday morning. The appearance is a part of GMA's Fertility Week programming.

Cassie is also keeping fans updated on her pregnancy through her women's lifestyle site, Womanista.com. She announced the pregnancy on the site earlier this month.

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Sony Music Nashville/Ninelle EfremovaCountry newcomer Cam will perform her breakthrough hit, "Burning House," on ABC's Good Morning America Tuesday, September 1. She's also featured on the CMT Hot 20 Countdown this Saturday and Sunday.

Cam's single is the highest-charting solo female song at country radio right now. It should hit the top 20 in the coming weeks.

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Mercury NashvilleKacey Musgraves has partnered with Texas-based Western brand Lucchese to unveil her Kacey for Lucchese boot collection. The footwear is inspired by Kacey's life and experiences as a musician in the past few years.

 

 

She says, "As a native Texan (and a boot wearer!) this brand means something special to me and this opportunity was a dream come true. Every detail on each boot in this line represents sentiments and pieces of me and my career. I hope y'all will wear them as proudly as I will!”

To check out the Kacey for Lucchese collection, go to Lucchese.com.

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Comstock/ThinkstockWho was Toby Keith's duet partner on the 2003 hit "Beer for My Horses?" ANSWER: Willie Nelson.

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CMAKelsea Ballerini has her eye on a return trip to #1 with her latest single, "Dibs." It's the follow-up to her debut chart-topper, "Love Me Like You Mean It," and both songs were written in a similar fashion.

It all started out with Kelsea throwing out that word, "Dibs," which she describes as a "fun, flirty title."

"It was super spur-of-the-moment," Kelsea says of the "Dibs" writing session. "We weren't supposed to write a song, but we did. 45 minutes later we were jamming."

One of Kelsea's co-writers on "Dibs" is up-and-coming country singer Ryan Griffin, who just signed a record deal with Sony in Nashville. Since they weren't sure whether Kelsea or Ryan would cut "Dibs," they ended up writing two versions of the song.

Kelsea explains, "We wrote the song in a guy perspective and a girl perspective, and then I was like, 'Can I cut it?'"

Obviously, Kelsea won that battle. "Dibs" is included on Kelsea's debut album, The First Time, out now.

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Burke/Triolo Productions/ThinkstockIt looks like Brett Eldredge has found love with his "Lose My Mind" video co-star Rachel Hilbert. The Victoria's Secret model has posted several pictures with Brett on her Instagram account, including one calling him a "babe." They've also posed together while rafting and holding goats at a fair in the past month.

 

What a babe holdin muh hand ???? @bretteldredge ???? ????????

A photo posted by Rachel Hilbert (@rachelhilbert) on Aug 22, 2015 at 4:37am PDT

 

 

I want one!!!! ???????????????? @bretteldredge

A photo posted by Rachel Hilbert (@rachelhilbert) on Jul 24, 2015 at 8:30am PDT

 

Toby Keith's wife, Tricia Covel, has unveiled SwingDish, a line of women's golf wear available SwingDish.net. According to HauteLiving.com, she was inspired to develop the clothing line after noticing a lack of attractive golf apparel for women. Toby and Tricia own the Belmar Golf Course in their hometown of Norman, Oklahoma.

Natalie Maines of The Dixie Chicks joined Taylor Swift on stage Monday night during a stop on Taylor's 1989 World Tour at the Staples Center in Los Angeles to perform "Goodbye Earl."

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Warner Music NashvilleAs one of country's hottest new acts, Frankie Ballard could probably pull strings to get special backstage access to any concert he wanted to see. That's not Frankie's style, though. Instead, he likes to buy his own tickets and sit in the audience with everyone else. That approach helps him make his own concerts better for his fans.

He tells ABC Radio, "I learn a lot about what I don't like about going to shows so that when, someday, I'm putting on shows I can try to eliminate some of that stuff."

One of Frankie's biggest pet peeves is being kept waiting during a set change between the opening act and the headliner. If that wait lasts 20 or 30 minutes, Frankie starts getting antsy.

"I'm like, 'All right, man, let's go!' Frankie says. "Like, that kind of stuff, I like knowing that."

Frankie also pays attention to the things he likes at every show.

He adds, "I always try to go and steal stuff, steal tricks that I want to keep."

Frankie is on the road with Florida Georgia Line's Anything Goes tour through October. He joins Randy Houser's We Went tour starting in November.

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Webster PRKenny Rogers heads out on his 34th Annual Christmas tour in November in support of his forthcoming new holiday album, Once Again It's Christmas.  The new project features a duet with Jennifer Nettles on "Here It Is Christmas/Baby, It's Cold Outside," and Alison Krauss is featured on "Some Children See Him."  The album's due out September 25.

Kenny says, "I can’t tell you how much fun it’s been doing another Christmas album -- it’s my favorite time of year. Recording a project like this means I was able to re-live some old memories singing some of the songs I was raised listening to and grew to love as a child."

Once Again It's Christmas is Kenny's sixth holiday album. His first one, Christmas, was released in 1981.

Here is the track listing for Once Again It's Christmas:

"Once Again It's Christmas"
"There's a New Kid in Town" featuring Winfield's Locket
"Here It Is/Baby, It's Cold Outside" featuring Jennifer Nettles
"Little Drummer Boy"
"Back to Bethlehem"
"Winter Wonderland"
"Some Children See Him" featuring Alison Krauss
"I'll Be Home for Christmas"
"Children, Go Where I Send Thee" featuring Home Free
"That Silent Night" featuring Jim Brickman
"The Light"

Here are Kenny's Christmas & Hits Tour Dates:

11/11-14 -- Niagara Falls, ON (CAN), Niagara Fallsview Casino Avalon
11/17 -- Moncton, NB (CAN), Casino New Brunswick
11/18 -- Truro, NS (CAN) Rath Eastlink Centre
11/20 -- Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador (CAN), Pepsi Centre
11/21 -- Clarenville, Newfoundland and Labrador, Clarenville Events Centre
11/22 -- St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Mile Once Centre
11/27 -- Northfield, OH, Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield
11/28 -- Merrillville, IN, Star Plaza Theatre
11/30 -- Terre Haute, IN, Hulman Center
12/2 -- Norfolk, NE, Divots Conference Center
12/4 -- Bowler, WI, North Star Mohican Casino Showroom
12/5 -- Battle Creek, MI, Firekeepers Casino
12/6 -- Windsor, ON (CAN), The Colosseum at Caesars Windsor
12/8 -- Ashland, KY, Paramount Arts Center
12/10 -- New Brunswick, NJ, State Theatre
12/11 -- White Plains, NY, Westchester County Center
12/12 -- Uncasville, CT, Mohegan Sun Arena
12/13 -- Bangor, ME, Cross Insurance Center
12/15 -- Hagerstown, MD, Maryland Theater
12/16 -- Roanoke, VA, Berglund Performing Arts Theatre
12/17 -- Verona, NY, Turning Stone Resort & Casino
12/18 -- King of Prussia, PA, Valley Forge Casino Resort
12/19 -- Englewood, NJ, Bergen Performing Arts Center
12/20 -- Concord, NH, The Capitol Center for the Arts
12/22 -- Erie, PA, Warner Theater
12/23 -- Westbury, NY, NYCB Theatre at Westbury

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