Keith Urban Hosts CMA Touring Awards, Honoring Biz’s Unseen Workers

COVID-19 has hit the music industry hard. As venues closed and shows canceled, much of the population stayed home in masks, and touring, an important source of income for artists, dried up and dried up.

Country acts, long considered Road Warriors, were particularly affected. After all, Nashville’s geographical proximity to more than half of America’s population has made it a hub for the country music business. For Music City-based performers, reaching audiences in the South, Midwest, and Northeast, then returning to Nashville and leaving again was a reasonable drive.

Riding the highway has become a lifestyle for the musicians who have come to call Nashville home. And the “road” became part of country music’s DNA, a double helix of highways and miles.

So it really felt like a homecoming celebration at the CMA Touring Awards Monday night in Nashville. Honor the behind-the-scenes workers who turn around (drivers, tour managers, publicists, lighting supervisors, band musicians, sound engineers, mixers, etc.). Talent agents and others essential to keep the show going.

The awards are back after a two-year hiatus due to COVID setbacks, triumphantly acknowledging that the country music industry itself is fully back in business.

Guitar-playing country superstar Keith Urban knows touring. Since his teenage years, he’s been driving vans, manipulating lights, and occasionally sitting on a guitar, connecting gigs in Australia and New Zealand and doing it for his rock and roll acts. Urban filled his spotlight with his solo, arena, and platinum sales country he found as a megastar, recording nearly 40 charting his singles and earning accolades from the Academy of Country Music and his CMAs that year. Top It will be a few years before he is recognized again and again as an entertainer.

“I feel really, really lucky that I was able to break the gear down from the start and set everything up, tear it down, and finally buy a truck and a little PA system,” said Urban. increase. variety“You do it for years and years… when you finally get the crew it builds a deep appreciation. You did it so you know how hard that job is.” ”

Keith Urban speaks onstage at the 2022 CMA Touring Awards at Marathon Music Works on January 30, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)
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Wearing skinny jeans, a low-neck t-shirt, and a fashionable short-waisted jacket, Urban just finished hosting the Touring Awards on a couch in the backstage dressing room at Marathon Music Works in Nashville. Attending nearly 400 Nashville music industry insiders, his two-hour event was nominated by members of the CMA in the categories of publicity, management, media, marketing, record label, promotion, venue and tour. be voted.

Most people are familiar with the Country Music Association’s high-profile awards event, the prime-time CMA Awards televised each fall, a star-filled network television event. But a powerful trade association (founded in 1958 to promote country music) also holds “small” ceremonies and events throughout the year honoring music educators, songwriters and touring professionals. increase. Various specialized “guild” awards (television that recognize a subset of documentary, costume, animation, makeup and hair, sound cinematography, and other films up to Hollywood’s biggest movie night, the Oscars) Touring Awards recognizes the following groups: People not recognized at the CMA Awards. But in the touring realm, they play a key role in guiding country acts from gig to gig, building business and buzz, and making the stars look and sound great when they hit the stage. It’s a star.

Artist crews and associates from today’s top ticketing nations were honored, including associates of Kenny Chesney, Luke Combs and Deeks Bentley. Hearts to Tour and Production Manager Randy “Baja” Fletcher There was a celebration for the deceased comrades, including a tribute to the , and urban. Baja died at work and while traveling in 2021 from injuries sustained in the fall while preparing for an Urban performance in Ohio.

The evening’s highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award, went to John Huie, who helped open the Nashville satellite branch of Creative Artists Agency, a powerful California talent agency, in the early 1990s. With a career spanning Southern rock, contemporary Christian, New York punk, reggae and, of course, country formats, Huey was famous for bringing his strong rock ‘n’ roll sensibility and keen business acumen to Nashville. And ascended, the nation transforms into a globe-trotting, arena-filling superstar. Videos from Joan Jett, Amy Grant and Zak Brown in his tribute praised his constant support, his fierce dedication to his artists and his wide range of contributions.

“Lifetime Achievement” award winner John Huie speaks on stage at the 2022 CMA Touring Awards at Marathon Music Works on January 30, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)
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The awards also highlighted the importance of modern multimedia, along with the Tour Video Director and Tour Videographer/Photographer trophies. I was sitting next to his Phil Nudelman, one of his candidates. He lives in Los Angeles and has been the video director for Urban for nearly nine years. Noodleman and his crew set up multiple cameras (handheld, mounted, robotic, and a small “lipstick” POV unit) to intimately capture what was happening on stage in high definition, and a giant LED screen broadcast live to make the stars shine. Jumbo style, crystal clear, and perfectly visible in even the most remote seats in the house.

“We move cities every day,” Noodleman says. No wonder many winners of the podium described being part of the musical community as a high life of great times and ever-changing landscapes, like gypsies and traveling circuses.

Many people also used another word: family.

Noodleman’s failure to win didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for being there and his admiration for simply being considered. I’ve also worked with rock acts. This is another example of a seasoned rock pro bringing skills essential to the modern country staging, visual and sound experience. But he says there’s something unique about being part of a country crew, and within the Nashville music business, “it really feels like family,” he says. “Everybody’s rooting for everybody. I don’t know if other kinds of music are like that.”

The shortest acceptance speech of the night was a simple “thank you” from John Stadler, the driver of this year’s Coach/Truck Driver winner Kenny Chesney. But those two little words of his had a lot to say about how country music travels on wheels and highways, and how someone like Stadler drives. .

Urban also did some driving, once upon a time, behind the wheel of a leased customized Silver Eagle to see what it was like.

“It was early in my career,” he admits with a laugh. “I thought, ‘How hard is it to drive a bus?’ No way. that ” he knew. “I cut the trailer with a jackknife and put a big dent in the trailer and the bus.”

“That was the end of my bus driving days,” he says.

And that was the beginning of his deep appreciation for those who do all things to support entertainers.More than happy overnight, Urban, who was more than happy overnight, was truly a collaborative effort. I say that.

“I see myself as someone who brings a skill set to the team. It’s no different than anyone else’s skill set. I sing, I write songs, I entertain. Those are my skills.” he says. “But I can’t do tour management, I can’t mix FOH sounds, I can’t do production management. I don’t know how to do those things. But there are people. [around me] who have those skills.

“And by all of us working together, we

A complete list of winners in the 15 categories voted for by our members:

Category 1 – Business Manager of the Year
Stephanie Mundy Self (Farris, Self & Moore, LLC)

Category 2 – Coach/Truck Driver of the Year
John Stolder (Kenny Chesney)

Robert Scoville (Kenny Chesney)

Category 4 – Lighting Director of the Year
Chris Reed (Deeks Bentley)

Category 5 – Manager of the Year
Chris Cappie (Make Wake Artists)

‘Manager of the Year’ award winner Chris Kappy speaks on stage at the 2022 CMA Touring Awards at Marathon Music Works on January 30, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)
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Category 6 – Tour Manager of the Year
David Farmer (Kenny Chesney)

Category 7 – Monitor Engineer of the Year
Michael Zussow (Luke Combs)

Category 8 – Production Manager of the Year
Jerry Sloane (Luke Combs)

Category 9 – Spokesperson of the Year
Ebie McFarland (Essential Broadcast Media)

Category 10 – Talent Agent of the Year
Austin Neal (The Neal Agency)

Category 11 – Talent Buyer/Promoter of the Year
Brian O’Connell (Live Nashville)

Category 12 – Tour Videographer/Photographer of the Year
Jill Tranell (Kenny Chesney)

Category 13 – Tour Video Director of the Year
Tyler Hutchison (Luke Combs)

Category 14 – Touring Musician of the Year
Dan Hochhalter (Dirks Bentley)

Category 15 – Venue of the Year
Ryman Auditorium (Nashville, Tennessee)

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