Christmas may not be top of mind yet for most consumers, but it's key to several acts who have projects working their way into the retail pipeline. Chris Young pegged his first holiday album, It Must Be Christmas, for an Oct. 14 release. Kacey Musgraves' A Very Kacey Christmas is due Oct. 28 with guests Willie Nelson, Leon Bridges and The Quebe Sisters. And Brett Eldredge has a duet with Meghan Trainor lined up for his yuletide package, Glow. Reba McEntire has already issued My Kind of Christmas, a Cracker Barrel-only release that has her doing holiday standards with piano player Catherine Marx. And Target is reissuing LeAnn Rimes' Today Is Christmas as she launches a 12-date tour in December.
Jennifer Nettles delivered a stunning version of the national anthem for more than 150,000 fans at the Bristol Motor Speedway before the record-setting Battle of Bristol on Sept. 10, when the Tennessee Volunteeers defeated the Virginia Tech Hokies. Millions more watched from their sofas as Nettles sang the patriotic tune with plenty of force and minimum adornment. Producers also rolled out a football-field-sized flag and had fans hold up cards that turned the grandstand into Old Glory.
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Dierks Bentley and Dustin Lynch, coming to a smartphone near you. Bentley partnered with LyricLink for a $1.99 app that reinterprets parts of user messages with direct quotes from Bentley's songs. In addition, the program offers more than 100 Bentley emojis. Lynch meanwhile joined Mavenhut for a mobile app that offers a new version of Solitaire that incorporates music and has a tournament component. It does raise the question, however: If more than one person is playing, can it really be called "Solitaire"?
When Brad Paisley's Country Nation College Tour stopped at West Virginia University on Sept. 9, the event was more than just a free show. With Chris Young opening, Paisley's set was shot by City Drive Films for a TV series, Landmarks Live in Concert, that will also see the performance packaged as a DVD and live CD. Each installment features the concert as a backdrop to explore a particular destination. The TV network and the other artists in the series have yet to be announced, though it will be hosted by Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith.
'ROUND THE ROW
Reviver Entertainment Group hired Will Robinson as 1608 Northeast/Midwest regional promotion manager. He was an I.R.S. Nashville director of promotion before the label folded.
Sony Music Nashville signed singer-songwriter Seth Ennis and assigned him to its Arista roster, working with producer Corey Crowder (Chris Young). Ennis handles all the vocal and instrumental parts on his first track for the label, "Woke Up in Nashville."
Songwriter Ross Copperman ("Noise," "American Country Love Song") signed a publishing deal with Tim Wipperman's Rezonant Music.
Shane McAnally's SmackSongs added singer-songwriter Kylie Morgan to its roster.
Songwriter-producer Phil O'Donnell ("Doin' What She Likes," "Already Callin' You Mine") inked a co-publishing deal with ole.
Late music publisher Bill Lowery will be recognized with the Frances Williams Preston Mentor Award during the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame induction event on Oct. 9. The Atlanta-based Lowery Music Group was a launching pad for such writers as Joe South, Bill Anderson, Mac Davis and Ray Stevens.
The University of Oklahoma recognized Big Machine Label Group vp publicity and corporate communications Jake Basden with its Regent's Young Alumni Award.
Belmont University songwriting major Anna Vaus received the inaugural Women Creators scholarship, founded by Miranda Lambert and the Academy of Country Music. The award will provide more than $40,000 in education funds for Vaus.
The Nashville Film Festival is accepting submissions through Jan. 6 for its first song competition. The grand prize includes a consultation with music supervisors associated with the festival.
ACM Lifting Lives is accepting applications for philanthropic grants through Sept. 30.
Billboard country charts manager Jim Asker is attempting to raise $25,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society by running 26.2 miles in the Berlin Marathon on Sept. 25. The event marks his 10th full marathon since recovering from stage IV non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
RADIO MOVERS & SHAKERS
Greg Thomas takes over as PD of WLWI-FM Montgomery, Ala., on Sept. 19, arriving from Townsquare/Tuscaloosa, Ala., where he was operations manager of a cluster that includes country WFFN. Thomas' operations manager at Cumulus/Montgomery is Rick Hendrick, who added that role to his duties, which already include PD at classic rock WXFX.
Tony Denton joined Alpha Media/Greenville-New Bern-Jacksonville, N.C., as market manager, overseeing seven signals, including country outlets WQZL, WRNS-AM and WRNS-FM. Denton most recently was vice president at Curtis Media/Goldsboro-Kinston, N.C.
WDRQ Detroit promoted Dave Fuller to afternoon drive from a part-time/swing position.
Townsquare hired Scott Epstein as senior vp live events/head of sponsorship sales. The company produces more than 500 live events annually, including Country Jam and the Taste of Country Music Festival. He had been chief business development officer at Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment.
WMOT Murfreesboro, Tenn., transitioned to an Americana-based format. The station also airs the established Music City Roots on Wednesday nights. PD/music director Jessie Scott also oversees the YouTube channel Music Fog. The on-air staff includes Bill Edwards, Keith Bilbrey, Whit Hubner, Craig Havighurst and songwriter Odie Blackmon ("Nothing On but the Radio").
Scripps/Wichita, Kan., appointed Todd Johnson as sales manager, effective Sept. 12, InsideRadio.com reported. The five-station cluster includes country KFDI and classic country KFTI. Johnson most recently was sales manager at KWCH-TV Wichita.
This article first appeared in Billboard's Country Update -- sign up here.