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Little Big Town, David Nail and More Share New Music at UMG’s CRS 2016 Lunch

UMG luncheon CRS 2016 recap
Photo by Peyton Hoge, courtesy of UMG Nashville

More than a dozen country stars were on hand to show off their talents during UMG’s annual CRS luncheon for radio programmers, broadcasters and other media, many of them sharing unreleased tunes or album cuts that could become their next single.

Little Big Town kicked off the event, held on Tuesday (Feb. 9) at the Ryman Auditorium, with the song “The Beginning.” The track is not on any of the country quartet’s albums but became a fan favorite during their 2015 Pain Killer Tour. Canaan Smith followed, performing an acoustic version of “Stuck,” from his 2015 album Bronco, before seguing into a cover of the Goo Goo Dolls’ 1998 hit “Iris.”

Kacey Musgraves sang “Late to the Party,” from her sophomore album, 2015’s Pageant Material, and then Darius Rucker took the stage to play “So I Sang,” from his most recent record, Southern Style; the heartfelt performance earned the first standing ovation of the afternoon.

Charles Kelley was next up. He selected his Grammy-nominated single “The Driver,” which features good friends Dierks Bentley and Eric Paslay.

“‘Cause when you take a break from a trio, the first thing you do is put out a single with a trio, right?” the Lady Antebellum band member quipped from stage, noting that the song is “about pretty much the last eight or nine years of my life. In my mind, I envisioned this as that thing when we’re at a show together and the lighters are up in the air and we’re all singing along.”

David Nail gave the audience a treat by performing “Fighter,” the title track of his next album. The singer admitted that, since he became a father to twins three months ago, everything about his life has changed, including the way he reacts to music.

“I guess when you’re a dad, you just can’t listen to people sing anymore,” he shared. “I’ve been back here, having to walk back and forth, wiping my eyes, going, ‘Get it together, dude.’ So, naturally it’s smart to sing a song you wrote about your wife, I guess.”

Bentley lightened the mood with a performance of his newest single, “Somewhere on a Beach” — but before he sang, he paid homage to one of his own musical icons, who was waiting in the wings backstage.

“I used to play in a little bar down here 15 years ago, and the owner of the bar would always say, ‘Hey, man, I’m friends with Vince Gill, and he’s gonna come down and watch you play one night,'” Bentley recalled. “I was like, ‘Yeah, Vince Gill’s gonna come down and watch me.’ That was, like, 1999 or 2000.

“Lo and behold, long story short, one night, he came down with Amy Grant and watched us for about an hour and 22 minutes — not that I was counting — and actually got up and played with us,” Bentley continued. “Vince Gill, it’s good to see you back there and watching us. I probably wouldn’t be here without you.”

Kip Moore used his time onstage to perform his current single, “Running for You,” and give one of the most heartfelt commentaries of the afternoon, about his passion for music and the job he loves.

“Somebody asked me the other day, before a show, ‘Do you ever get nervous playing?’ And I said, ‘No. I’ve worked too hard and too long to get nervous,'” Moore explained. “There’s only one place that makes me nervous, and it’s this place, right here, in front of you all … I care so much about what I do, and I want to hold on so bad to what I do. You guys are so influential in that, and I’ve been doing this long enough to know how impactful you guys are in our careers, and how impactful you’ve been in mine. The stakes are a little bit higher. I’ve never done a vocal warmup in my whole dang life until five minutes ago.”

Paslay sang “High Class,” from his upcoming sophomore album. Perhaps it was his flawless vocal performance, or his energetic dance moves (or both), but the crowd lept to its feet in applause before Paslay even finished singing.

Chris Stapleton surprised the assembled crowd with a brand-new (to him … sort of) song, “Either Way.” The reigning CMA Awards Male Vocalist of the Year wrote the tune with Tim James and Kendell Marvel, and it was originally recorded by Lee Ann Womack, for her 2008 disc, Call Me Crazy.

“It’s about time for me to think about making another [album] pretty soon,” the humble singer stated. “My wife always liked this song, so I’m going to try it out on you guys, if that’s okay.”

Stapleton’s flawless version of the track, accompanied only by his guitar, was undoubtedly the standout performance of the day.

Lauren Alaina confessed that the song she selected to sing, “Doing Fine,” is, for better or worse, entirely true.

“It’s a song about my family,” the former American Idol contestant explained of the tune, which includes lines such as “Daddy got sober / Mama got his best friend.” “The most-asked question on this promo tour is, ‘Where have you been, Lauren? Where have you been? We’ve been wondering about you.’ So this song will probably answer those questions.”

“I didn’t expect to have the album we have out now,” Eric Church said before playing “Record Year,” the newest single from his recent surprise album, Mr. Misunderstood. “The thing I love about music is, you can never really put a fence around what inspiration is, and for me, it just happened.”

The singer-songwriter calls “Record Year” one of his favorite tracks from his newest disc.

“I’m a guy who grew up listening to vinyl. I still think that the best way to listen to music is to just put on an album, stick the needle on it and just kick back, with a little bit of whiskey. That’s my escapism. I don’t get on the phone, I don’t watch a movie — that’s what I do,” Church added. “This song talks about that.”

Gill, who had originally planned to perform a different song, chose at the last minute to sing “Sad One Comin’ On (a Song for George Jones),” a brand-new tune from his upcoming new project, Down to My Last Bad Habit.

“Watching Chris inspired me to sing this song instead,” Gill confessed.

Luke Bryan had never played piano at the Ryman until his turn onstage, when he performed “To the Moon and Back.” The song appears on his most recent release, Kill the Lights.

“Typically, I do a single that’s going to be out or something …” Bryan shared. “[But] I wanted the opportunity to play one of my favorite songs on the album.”

Keith Urban, who received the CRS Artist Humanitarian Award earlier in the week, capped off the luncheon by singing his current single, “Break on Me,” then launching into “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16,” switching from bass to electric guitar at the end and showing his unmatched prowess on the instrument. Urban debuted the latter song at last year’s UMG luncheon.

New Country Albums Coming in 2016

NEXT: What Did You Favorite Country Stars Look Like as Kids?

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