By Daniel S. Levy
April 10, 2013 12:00 PM

CATCHING UP WITH

LUKE BRYAN

THE SINGER DISHES ABOUT HIS NEW TOUR, HOSTING THE ACMs AND WHY HE’S NEVER BEEN HAPPIER

What do you get when you mix Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton and Las Vegas? “Controlled, hilarious chaos,” says Bryan of his gig hosting the ACM Awards on April 7 with his pal and fellow Entertainer of the Year nominee Blake Shelton. “I’m serious every now and then, but Blake is never serious,” says Bryan. “We crack each other up, and that’s part of our chemistry…just two guys up there flying by the seat of our pants.”

And Bryan is definitely flying high these days. In addition to his new hosting gig and four ACM nods, he’s also performing to sold-out arena crowds on the Dirt Road Diaries Tour. “Every night I feel the energy of the crowd, and I can’t believe this is my life,” says the singer. “I feel like I’m on top of the world.” But his success can’t just be measured in ticket sales and awards, he jokes. “Back when I was starting out, the hotels could be pretty raunchy,” he says. “It’s definitely cleaner sheets these days.”

ACM AWARDS BALLOT

WHO WILL WIN?

THE ACADEMY OF COUNTRY MUSIC AWARDS AIRS APRIL 7 ON CBS. THE COMPETITION IS FIERCE, BUT HERE ARE OUR PICKS FOR WHO’S LIKELY TO TAKE HOME THE TROPHIES

ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR

• Jason Aldean

• Luke Bryan

• Blake Shelton

• Miranda Lambert

•Taylor Swift

If anyone can beat two-time winner Taylor in this fan-voted category, it’s Blake.

VOCAL GROUP

• The Band Perry

• Eli Young Band

• Lady Antebellum

• Little Big Town

• Zac Brown Band

Thanks to the power of hits like “Pontoon,” the hot foursome should float to an easy win.

NEW ARTIST

• Jana Kramer

• Brantley Gilbert

•Florida Georgia Line

This fan-voted award will depend on what artist gets out the vote. Having already beaten Hunter Hayes to get this far, Brantley has momentum.

ALBUM

Blown Away, Carrie Underwood

Chief, Eric Church

Red, Taylor Swift

Tailgates & Tanlines, Luke Bryan

Tornado, Little Big Town

The monster Red has sold more than 5 million copies, while Chief has racked up industry acclaim. Whether Taylor pulls off a win in this category depends on just how country ACM members think she is.

FEMALE VOCALIST

Carrie Underwood

Miranda Lambert

• Martina McBride

• Kacey Musgraves

Taylor Swift

Whether touching hearts (“Over You”) or raising hell (“Mama’s Broken Heart”), Miranda is country’s It Girl.

MALE VOCALIST

• Jason Aldean

• Luke Bryan

• Eric Church

• Toby Keith

Blake Shelton

Expect Blake and Jason to duke it out for the win, though Luke could pull off a surprise.

VOCAL DUO

• Big & Rich

• Florida Georgia Line

• Love and Theft

• Sugarland

• Thompson Square

This one’s a toss-up: Thompson Square could repeat last year’s win, but white-hot Florida Georgia Line may “Cruise” to an upset.

VOCAL EVENT

• “Easy”

Rascal Flatts featuring Natasha Bedingfield

• “Don’t Rush”

Kelly Clarkson featuring Vince Gill

• “Feel Like a Rock Star”

Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw

• “Let It Rain”

David Nail featuring Sarah Buxton

• “The Only Way I Know”

Jason Aldean with Luke Bryan and Eric Church

The Aldean singalong is fun, but it’s hard to imagine anything beating the sheer star power of Tim and Kenny.

Q & A

Vintage Treasures

With Tim and Faith releasing their SOUL2SOUL Vintage fragrance, we wondered if some of their fellow country stars shared their passion for the past.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE NOSTALGIC KEEPSAKE?

LAUREN ALAINA

“I have a doll that belonged to my grandmother who passed away. The doll is about 67 years old and is turning colors because it’s so old! I refuse to part with it though.”

MIKE ELI

“My grandmother gave me my grandfather’s favorite handkerchief after he passed several years ago. I’ve always cherished it in such a huge way. I wore it when my wife and I got married in 2010.”

JOSH TURNER

“I have a pocket watch that belonged to my great-grand-daddy. It’s a Hamilton Railroad watch made in 1917. It is one of the most special things I own.”

KIMBERLY PERRY

“A gold locket bracelet my grandfather gave my grandmother in high school. The picture he put in it in 1947 is still there. To know where you’re going you have to know where you’ve been—and this bracelet keeps me close to that.”

STAR READS

Author! Author!

Billy Ray Cyrus and Clay Walker both have new books out this month. Here’s a peek inside:

HILLBILLY HEART by Billy Ray Cyrus

The singer/actor/dad to Miley recounts his life’s journey from the hills of Kentucky to Nashville and L.A. ($25; amazon.com)

JESUS WAS A COUNTRY BOY by Clay Walker

The “She Won’t Be Lonely Long” singer shares the life lessons he learned from his father and the faith that has carried him through. ($19.99; amazon.com)

KACEY MUSGRAVES

CELEBRITY DREAM ANALYSIS

KACEY MUSGRAVES DREAMED IT, WE HAD IT ANALYZED

THE DREAM

“I had a recurring tsunami dream and it was a different scene each time. About six or seven days before that tsunami hit in Japan, I had a dream I was standing on this balcony and seeing all this crazy raging water. There were Asian people all around me.”

THE ANALYSIS

“Dreams can be prophetic. If there are people she knows in the dream or place names that can be fact-checked, she could consider the dream a warning. But if there are no concrete facts, then the dream could be about Kacey’s emotional life. What emotions do tsunamis bring up for her? Fear, helplessness? I would see it as an alert to emotional situations in my life where I feel vulnerable, threatened, overwhelmed, so much so that I just want to escape from the situation.”

Analysis by Paula Scardamalia of diviningthemuse.com

ME AND MY DOG

GARY & LUCY

HERE ARE FIVE THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT GARY ALLAN’S BEST FRIEND

1. SHE’S A HAM

“She comes onstage with us every night during our last song,” Allan says. “You can tell she loves it—she gets all wound up when it’s time. She runs around to all of us, says hi, waits for the song to be over and exits with me.”

2. SHE’S A ROAD WARRIOR

Lucy has her own built-in water and food bowls on Allan’s tour bus. “She likes to put her paws on the dash and watch out the front,” he says. “It’s amazing the home vibe she brings to the bus.”

3. SHE’S WITH THE BAND

“No matter what kind of day anyone is having, Lucy is always there for all of us,” he says. “She takes inventory every night and makes sure she knows who’s there and who isn’t. And if you get tired of rubbing her, she scoots over to someone else who starts.”

4. SHE’S LOW-MAINTENANCE

All she needs to hit the road is a travel bag with leashes, food, snacks—and a laser pointer. “Sometimes we’ll run her through a field with the laser beam. You can wear her out really quick!”

5. SHE HAS HER OWN MERCH!

Allan sells “I Lucy” tank tops with a big picture of the pooch’s face. “It’s amazing how many we sold. She earns her keep!”

EDITORS’ PICKS

7 THINGS WE LOVE!

PUPPIES, PISTOL ANNIES AND PAM AND LORRIE (TOGETHER!) ARE MAKING US HAPPY THIS MONTH

DOS DIVAS

They ruled the ’90s with hits like “What Part of No” and “Cleopatra, Queen of Denial.” Now Lorrie Morgan and Pam Tillis, who have been touring together, will release a duets CD this summer. Hey, Jason: We’re talking 1994 too!

MIRANDA’S SHELTER CAMPAIGN

The singer and dog lover has teamed with Pedigree to give free dog food to pet shelters around the country. Go to facebook.com/pedigree and click “Which cities should Pedigree feed next?”

PISTOL ANNIES Koozies

Their second CD isn’t out till May 7, but in the meantime, we’re toasting the trio’s cool koozies

$8; pistolannies.com/merch

COUNTRY in NY

AFTER 17 YEARS, NEW YORK CITY HAS A COUNTRY RADIO STATION AGAIN! NASH FM 94.7 DEBUTED JAN. 21. NOW COUNTRY REALLY IS COUNTRYWIDE!

REMEMBERING JOHN DENVER

Fifteen years after his death (and 40 years after the release of his megahit “Rocky Mountain High”), artists as diverse as Dave Matthews, Emmylou Harris and Amos Lee celebrate the singer on the new CD The Music Is You: A Tribute to John Denver. A portion of the proceeds goes to the Wilderness Society in his name.

ROCK THE OCEAN’S FIRST-EVER

TORTUGA MUSIC FESTIVAL

APRIL 13–14, 2013

FORT LAUDERDALE

Kenny, Eric, Jake and more perform (on the beach!) to benefit ocean conservation

For tickets and information: tortugamusicfestival.com

* COUNTRY NOW *

The new YouTube channel is devoted to all things country. Our fave show: Laura Bell Bundy’s dishy OMC! (Oh My Country!) style recap. Check it out at youtube.com/user/countrynowtv

STAR PICKS

Vince Gill Wants You to Hear…

ASHLEY MONROE

When Ashley Monroe first met Vince Gill more than a decade ago to talk about writing together, the East Tennessee native was close to scoring a Nashville publishing deal, but she was still too young to drive. “All I remember is hearing her and her songs, thinking, ‘This can’t be a 15-year-old kid. Her soul is too old,’ ” says Gill. Struck by her “beautiful, quivering” voice, “it was like the first time I heard Emmylou Harris or Alison Krauss or Dolly.” One failed record deal and two No. 1s later (she cowrote Miranda Lambert’s “Heart Like Mine” and Jason Aldean’s “The Truth”), Monroe made a name as one-third of Lambert’s side project Pistol Annies. Now, with her deeply personal Like a Rose, produced by Gill, she’s able to fully blossom. “When I sing and write, I go to a different place,” says Monroe, 26. “It’s the closest thing to heaven for me.”

COUNTRY COUSINS

SEEING DOUBLE?

Not to worry! Gloriana’s

RACHEL REINERT

– AND –

LEA MICHELE

from Glee do a bang-up job of looking like they were separated at birth.

ON THE MARKET

Brad’s West Coast Home

BRAD AND KIMBERLY WILLIAMS-PAISLEY PUT THEIR PACIFIC PALISADES HOUSE UP FOR SALE

A Vintage Beauty

Brad and Kim bought the 3,394-sq.-ft., three-bedroom, three-bath home in 2004 for a reported $1.6 million. In addition to great views, it also has citrus trees in the backyard!

The Master Bedroom

The spacious master suite features a fireplace and tub with separate shower and bath. But the best part? A private deck featuring stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.

Kids’ Rooms

The home (built in 1925) also boasts two smaller bedrooms, including this kid-size area used by the Paisley boys Huck and Jasper.

Gourmet Kitchen and Living Room

The completely renovated kitchen includes a breakfast area for casual meals outside the formal dining room. The grand two-story living room features stained-glass windows, beamed ceilings and a fireplace.

IN THE STUDIO WITH

THE BAND PERRY

SIBLING TRIO KIMBERLY, REID AND NEIL PERRY

The place: Blackbird Studios, Nashville

The challenge: Recording a follow-up to their platinum 2010 debut CD The Band Perry, which spawned three No. 1 singles including “If I Die Young” and “All Your Life.” “We were like, ‘Where the heck do we go from here?'” admits Kimberly Perry, 29. “The second project is really a make it or break it. You ask yourself, ‘Were you a one-hit wonder?'”

Memorable moment: Arguing—successfully—to make “Better Dig Two” the first single off their new album Pioneer. “We were debating what our first single should be with some members of our team,” says Kimberly. “The three of us were passionate that it should be ‘Better Dig Two,’ but there were some different opinions in the room, and so I did a very dramatic exit.” Says Neil: “She whipped her hair as she walked out the door. Mouths were left hanging open.”

The payoff: “Better Dig Two” became the band’s third—and fastest rising—No. 1 hit. “It was a boost and gave us a boldness to walk forth in the direction we wanted to go,” says Reid.

PASSAGES

ENGAGED

Grammy-winning singer Kelly Clarkson is headed down the aisle. In December her boyfriend Brandon Blackstock, 36, a manager for Blake Shelton (and stepson to Reba!), dropped to his knee at their Nashville home and popped the question. When the “Stronger” singer, 30, realized what was happening, she asked him, “Are you gonna put the ring on?” Blackstock pointed out that she hadn’t said yes or no, and Clarkson then blurted out, “Oh! Obviously yes!” The couple plan to marry in the fall.

AWARDS

When the Nashville Songwriters Association International decided to create the new Kris Kristofferson Award, they asked the singer who he thought should be its first recipient. Kristofferson, 76, unhesitatingly told them, “It has to be Willie.” While presenting the award in Nashville on Jan. 27 to Willie Nelson, 79, Kristofferson told the audience that the “On the Road Again” singer was a hero to other artists as well as “one of the best songwriters who ever wrote in any language.”

LEGAL MATTERS

Randy Travis (inset), who was arrested on Aug. 7 in Tioga, Texas, after state troopers found him drunk and naked near his wrecked Pontiac Trans Am, was sentenced Jan. 31 to two years’ probation. The singer, 53, was also fined $2,000 and told to attend an alcohol treatment center and do community service.

DIED

Mindy McCready took her own life on Feb. 17 at her home in Heber Springs, Ark. The 37-year-old singer had soared to fame in the 1990s with “Ten Thousand Angels” and “Guys Do It All the Time” but had long battled drug addiction and legal problems. Musician Vince Gill, 55, paid tribute to McCready at a Feb. 27 industry event in Nashville, noting that despite her troubles, “she was a part of our family. She was part of the history of country music, and that mattered.” • Carl “Chuck” Goff Jr., who played bass with Toby Keith for 25 years and wrote such hits as “You Ain’t Much Fun,” died in a car crash in rural Oklahoma on Feb. 27. He was 54. “Our hearts and prayers go out to his family,” Keith wrote on his website. • Patty Andrews—the last surviving member of the Andrews Sisters, who with siblings LaVerne and Maxene recorded such hits as “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (with Anyone Else but Me)” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (of Company B)”—died on Jan. 30 in Los Angeles at age 94. The trio also appeared in such films as Abbott and Costello’s Hold That Ghost and Bob Hope and Bing Crosby’s Road to Rio.

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