Keith Urban, Luke Combs, Lady A, Maren Morris and More! Stars Shine at Nashville Radio Gathering

New music and greatest hits abound at the annual Country Radio Seminar as artists work to wow broadcasters

country radio seminar recap
Lady A. Photo: Nancy Kruh

For the constellation of stars who appear each year at the Country Radio Seminar in Nashville, the No. 1 goal is to make an impression in front of the tastemakers of the airwaves — but only one performer, the always-playful Ingrid Andress, took the task to its literal lengths at last week's event.

Solving that perpetual artist problem of having to do a duet without one's partner, the "More Hearts Than Mine" singer did a dead-on Sam Hunt impression — the scratchy-rappy voice, the hand-over-crotch crouch — during his part in their current chart-climber "Wishful Drinking." And judging by the crowd's delighted reaction, she's sure to have earned a few more radio spins just for that.

Hunt wasn't expected for Andress' performance at the Warner Music revue, but he was on the announced bill for his label's showcase, and given the week of personal drama he was having, it was no surprise he was a no-show. No matter. There was otherwise no shortage of name acts at the annual radio broadcasters' convention, from up-and-comers like Andress to such established hitmakers as Keith Urban, Luke Combs, Dierks Bentley, Lady A and Zac Brown Band.

country radio seminar recap
Ingrid Andress. CRB/CRS/Kayla Schoen Photography 

Here are many more memorable impressions from the three-day CRS event, including some clues to what you may be listening to in the coming weeks and months:

NEW SOUNDS FROM FAMILIAR NAMES: After scoring a top 5 hit with his last single, "Tequila Little Time," Jon Pardi is looking for his next chart-topper with his just-released "Last Night Lonely." The first single off his upcoming album, it delivers with a driving beat and a dancing fiddle line, and it's a worthy appetizer for Pardi's just-announced tour.

Little Big Town also has a new album in the works, and Jimi Westbrook takes lead vocals on "Rich Man," the new song the platinum-selling quartet chose to showcase. The solemn ballad has an uplifting message: "Keep my head up high / feet on the ground / love the ones I'm living around / life is just that simple to me / yeah, I'm a rich man."

Brothers Osborne
John and TJ Osborne of Brothers Osborne. Peyton Hoge

Reigning CMA duo of the year the Brothers Osborne chose to put their spotlight on album cut "Midnight Rider's Prayer," a haunting ballad that borrows its chorus from Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again" (with the country legend's blessing, of course).

After relocating to Colorado during the pandemic, Dierks Bentley has moved back to Nashville and, as he told his audience, "totally fallen back in love" with the city, a revelation that has inspired new song "Gold." Bentley doesn't know yet if it will be a single, but it definitely meets his own goal for mixing "the bluegrass with the kick-ass."

Dierks Bentley
Dierks Bentley. Peyton Hoge

Taking their turns on stage, Lady A and Chris Janson each gave boosts to their recently released and buzz-worthy singles. "What a Song Can Do," Lady A's album-title track, features all the group's signature sounds that power their music up the charts. Janson is already calling the poignant "Bye Mom" "quite possibly one of the most important songs of my career," and his label is expecting it to be a contender for a song of the year award.

country radio seminar recap
Chris Janson. CRB/CRS/Kayla Schoen Photography 

Michael Ray, after notching his fourth No. 1 with "Whiskey and Rain," is keeping the alcohol theme flowing with next radio single "Holy Water," this time a brooding story song inspired by tales from his own grandparents.

country radio seminar recap
Michael Ray. CRB/CRS/Kayla Schoen Photography 

Coming off recent No. 1 "Same Boat," Zac Brown Band is turning up the volume on "Out in the Middle," a rousing new anthem that Brown has described as "Southern rock storytelling." Their new radio single, it's sure to get even more traction as the name of their upcoming 36-date tour.

country radio seminar recap
Zac Brown. CRB/CRS/Kayla Schoen Photography 

NEW SOUNDS FROM NEWCOMERS: After breakout hit "My Truck," BRELAND is taking another swing at the charts with "Praise the Lord," a co-write with Thomas Rhett that brims with gospel fervor; it's set to drop for the supercharged live performer in a couple of weeks.

country radio seminar recap
BRELAND. CRB/CRS/Kayla Schoen Photography 

Kassi Ashton is still looking to make waves on the air with her soulful voice, and she brings an enticing R&B groove to her country-themed "Dates in Pickup Trucks," her debut single that goes to radio this week.

After successfully introducing herself with "It's 'Cause I Am," Callista Clark let the radio folks know she has much more waiting in the wings with two unreleased co-writes, "Brave Girl" and "Gave It Back Broken," both affording the 18-year-old ample opportunity to show off the expressive voice that was discovered and label-signed by age 14.

country radio seminar recap
Callista Clark. Nancy Kruh

Cut from the cloth of outlaw country, Jackson Dean is introducing himself with "Don't Come Lookin'," a gritty rocker that's already been featured on the Yellowstone soundtrack.

country radio seminar recap
Jackson Dean. Nancy Kruh

Aussie Morgan Evans has again turned toward his bountiful sunny side (and no doubt his perpetual muse, wife Kelsea Ballerini) with "Country Out of My Girl," due to radio in May.

country radio seminar recap
Morgan Evans. CRB/CRS/Kayla Schoen Photography 

Still savoring her first No. 1, "Things a Man Oughta Know," Lainey Wilson has selected its follow-up, "Heart Like a Truck," to continue to show off her neo-traditional country sound. And Priscilla Block has picked "My Bar" as her successor to breakout hit "Just About Over You," and it arrives with the same sassy, honkytonking spirit.

Lainey Wilson at CRS in Nashville 02/22
Lainey Wilson. Nancy Kruh
Kylie Morgan
Kylie Morgan. Peyton Hoge

Newbie Kylie Morgan at first thought her wistful ballad "Independent with You" — inspired by her relationship with her fiancé Jay Allen — was too personal to release, but when a demo she posted went viral, she knew she'd struck a chord, and that momentum has turned it into her latest single.

MAREN MORRIS MORSELS: Her much-anticipated third album is due out in less than a month, and to stoke anticipation, the Grammy-winning artist hosted an intimate gathering during CRS week to preview five of the unreleased songs on the 11-track album. Her picks leave no doubt that she's more attached than ever to her country roots as she continues to draw on personal themes; the music's restrained production smartly keeps her singular voice front and center.

Among the aural goodies that fans can look forward to are the country-clever lyrics of "I Can't Love You Anymore" (a co-write with husband Ryan Hurd) and "Tall Guys" (inspired by the 14-inch height difference between Morris and Hurd). Another highlight is a tender heart-tugger: "Hummingbird," a co-write with Nashville's renowned Love Junkies — Liz Rose, Hillary Lindsey and Lori McKenna — soon after Morris learned she was pregnant with her son, Hayes (who's about to turn 2). In fact, Hayes' sweet voice appears on the track. "He is technically the only feature on the album," the proud mom told her listening-party guests.

VICTORY LAPS: Several artists chose to perform guaranteed crowd-pleasers — the hits that helped make them stars in the first place — and those reminders could only have whet broadcasters' appetites for what's next.

Luke Combs has been hard at work on his third album, but he kept it completely under wraps during his 40-minute acoustic set at the top of the bill of a Sony event. His latest single "Doin' This" (which may or may not appear on the new album) did get its due, but otherwise he cycled through seven of his No. 1 hits — does he release any other kind? — ending on "Beer Never Broke My Heart," which he declared "probably forever my favorite song to play live."

country radio seminar recap
Luke Combs. Nancy Kruh

Cody Johnson soared through his current hit single "'Til You Can't," and the standing ovation it received foretold the news on Monday that the stirring ballad is the Texan's first No. 1.

country radio seminar recap
Cody Johnson. CRB/CRS/Kayla Schoen Photography 

Reigning CMA vocalist of the year Carly Pearce reminded listeners why she's nominated for ACM album of the year with a three-song set from the LP, "What He Didn't Do," "Never Wanted to Be That Girl" and title track "29."

country radio seminar recap
Carly Pearce. Nancy Kruh

Celebrating his recent No. 1, Jordan Davis offered a moving acoustic version of "Buy Dirt," and Riley Green reminded his audience of his chart-topping capability with "There Was This Girl" and "I Wish Grandpas Never Died."

country radio seminar recap
Riley Green. Nancy Kruh

Keith Urban held down the final slot of the annual UMG showcase, and the superstar has been known to use the occasion to premiere a brand-new single (including "We Were" and "John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16"). But this time around he treated his Ryman Auditorium audience to an 11-minute tour through his hefty catalog, accompanying himself on an undersized acoustic guitar. Or as the waggish Urban declared at the start: "I'd like to play a little guitar for you."

Size didn't matter. The virtuoso guitarist blazed his way through an eight-song medley of hits, pulling so much music out of the tiny instrument that one had to assume it was among his most cherished treasures — until, after his last note, he signed it and then happily bestowed it on an audience member. Silly assumption: The magic was in those hands all along.

Keith Urban
Keith Urban. Peyton Hoge

Reveling in his live audience, Urban vowed, "I'm done with Zooming my gigs for free!" — and indeed he is as he heads to Las Vegas in late March and kicks off his "Speed of Now" world tour in June.

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