Ricky Van Shelton Plans May Album

Country crooner Ricky Van Shelton has signed to Audium Entertainment and aims to have his first album for the label out in May. Shelton’s manager, Michael Campbell, says Steve Gibson will produce the project.

For years a leading voice in country music, Shelton has not had a new album since 1997, when he released Making Plans on his own label. It was initially distributed through Wal-Mart and then leased to Vanguard Records.

Shelton first charted in late 1986 with “Wild-Eyed Dream” on Columbia Records. Over the next nine years he scored 10 No. 1 hits and seven Top 10s. Among his chart-toppers were “I’ll Leave This World Loving You,” “Somebody Lied,” “From a Jack to a King” and “Keep It Between the Lines.” In 1991 he had a No. 1 duet with Dolly Parton, “Rockin’ Years.” Five of Shelton’s 10 albums to date have been certified platinum and three gold. He also writes and self-publishes a series of children’s books.

In 1988 Shelton won the Country Music Association’s Horizon Award and the following year its Top Male Vocalist prize. He was twice voted Entertainer of the Year in the TNN Music City News Awards.

Audium Entertainment is a new Nashville-based label, headed by Nick Hunter and Simon Renshaw and distributed by Koch International. Hunter, who serves as Audium’s president, is a veteran record promoter and former general manager of Giant Records. Renshaw, Audium’s CEO, manages the Dixie Chicks and other acts.

Hunter reports that Billy Swan has also been signed to the label and adds that it is in the final stages of signing “about three [more artist] deals.” He says Audium is building its roster on artists who have recorded for other labels.

Instead of working to get Audium’s records played on the hotly-competed-for radio stations that report their playlists to Billboard, Radio & Records and other music trade magazines, Hunter says, “We’ve got [a list of] 500 radio stations that report to nobody. We’re going to go out and deal with these people every week and build up solid new relationships. We’re going to make records inexpensively. And we can sell records based on that.”

Steve Gibson, in addition to being a prized session guitarist, has produced albums for Aaron Tippin, Michael Johnson, Kim Carnes, Pearl River, McBride & The Ride and Michael Martin Murphey among others.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.