HOT DISH: Taylor Swift in New York and Nashville for Business and Pleasure

More News About Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood, Lady Antebellum and Other Country Stars

(CMT Hot Dish is a weekly feature written by veteran columnist Hazel Smith. Author of the cookbook, Hazel’s Hot Dish: Cookin’ With Country Stars, she also hosts CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks With Hazel Smith and shares her recipes at

One Direction’s lead singer, a cute boy named Harry Styles, invited Taylor Swift to their concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden. If Taylor attended, she wasn’t seen there. Maybe she just hung out backstage.

However, the day before the concert, they were seen walking hand in hand through Central Park. And after the concert, they were seen hand in hand again. This Harry Styles is the cutest boy she’s been seen with so far.

While in the Big Apple, Taylor was presented the Ripple of Hope Award from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. The annual honor recognizes leaders of the international business, entertainment and activist communities who demonstrate commitment to social change and reflect RFK’s passion for equality, justice and basic human rights. At age 22, Taylor is the youngest person to receive the award that has also been presented to folks such as Bill Clinton, Al Gore, George Clooney and U2’s Bono.

But Taylor was back in Nashville Wednesday night (Dec. 5) to join LL Cool J to co-host The Grammy Nominations Concert Live — Countdown to Music’s Biggest Night. It marked the first time the nominations concert was held in Music Town.

After using her voice to create beat-box rhythms while the rapper attempted to sing part of her hit “Mean,” Taylor joked, “I’m like 100 percent sure that we’re not going to be nominated for that collaboration.”

That may be the case, but Taylor walked away from the show with three Grammy nominations for her other work.

Blake Shelton’s Great Christmas Special
Blake Shelton’s Not-So-Family Christmas special on NBC wasn’t just good. It was great. The solid hour of country entertainment featured Kelly Clarkson, Larry the Cable Guy, Reba McEntire and one of Blake’s fellow coaches on The Voice, Christina Aguilera. He provided the family connection with appearances by his mom Dorothy Shackleford and wife Miranda Lambert.

Blake is as naturally funny as anyone. His Oklahoma gab and knack for being a country music prankster keep your eyes and mind on the TV screen. What will he do next?

Carrie Underwood Scores at Box Office
I’m blown away by Carrie Underwood’s Blown Away tour. Girlfriend scored five more sellouts, per Billboard, with each show grossing more than $500,000.

Look for her in March when she takes her tour to Ireland and England. She’ll appear March 17 at the first-ever Country to Country music festival at O2 Arena in London. The festival also features Tim McGraw, Little Big Town and many other stars.

Congratulations, Carrie. You’re a keeper.

Lady Antebellum’s New Charity Project
The wonderful group Lady Antebellum launched LadyAID, a new charity to help children here and around the whole world. The trio of Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood are helping so many people. LadyAID will benefit Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Children’s Miracle Network hospitals, myLIFEspeaks and the UN Refugee Agency through donations and fundraising efforts.

During the press conference to announce the charity, Lady Antebellum got a huge surprise when Country Music Association CEO Steve Moore presented them with the CMA’s international artist achievement award for taking country music to the world.

Lady A will be headed to Europe and Australia after Santa visits.

Little Big Town, Clint Black Suffer Losses
Sending love and sympathy to Little Big Town’s Kimberly Schlapman and all her family in Virginia and elsewhere. Her brother-in-law, Thomas Allen Schlapman, 45, of Lynchburg, Va., was riding his motorcycle when was struck head-on by an alleged drunk driver in Franklin, Tenn. The driver, a 46-year-old Franklin man, has been charged with vehicular homicide.

More love and sympathy to Clint Black on the death of his 78-year-old father. According to a statement issued by Clint’s publicist, “It is believed that due to the loss of his wife, Mary Lou, in the last year and a-half and his own declining health, G.A. Black chose to end his own suffering without any indication to his family or friends that he might do so.”  

Florida Georgia Line “Cruise” to the Top
Florida Georgia Line is the moniker of one of the hottest new duos on Music Row. In fact, their single “Cruise” just topped Billboard’s country airplay chart.

Managed by Tony Conway, the group is hot as a pistol. Most people in the country music industry know Tony as a booking agent. For eons, he was president of Buddy Lee Attractions. Then he opened his own agency. My friend Tony has proven he also knows how to manage artists, too. Look what’s happening with Florida Georgia Line.

More News
Alan Jackson recently performed for 30,000 fans in Brazil.

The wonderful Marty Stuart recently celebrated 20 years as a Grand Ole Opry member.

Rascal Flatts will host A Home for the Holidays, a CBS special combining musical performances and stories on adoption and foster care. Melissa Etheridge, Matchbox 20, Phillip Phillips and X Factor’s Rachel Crow also appear on the program airing Dec. 19.

No Shave November on Music Row
I ran into Big Machine Label Group exec George Briner at the International Market eatery near Nashville’s Belmont University and wondered about his new beard, but I didn’t ask. I later learned that he and about 400 other music industry gents were participating in No Shave November, a fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

I hope nobody around town frowned upon the unshaven. The hair-raising contest generated more than $126,000 for the charity.

Southern Me
Southern Living is a wonderful magazine I’ve subscribed to for quite a while. I love the recipes and all the Southern stories on their pages. The current Christmas issue is one of my all-time favorites because it includes a “Paper Napkin” interview with former President Jimmy Carter.

In the interview, he shares his love for his hometown of Plains, Ga., as well as his love for Georgia and the entire South. He talks about when he was a kid and started working on the farm, growing peanuts, cotton and corn, repairing fences and building houses. One of his favorite expressions is, “It’s fixin’ to rain.” I’ll tell anybody that “fixin’ to” is a classic Southern saying. I use those sayings. They make sense.

Carter says he’s a turkey hunter and tries to harvest two wild turkeys each fall — one for Thanksgiving and one for Christmas. “That’s our Christmas supper nowadays — a wild turkey and all the trimmings, dressing, collard greens and corn on the cob,” he says.

He also touched my heart when he talked about his one of his longtime friends.

“When I won the Nobel Peace Prize, Willie Nelson came over to Oslo to perform ’Georgia on My Mind,'” he said. “Willie always invites me onstage to sing ’Amazing Grace.’ I have a very bad voice, and he generally turns the microphone away from me. But I’m up there.”

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: [news id=”1698538″]Red Velvet Cake.[/news]