HOT DISH: Country Music’s Place in the World

More News About Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson 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

Country music is big business in North America, but how does that translate to success in other nations? Nashville’s daily newspaper, The Tennessean, examined the topic in a story headlined as “Can Country Music Blossom Overseas?”

The Top 10 country tours around the world grossed $375.1 million in 2012, according to Pollstar, a trade publication geared to the concert industry. However, 98 percent of all country music ticket sales were in the U.S. and Canada. Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw ’s Brothers of the Sun tour grossed almost $100 million and never left the U.S. Of the Top 10 country touring acts of 2012, only Brad Paisley , Lady Antebellum and Carrie Underwood performed outside North America.

The lack of a country radio format in Europe and other regions makes it more difficult to build a following. To make up for the lack of radio airplay, the Country Music Association brought its Songwriters Series to London, Dublin, Paris and Belfast. The informal showcases, hosted by Bob DiPiero, featured Chris Young , Brett James and Sugarland ’s Kristian Bush.

The CMA also took an active role in the recent Country 2 Country Festival at the O2 Arena in London where the lineup featured Bush, McGraw, Underwood, Little Big Town , Darius Rucker , Vince Gill , LeAnn Rimes , Brantley Gilbert .

As far as the best-selling country albums outside the U.S., Taylor Swift ’s Red dominated in the United Kingdom, France, South Africa and Australia while Luke Bryan ’s Spring Break … Here to Party topped the list in Canada. Other country titles racking up big sales numbers overseas include McGraw’s Two Lanes of Freedom, Eric Church ’s Chief, Underwood’s Blown Away, Keith Urban ’s The Story So Far, the Zac Brown Band ’s Uncaged, Hunter Hayes ’ self-titled debut and Lady Antebellum ’s Own the Night and Need You Now.

Keith Urban, Nicole Kidman Continue to Help Nashville
Keith Urban has been busy in the studio, and his upcoming tour is sure worth a drive to the concert venue. While he’s looking forward to being back out on the road for the concerts, he’s still serving as an American Idol judge in the meantime.

Keith and Nicole Kidman are calling Nashville their own, and those of us in Music Town are so glad they choose to live in Middle Tennessee. Nicole shot her latest movie, Stoker, entirely in Tennessee. It pumped $6.8 million into the Tennessee economy and created jobs for 370 members of the production crew.

Of course, Keith is one of the people who contributes every year to the We’re All for the Hall concerts in Nashville which have raised millions of dollars for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Johnny Russell Honored in His Mississippi Hometown
Johnny Russell , the late Grand Ole Opry star who co-wrote “Act Naturally,” has been honored in his hometown of Moorhead, Miss., with a marker on the Mississippi Country Music Trail. Russell, who ended many Opry shows with his rambling, funny stories, had a string of hits that include “Catfish John” and “Rednecks, White Socks and Blue Ribbon Beer.” However, he’s best remembered for co-writing “Act Naturally,” a hit for both Buck Owens and the Beatles. In 1989, Buck recorded a new version with Ringo Starr, who sang the lead vocals on the Beatles’ recording.

More Tidbits
Between his current tour and the April 30 release of his Life on a Rock album, Kenny Chesney is dipping his famous bare toes into the spirits industry with the introduction of his Blue Chair Bay Rum in May.

Alan Jackson released Precious Memories II, his second gospel album, last week. After recording his first gospel collection in 2006, Alan says all he heard was people saying, “When are you gonna make another one?”

A great piece of news reached me last week when I learned that Universal Music Nashville chairman and CEO Mike Dungan has asked the great Vince Gill to remain on the MCA label. Last year, Vince’s contract expired shortly before Dungan became head of UMG’s country division following a successful stint as chief of Capitol/EMI Nashville. No word on when we’ll hear some new music from Vince.

I had my hair trimmed last week at a salon in Goodlettsville, Tenn. The lady who styled my hair told me her late father had worked in the country music business. I was really surprised to learn that her dad was Pete Drake, a major music publisher, songwriter and one of the finest steel guitar players ever. Aside from his studio work with some of the biggest country stars, he also played on albums by Bob Dylan, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

See the Hot Dish recipe of the week: [news id=”1635835″]Amy’s Ambrosia.[/news]