(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 CMT.com.)
I always look forward to finding out more about the newer country artists, and I was recently blessed to become better acquainted with singer-songwriter Lee Brice.
Born in Sumter, S.C., on June 10, 1980, Lee was just a child when he began playing piano, singing in church and writing his own songs. A quiet lad, but a great football player, it came as a surprise to his teachers and his peers when he showed up at school with a guitar to enter a talent contest. Lee won the first contest and then won two additional contests in high school. However, it was a football scholarship that sent him to Clemson University. He was the team's long snapper until he injured his arm and was forced to abandon his athletic career.
He decided to focus on his music career and has been in Nashville for 10 years. In 2007, Lee began working as a songwriter and landed cuts by Jason Aldean, Keith Gattis, Cowboy Crush and others. He co-wrote "More Than a Memory" with Kyle Jacobs (who recently became Kellie Pickler's husband) and Billy Montana and struck gold when Garth Brooks released the song as a single. It became the only song in country music history to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard charts.
I know song royalties can generate big bucks, so I had to ask, "Did you buy a house?"
"No," he slowly answered. "But I paid off what I was owing at college, paid off all my bills and bought me a color TV."
Also in 2007, he signed to the Asylum-Curb label where he released three singles. All three songs were to be included on an album that was never released. He continued writing songs for others, including two singles, "Crazy Days" and "What It Takes," for Canadian singer Adam Gregory. Lee co-wrote "Still" for Curb labelmate Tim McGraw with Jacobs and Joe Leathers.
In August 2009, Lee charted his fourth single, "Love Like Crazy," the first release from his debut album of the same title. The song enjoyed a 56-week run to become the longest-charting song in the history of the Billboard charts. It broke the record set by Eddy Arnold, whose 1948 single, "Bouquet of Roses," spent 54 weeks on the chart. Billboard named "Love Like Crazy" the most-heard song of 2010.
Lee Brice and Jerrod Niemann have announced the dates for their 2011 Higher Education tour. During the past year, both Lee and Jerrod spent time on the road opening shows for their friends and fellow country music stars. On March 10, the tour will begin in Columbia, Mo. The two breakout artists promise fun and excitement as they roll from town to town -- wherever there's a college market.
Keith and Nicole's Surprise Announcement
Keith Urban, wife Nicole Kidman and daughter Sunday Rose Kidman Urban have announced a new addition to their family, Faith Margaret Kidman Urban. The baby, the couple's biological daughter, was born Dec. 28 in Nashville through a surrogate carrier.
Keith and Nicole released the following statement: "Our family is truly blessed and just so thankful to have been given the gift of Faith Margaret." The couple said they were grateful for all the supporters, especially the carrier.
The couple attended the Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 16 in Los Angeles where Nicole was nominated for best actress in a film drama for her role in Rabbit Hole. I wish she had won.
More From the Golden Globes
Julianne Hough was looking quite Hollywoodish at the Golden Globe Awards in her to-the-floor gown and on the arm of her steady, Ryan Seacrest. The couple attended the post-party at the Beverly Hilton hotel. I'm hearing wedding rumors -- and also something about a five-carat ring.
Carrie Underwood was nominated for best song in a motion picture for co-writing "There's a Place for Us," featured in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, with Hillary Lindsey and David Hodges. She didn't win, but she looked as lovely as any actress on the red carpet.
I saw Nashville's Chord Overstreet at a table filled with his fellow cast members from the hit TV show, Glee. Singer-songwriter Paul Overstreet and his wife Julie must be proud of their son.
This past week, I had a nice conversation with Jessi Colter, a lady who has been a friend almost a lifetime. Jessi is busy with a Texan from Lubbock named Witt Stewart who, as a fan of her husband, the late Waylon Jennings, has come into her life and changed it with the upcoming release of The Music Inside: A Collaboration Dedicated to Waylon Jennings.
"Witt's heart was in the right place," Jessi told me. "He had the money. He loved Waylon. He researched and learned about Internet marketing. He was not afraid, and he wanted to take Waylon's music to the younger generation."
Two and a-half years ago, Witt approached Jessi with an idea. She was dubious about someone else singing Waylon's hits, but the more she listened to his idea, the more she realized Witt was solid and secure in himself and in his belief of Waylon. With Witt producing the project, she roped her son Shooter into the mix. Yes, Witt produced but Jessi approved. They convinced members of Alabama to reunite for a song, and they approached today's hotties who love Waylon's music -- Jamey Johnson, James Otto and Trace Adkins. They reached out to friends Hank Williams Jr. and Kris Kristofferson. Shooter did a song, and Jessi sang "Good Hearted Woman" with Sunny Sweeney.
"2011 is the year of Waylon," laughed Jessi.
The first release of the three-CD series will hit Walmart, Target and Kmart on Feb. 8. The second disc is set for a June 14 release, the day before Waylon's birthday. The final release in the series arrives in October. Each installment will include 11 tracks plus a bonus track. There will also be a four-minute documentary available at waylonjennings.com.
Some of you, like myself, learned the hard way that waylonjennings.com had been grabbed early on by someone from the Philippines and used for a porno site. My grandson Jeremy still likes to tell the saga of me searching for a Waylon lyric and clicking on waylonjennings.com. It was not pretty. Witt found the owner and paid him off so the URL could be used as God would have wanted it. Waylon Jennings means music -- and vice versa.
The News Is Out
Happy birthday to the incredible Dolly Parton, who turned 65 last week. May you always be as happy as you make us.
Shania Twain will be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame this year. She will be honored with a musical tribute during the Juno Awards on March 27. The Canadian native has sold more than 48 million albums. Her television show, Why Not, debuts this spring on Oprah Winfrey's OWN network.
So far, Lady Antebellum and Miranda Lambert are the only country artists scheduled to perform on the 53rd annual Grammy Awards airing live on Feb. 13 from Los Angeles.
Billy Ray and Tish Cyrus were recently seen catching a movie in Burbank, Calif., with sons Braison and Brandon.
Toby Keith last appeared on the Grand Ole Opry in 2002, but he's set to return on Saturday (Jan. 29) with labelmates Trace Atkins and Carter's Chord. Toby told The Tennessean newspaper the Opry is the most prestigious and historic music-related event in all of country music. "I don't live in Tennessee and it's difficult for me to appear on that grand stage, but it doesn't prevent me from listening almost ritualistically," Toby said.
Alison Krauss & Union Station will release a new album on April 12. It's their first since 2004.
Jason Aldean's My Kinda Party has been certified platinum in 11 weeks.
Hall of Famers George Jones and Mel Tillis are taking off their cowboy boots and replacing them with combat boots to join the Boot Campaign in calling attention to the important work of those in the armed forces. Also rebooting are the Oak Ridge Boys, Charlie Daniels and Lee Greenwood, along with Josh Turner, Joe Nichols, Randy Houser, Phil Vassar, Gretchen Wilson, Justin Moore, Chuck Wicks, Randy Rogers Band and the Eli Young Band.
Back from the holidays with his mom in Milwaukee, Josh Thompson took a break from his touring schedule to write songs with the legendary John Anderson.
Martina McBride, Sheryl Crow, Peter Wolf, Cindy Crawford, Rev. Run of Run-DMC, Uncle Kracker, Anita Baker and 60,000 fans joined Kid Rock in Detroit to celebrate his 40th birthday on Jan. 14. The party was at Ford Field, but it was Chevrolet who presented the Kid with a brand new Chevy for his birthday.
See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Cabbage Wedge Meal in One.