Earlier this year Elyse Saunders released an EP titled “Free”, you can check it out here. "Free". the title track for the EP, has a deeper meaning for Saunders. “It went on to be so many other firsts for me including the first (song) I released during a pandemic, the first to provide me with numerous nominations and 2 awards”. Elyse wrote “Free” as a song for everyone. “It shares a lot of snippets of my life growing up in my hometown and those moments of having first time experiences and that feeling of being a little freer of responsibilities. It's nostalgic while empowering with a message of finding those moments to do things that make us feel free.” Saunders loves country music as its down to earth, authentic and a community, but she really connects with the genre as it is a host for her to tell stories. “I've always loved all types of music but I connected most with country music because of the storytelling and that I could be true to myself”. On this EP, Elyse worked with Paul Shatto, David Wills as well as Dan Swinimer.
Saunders, who hails from Peterborough, Canada, just a couple hours outside of Toronto, started songwriting at 6 years old after she saw her mom play guitar and write songs for herself. Since that moment, Elyse loved the idea of expressing herself through lyrics and songs. Saunders started doing some dance competitions which then snowballed into singing competitions. In the end, Elyse used the competitions as a platform for her music. After the competition days, Saunders moved on to playing gigs at local clubs. “I have so many memories of us getting me in the door, and me hopping on stage at these well-known live music nightclubs and then singing with some of the strongest entertainers out there. For the first few years of this happening, I was underage and couldn't legally stay past 10pm, but I would be allowed to pop in and then get out.” While Elyse had to slow down the live performances during the pandemic, she reflects on her favorite parts about performing which includes seeing everyone uniting for the love of music.
Saunders looks up to a ton of artists but especially Dolly Parton, Shania Twain, Garth Brooks and Johnny Cash. “I have so many people I look up to and it's changing all of the time. It could be because I love an artist's work ethic, branding, songwriting, or entertainment style, but ultimately my hero artists that I aspire to be never change”.The powerhouse vocalist and country music songwriter wants aspiring artists to know that they should “Give yourself the time and permission to work on your craft and once you've owned your craft, be willing to make sacrifices and work hard to reach your goals. This is just as much as a business as it is your art and they have to go hand in hand!”.
You can follow Elyse on Instagram at @elyse_saunders_music and find more information on her website here.
Thank you to everyone who participated in the Best of 2021 Awards! We're so proud of all our nominees and the accomplishments of every female country artist during this trying year. We can't wait to see what they do in 2022!
The Best of 2021 is 100% fan run. Fans are given the opportunity to nominate and vote for the artist, group. album, song, video, and collaboration that impacted them the most in 2021. The following are the top 5 in each category.
Artist of the Year
1. Carrie Underwood
2. Danielle Bradbery
4. Maren Morris
5. Molly Lovette
Group of the Year
1. Maddie & Tae
2. Runaway June
3. Emma & Jolie
4. The Chicks
5. Pistol Annies
Album of the Year
1. Carly Pearce "29"
2. Kacey Musgraves "Starcrossed"
3. Miranda Lambert, Jon Randall, Jack Ingram "The Marfa Tapes"
4. Carrie Underwood "My Savior"
5. Alyssa Trahan "Baby Blues & Stilettos"
Song of the Year
1. Zoee "Take Me Away"
2. Harriet Rose "Love Me Like That"
3. Danielle Bradbery "Stop Draggin' Your Boots"
4. Brooke Eden "Sunroof"
5. Maren Morris, Ryan Hurd "Chasing After You"
Video of the Year
1. Kacey Musgraves "justified"
2. Zoee "Take Me Away"
3. Danielle Bradbery "Stop Draggin' Your Boots"
4. Bailey James "Finally Free"
5. Kelsea Ballerini "Half of My Hometown"
Collaboration of the Year
1. Ingrid Andress & Sam Hunt
2. MacKenzie Porter & Dustin Lynch
3. Carly Pearce & Lee Brice
4. Kelsea Ballerini & Kenny Chesney
5. Maren Morris & Taylor Swift
After a whirlwind year of touring and performing all over Tennessee, Illinois, Texas, and her home state of Missouri, Molly Lovette receives an incredible honor from the State of Missouri on behalf of Governor Michael L. Parson.
Molly’s publicist, Nicole Zeller (owner of Brickshore Media) and her acclaimed producer Jeffrey Teague surprised Molly and presented her with this recognition letter from the State of Missouri yesterday. “I thought I was coming in for a meeting with my team. I cannot believe this happened instead,” says Molly.
While her latest holiday song, Silver Bells, is getting great recognition from industry and media personnel, Molly is completely overwhelmed with this honor. “I am honestly shocked and so grateful for this honor. You have no idea how thrilled I am to get my home state approval for what I am doing. When I was younger I thought I was going to coach basketball my entire life until things changed and I picked up a guitar. This is my passion. There’s nothing else I want to do but get up on that stage every night and play and make music for my fans. My town has been so supportive of me and I’m so grateful for everyone I have met along the way. And a special thank you to Governor Parson for this. I will treasure this letter and hope I can continue to make Missouri proud.”
During the presentation, a video was also played from a variety of industry executives, journalists, venue owners, home town celebrities and members of her team and family congratulating her and wishing her continued success. You can view this full videoHERE.
Roberta Lea has released her very first country EP! You can check out “Just A Taste” here. The EP has 6 songs with Lea’s fantastic storytelling ability. The first song, “Ghetto Country Streets”, is all about what Lea’s childhood was like in Norfolk, Virginia. “We were outside all the time, biking, picking berries, playing, and just being 90s kids. That what this song is really about”. Another song, “Back to Georgia”, was written by Roberta when her daughter wanted to go back to Georgia to visit family. With the majority of her music, Lea often starts by writing lyrics because “you need a good story in order to tell it. Songs are storytelling and I want people to hear my story too”. Lea played violin in school and then started going to church as a teenager which expanded her musical experience where she played keyboard and guitar. Once Roberta started playing more gigs, she realized the keyboard wasn’t easy to move so she started focusing on the guitar. “Being a musician was never presented to me as a career choice. I just continued to play, sing, and write, and people started asking me when I had an album out”.
Lea had been playing local gigs and then found a home with the Black Opry. Holly G, the founder of the Black Opry, invited Lea to the 2021 Americana Fest in Nashville, Tennessee. “We had an Airbnb which then turned into the Black Opry House. All of these incredible artists gathered, and it was really like a sitcom because people just kept showing up at the door. First Reyna (Roberts), then came Brittney Spencer and then Emily Scott Robinson”. Roberta stayed most of the week and just took in showcases from Allison Russell and Miko Marks. In addition, Lea attended the Americana Awards at the Ryman Auditorium, a stage Roberta dreams of playing one day. “The Black Opry is such a spirited community and I think Nashville is ready to have those important conversations.”
Artist and Black Opry performer Lizzie No “was playing a show at Rockwood Music Hall in New York and the person she was originally supposed to play with cancelled. Holly reached out to us and said “Let’s do a Black Opry writers round”. We are all so excited for the upcoming shows and for whatever is to come”. You can find more information about the Black Opry here, and on Twitter at @BlackOpry. The group includes Lea, Aaron Vance, Jett Holden, Joy Clark, and Tylar Bryant, along with some very special and legendary guests appearing at their upcoming shows. After the success of the New York show, Holly G and the Black Opry have other shows scheduled in Memphis, Nashville, at the historic Exit/In, Dolly Parton’s Dollywood, and Houston, Texas, with many more dates and cities to come. You can buy tickets to all of the events here.
Check out Roberta Lea on Twitter and Instagram at @iamrobertalea on both, as well as her website.
Meet Chiyanti, the new artist blending Rap, Soul, and R&B with Country. In August 2021, Chiyanti dropped her song “Big Ole Wagon'', and went viral. You can check out the song here. Chiyanti loves all genres of music and one day she woke up with a feeling to do a country song. “I wanted to do something different. I wanted country but something fun. I wanted a country twerk song. I made the song, and I was nervous about it”. The song ended up going viral on TikTok. The viral hit landed in the hands of Black Opry founder Holly G who then sent it to Rissi Palmer. Holly featured Chiyanti on the Black Opry website; you can check out the article here. The next thing Chiyanti knew, she was featured on Palmer’s Apple Music show, “Color Me Country”. “I didn’t know who Rissi was or what the show was, but she’s so invested in country music and we both agree on the fact that country music needs people of color and LGBTQ+ artists. Both Rissi and Holly are all about creating inclusive spaces and talent in country music”. You can hear the “Color Me Country” episode here.
Chiyanti hails from Brooklyn, New York but is now living in Houston, Texas. Music played a big part in her childhood. “Growing up, my childhood was fun. My mom always had MTV and VH1 on, so we saw and heard all the music and the music videos”. At 14, Chiyanti went into the group home system to live in a house with other young girls her age. Before she left, her grandmother gifted her a keyboard. “In the home I was never able to watch the tv because all the other girls would take it over, so I played my piano and I started songwriting to occupy myself and express my feelings. ” Once Chiyanti left the house at 18, she started working at Guitar Center where she learnt about all kinds of equipment and instruments. In addition to making music full time, Chiyanti is a piano teacher. “As a teacher, I have a gift of explaining. Teaching shows me that I have that gift. I can’t read music, but I teach how to listen and play by ear”.
When the Houston living artist went viral, she started going live on Instagram with some of the biggest R&B artists like Monica, who is rumored to have a country album coming out, and K Michelle. Michelle is the first African-American artist to be sponsored by Jack Daniels. Chiyanti wants people to know that her interests in other genres set her apart. “Nelly stepped out and went into country. You never know who would like you if you don’t step out of your genre and comfort zone. I’m not doing traditional country; I want to bring country up to speed and create a new sound”. Chiyanti just dropped her album “The Introduction of Chiyanti” and features a mix of Rap, Soul, and R&B along with her viral country hit, “Big Ole Wagon”. You can check out the album here.
You can follow Chiyanti on Instagram at @chiyanti_ find more information