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18 / MEET THE HOSTS! CANDY O'TERRY & JACY DAWN VALERAS

Sometimes we have to pinch ourselves because the creation of Country Music Success Stories combines both of our talents and checks all of our boxes!  

Candy O'Terry & Jacy Dawn Valeras

We’ve been getting lots of messages from listeners (and please keep ‘em coming @countrymusicsuccessstories).  They tell us that they love hearing about the country music icons we interview, but they wish they knew more about the hosts!  So, as we kick off season two, this episode is called “Meet the Hosts” and it’s our story.  From an email Jacy sent to Candy in 2019, to to the decision to create this unique, award-winning series, this episode is chock full of cool stories like Candy’s first shot on the air in Boston, to Jacy’s brave move to Nashville in a U-Haul with 600 bucks in her pocket.   But most of all, this episode is about the power of an unlikely friendship and the joy of joining forces to make your dreams and goals come true. 

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16 / JOHN SCHNEIDER PODCAST INTERVIEW

I’ve always expected great things and I’ve asked people to do the same.   It’s a mindset. If you expect bad things to happen, they will. I don’t think anybody would disagree with that.  Therefore, if you expect great things to happen they will.  - John Schneider 

Music Row is just a road in Nashville, but it is paved with the hopes and dreams of just about every man or woman who ever walked it…hoping that someday, somehow, they’ll make it in Music City.

John Schneider is one of those people who always knew he would make it, and he did.  As Bo Duke on the Dukes of Hazard, he decided to use his talents as a singer and was able to have a number one TV show and number one songs, back to back. In total, John released 9 studio albums, 18 singles, 11 top 10 songs and 4 number one smash hits.  An actor throughout his childhood and teenage years, John wrote and directed the final episode of The Dukes of Hazzard and then jumped back into acting with leading roles on Smallville, the Haves & Have Nots, Dr Quinn Medicine Women…and more.  Valuing his ability as a storyteller above all his many talents, John is a gifted filmmaker, too.  In this episode, John Schneider proves that having your face on a lunchbox is pretty cool, but that was 40 years ago, and he’s still got plenty of films to make and stories to tell.  

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17 / BILL ANDERSON PODCAST INTERVIEW

Find something you like doin’ so much, you’d do it for nothin’ and then learn to do it so well that they’ll pay you and then you’ve got it made.  That’s how I feel about performing.    

Bill Anderson

If you want to get someone’s attention, just whisper!  Whispering Bill Anderson has been getting people’s attention for decades through his distinctive voice, his songwriting genius, and his incredible ability to entertain an audience.   Having just celebrated 60 years as a member of the Grand Ole Opry, Bill was full of stories and plenty of wisdom when he invited us into his dining room in Old Hickory to talk about a career that started as a teenager and continues to this day. When we asked him about songwriting, Bill said:  “One of the greatest things a songwriter can have is empathy.  And that is to put yourself in somebody else’s place.” And about singers, he said: “Anybody can trace a picture. It takes a real artist to paint one. “ This episode is chock full of expert advice for anyone who wants to make a living in country music.  With too many industry awards to mention, Bill Anderson was named BMI’s first country music songwriting icon, placing him alongside R&B legends James Brown, Chuck Berry and Little Richard. Download this episode for your next car ride to your favorite destination.  Whispering Bill Anderson has so many great stories to tell and so many #1 songs for you to hear,  you just might want to listen to it twice! 

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15 / SARA EVANS PODCAST INTERVIEW

I grew up on a farm with the clothes line in the backyard and I knew that millions of Americans would relate to that. As much as I love New York and L.A, I am really a spokesperson for middle America and the girl next door. - Sara Evans

Every trip to Nashville is filled with non-stop adventure.  Jacy and I spend weeks planning our interviews and when we got word that Sara Evans had agreed to share her story with us, we did have a bit of a fan moment.

 

With 5 number 1 songs, the ACM Award for Top Female Vocalist, a CMA for Video of the Year, Grammy, Billboard, BMI, R&R, CMA & ACM nominations, and 10 studio albums, Sara Evans is a success story by any standard, but it is her personal story, shared with Jacy and me, as we sat together on cozy couches,  tucked away on the third floor of the colonial style home she shares with her 3 children, that really blew us away. Turns out, the girl next door who sang Suds in the Bucket really did grow up on a farm in Missouri, with the clothes hanging out on the line and she

has been planning her success story since she was 5 years old.

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13 / AIMEE MAYO PODCAST INTERVIEW

When I saw my name on that first record, it just lit something up inside of me. - Aimee Mayo

Meet Aimee Mayo, award-winning songwriter and survivor.  In this interview, we drive down a country lane just outside of Nashville and find our way to AimeeLand, the studio where Aimee and her husband Chris write and record.  Located a stone’s throw from their home originally owned by Mel Tillis, this is the place where superstars record mega hits we all know by heart. Although her life as a wife, mother of three and Grammy-nominated songwriter looks pretty idyllic from here, Aimee’s childhood was a nightmare and the story of how she survived it is chronicled in her book: Talking to the Sky.  As we sat around a table Aimee built herself, in a studio where ideas and music come to life everyday, we learned how deeply gifted this woman really is.  With hits that have spent 26 weeks in the #1 spot on the Billboard Country Charts, selling 155 million units worldwide, this Alabama girl is grateful for how far she has come. Says Aimee:  “All my greatest gifts have come wrapped in ribbons of pain.” And to that we say:  Amen, Sister-friend.  For the stories behind songs like Amazed, This One’s For The Girls, Every Time I Hear That Song and more, go ahead and pour yourself a glass of wine and hit that download button.   

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14 / COLLIN RAYE PODCAST INTERVIEW

Your identity is not about how well you’re doing on the charts, that’s your job, you have to treat that as your career and keep it separate. Your identity has to be bigger than, “I’m a star” because that star can fade fast. - Collin Raye

Words of wisdom from multi-platinum selling artist, Collin Raye.  With 12 studio albums, 39 singles, 24 top 10 songs and 16 number 1 hits, he is a solid recording artist and live performer who is hardwired for a career in country music.  Born Floyd Elliot Wray and known throughout his early life as “Bubba Wray”, Collin was always surrounded by music. His mother, Lois Wray was the opening act for the Sun Records Tour, featuring Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Collin’s dad played bass and loved bringing playing the songs of his favorite country artists over and over on the family stereo.  In this interview, Collin takes you into his rise from singing harmonies and playing the tambourine on stage as a child for his mother, to chalking up number 1 songs throughout the 90’s and you’ll hear plenty of his songs in this episode.  But it is Collin’s love of performance that really shines through. Says Collin:   “I don’t know what to do with myself if I can’t sing songs for people and make them happy. That’s all I know how to do.”   His final answer about success might surprise you.  Go ahead and take a listen.   

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13 / AIMEE MAYO PODCAST INTERVIEW

When I saw my name on that first record, it just lit something up inside of me. - Aimee Mayo

 

Meet Aimee Mayo, award-winning songwriter and survivor.  In this interview, we drive down a country lane just outside of Nashville and find our way to AimeeLand, the studio where Aimee and her husband Chris write and record.  Located a stone’s throw from their home originally owned by Mel Tillis, this is the place where superstars record mega hits we all know by heart. Although her life as a wife, mother of three and Grammy-nominated songwriter looks pretty idyllic from here, Aimee’s childhood was a nightmare and the story of how she survived it is chronicled in her book: Talking to the Sky.  As we sat around a table Aimee built herself, in a studio where ideas and music come to life everyday, we learned how deeply gifted this woman really is.  With hits that have spent 26 weeks in the #1 spot on the Billboard Country Charts, selling 155 million units worldwide, this Alabama girl is grateful for how far she has come. Says Aimee:  “All my greatest gifts have come wrapped in ribbons of pain.” And to that we say:  Amen, Sister-friend.  For the stories behind songs like Amazed, This One’s For The Girls, Every Time I Hear That Song and more, go ahead and pour yourself a glass of wine and hit that download button.   

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12 / TONY BROWN PODCAST INTERVIEW

Pay attention to trends, but never be a follower.  Be a leader, not a follower. Push the envelop, but don’t let it break. I like to stay in front of the curve, but I never like to be too cool for the room. -Tony Brown 

Just when Jacy and I think we’ve experienced the best interview EVER, another country music icon comes along and blows us away.  Meet Grammy, ACM & CMA award-winning producer Tony Brown.  A pillar of the country music scene for 40 years, Tony came to Nashville with a dream to be a session player.  The son of an evangelist minister, Tony started playing piano in church by ear and knew that music would be his life.   In this interview, he shares stories about what it was like to play piano for Elvis Presley both on tour and in the famous jungle room at Graceland. He recounts his first #1 song with George Strait, the experience of producing Lionel Richie’s live duets album and the surprise invitation to fly to Los Angeles to produce a track to be sung by Barbra Streisand.   As an A&R guy with a feel for musicianship AND hit-making, Tony rose to become president of MCA records and co-founded Universal South. His work with Reba, Vince Gill, George Strait, Lyle Lovett, Patty Loveless, Sara Evans and so many more artists has yielded 100 #1 singles and record levels of sales over 100 million dollars.  For a tutorial on how to make it in Nashville, this episode is required listening! 

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11 / JOHN BERRY & ROBIN BERRY PODCAST INTERVIEW

Fame is not a decision you make. It’s a lot more work, and it’s a lot of fairy dust. -John Berry

Let’s turn back time to 1979 when singer/songwriter/guitarist John Berry had big dreams and the patience to see them through.  A brilliant singer with a gift for storytelling and the ability to connect with an audience, John got a band together and recorded his own songs in a 4-track studio he built himself.  He distributed his songs on his own label and sang in bars after University of Georgia football games,  never saying “no” to the chance to perform. More than 10 years passed before John was signed to Liberty Records. When his career took off, his wife Robin continued at his side as his backup singer.   Married for 33 years, John and Robin Berry welcomed us into their cozy home and into a music room where John’s guitars are always close at hand.  Together, they share their stories of life on the road with their children, and what success really means. With 30 albums and 19 appearances on the Billboard Country Music charts including his #1 smash“Your Love Amazes Me” John Berry’s life is a testament to family, faith and perseverance. 

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10 / STEVE DORFF PODCAST INTERVIEW

I’m like this anonymous Oz behind the curtain guy nobody ever knows. The face of the songs are the artists who record them. -Steve Dorff

If you are a songwriter or a composer, this episode is for you!   Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018, Steve Dorff was born to do what he does.  Recorded in his music room at his home just outside of Nashville, Steve says he“heard an orchestra in his head” before he could walk or talk and recalls climbing up onto the piano bench at 3 or 4 to play better than his older sister.  Raised in Queens, New York, Steve first heard the Beatles on the car radio at 12 and said to himself “that’s what I want to do.”    The list of singers who have breathed life into his songs is massive. From Willie to Whitney, from Celine to Ray Charles, Ringo Star to Kenny Rogers and George Strait to Cher and Dusty Springfield, Steve says he is most proud of being a diverse songwriter, composer and producer who can rise and shine in any musical genre.   The author of the book I Wrote That One ,Too, Steve Dorff has the kind of musical talent that doesn’t come along very often.  His sage advice for young songwriters and his entertaining stories behind hits like Every Which Way But Loose, I Cross My Heart and Through The Years will keep you glued to this rare interview with a true musical genius. 

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09 / TG SHEPPARD PODCAST INTERVIEW

I was only 15 when I climbed out my window and ran away to Memphis with 60 cents in my pocket.  I look around at my life now and I realize that it all started with just 60 cents.   

- TG Sheppard

Incredible as it seems, TG Sheppard was a runaway teen with a lifelong dream of making it in country music.  In this interview, TG and his wife Kelly Lang welcome us into their hime for a chat around the kitchen table and a rare look at his climb up the ladder to success. The stars aligned one night at midnight outside the Rainbow Terrace Roller Rink in Memphis when TG (his real name is William Browder) met his idol:  Elvis Presley.   On that night, Elvis took the boy under his wing, and the two remained friends until the day Elvis died.  With 21 #1 songs to his credit, ranked #87 on Billboard’s list of the top 100 artists in country music, an Elvis tribute show on Sirius, a new album called Midnight In Memphis, and possession of his masters plus a distribution deal with Time Life,  TG Sheppard is living his dream.  And every day,  TG continues to follow the advice of Elvis Presley who said:   If you ever forget where you came from, you’ll never get where you want to go.”

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08 / LARRY STRICKLAND PODCAST INTERVIEW

You’ve gotta find what is different or unique about yourself and then put that out in front, even if it scares you to death.  - Larry Strickland

Relationships are everything and in Nashville they are made of gold.  When Jacy introduced me to Naomi Judd and we interviewed her at their compound in Leipers Fork, Tennessee, her husband Larry Strickland was sitting on a couch in the recording studio, just listening quietly.  But when he spoke, his rich, deep voice filled the room. I knew I had to interview him because his long career as a bass singer is like a page out of country music history. From humble beginnings singing with gospel quartets on weekends in high school, Larry Strickland made his way in country music and reached the pinnacle of success singing bass and touring with Elvis Presley. His latest album is called Legacy, a labor of love that includes the gospel songs that inspired Larry to become a bass singer nearly 50 years ago.

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07 / KAREN STALEY PODCAST INTERVIEW

I didn’t come to Nashville having played bars for 10 years. I was a total green horn. So I learned a lot. It’s a blast, it’s like perpetual adolescence.  - Karen Staley

Welcome to the success story of a woman whose songs have been played on radio more than 12 million times (and counting) with downloads at about 20 million!  Karen Staley is in a league of her own as a Nashville quadruple threat who sings, plays, writes and produces.  Her love of music started in high school when she hurt her back and had to give up playing varsity sports.  Karen’s music teacher noticed she was floundering, handed her a guitar and taught her the chords to Annie’s Song by John Denver. Karen Staley never put that guitar down and her 30 year success story has included writing number one songs like Take Me As I Am, Hey, Baby Let’s Go To Vegas and Keeper of the Stars.  She knows what it is like to tour and play to gigantic crowds with Reba, Faith Hill, Terri Clark, Patty Loveless and more.  Born in Weirton, West Virginia and raised near Hookstown, PA, Karen is an iconic, hit songwriter with a tireless work ethic and a heart of gold. This interview was recorded in Karen’s home where her music room is lined with gold records and guitars just waiting to be played.  With honesty and plenty of humor, Karen says:  “In 30 years of writing, I’ve never had writer’s block. God gives me something every time.”   Press that download button now for priceless stories about being a part of the early days of the Bluebird Cafe and a treasure box full of songwriting advice. 

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06 / KENT BLAZY PODCAST INTERVIEW

I first wrote poetry and got it published in the high school year book and it gave me a little bit of positive feedback that somebody must like what I do.  The minute I got a guitar, I just started trying to put the two together and started writing songs instead of poetry.

- Kent Blazy

As Jacy and I made our way up the hill to Kent Blazy’s house, I couldn’t help but wonder how his climb, his success story as a singer/songwriter and guitarist had unfolded in Nashville.  In this interview, Kent explains how he traded cigarettes for the chance to learn guitar licks from a kid who lived a few blocks away from his home in Lexington, Kentucky.  With a guitar in his lap, Kent turned his poems into songs and decided to make music his life.  By the time he arrived in Nashville, Kent already had lots of experience as a singer, guitarist and songwriter and began creating opportunities for himself to succeed, including building a recording studio in his home. His life changed the day Garth Brooks walked into his studio.  You see, Garth was hoping he could earn some money as a demo singer.   It wasn’t long before they decided to take a shot at co-writing and on February 1, 1988 they wrote the song that changed the trajectory of their careers.   Inspired by their wives,  If Tomorrow Never Comes would get Garth a record deal and become their first of 7 number one songs.  Kent would go on to write many more number ones for other artists, too.   Now the newest member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Kent Blazy is a platinum-selling hitmaker who takes the art of songwriting very seriously with a sharp focus on always being prepared. 

  #countrymusic #songwriting #garthbrooks #nashville #kentblazy

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05 / LORI MCKENNA PODCAST INTERVIEW

There’s always growth, there’s always somewhere to go to in music, a place you have not reached. Every time I’ve stuck my neck out musically, I’ve been rewarded. - Lori McKenna

In this episode, we sit down with two-time Grammy winning singer/songwriter Lori McKenna for a conversation about humble beginnings, persistence, and the importance of developing and maintaining relationships with local radio in order to fuel your country music success story.   The mother of five from Stoughton, Massachusetts, whose career began in the mid-90’s in small clubs outside of Boston, Lori has used her incredible storytelling ability to write songs about real-life experiences.  In this interview, she shares the songwriting stories behind her biggest hits including Girl Crush with Little Big Town, Humble and Kind for Tim McGraw,  I’ll Always Remember You This Way for the soundtrack to A Star Is Born with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, and It All Comes Out In the Wash with Miranda Lambert.   Music City Mentor Jacy Dawn Valeras gets great advice from Lori about being confident and able to sing your own songs when you pitch them to an artist or a publisher.  If you are an aspiring singer/songwriter, consider this episode required listening!  #countrymusic #songwriting #humbleandkind #lorimckenna

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04 / CRYSTAL GAYLE PODCAST INTERVIEW

I’m proud that I’m still here in this business.  It’s what I’ve loved to do. Success is in your mind.  It’s only in your mind. -Crystal Gayle 

This episode brings us to Music Row in Nashville and the offices of Gayle Enterprises for an interview with Crystal Gayle. Jacy has known the Grammy-winner since she was only 14 and you’ll hear that story in her Music City Mentor segment.  As for me, I’ve played Crystal’s songs on the radio for decades and couldn’t wait to meet the woman whose long hair touches the floor. The little sister of Loretta Lynn, Crystal was advised to  “go her own way” and create her own unique musical style.  Signed to Decca Records at only 19, she was “very, very, very shy” and it took her a while to feel comfortable on stage.  Her signature song: Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue was recorded live in the studio on the first take and would receive airplay on Country, Top 40 and AC radio stations everywhere, skyrocketing Crystal’s career and earning her a Grammy. With 28 top 10 songs, 12 number 1 hits and a slew of awards, this is a singer whose music has stood the test of time. This episode includes Crystal’s very wise advice for up and coming singers:  “be true to yourself and to remember to have fun because you are doing what you love.” #countrymusic #crystalgayle #countrycrossover #dontitmakemybrowneyesblue #countrymusicicon #countrymusicroyalty

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03 / JEANNIE SEELY PODCAST INTERVIEW

Until you’re ready to get out of the race, you’ve just gotta keep on runnin’. - Jeannie Seely

 

 

There’s something very special about sitting on the back porch, overlooking the Cumberland River, listening to the cicadas and talking about country music!   In this interview, we are at the home of Jeannie Seely, Grammy winner and 53- year member of the Grand Ole Opry.  Make no mistake about it, this 80 year old trailblazer is going strong with a new album and a career that continues to unfold.  Raised on a farm in Townsville, Pennsylvania, Jeannie remembers turning a chicken coop into a stage where she and her brother would perform.  By the time she was 16, Jeannie knew that if she was going to succeed in country music, she had to move to Nashville.  With 50 dollars to her name, she put the key in the ignition of her Ford Falcon and never looked back. Known throughout her career as an individualist, Jeannie opened doors that had been closed to women, including the very first hosting job on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry.  Whether she was writing or singing #1 songs, Jeannie was and still is a powerhouse with a heart of gold. Her incredible longevity is a reflection of her work ethic.  #grandoleopry #countrymusicsuccessstories #countrymusic

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02 / KELLY LANG PODCAST INTERVIEW

Barry Gibb called me and says “Hey, Kell, I'm gonna be singing Islands in the Stream at Kenny Rogers Induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Are you available to sing that song with me?  And you know what I said?  Hold on a second and let me check my schedule! - Kelly Lang

The stars really lined up for this interview with Kelly Lang.  A prolific songwriter, vocalist, producer and visual artist, Kelly grew up surrounded by country music.  Her father was Velton Lang, Conway Twitty’s trusted road manager for 25 years.  As we sat around Kelly’s kitchen table in Hendersonville, Tennessee, she shared the many stories of her career in country music.  At only 15, she charted on Billboard with a hit called Lady, Lady and that song was quickly followed by a stellar performance in the finals on Star Search.  The mother of two, Kelly is a breast cancer survivor who was mentored by her friend and fellow survivor, Olivia Newton-John. In this interview, Kelly shares her songwriting process saying “it’s a God thing” along with her belief that cover songs shouldn’t be altered too much.   Now blissfully married to country music icon TG Sheppard, Kelly shares career highlights including what it was like to sing Islands In the Stream with Sir Barry Gibb. Time and experience have not aged this beautiful country music star, but they have made her stronger.  Over the next 30 minutes, you’ll come to know a woman who values family and friends above all else:  “The music industry is fleeting.  Success for me is lifting other people up and elevating them.”  For a tutorial on what success really means, hit that download button.  

#countrymusic #kellylang #womeninmusic #nashville #musiccitymentor #countrymusicsuccessstories

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01 / NAOMI JUDD PODCAST INTERVIEW

I’ve been through an alphabet of tragedies and trials and I’m still here.  I wasn’t sure I was going to make it at all.  But I just kept going like the little engine that could.  I said to myself: I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. - Naomi Judd

What does it take to become a country music success story?  For Naomi Judd, it took the strength of a mother’s love and the determination of a champion to build a better life for her daughters, Wynonna and Ashley Judd.  Recorded in September 2020 on Naomi’s 500 acre farm in Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee, this interview takes you through Naomi’s life, including the birth of Wynonna on her high school graduation night, a job as a receptionist for The Fifth Dimension in Los Angeles, and a mountaintop home in Kentucky where there was no heat, no phone and no TV.  While she studied to be a nurse, the family lived on welfare and Naomi traded her prized buck knife to buy Wynonna her first guitar.  It was on the porch of their rustic home that Naomi and Wynonna learned their first song together:  The Sweetest Gift:  A Mother’s Love.  After receiving her nursing degree, Naomi moved the family to Nashville where she was an ICU nurse.  Brent Mayer, the father of one of her patients accepted a homemade cassette tape of Naomi and Wynonna singing together. He was blown away by what he heard an arranged for a LIVE audition at RCA records. The Judds were signed to a record deal that would catapult them into country music history as the most commercially successful duo of the 1980’s with 25 singles, 14 number 1 songs, 8 CMA’s, 5 Grammy Awards, and 20 million + records sold.  From Naomi’s songwriting technique to her determination to beat Hepatitis C, this interview is an essay in perseverance.  Music City Mentor Jacy Dawn Valeras tops off this first episode with helpful tips on songwriting.   For a deep dive into the soul of a country music icon, just hit that download button.

#countrymusic #naomijudd #womeninmusic #thejudds #nashville #musiccitymentor #countrymusicsuccessstories

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COUNTRY MUSIC SUCCESS STORIES TRAILER

What does it take to become a country music success story? In this Nashville-based podcast, radio legend & master interviewer Candy O’Terry goes straight to the pros to hear their stories. From singers to producers, songwriters to record label executives, radio programmers and DJ’s to PR and marketing pros, every episode is a deep dive in to what it takes to succeed in the country music industry. If you want to make it in Nashville, you need a roadmap. Music City Mentor, Jacy Dawn Valeras provides valuable advice about everything from writer's rounds to online marketing and building a network that will go the distance.

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