8 Off 8th hosted by Young Music City


Hailing from Maple Ridge, BC, Madeline Merlo is a CCMA Award and two-time BCCMA Award winning artist, with four Top 15 singles under her belt. Just weeks after a recent move to Nashville, Merlo landed on US Weekly’s List of best-dressed artists at the Country Music Awards. She is currently collaborating with some of the biggest names in country on new music, continuing to live up to Spotify’s prediction that she will be one of the biggest rising stars to watch.

Merlo’s latest single, “Motel Flamingo,” a vibrant, upbeat track, flew up the charts to land Top 10 at Canadian Country Radio. Produced by Karen Kosowski, the up-tempo song is reflection of Madeline’s unique tropical, bohemian vibe. After winning CCMA Rising Star in 2015 and BCCMA Female Artist of the Year two years in a row, Merlo released a series of successful singles, including; “Whatcha Wanna Do About It”, which cracked the Top 10 at Canadian Country Radio along with landing on Sirius XM’s #OnTheHorizon List, her follow up “War Paint”, which deeply resonated with fans on social media, and was the #1 Most Added country song in Canada in its debut week, along with the, soulful, breakup ballad, “Over & Over”. All three songs are featured on Merlo’s debut album, Free Soul, released in 2016.

In 2017 Merlo starred alongside Jana Kramer and Sophie Tweed-Simmons in the musical film, Country Crush, which saw her play the lead role of a young woman trying to make it as a country singer. She went out on the road to open for Dean Brody on his epic Beautiful Freakshow Tour, taking to the stage to perform in 14 cities. She was also the only female artist nominated for Country Artist of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards and recently surpassed more than 4 million streams of her hits on Spotify – from a global streaming audience that covers 61 countries.

After the initial success of her hit “Honey Jack,” Merlo opened for country royalty Keith Urban and went on to scoop up 2015’s Rising Star award at the Canadian Country Music Association Awards and Female Vocalist of the Year at the British Columbia Country Music Association Awards. Then she rounded out the year touring with heavyweights Dean Brody and Paul Brandt.

Madeline Merlo has always had eclectic taste, and in her music you’ll hear the influence of classic country artists like Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline, R&B greats Etta James and Billie Holiday and modern superstars such as Miranda Lambert. Merlo is a champion of local artisans and is passionate about promoting new designers. Her free-spirited style is as unique as her sound.

Powerful singer. Sharp songwriter. A live performer since her teenage years. After spending more than a decade in the studio, the writing room, and onstage, there are few roles Kelsey Waters hasn't played.

Even so, she saves her best work for songs like "One More Habit," rolling her life story into dark, guitar-fueled music inspired by pop noire and rock & roll.

Waters' story begins in northern Florida. She grew up splitting her time between the city, where her mother kept a music room in the house, and the beach, where her father ran a folk art gallery. A songwriter since her early teens, Waters was gigging five nights a week by the time she enrolled at FSU as a design major. She eventually left school altogether and focused on music full-time, opening for the Indigo Girls during her first year outside of the classroom.

After years of local shows in Florida clubs and beach bars, Waters moved to Nashville in 2013, drawn north by the city's songwriting community. She signed a publishing deal during her first year in town. Now a professional songwriter and top-shelf storyteller, Waters found herself able to sit in a room with a stranger and create a melodic, narrative-driven song. Released in 2017, the Cool Cars EP highlights four of those songs, shining a light not only on Waters' compelling vocals but her writing chops too.

Things get more personal on Waters' new material. This is raw, guitar-driven music, heavily inspired by the female rockers of the '90s ("I'm a '90s baby," Waters admits, listing Sheryl Crow, Joan Osborne and Fiona Apple as influences) as well as self-assured legends like David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, and the Beatles. If the songs from Cool Cars take a look outward, spinning stories of made-up characters and fictional relationships, then newer tracks like "One More Habit" find Waters looking at herself, doing some self-analysis along the way.

"I waited until I was 26 to allow myself to have my own voice as an artist," she says, "and that’s what this new project is all about. I turned inward for the writing inspiration, which was a new concept, and allowed myself to open up about addiction, heartbreak, and sexual desire. This is around the time a good friend of mine, Mark Selby, took an acoustic guitar out of my hands during a co-write and swapped it for an electric…Thus, I became hooked, and that only further inspired the sound of this new project."

Also inspiring the sound of Waters' new project is producer Oscar Charles, another childhood fan of Zeppelin and the Beatles. Working together at Nashville's Sound Emporium recording studio, Waters and Charles carved out a sound that nodded to the past while still pushing forward. They double-tracked Waters' vocals, a move that saluted John Lennon. They made use of the studio's reverb chamber and vintage gear. With the rhythmic "How Do You," they channeled the modern influence of British dance-rock, then nodded to the 1970s by adding a conga track.

"I didn't purposefully say, 'Lets make this sound old school,'" Charles says. "I just can't help it because that's what I grew up with. We captured sounds that you can't get in your bedroom studio. Kelsey sang background vocals straight into the studio's reverb chamber with its door open. We climbed down inside to get the claps for 'I Pour.' You might be able to emulate the reverb, but you can't get those creative ideas from looking at a plugin."

From the sexy strut of "I Pour" to the slinky, minor-key grind of "Want," Waters' newer songs reintroduce an artist who, now entering her second decade as a musician, is writing her best material to date. It's a sound that's raw, real, and inviting. It's also the foundation for Waters' full-length debut, paving the way for an artist who isn't afraid to shine a light on her darker side.

Clinton John


Kelsey K is a natural born songwriter with a clear vision of what she’s meant to do. At 18, she is already an accomplished singer, songwriter and musician who has held her own in front of thousands of people, opening shows for acts like Lady Antebellum, Toby Keith, Thomas Rhett and Hunter Hayes. She’s no stranger to what it takes to be a compelling artist choosing to pass on faster routes for one of paying dues and honing her craft. One could spend several pages telling you her history, and the sacrifices she and her family have made to help her follow the fire that burns within her. Nashville Hall of Fame writer Aaron Barker, feels “Kelsey is the most dedicated and persistent young singer/songwriter I have ever written with. In an ocean of new artists who come to Nashville in the hopes of becoming a star, Kelsey has simply come to claim what is rightfully hers.”

Music has always instinctively been her first love. From making up songs as a toddler, to her first performance at age 4 singing the “Grand Ole Flag”, music just seemed to have to come out of her. Her love of country music blossomed after she attended her first concert, at age 5, where she saw Shania Twain and announced at the end of the show, “I’m going to do that someday!” Soon after, she was writing songs about her daddy, angels, and what had happened on the playground. By 9, she was determined to sing at the county fair and took her birthday money and bought her first guitar so she could put music to her songs. She began performing at local fairs and nursing homes singing her favorite Patsy Cline tunes and her newest creations. She also loved competing in sports but that all came to a halt when she came down with a mysterious illness in March of 2010 that left her too weak and ill to participate in sports or school. She wouldn’t return to her 5th grade class that year. Instead she spent many weeks in the hospital. During this difficult time, her guitar Ruby was a constant companion and together they wrote song after song. Her songs expressed a wisdom far beyond her years, her curious parents asked Kelsey how she wrote the songs and she replied, “God sends the songs. I just listen.” Even though Kelsey was very weak, music helped her forget how sick she was. She entered and won a talent contest, giving her the opportunity to open a concert for Gary Allen. A local farmer heard about Kelsey’s talent and sent her to Nashville in December of 2010 to record her first original album, “Live, Laugh, Love” with Montgomery Gentry’s Eddie Killgallon, who felt, “Kelsey’s melody and lyric writing far surpasses anyone I’ve met at her age.” His sentiments were echoed when the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) awarded Kelsey a scholarship to their Advanced Songwriters Camp, at age 11, the youngest songwriter in the organization’s history to receive such recognition. After her first trip to Nashville, Kelsey traveled to Mayo Clinic in January of 2011 where they would discover she had POTS syndrome. With medication and time she would grow out of the childhood illness that lead her down her new path to Nashville.

While she continued to grow physically stronger so did her love for creating music. By 12, she was fronting her first band, performing many shows, including her first CMA fest, and using her earnings to get to and from Nashville to develop her writing skills and host writers rounds at venues such as the Listening Room and the Commodore. Her hard work led to her second album “Blue Jean Girl”, which was fan funded and recorded at Starstruck Studios in Nashville in June of 2012. The album yielded an Independent Music Award for Best Country Song, Kelsey’s first movie cut with “Blue Jean Girl” featured in the movie “Cowgirl’s & Angels 2: Dakota’s Summer”, and her first publishing deal at age 13.

That fall an anonymous gift arrived. The anonymous gift giver, by messenger, indicated they felt God had a big plan for Kelsey, and to accomplish that, she would be in need of a better guitar. It was not just any guitar; it was a beautiful Taylor KOA 24ce. That anonymous gift giver, could not have known, nor did Kelsey, that within a couple of months she would start a run of opening for various well known acts like Toby Keith, Thomas Rhett, Scotty McCreery and Hunter Hayes across the country from Texas to Wisconsin and her childhood dream of performing in the Grandstand at the Iowa State Fair with Lady Antebellum and Billy Currington.

She moved to Nashville at 15, living in her donated 12×24 band trailer on a full hook-up campsite in Greenbrier, TN. It started out as a summer home to rehearse with her band in Nashville and co-write, but ended up becoming her home for a full year. By fall of 2014 new opportunities opened and her parents decided to sacrifice to let Kelsey see where it might lead. Her mom took a leave from her teaching job to stay with her while her dad stayed in Iowa with her brothers. In that tiny camper, she homeschooled, worked on her lead guitar skills, began teaching herself Logic, and wrote the songs that would become her next EP. In February of 2015, at age 15, she recorded her album Run Girl with Ilya Toshinskiy, releasing her single “Run Girl” in September of 2015, deemed “a Highway Find” by John Marks on Sirius XM Radio. Run Girl debut at #36 on The Highway’s Hot 45 Countdown and had over 200,000 streams on Spotify. She was nominated by Nashville Music Industry Awards for best Country Artist for 2016 and has been selected as an NSAI Top 40 songwriter multiple times. She recently released two new singles “Summer Soundtrack” featured on CMT’s Next Women of Country on Spotify and “Tourist” now playing on CMT Music, Spotify, and iTunes.

Two years ago, her parents-both teachers, along with her three brothers, steadfastly lifted their Iowan roots and moved to Nashville. Now you can find Kelsey playing gigs at the Wild Horse for CMA fest, the Listening Room and Bluebird Cafe at writer’s showcases, and chatting with Tracy Kornet on WMSV channel 4. Kelsey is planted firmly in the Young Country genre, although her fans are of all ages. Why? Because she’s talented, humble, and moves through the opportunities she creates for herself, like a pro!

Alexander Wren

Somewhere between 17 and 20, you can live an entire lifetime... of growth and change, of goodbyes and hellos and heartbreak and everything in between. It’s the season in which—at least for old souls in new shoes like Alexander Wren—a boy can become a man.

Set for release on September 9, 2016, The Good in Goodbye marks the beginning of one midwestern boy’s journey of intent, the hard-won determination to find his own voice—literally and lyrically—on his own terms.

“If I were to sum it up from a personal place,” Alexander says of his debut EP, “I’d definitely call it a ‘coming of age’ record because I needed to grow up and experience life to write these songs. But it’s more than that, really, as these stories of heartbreak and new love can be universally understood. Everybody’s been there.”

A Ft. Wayne, Indiana native, Alexander grew up under the influence of an Epiphone-playing wedding-singer mother and a Hank Williams-loving father, churchgoing ‘salt of the earth’ people who taught him to follow his heart. They raised him right, introducing him to the glories of Ray Charles, Blind Willie Johnson, Billie Holiday and Eric Clapton, among other blues, gospel and soul stirrers.

He began picking at his mom’s guitar before he was knee high to a cornstalk, followed in middle school by classical voice lessons. Encouraged by his parents and championed by his brother Justin, who happened to intern at a record label, Alex spent his high school years traveling back and forth to Nashville to record the songs he’d been writing since junior high.

When he auditioned for American Idol right after high school (under his sir name Alexander Renbarger) and made it through to the Hollywood auditions, no one was really surprised. Determined to ride the momentum, Wren postponed his college plans at Belmont University to see how it might all play out. Two rounds of group auditions later, the experience was over, but his dream of becoming an artist had reached a whole new level of intensity.

“American Idol was one of the best things to ever happen to me,” Alexander explains. “It was a very intense process, but I grew exponentially and learned a big lesson: the will must exceed the skill. Some people may disagree, but I believe it’s true. There are a lot of really skilled and talented people, but very few have the will to persevere, to stick it out, no matter how hard the road.”

That truth had long been ingrained in him. “My dad always talked about perseverance and the work ethic it takes to pursue your dreams,” he says, “and I’ve never forgotten it.”

Immediately after Idol, Alexander moved back to Nashville to get serious about his music career, foregoing college. “I decided to ride it out, to tour and give it everything I’ve got and see how it goes,” says the now 20-year old, who began recording the new 4-song EP with producer Micah Tawlks (Matthew Perryman Jones, Jake McMullen, MYZICA). The two made an instant connection—the ‘hopeless perfectionist’ and the indie-innovator—and set out to create something transparent and original.

“I had never really worked with a producer who understood what I was trying to do,” the singer/songwriter says, “but Micah understood the intention and the tension in my songs and the niche we were going.”

The title track, a profound nugget of wisdom given its high school sophomore origins, took four years to complete. Alexander explains: “It began as a teenage breakup song—I was left heartbroken at the Dairy Queen—but for a song that began so far back, with lyrics that felt strange at the time, I knew I’d have to finish it. I’d let it go, put it on a shelf, but it came back again… at a totally different place in my life.”

Got a slow dance to take with these half empty sheets

A kiss with her ghost in the passenger’s seat

Yah, I keep on wonderin' if maybe she still thinks of me

A stripped bare, layered ballad that showcases Wren’s unconventionally transparent vocal, “The Good in Goodbye” reveals an old soul behind boyish eyes.

“Morning Light,” with its thick bass, thuddy drums, and Wurlitzer tones, lays down a classic groove, absent the typical tuning effects designed to filter lesser voices. “We were going for timeless and simple here,” he says, “and it stands up pretty well alone, without a bunch of layers.”

“Days Like These,” belies the youth of its composer. A ‘what am I doing with my life’ song reminiscent of Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” Wren eeks every ounce of emotion out of every line:

Well lately I‘ve been drinking just to ease my worried mind

Been praying for forgiveness as I drive down 65

I’ve been gazing in the rearview, running out of fuel and out of time

Days like these make men like me wonder why

Unlike previous efforts, The Good in Goodbye is a testament to Alexander’s interpretive skill, his ‘old school’ turn of phrasing and his Velcro-fierce valuing of simplicity and truth. Surrounded by old photos and journal entries throughout the recording process, he says this recording is the most freeing thing he’s ever done. “I feel like this is where I’ve finally discovered my voice, finally felt free to say what I feel, finally understand that my strength lies as much in communicating as in singing. Everything is laid bare, front and center, and there’s nothing to hide or apologize for. That in itself is enough.”

Reverie Lane

One Tennessean, Presley Tucker, and one Pennsylvanian, Spencer Bartoletti, are the creative core of REVERIE LANE.

The earliest idea of forming what would become the band began after Presley and Spencer caught each other’s gigs at a Nashville club. Both appreciating the other’s singing and songwriting talent, they subsequently decided to write together. Writing became singing together, and singing together led to forming their own group. They assembled a collection of players around them and the REVERIE LANE cast was complete.

The two ladies recently signed a deal with the newly formed Wolftracks Music Publishing Company and immediately began writing with some of Nashville’s foremost writers, including Bonnie Baker, Roxie Dean, Rose Falcon, George Teren, James LeBlanc, Matraca Berg, Keesy Timmer, Brad Crisler, Leslie Satcher, Jenny Gill, and Clint Daniels.

Roxie Dean said, “REVERIE LANE is the real deal. See them perform live one time, and you will become a fan! Finally, gorgeous girls with great vocals and great songs come together. REVERIE is truly ‘one-of-a-kind’!”

REVERIE LANE is now ready to introduce themselves and their music to the world. Incidentally, Presley Tucker is following in the footsteps of her mother, Tanya.




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