Explore events and locations that honor women of country music who reinvented themselves and the industry to become the success they were never supposed to be. Follow their trajectory with Nashville journalist Marissa R. Moss, author, Her Country.Less
10-year-old LeAnn Rimes sings the National Anthem before a playoff game between the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers in 1997, while an unknown 8-year-old Mickey Guyton – born Candace Mycale Guyton -- stood with her hand on her heart in the nosebleed bleacher seats, attending with her church group. She saw her future in the inspired performance from that little blonde girl with a massive voice.
In 2003, the then-Dixie Chicks (now the Chicks) made an on-stage comment, saying they weren’t proud that George W. Bush was from Texas, because of his choice to go to war with Iraq. This led to one of the first instances of being “cancelled” by the internet and to the Chicks being expelled from radio, as well as the invention of the phrase “getting Dixie Chicked.”
Site of the infamous 2015 “Tomato-gate,” radio consultant Keith Hill tells Country Aircheck that female country artists are merely the tomato garnish in a salad of male artists. Female artists everywhere, including Martina McBride, united to prove him wrong.
2017 brought the 59th Grammy Awards, at what was then called the Staples Center. Maren Morris was up for a few categories, including Best New Artist and Country Solo Performance for “My Church.” Thomas Rhett and Camila Cabello read the categories, and when the envelope was opened, Camila said her name: Morris, who only two years prior had been without a label. “Eleven years ago I went to the first ever Grammy camp,” she told the audience. “It was the first time I ever flew by myself on a plane.”
The DeFoore institute was at the center of small-town Mineola, in a building that guitarist John DeFoore bought when he retired from the road – an old, rumored-haunted hotel in the middle of the East Texas town. But it’s the place where the likes of Miranda Lambert and Kacey Musgraves spent hours learning their craft and preparing for the eventual road to Nashville.
In 2008, on a bit of a whim, 20-year-old Kacey Musgraves leaves her home in Austin, Texas to move into a house in East Nashville on Shelby Avenue, near Shelby Park, with money from her grandparents. She shopped demos, picking her guitar at night and hopping onto rounds when she could. It was a faster hustle than in Austin – becoming a songwriter seemed like a more attainable goal than stardom through a Texas dancehall. For extra cash, she dressed up in costume for kids’ birthday parties.
Maren Morris’s parents were known as being ambitious and kind. Kellie and Scott weren’t “stage parents” so much as supportive, creative folks – their business rotated mostly around the still-active Maren Karsen salon, which was named after both of their children. Maren and her younger sister Karsen would work as front desk coordinators and were integral parts of keeping the salon up and running.
Hotel Villa wasn’t a hotel or a villa, or anything of the sort. It was simply a house on Villa Place, down the road from Music Row and part of the Edgehill neighborhood -- where, in 2008, the artists Charlie Worsham, John and T.J. Osborne (of the Brothers Osborne), Misa Arriaga, (Kacey Musgrave’s one-time bandleader), and a various cast of characters had lived. It was cheap and dirty, and it served as their social center as they worked to craft their art.
In 2013, Kacey Musgraves made her debut here at the Universal Records lunchtime event at the Country Radio Seminar, where new artists are introduced to an audience of radio programmers. “This song is inspired by growing up in a small town in the south,” Kacey said, setting up the audience. “If you don’t have two kids by 21,” she sang, strumming, “guess you’re gonna die alone. At least that’s what tradition told you.” The room fell silent from the first note. She received a standing ovation.
In 2014, Kacey Musgraves wins Song of the Year, a first for an openly gay performer. The category included Eric Church and Miranda Lambert, and while Kacey was certainly the favorite for “Follow Your Arrow,” nothing was predictable. That night Kacey also performed a duet with Loretta Lynn, which provided a crucial point to more conservative fans – this woman might be singing about embracing all walks of life, and the queen of country, Loretta herself, was backing her right up.