Country Music Year in Review: 2015’s Top Stories

 

  Sounds Like Nashville • DECEMBER 24, 2015 - 9:00 AM

 

2015 has been a year of ups and down for country music. Between new babies, surprise albums, unexpected divorces and the controversial #saladgate, this will definitely go down in history as one of the most bizarre years yet.

Before we welcome a brand new (and hopefully quieter) 2016, we’ve narrowed down the 12 biggest stories of 2015…

Carrie Underwood Welcomes Baby Boy: Country music queen Carrie Underwood and her husband Mike Fisher welcomed their sweet baby boy, Isaiah, on February 27, 2015. The proud first-time mama was overcome with love and constantly gushed over him saying things like “he’s just happy and smiley and gorgeous.” Her new album, Storyteller, even features a song dedicated to the men in her life, “What I Never Knew I Always Wanted.”

 

Crazed Kip Moore Fan Goes On Dr. Phil: File this under weird… Kip Moorewas featured in an episode of Dr. Phil this fall. Super fan Jenna said that she had filed for divorce from her husband of eight years after she fell in “love at first sight” with Kip. She also claimed she felt an “instant connection” with him. The episode didn’t feature the “Running For You” singer, and he said he had no plans on watching it.

 

The Divorce Outbreak: We also saw our fair share of divorces without much time to process them in between. The biggest shocker of the year came when Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert announced the end of their 4 year marriage on July 20. Shortly after, on August 3, we found out that Reba was separating from her husband Narvel Blackstock after 26 years. Days later, Jake Owen and his wife Lacey revealed on Aug. 7 that they would be divorced after struggling with their marriage.

 

Blake Shelton’s New Romance: We were still trying to comprehend the fact that the Shelton-Lamberts were no longer when we learned of a budding relationship between Blake Shelton and fellow The Voice coach Gwen Stefani. They both divorced close to the same time and found comfort in each other’s similar situations. Their relationship status was confirmed by Stefani’s reps the same day as the 49th Annual CMA Awards. While many people saw it as a Sweeps Week publicity stunt, the couple is still as tight as ever and recently attended former The Voice contestant RaeLynn’s engagement party together.

 

#SaladGate: More controversial (probably) than Blake’s new relationship with Stefani were the comments made by country radio consultant, Keith Hill. “If you want to make ratings in country radio, take females out,” Hill told Country Aircheck back in May. He continued, “Trust me, I play great female records and we’ve got some right now; they’re just not the lettuce in our salad. The lettuce is Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton, Keith Urban and artists like that. The tomatoes of our salad are the females.” And man, did that cause a load of trouble for Mr. Hill. And there’s no bigger argument to his statement than Cam… and Maddie & Tae… and Kelsea Ballerini(should we go on?!).

 

Surprise Albums: In 2013, the world was shocked and surprised by Beyoncé’s self-titled (and unexpected) album release. In 2015, the country music community was caught off guard with George Strait’s Cold Beer Conversation and Eric Church’s Mr. Misunderstood. Strait retired from touring in 2014, but didn’t take much time off. He announced his new album and single (and Las Vegas shows!) just two days before they dropped. Church surprised members of his Church Choir when they were sent a copy of his unannounced album Mr. Misunderstood. He performed the title-track single that night on the CMA Awards and released the music video just hours later.

 

Chris Stapleton’s Banner Year: Eric Church’s new album wasn’t the only thing people were talking about the day after the CMA Awards… the main topic of conversation at the workplace water cooler was Chris Stapleton. Until Nov. 4, Stapleton was a relatively unknown singer/songwriter, known mostly around Nashville and the Country music industry, but during the awards, he claimed three titles: Male Vocalist of the Year, New Artist of the Year and Album of the Year for Traveller. His performance with Justin Timberlake was also the top moment of the night. Following that night, Traveller soared to the top of the charts, selling approximately 250,000 copiesthat week. Stapleton once again landed in the headlines in December when he earned four nominations for the 2016 Grammy awards.

 

The Return Of The Dixie Chicks: We couldn’t help but get hit with a hint of nostalgia this year when the Dixie Chicks announced that they were heading out on their first North American tour in 10 years. “Just when you thought you were safe, America, we’re back,” Natalie Maines said at the start of their announcement video. We, like Country music fans everywhere, responded with little girl screams and saying, “TAKE OUR MONIES!” The 2016 DCX MMXVI World Tour will hit 41 different cities across the United States and Canada.

 

Dolly Parton’s Movie: Dolly Parton made her way into our homes with the debut of Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors, which aired on NBC in early December. The story followed a young Dolly and her poverty-stricken family and their life in the Smoky Mountains. Jennifer Nettles starred in the family-friendly film alongside Ricky Schroder, and Alyvia Alyn Lind. A record-breaking 13 million people tuned in to the special when it aired on NBC Dec. 10. And if you missed it the first time, don’t worry – Coat of Many Colors will re-air on Christmas Day!

 

Tim McGraw’s Duet With Daughter, Gracie: It seems as if the apple doesn’t far from the tree when it comes to the McGraw family. During Tim McGraw’s tour stop in Nashville in August, he brought Gracie, his eldest daughter with Faith Hillonstage to sing their duet “Here Tonight.” The song is featured on Tim’s new albumDamn Country Music. As if the father-daughter bonding couldn’t get any cuter, he also dedicated a backstage performance of “My Little Girl” to Gracie on the week that they dropped her off at college… cue the tears!

 

The Death Of Hunter Montgomery: 2015 was also struck with tragedy as Montgomery Gentry’s Eddie Montgomery had to unexpectedly say goodbye to his son, Hunter. The 19-year-old lost his life on Sept. 27 after an accident that had him on life support in a Kentucky hospital. Much speculation surrounded his death and Montgomery’s ex-wife Tracy Nunan finally spoke out to settle the rumors. “Our son died of an overdose,” she wrote on Facebook. “We believe it was accidental and will continue to believe that. We know that he needed help. Maybe Hunter’s – and our family’s – pain will help another family avoid this.” Hunter left behind his parents, fiancée Davara Little, and a young son, Bennett.


Joey Feek’s Cancer Battle: Much of this year has also been dedicated to the headline news of Joey + Rory’s faith-filled battle with cancer. In 2014, shortly after the birth of their daughter Indiana, the couple learned that Joey had cervical cancer. After rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, they thought they were in the clear. Fast forward to June 2015… the couple returns to the doctor after Joey hadn’t been feeling well. Biopsies and tests revealed the cancer returned and a new round of chemo and radiation began. By October, they learned that the cancer was aggressively spreading and decided to end treatments. Throughout the entire journey, Rory has been blogging and sharing updates on his wife. Even in the lowest of lows, the couple has kept their heads up and prayed for a miracle and to find peace in whatever the outcome may be. Even while she’s been in hospice care, glimmers of hope shine through, like Joey emerging from her room to play with baby Indiana and spending time with Santa.