Big of Big & Rich, Dave Koz say crossing genres important for musicians, music in general

By Oskar Garcia, AP
Sunday, April 18, 2010

Big Kenny: Crossing genres important to musicians

LAS VEGAS — The field of nominees at the Academy of Country Music Awards mixed traditional country stars with rising crossover artists, and some at the Sunday show said crossing genres is important for artists looking to test their musical muscles.

“That is the next thing, and that’s the next level of greatness too,” said “Big” Kenny Alphin, half of the duo Big & Rich.

Alphin said it’s important to recognize and celebrate the cultural diversity of different kinds of music, but musicians should get excited about branching out and bringing various influences together.

“I’ll stop and play with anybody, anywhere, any kind of music they want to play,” Alphin told The Associated Press. “Because first and foremost, I’m a musician and a songwriter and I don’t need the labels.

“Labels are great — I’m glad we get to come here today to celebrate this piece of the pie — but it’s a huge pie,” he said.

The ACMs rewarded crossover artists on Sunday. Carrie Underwood won entertainer of the year and Miranda Lambert won three awards. Lambert said the genre’s musicians are becoming a stronger force for fans’ attention.

“Whatever their stereotype of country was before, they can’t say that now because we have just so much crossover appeal,” Lambert said.

Lady Antebellum, which won five trophies, said it was strange to think their songs were played on radio stations alongside Lady Gaga and other pop stars.

“If we can bring people to the country format, that’s a win for us,” guitarist Dave Haywood said.

Taylor Swift ended 2009 with a heap of awards and was voted AP entertainer of the year in December.

Underwood and Lambert were nominated for six ACM awards each while Swift competed in five categories.

Before performing on the show Sunday, night, Swift was introduced by rapper LL Cool J who said he was “blown away” by his first trip to the country awards.

“She’s made her way onto the charts and into our hearts,” he said.

Saxophonist Dave Koz, who performed a song during the show with Toby Keith, said today’s music business is opening possibilities for musicians who experiment.

“I think the people that are willing to try and get out of their comfort zone and try new things and experiment and collaborate are the ones that are going to push music to where it really needs to go,” Koz told the AP. “Because obviously, something needs to happen. It’s been stagnant for a lot of years.”

Koz said the model for music has been morphing and it’s uncertain where it will end up.

“When you take the shackles off from having to stay in one genre and, ‘This is what I do and only what I do,’ the minute you take all of those blinders off, people start to be much more creative,” Koz said.

Unlike last year, Keith avoided a confrontation backstage Sunday night in Las Vegas when he spoke with reporters after performing on national television.

After speaking softly and answering questions about playing music for charity with Koz and playing for the troops, Keith walked offstage, smiled and cracked a joke.

“It was different this year,” he said.

One year ago, the star lit into actor Ethan Hawke and a newspaper reporter over an article Hawke wrote for Rolling Stone about Kris Kristofferson. In the article, Hawke referred to a blowup Kristofferson had with an unnamed country star that sounds a lot Toby Keith at Willie Nelson’s tribute concert for his 70th birthday at the Beacon Theatre in New York.

The Tennessean reporter wrote about the article and asked Keith about it.

Keith said then that the confrontation was “a fictitious (expletive) lie.”

Country singer Justin Moore said he’s thankful for Twitter and news reporters for helping him retrieve a missing guitar that was stolen from him recently by a drunken fan at a concert in Michigan.

The fan eventually returned Moore’s Gibson — worth $4,000.

“He had called the radio station and said he had messed up and gotten drunk,” he said.

But Moore joked that he probably could use better security at his shows. He said his crew wasn’t paying attention when the guitar was taken

“That takes some nerve, just to walk right on the stage,” he said.

The MGM Grand arena has been home to many of history’s biggest prizefights, and country stars found themselves dodging and weaving like great boxers in the ring as they faced oddball questions on Sunday on the orange carpet and backstage.

“That’s an interesting one,” Luke Bryan said after winning top new artist when a reporter asked where his favorite place was to go in Nashville.

He eventually answered Jason’s Deli — a national chain — because he said he goes there with his son.

“There are many great places probably better than Jason’s Deli, but that’s what comes to mind right now,” he said.

Lambert, when asked what gifts she has bought her mom for Mother’s Day, said her mom was her best friend.

“I always give her Victoria’s Secret, she loves it,” Lambert said.

Members of the Eli Young band agreed that their James Young came up with the best answer — X-ray vision — when asked what super power he wished to have.

“It was tough to be witty on that one,” Mike Eli said.

Whitney Duncan, a former contestant on TV show “Nashville Star,” said one reporter asked her what kind of show she would have if she starred in a sideshow in Sin City.

“I don’t know. I mean, it definitely wouldn’t be like a stripping show — I can knock that off,” Duncan said. “I just roll with it. I didn’t even give a real answer, to be honest.”

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