The Country Music Association has selected rising stars Kassi Ashton, Travis Denning and Jameson Rodgers as recipients of the first-ever CMA KixStart Artist Scholarship. Throughout the next year, CMA and its staff will provide support for the three artists, helping connect each with professionals within the industry as well as providing unique opportunities to participate in CMA-related events during CMA Fest, CMA Awards and C2C: Country 2 Country festival in the U.K. Get to know the artists through introduction videos at CMAworld.com/KixStart.

    The scholarship program is the brainchild of artist managers and 2017 CMA Board Artist Relations Committee Chair Marion Kraft (ShopKeeper Management) and Vice Chair Mary Hilliard Harrington (Red Light Management). The program saw more than 100 interested artists through the application process, with 48 eligible finalists vying for a spot.

    “The CMA board is continually looking for ways to grow our format and help support our artist community. The idea behind KixStart was to focus on emerging artists who are already out there working hard but could use a boost that these extra resources might provide. And I think we found out from the high number of artists who applied for the scholarship program that CMA has identified a real need,” said Harrington. Adds Kraft, “Our goal is to give artists an opportunity to learn best practices in an industry that has no structure on teaching someone how to become a successful working artist. We are excited that the CMA KixStart scholarship is highlighting three talented and unique artists like Kassi, Travis and Jameson.”

    On Tuesday evening, Denning and Rodgers performed for CMA board members during a private dinner held at BMI, while Ashton is currently overseas, participating in the CMA Songwriters Series U.K. tour.

    Kassi Ashton is one of Nashville’s most compelling rising stars. Signed to UMG Nashville in conjunction with Interscope Records, the California, Missouri singer/songwriter has been making a name for herself on the music scene thanks to her authentic songwriting and soulful, rich voice. The Tennessean recognizes “her distinct husky, powerful voice and self-assured take-me-or-leave-me attitude put her in her own lane in country music” while Huffington Post gives Ashton “mad props for her songwriting and stage presence” and CMT calls Ashton “fearless” and notes “her point of view is inspired and her storytelling knows no bounds.” Ashton released her auto-biographical song “California, Missouri,” where she paints an unconventional portrait of life growing up in her small town. Named “Who to Watch” by Huffington Post, The Tennessean and radio personality Bobby Bones’ Class of 2018, Ashton also caught the attention of Country superstar Keith Urban. Describing her as “such a unique, original creature,” Urban featured Ashton on his song “Drop Top” for his latest album Graffiti U. Ashton brings a certain swagger and take-no-prisoners attitude to her music, especially with her latest, “Taxidermy” – available HERE. Read more at KassiAshton.com.

    A native of Warner Robins, Georgia, Mercury Nashville’s Travis Denning vividly remembers the moment he realized he wanted to pursue music for a living. He was seven years old sitting in his Dad’s truck and heard AC/DC for the first time. From then on, he was hooked and devoured all types of music from Country, pop, rock and heavy metal. Denning started playing local bars at the age of 16 and built a solid following from his distinctive songs and raucous guitar licks. He moved to Nashville in 2014 and within a year signed a publishing deal with Jeremy Stover’s RED Creative Group. After securing outside cuts by Jason Aldean, Justin Moore, Michael Ray and Chase Rice he caught the attention of Universal Music Group where he eventually signed a record deal in 2017. Denning just released his debut single “David Ashley Parker From Powder Springs,” an upbeat coming-of-age song that paints a picture of a young man reminiscing on his carefree college memories. The singer/songwriter has previously opened shows for Cole Swindell, Alan Jackson, Moore and Rice and is set to hit the road with LANCO on the “Hallelujah Nights” tour this fall. When Denning is not touring, he is in the studio working on his debut album. Read more at TravisDenning.com.

    Raised in Batesville, Mississippi, singer-songwriter Jameson Rodgers brings together electrified rock & roll and Country songwriting on his new self-titled EP, released in January of 2018, with songs featured on Spotify’s New Boots and Wild Country playlists as well as Sirius XM’s On The Horizon. This year, Rodgers also received the AIMP (Association of Independent Music Publishers) Nashville Rising Artist-Writer of the Year nomination for the third annual AIMP Nashville Awards. The former college baseball player, who landed a publishing deal with Combustion Music in 2014, scored his first songwriting cuts with Florida Georgia Line’s “Wish You Were On It” and “Talk You Out Of It” in addition to co-writing Chris Lane’s new single “I Don’t Know About You.” His debut EP, released in 2016, features the streaming hit “Midnight Daydream.” In addition to opening shows for Sam Hunt and Old Dominion, Rodgers has been selling out clubs throughout the south and Midwest this year. He will join Luke Combs’ “Beer Never Broke My Heart Tour,” kicking off in January. Read more at JamesonRodgers.com.

    The CMA KixStart Artist Scholarship is named after former CMA Board Chairman and long-serving board member Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn. An artist advocate, Brooks drove the creation of the CMA Board of Directors’ Artist Relations Committee in 2006.

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    Budweiser has announced an all-female lineup for their Budweiser Country Club, which will take place on Sunday, November 11th at Nashville’s Exit / In – just a few days before the CMA Awards (November 14th). Clare Dunn, Kassi Ashton, Lindsey Ell and The Sisterhood are scheduled to perform during the event. Kassi is thrilled to be a part of the showcase – which shines the light on some of country’s most exciting female artists.

    “The Country Club does a lot with bridging current country music with traditional and making sure that everyone knows that Budweiser loves all country music and accepts all fans,” says Kassi. “I’ve worked with them before, both at Stagecoach and CMA Fest, and it is always a blast. Everyone in the Country Club is always ready to have fun. Everyone always has a smile on their face. And, the fact that I get to do it all again with them, plus incorporate the CMA really gets me stoked.”

    “I’m absolutely honored to be a part of the Budweiser CMA showcase,” says Clare. “I’ve been working with Budweiser for the past couple years and I’m so grateful to be working with a brand that supports artists on the way up and who also support our veterans through Folds of Honor. So for me, having been a volunteer once upon a time for the CMA Awards, it’s pretty full circle moment to be able to play a show with Budweiser around one of the legacy award shows in our genre.”

    Clare is making her way up the country charts with her single, “More,” while Kassi has released a couple of songs digitally — “Taxidermy” and “California, Missouri.”

  • NEWS AND NOTES: Kacey, Dierks, Carrie, Kassi

    Kacey Musgraves will perform on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on Monday (October 8th).

    Dierks Bentley unveils the video for his song, “Burning Man,” with Brothers Osborne on Monday (October 8th).



    Carrie Underwood will perform on the American Music Awards on Tuesday (October 9th).

    Kassi Ashton is set for the CMA’s Country Music Songwriters Series show at London’s O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire on October 22nd. She’ll be joined by tunesmiths Chris DeStefano, Ashley Campbell and Tenille Townes.





    Kassi Ashton, one of Nashville’s most compelling rising stars, releases “Taxidermy” to all digital partners today. Bringing her characteristic swagger and take-no-prisoners attitude to the title, Kassi makes the Natalie Hemby, Luke Dick and Rosi Golan-written song entirely her own.

    “I knew the second I heard ‘Taxidermy’ I had to have it,” says Kassi. “It’s the perfect second piece of me. Dad used to always say he didn’t have to take a gun to the door when my date came,” she explains; then adds slyly, “I had my own.”

    Listen to “Taxidermy” HERE.

    Huffington Post gives Kassi “mad props for her songwriting and stage presence” while CMT calls Kassi “fearless” and notes “her point of view is inspired and her storytelling knows no bounds.” Kassi recently released her auto-biographical song “California, Missouri,” where she paints an unconventional portrait of life growing up in her small town.

    Kassi, named “Who to Watch” by Huffington Post, The Tennessean and radio personality Bobby Bones’ Class of 2018, also caught the attention of country superstar Keith Urban. Describing her as “such a unique, original creature,” Urban featured Kassi on his song “Drop Top” for his latest album Graffiti U.

    For more information on Kassi, videos and music, visit www.KassiAshton.com.


    L-R: Interscope Geffen A&M Records Chairman & CEO John Janick, Kassi Ashton, UMG Nashville Chairman & CEO Mike Dungan

    Promising newcomer Kassi Ashton recently signed to UMG Nashville in conjunction with Interscope Records. The California, Missouri native has been making a name for herself in music thanks to her authentic songwriting, soulfully rich voice and commanding stage presence.

    “You don’t have to be around her very long before you are struck by the ‘otherworldly spirit’ that rides alongside what is an otherwise kooky, fun soul,” shares UMG Nashville’s Chairman & CEO Mike Dungan. “And after about 90 seconds of hearing her sing, you know that you are in for a ride.  The music is fresh, unique, and rich in lyrical landscape far beyond her years.  Hallelujah!”

    “I knew within seconds of meeting Kassi that she’s the real thing,” comments Interscope Geffen A&M Chairman and CEO John Janick. “A talented, driven singer and songwriter who pours her soul into her music. She’s a badass.”

    “Within 5 minutes of meeting the people at Universal Nashville and Interscope, I knew that together they were the perfect team to help me move the needle,” says Kassi. “My happiness and readiness are beyond words.”

    New music is expected in early 2018 with MCA Nashville servicing a single to country radio. Visit www.KassiAshton.com for more.

    Kassi Ashton is represented by Creative Nation for both management and publishing.

    Photo Credit: Katie Kauss