The Country Radio Seminar is a tough nut for a new artist to crack. Between the official performances, the unofficial side events and general hanging about by the genre’s stars, an attendee can catch the likes of Alan Jackson, John Rich, Rascal Flatts, Taylor Swift, Craig Morgan or Darius Rucker. How does an artist who hasn’t even released an album get some attention?
In the case of Bridgette Tatum, working her feisty single “(I Like My) Cowboys Dirty,” you rename the hotel’s Bridge Bar as the Bridgette Bar. You slap your video on the club’s screens, throw over-sized banners along the glass walls, set out Bridgette Tatum placards on all the tables and put the waitresses in “(I Like My) Cowboys Dirty” T-shirts — or, better put, dirty T-shirts. Not enough? It helps that your record company is owned in part by NASCAR driver Ryan Newman — bring him in to race in a video game with guests and promise attendees you have a special “Dirty” drink just for them.
Bridgette’s already started making a name for herself as a co-writer of the massive Jason Aldean power-chord special “She’s Country,” but even with those credentials, CRS is a tough sell. She wasn’t even the only artist in the Bridgette Bar on Wednesday night. You could spot former Shenandoah vocalist Marty Raybon, newcomer Katie Armiger and even much-publicized Mindy McCready. And Kix Brooks might well have been headed for the Bridgette Bar when he rolled into the lobby of the Renaissance Nashville Hotel around 11 p.m.
It’s all a whirlwind of experiences — particularly for the overworked radio programmers who pop in from across the country for a mind-numbing introduction to the latest research on their business, topped off with a lot of out-of-town partying. They’re not the only ones who feel it. Even the artists start their days early, and Bridgette didn’t leave the Bridgette Bar Wednesday night until 1 a.m. The next morning, she started in again with interviews and a series of introductions to radio execs.
“It’s a little mind-blowing — the days and when they start and what you’re doin’,” she said at the end of lunch Thursday. “It’s just very busy, but there’s a lot of electricity, a lot of energy in the air, and it’s all positive for music, so that’s the whole purpose for bein’ here at the end of the day.”
For Bridgette, it’s all about establishing an identity. Her debut album, Sex, Church & Chicken, hasn’t yet hit the streets. She was making plans for its release in the fall of 2008 when she found out Jason had recorded “She’s Country.” The AC/DC-style chords were, she correctly believed, destined to make an impact. Rather than put her project out right away, she and her business partners decided to let it marinate in the vaults a little longer while “She’s Country” built a story for her to tell. Between that song, “(I Like My) Cowboys Dirty” and some of the titles on that upcoming CD — “Funky In The Country,” “Sex Machine,” “Hillbilly Rock Star” — the wild-and-crazy bar atmosphere might help people figure her out. Or at least give her an edgy head start on making a connection.
“I’m not different on purpose, it just kinda ends up that way,” she suggested. “I just kinda like to have different sounds, things that people haven’t heard before, things that I haven’t heard before, because I like to be excited about the music. If you can’t have that, then you’ve just got the same thing we’ve already heard before, and — well, we’ve already heard it. So we need to do somethin’ different… I wanted it to be a love-or-hate thing, and I think a ‘She’s Country’ or an ‘(I Like My) Cowboys Dirty,’ they either love it or they hate it.”
The special dirty drink, by the way: turns out it was just a shot of tequila. Bridgette only convinced one guest to cowboy up: the GACTV.com reporter. (Don’t judge me — I had to research the story!)
Between the dirty T-shirts, the banners, the videos and the cleverly renamed Bridgette Bar, she’s hoping she made an impression. She’s not naïve enough to think it means instant stardom, but if it cut through the CRS event clutter and created a little more recognition, it served its purpose.
“I hope that they’ll be able to identify who I am and they’ll know at least a little bit more about me,” Bridgette said. “I hope at the end of the day, they’re gonna be playin’ this music one way or another. You might not be playin’ this song, but you’ll play one.” Click here to watch the video for “(I Like My) Cowboys Dirty.”