When you anticipate of the accessible face of women in country, you anticipate of Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris or any of the added artists who’ll be spotlighted on the “CMT Artists of the Year” advertisement Wednesday night. But if you alive and assignment in Nashville, the aboriginal name that ability aimlessly bounce to apperception in affiliation with that phrase, alike afore any of the celebrities’, is that of Leslie Fram. The chief VP of music action for CMT is indelibly associated with acute absorption to the issues adverse women in the genre, not aloof as the alive force abaft her network’s advancing Aing Women of Country initiative, but as a co-founder of the acquaintance accumulation Change the Conversation.
This year’s female-focused “CMT Artists of the Year” is about a acme of her eyes distilled bottomward into one night, so you would artlessly acquire the abstraction was chastening — abnormally afterwards all the honorees aftermost year were men, which for bigger or for worse absolutely did reflect who’d spent the year on top. She credits this year’s acknowledging calendar as a accumulation accommodation on CMT’s part. “It was absolutely a aggregate abstraction internally,” Fram says, “based on all the assignment we’ve been accomplishing with Aing Women of Country and seeing what was gradually accident with the abridgement of abutment for changeable artists at the architecture alike afore Tomatogate” (a appellation that arose in 2015 aback a country radio programmer controversially declared that women represented tomatoes, at best, in the all-inclusive bloom that is country music). “Artists of the Year has been commonly about the bigger artists of the year, through sales and touring and streaming, but abominably the architecture has created a bearings area there isn’t an according arena field. So the timing is absolute for us to account all women.”
Fram isn’t aloof a fan of women in country… she’s a super-fan, in general, and so acutely a about, yes, both genders in the brand that you’d anticipate she grew up absorbed in it. So it’s aberrant to bethink that, at this time aftermost decade, she was a bedrock radio queen in New York City, with bare anticipation of catastrophe up in Music City. Attractive aback to what aboriginal buried the berry for her absorption in country aback she was still an alt-rock gal, it’s not hasty it was a changeable artist.
“I acquire to acclaim Skip Bishop” — a above Sony Nashville country advance SVP of some acclaim in the brand — “who, aback I was in New York alive in bedrock radio, alleged me about this adolescent changeable artisan he’d started alive called Miranda Lambert. At the time there was not a country base in New York, so he asked if he could accompany her by for an interview, and we said yes, because I had this abundant morning appearance with this bedrock legend, Matt Pinfield, from MTV, and we aloof capital to allocution to abundant artists. I had alone been to a scattering of country shows in my life. That night I went to her appearance at Terminal 5” — which, fatefully, was a CMT-branded bout — “with Eric Church opening, and I was like: ‘Oh my God.’ My eyes were absolutely opened to this brand that absolutely wasn’t allotment of my sphere” — and, acid to the hunt a few abbreviate years later, “I confused actuality and absolutely fell in adulation with the music and the songwriters.”
Since accession bottomward South, she’s become the best arresting best the burghal has of changeable musicians… and execs, back she’s aloof as quick to alarm out the adolescent Ladies of CMT, like Suzanne Norman and Margaret Cuomo, as she is a Carrie or Miranda. She started up the Aing Women of Country action in 2013, afore Tomatogate angry that advancement into a accurate account celebre.
There’s been ample advance in what Aing Women of Country represents. “It absolutely aloof started to say, hey, we are activity to abutment you by arena your videos.” That extends above CMT’s programming of music videos, which takes abode mostly in the morning, afore movies and absoluteness specials booty over, abundant like with sister arrangement MTV. For 24/7 music videos, there’s a abstracted CMT Music approach in 35 actor homes. “And again it grew into: We’re activity to abutment your content.” CMT absolutely helps adolescent and alike bearding changeable artists accomplish videos, for online dissemination. “And again it grew into a bout — and aing year will be the fifth year — because of that aeon area if you don’t acquire a song on the radio, again you can’t get on a tour.”
It may be partly because of Fram’s continued history in non-country radio afore aing CMT that she never got accomplished acquire the asperous arena acreage for women in Nashville as a given. “I’m the best absolute actuality you’ll anytime accommodated and I consistently appetite to say things are accepting better. But again you attending at the archive and you’re like, wow, it absolutely isn’t accepting any better,” she says. “It’s abominable aback you attending at the best played artists in the top 30 and you alone see a scattering of women. I’m attractive at a account of the most-played artists year-to-date so far, and Carrie is at No. 12 and Kelsea Ballerini is at No. 30.
“Yet Top 40 celebrates women. Anybody loves that pop’s changeable artists are not apparent and their admirers chronicle to them on so abounding altered levels, whether it’s appearance or annihilation abroad that the artisan is into. And I feel like country could be the same. We were in a abode area women bedeviled the chart” — in the Faith/Shania/Reba/Chicks era — “and I can’t explain how we got to area we are appropriate now. For some acumen we absent our way, and I anticipate we’re all aggravating to amount that out. And again it becomes as Martina McBride said, it becomes this self-fulfilling apocalypse that the beneath females that are signed, again the beneath publishers that assurance changeable writers, and again it aloof goes above that.”
There’s affluence to bless about the artists actualization on CMT’s advertisement Wednesday, admitting the attempt that around all of them except for Underwood acquire had in accomplishing and again advancement chart-topping status.
“Carrie keeps reinventing herself, and I adulation the complete of her new almanac (“Cry Pretty”). I anticipate she sounds actual soulful on this almanac and has article to say. Miranda put out this alarmingly acclaimed bifold anthology (”The Weight of These Wings”) that is a almanac I abide to accept to, and the songs are so meaningful. With Miranda, she pours her activity into her music. I don’t anticipate that almanac absolutely was acclaimed at all commercially, if you absolutely attending at the singles that were appear and what got played and what didn’t get played, but that almanac to me affectionate of stands the analysis of time. I don’t anticipate Maren’s anthology alike got its due. There are songs on that almanac I anticipate could acquire been appear that I feel could acquire been huge, and sometimes it’s absorbing what’s best as singles and what isn’t. But she’s addition amazing songwriter that I accept had important songs on a almanac that may acquire been overlooked. ‘My Church’ was such a blemish song because sonically it was different, and it was so alive as far as streams and sales, and I was abashed that that song wasn’t a cardinal one song. It had every adumbration of actuality a cardinal one song, and I can’t explain why it wasn’t.” Morris’s anthology did eventually acquire one song that got to the top (“I Could Use a Adulation Song”), but Fram is counting on the green anthology the accompanist aloof completed to be the 2019 activity that country radio agilely embraces from alpha to finish.
She’s aloof as aerial on some of the adolescent artists who won’t be actualization on “Artists of the Year,” abounding of whom will be in the audience, cat-and-mouse their turn. On the apprentice or green side, Fram thinks singer/guitar shredder Lindsay Ell could acquire her blemish with her aing single, “Champagne”; believes in analytical beloved Ashley McBryde; and cites contempo Sony signees Tenille Townes and Rachel Womack and Black River’s Abby Anderson as able contenders in the gate. “And there is an artisan in boondocks who I can’t accept is not alive because anybody says, ‘Oh my God, she’s amazing… but we don’t apperceive what to do with her.’ I’m like, I anticipate you assurance abundant artists and you amount out what to do with them! Right? Maggie Rose is that. She’s a Triple Threat, she’s incredible, and I can’t accept that she’s an artisan who is in our boondocks and is not signed.”
Fram expects the backstage bearings at “Artists of the Year” to be one big support-fest. “Women acquire been told there’s one slot, and that it was actual aggressive for that slot, but we’re like, no, we appetite to actualize an ambiance area a win for one is a win for all. And you see that all over amusing media. You see Maren extensive out to one of her adolescent changeable artists to congratulate them on something, and it happens every day. These women are all acknowledging anniversary added and congratulating anniversary added and adulatory anniversary other. I don’t see any added architecture accomplishing that, by the way,” (Listen up, Nicki and Cardi.) “I anticipate it’s actual healthy, because they’re all activity through the aforementioned exact thing.”
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