Though many country fans will be headed to the lake or the beach this Memorial Day, a few of the format's top stars are here with a reminder to remember those who've sacrificed so much to serve in the U.S. military:
Lee Brice grew up listening to his grandfather's stories of serving in World War II, so Memorial Day has always had a special meaning for him. Now that he's topped the country chart with his ode to a fallen soldier, "I Drive Your Truck," Lee is proud his song will serve as the soundtrack for thousands of military families honoring their loved ones this weekend.
He says, "This song is not just for the soldiers. It's like their families and their friends who kind of really understand what they sacrifice on a daily basis. So, Memorial Day, I think, is kind of for all those people too, you know, to me."
Tim McGraw is honoring U.S. service men and women in a big way on every stop of his Two Lanes of Freedom tour this summer. As he did last year, Tim has teamed up with Chase and Operation HomeFront to give away 31 mortgage-free homes to U.S. military personnel.
Says Tim, "I couldn't think of a better program to be involved in. I couldn’t think of anything better to do than to give those guys a home, a mortgage-free home for the rest of their lives."
Little Big Town is honored to meet and perform for their fans serving in the military as well as the families those troops leave behind. The group's Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman recently met a 21-year-old mother of three whose husband is on his third tour of duty overseas.
"She’s raising these children at home and just doing a great job and the best she can, and he’s serving our country," Karen says. "He’s making a monstrous sacrifice, but so is she, and so are those children. And we just can’t take it for granted."
Brantley Gilbert comes from a military family, and he almost joined those ranks a few years ago. He says, "That was actually an option or an idea for me when I was kinda in limbo what I was gonna do with my life."
Though Brantley went on to become a country star, he does have cousins who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Brantley will be thinking of his cousins and some of their fallen friends this Memorial Day.
Brantley says, "My cousin Josh actually lost his best friend in Kirkuk City, Iraq, so I know that day’s heavy for him. And it is for all the members of my family that have been in the military. It definitely means a lot to me, not just because my family’s involved in it, because of what our military stands for."
Before their touring schedule got out of hand, The Band Perry made it a point to head back to their grandmother's house in Mississippi for her church's annual Memorial Day event. After the service, the church has a huge potluck lunch, and the Perry siblings took that opportunity to interview a few soldiers a few years ago while they were working on their first album.
Reid Perry explains, "We just listened to a lot of the stories that they had to tell because there’s some amazing anecdotes."
His sister Kimberly Perry adds, "Unfortunately, so many of those folks who had told us those stories three short years ago are no longer with us, so it’s really like this moment in time that we’re trying to soak up before it’s gone away for us."
Carrie Underwood is giving back to her home state of Oklahoma following the devastation caused there by Monday's tornadoes. Carrie announced Thursday that she is donating one million dollars in proceeds from her just-concluded Blown Away Tour to the Red Cross for disaster relief. The singer says in a statement, “I have watched the devastation in my home state of Oklahoma over the past several days with great sadness. With the help of my fans who attended my concerts over the past year, we can offer the Red Cross a little extra help in comforting those affected by the recent tornados.” In addition, another Oklahoma native, Blake Shelton, is organizing a benefit concert that will be held at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City on May 29. The concert will air on NBC.
Darius Rucker isn't sure when he'll stage full-on reunion with his rock band Hootie & the Blowfish, but a short tour with the guys is still on the table. 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of Hootie's debut album, Cracked Rear View, which went on to sell more than 10 million copies, and that could lead Darius to get the old band back together. Darius tells The Hollywood Reporter, "We might do a month tour next year to commemorate Cracked Rear View, but that one total year where we decide to do a record and a farewell tour is a couple years away." For now, Darius is enjoying his solo career at the top of the country charts, and there's just no room for Hootie & the Blowfish in that equation. It turns out the guys in the band missed their chance to go country with Darius before he ever set out on his own. "At this point in my career, I don't think I would want to do a country record with them," Darius tells reporters in Nashville. "I said in several band meetings, 'Let's be a country band,' and it wasn't what they wanted to do." Darius promises fans there will be another Hootie album and tour at some point, but he's not going to piggyback that reunion onto his country albums and tours. Says Darius, "You know, we make rock records. That's what we're going to do." Darius's third country album, True Believers, is now in stores featuring his big hit, "Wagon Wheel."
Little Big Town has signed on to host the CMA Music Festival: Country's Night to Rock special, airing Monday, August 12 on ABC. The reigning CMA Vocal Group of the Year will be running around all over the CMA Music Festival, running June 6 through 9, taping segments and interviewing the stars for the special. The festival features performances from country's hottest stars every night at Nashville's LP Field. Little Big Town is honored to host the special this year. Band member Karen Fairchild says, "We could not be more excited about the party that's going to break out at LP Field every night!" Though the list of stars appearing on the special hasn't been announced yet, Taylor Swift, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, The Band Perry, Carrie Underwood and Florida Georgia Line are just a few of the acts confirmed to appear at LP Field during the CMA Music Festival.
It goes without saying that the members of Lady Antebellum are huge music fans, and they're sharing some of their favorite songs and albums in the new issue of People. Group member Hillary Scott is expecting her first baby in July, and music will play a huge role in that child's life. Hillary even plans to rock out to Beyoncé's "If I Were a Boy" in the delivery room. She explains with a laugh, "I wouldn't be going through this if I were a boy." As for their other picks, Hillary's band mate Dave Haywood says he works out to the Grammy-winning Mumford & Sons album, Babel. Says Dave, "Some of it is fast and frantic, so it gives you that edge." Lady A's Charles Kelley admits he's a sucker for the Miley Cyrus pop gem, "Party in the U.S.A," as far as guilty pleasures go. He says, "If you tell me that you’re not secretly loving it when they put that on in a club, you’re a liar!" For more of Lady A's favorites, pick up the latest issue of People, on stands Friday.
Miranda Lambert clearly loves her husband, Blake Shelton, but her affection for her animals comes in a close second. Miranda had to put down one of her horses Thursday. The loss hit her hard. She tweeted, "Animal love is so strong & it can really break your heart. Hope he is the one Jesus comes back on." Miranda is an outspoken advocate for animals, especially dogs. Find out more about Miranda's work at MuttNationFoundation.com.