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Catch Up With Sara Evans, Scotty McCreery & More Dish on ‘Live in the Vineyard Goes Country’

The event fuses music, food and wine into a memorable Napa Valley outing

Great food and wine are always a memorable pairing, but when you add some of the most talented singer/songwriters in country music, then you’ve really got a special blend — and that’s exactly what makes Live in the Vineyard Goes Country such an unforgettable event.

Scotty McCreery, Sara Evans, Kylie Morgan, Larry Fleet, Runaway June, LOCASH, Brittney Spencer, Josh Ross and Rodney Atkins were among the three dozen artists who performed during the three-day event.

MUST-READ: Country Star Sara Evans Shares Emotional Journey on New Album ‘Unbroke’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Scotty McCreery, 2024
Scotty McCreery, 2024Steve Jennings/Getty Images

“They’ve done a great job with it,” Scotty McCreery tells Woman’s World before his set at Peju Winery. “You don’t have to twist too many arms and say, ‘Hey do you want to come to Napa Valley and hear some country music?’ A lot of people would hop on that flight really quickly. Just the whole presentation is great, and they make everybody feel at home. Everybody is laughing and smiling. It’s really well done, so I’m glad to be back here for the second time.”

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Held each spring in Napa Valley, Live in the Vineyard Goes Country is the brainchild of Bobbii Jacobs, whose passion for elevating talented performers is the fuel behind the event, which takes place at numerous wineries in the famed California region and brings together radio personnel, record executives, journalists and music supervisors.

The origins of the event

“Live in the Vineyard was created 16 years ago and at the core it’s about breaking artist’s careers. It’s about the discovery of music,” says Bobbii, sitting in the Napa Valley sunshine as Big Loud Records artists Larry Fleet, Hailey Whitters, Lily Rose, MacKenzie Porter and the singularly named Ernest prepare to take the stage at Raymond Vineyards.

Hailey Whitters, 2024
Hailey Whitters, 2024Steve Jennings/Getty Images

The artists are getting ready to do what is known in Nashville as a “writer’s round,” where they are all on stage together and take turns performing one of their songs.

Though Live in the Vineyard Goes Country features singer/songwriters from the country music community, the inspiration for the first Live in the Vineyard came from Bobbii trying to promote a Jason Mraz record. “I was promoting Jason’s record, ‘I’m Yours,’ at Hot AC radio, and the record was stalling on the charts,” she recalls.

“Around that time, I did this amazing intimate experience in Napa. It was this beautiful perfection of food and wine, but not music, and I thought, ‘Wait a minute! If we brought artists here instead of being in a conference room or radio station where it’s fluorescent lights and there’s no vibe.’ I was like, why don’t we have them come to Napa Valley? And instead of being in a stuffy conference room with people checking their phone, everyone could be in the moment with them.”

Bobbii called the head of the record label that Jason was on and shared her idea for promoting the song by inviting gatekeepers in the industry to an intimate event where they could get to know Jason and his music. It led to the artist scoring a number one record, and soon everyone wanted to know when Bobbii would be doing her next event.

Thus, Live in the Vineyard was born, and though the original event focused on pop and rock acts, the experience was expanded with Live in the Vineyard Goes Country.

“Country is my passion,” she smiles. “I just love, love, love country music, the artists and everything it stands for, so then I launched LITV Goes Country in the fall of 2017. When we first started, it was just radio, so we focused on bringing the biggest radio programmers at the time and now it’s influencers, DSPs [digital service providers] and press. We keep evolving bringing in the right people to showcase the artists with the key people in the industry.”

The artists dish on Live in the Vineyard Goes County

Needless to say, the artists are appreciative of the platform Bobbii is providing. “This is my first time, and I would love to make it a yearly thing because this is incredible,” Scotty Hasting tells WW.

Scotty Hasting, 2024
Scotty Hasting, 2024Steve Jennings/Getty Images

“Events like this are so great for networking and being able to put names to faces. Networking is always my favorite because I love talking to people. I love interacting with people. It’s been amazing.”

Scotty, whose current single, “I’m America,” is climbing the chart, performed several times during the event, including the Wednesday evening show at the historic Uptown Theater, where he received an enthusiastic standing ovation.

“I’ve been so blessed in the fact that the music that comes from me is affecting people,” he says. “My heart and soul is affecting someone in some way, shape or form and that’s all I ever want. I want people to hear my stuff and I want it to touch them. I want it to give them hope and I want it to help them or someone they know. My music is doing that, which is more than a dream come true.”

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Canadian singer/songwriter MacKenzie Porter was returning for her second appearance at Live in the Vineyard Goes Country.

MacKenzie Porter, 2024, performing at Live in the Vineyard Goes Country
MacKenzie Porter, 2024Steve Jennings/Getty Images

“I could come back and play country music and drink wine every year if they’d have me,” says MacKenzie, who recently released her debut album, the 19-song collection, Nobody’s Born with a Broken Heart.

“I love getting to play a bunch of new music and meet people and hang out with people.”

MacKenzie admits she was excited about performing at Live in the Vineyard, but was missing her baby girl. “It’s my first time leaving her,” she sighs. “She’s at home with her dad. Her name is Bowen. There was a place where I used to live called Bowen Island, which is really beautiful, so kind of after that, but we just loved the name.”

The talent gushes over the gorgeous locale

Nashville-based singer/songwriter Drew Baldridge, whose song “She’s Somebody’s Daughter,” is currently climbing the chart, turned Live in the Vineyard Goes Country into a family affair by bringing his wife Katie and son Lyric.

“This is my first time doing LITV. I did Elevation this past year which was amazing,” Drew says of an event held in the fall that showcases performers from different genres of music. That event is produced by Forefront Networks, which also does LITV and LITV Goes Country.

“This is just really special. I brought my family, and I don’t ever get to do that because we’re so busy. I’m normally jumping from show to show. We had a couple of shows here, and so being able to have my son, who is 16 months old, and my wife come along was really awesome.”

In addition to performing for radio, press and music supervisors, the artists admit another plus was enjoying the Napa Valley scenery and getting to visit the amazing vineyards.

“It’s so beautiful and you just feel almost like you’re in another country,” Sara Evans tells WW following her performance at the Uptown Theater. “It’s just a really cool experience. I never drink before the shows. I do love Cabernet. I’m not a big drinker, but I am going to have Cabernet tonight because where else would I drink wine if not here?”

“Not a connoisseur, but I do love it,” Lily Rose tells WW before she performed as part of the Big Loud Records showcase. “I’m trying to get into red, but I’m a big white winer. I love sparkling wine, that’s my favorite. Any kind of Prosecco, but I’m pretty big on the Chardonnay and the Sauvignon Blanc lately.”

Lily Rose, 2024, performing at Live in the Vineyard Goes Country
Lily Rose, 2024Steve Jennings/Getty Images

The musicians take advantage of all Live in the Vineyard Goes Country has to offer

Lily’s first time at LITV didn’t go as planned, so she was thrilled to get a do over. “I came up in 2022 and woke up the morning of with a fever and had to fly home, so I’m on my LITV redemption tour right now,” she says with a laugh.

“It’s always an honor to get to play for all of those folks, but to do it with all my Big Loud peers and homies, these are some of my dearest friends, so I’m very excited.”

The purpose of the event is for artists to share music with press, radio and music supervisors in hopes it will lead to airplay or placement in films and television. Does that make an artist nervous knowing that the stakes are higher than a regular gig?

“No, they are either going to play it or they won’t, and you either like me and my stuff or you don’t,” Larry Fleet says.

Larry Fleet, 2024, performing at Live in the Vineyard Goes Country
Larry Fleet, 2024Steve Jennings/Getty Images

“It’s in God’s hands. Things are going to happen the way they are supposed to happen, and I just go with the flow.

“At the end of the day I’m still the old construction worker that just got lucky,” Larry continues with a grin. “I write songs that I live and I’m just a normal everyday guy that gets to play music for a living. That’s what I write and that’s why I think it connects and so I’m glad it does.”

The talent is on full display at Live in the Vineyard Goes Country

Kylie Morgan and Kelsey Hart were among the artists who performed at Goosecross Cellars.

“What’s so cool about it is you bring all these Nashville artists into one place and then you bring all these radio people into one place, and you get to hear genuine talent,” Kyle says.

“Let’s be honest, sometimes it’s covered up by a lot of tracks and things like that, but with Live in the Vineyard, it’s acoustic, broken down. You hear the stories. You hear the songs. You hear the artists and it’s very special.”

Kelsey, whose new single, “Life with You,” is climbing the charts, was enjoying his LITV debut.

“It was not a hard sell,” he laughs. “Some of my buddies have been down here and talked really highly of it, and everybody that has been here loved it. I’ve been looking forward to it for a while. It’s beautiful and everybody that’s showed up to watch our kind of smaller intimate performances, you can just tell they are so engaged. They truly are country music fans and fans of music, and so there’s that, and then getting to drink some wine ain’t bad either.”

justbrandon, a new artist who performed during a dinner at Frank Family Winery, says there are benefits to performing at such a venue. “It’s perfect because when I miss notes, everyone has already been drinking so they don’t notice,” he laughs.

Like justbrandon, Emmet Stevens Jr. is a new artist whose career is just starting to gain momentum.

“They just call all kinds of songwriters, whether it’s someone with multiple hits to someone like me who has yet to write a hit and is just getting started in the music industry,” says the Florida native, who recently released his new single, “Walked Away.”

“I’m not nervous because I really believe in my songs. I like to put out songs that I believe in that have a good message and are important to me. I write songs that I hope people can resonate with.

“I started playing guitar when I was like 12. I started singing when I was 14 or 15 in church, and I still lead praise and worship at my parents’ church whenever I’m in town. And as cliché as it sounds, I just love music. I love writing, but I think when the first time someone came up to me and really connected with one of my songs and made them feel something, like they weren’t alone, I think that’s when I was like, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”

Musicians and wine makers share the same passion

If there’s one thing music makers and wine makers share, it’s passion for what they create.

“I’ve been making wine for 30 years,” Angelo Pera of Backstage Winery tells WW, shortly following Levi Hummon’s performance at his vineyard.

“My daughter Olivia and my son Matt also work here, so it’s a family winery. We have 18 little micro vineyards throughout Napa Valley and that’s where we make all of our wines from. The winery is here, and the vineyards are all over.

 “Being Italian,” says Angelo, whose family is originally from Tuscany, “we believe wine needs to have a lot of the natural fruit flavors that pop out of the wine. We don’t put anything added to our wines. It’s all natural and so really working with the grape I can get a lot more aromas and flavors and I want it to pair up with food, so that’s really important to me.”

 “We love Napa Valley. We are very proud to own Raymond since 2009,” says Jean-Charles Boisset of Raymond Vineyards. “We love music! Music is part of the culture of life like art, like food.”

During the three-day event, artists performed at numerous wineries, including Ackerman Family Vineyard, Arch and Tower by Robert Mondavi Winery, Charter Oak Winery, Merryvale Vineyards, Nickel & Nickel Winery, Silverado Vineyards and Whetstone Wine Cellars.

Between sampling some finely crafted wines and mingling with artists, participants in Live in the Vineyard Goes Country left Napa Valley with some great memories. Drew will always remember receiving a standing ovation when he sang “She’s Somebody’s Daughter.”

“I’ve been in Nashville for 13 years and playing music longer than that, and I feel like we’re finally close to our moment,” he says.

“Being able to play a song on stage that we can say is top 30, our first gold record, and then the whole crowd stands up and gives us a standing ovation, it just brought me to tears. To know that your music is touching people, that’s the thing that I care about the most.

“When I was writing songs in my room when I was 16, I just wanted my songs to touch people and it’s resonating and that’s all I care about. That’s what I think all artists and songwriters at the end of the day, we just want our music to resonate with people and be a part of people’s lives.”

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