updated 03/11/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 03/11/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT
It's a family affair when Martina McBride's in the studio. The star recorded her new album, Shine (due March 24), at Nashville's Blackbird Studio, owned by her husband, John. The couple's three daughters lent a hand.
DO THE KIDS VISIT OFTEN?
Ava [3½] is usually here with me—it's another home for her. The studio is close to our house and they all feel comfortable. The older girls actually added hand claps on one new song!
WHAT DOES AVA DO THERE?
She'll strum a mandolin or play computer games and color. After I finish, she'll sing a little song that we record.
DO THE GIRLS OFFER ANY SONG ADVICE?
We have three little critics in the house! They let me know when I've added something that isn't cool.
"I love hearing a song come to life. It's a very creative process"
After playing the kid-size Brad Paisley and Keith Urban in the "Start a Band" video, Nashville boys Joseph Lopez, 12, and Trent Jones, 11, have one request: Bring on the country edition of Guitar Hero. Hired to just skateboard and play videos in the clip, the boys wound up miming guitar licks at Paisley's suggestion. "I wish we could have done the whole thing with them standing there instead of us," says Paisley. After the shoot both kids took up guitar. Fittingly, he says, because " 'Start a Band' is a shorter version of 'Letter to Me,' but there [is] just one word in the letter. 'Dear Me: Practice.' "
During the 1973 recession, Merle Haggard's "If We Make It Through December" was an elegy for the working man. Now, with the current economic crisis, "it sounds like it was written yesterday," says Haggard, who's touring again. "I had a considerable amount in the stock market, so now I've got to go to work!"
Vince Gill has been named Country Music Hall of Fame's 2009 Artist-in-Residence. He'll perform at the Ford Theater in February.
Tim McGraw and R&B's Chris Brown have teamed up for an upcoming song called "Human."
A Who's Who of country, including Reba McEntire and Kid Rock, will appear at the Stagecoach Festival, April 25-26, in Indio, Calif.
SPRING TOUR PREVIEW
STARS TEAM UP TO GIVE YOU PLENTY OF MUSIC FOR YOUR BUCKS
ON TOUR WITH
Her best friend, Kellie Pickler, starting in Evansville, Ind., April 23.
HER FIRST BIG SHOW
"Every single day for the last three years of my life, I have been writing down ideas for a headlining tour, just in case I might ever be lucky enough to get to do one," says Swift. "Honestly, everything is in my head—all the transitions, everything. I can't wait for the first night."
EXPECT TO SEE
Costume changes. "My favorite thing in the world is a mid-performance costume change!" says Swift. "I live for costume changes."
ON TOUR WITH
Dierks Bentley until March 14.
Paisley's been a Dierks fan ever since an unsigned Bentley smuggled him a demo at the Opry: "I put it on in the car on the way home and was blown away."
WHAT YOU'LL SEE
"When someone buys a ticket they're saying, 'Take me away,' " says Paisley. "We're spending every dollar to give people their money's worth."
ON TOUR WITH
Miranda Lambert and Lady Antebellum starting in April.
WAIT, THERE'S MORE!
Nine of the shows will be stadium gigs with Sugarland and Montgomery Gentry.
He fell short of 2008 highest-tour-grosser honors because he kept prices down—and that won't change. "I'm mostly still the guy out on the lawn—in the cheapest seats—with my buddies," says Chesney.
ON TOUR WITH
Jessica Simpson until March 14.
WHAT YOU'LL HEAR
Simpson's goal is to convert just a few Flatts fans. "Even if the audience isn't open," she says, "I hope by the end of the show they can see me not as a celebrity but as a real entertainer."
Little Big Town joins up with hot freshman act Zac Brown Band through April in theaters and large clubs. "We know it's hard, especially for families to come together to things," says Kimberly Schlapman. "So we're hoping to keep it under $30 almost everywhere. We might not break even, but that will be our goal."...John Rich will be out with his solo CD before reteaming with Big Kenny (no, they haven't broken up) for a summer jaunt.... Trace Adkins and Craig Morgan join up for some headlining shows Feb. 12-21 in the Midwest.
LEANN RIMES' NASHVILLE HOME
MOVING ON OUT
Rimes and husband Dean Sheremet traded the five-bedroom, 7,609-sq.-ft. house on 3.2 acres for a larger home in the country, says real estate agent Dennis Johnson of Worth Properties LLC.
Outfitted with a Wolf stove and wine fridge, this space was put to good use. "Dean loves to cook," reports Johnson.
Rimes used this area as a sitting room and a place to display her awards.
THE GREAT ROOM
The couple often entertained in this room, which "had a lot of large pillows on the floor," says Johnson.
THE MASTER BEDROOM
Bonuses here include a fireplace, wooden ceiling and a view of the manicured front lawn.
Carrie Underwood, 25, caught a hockey match Jan. 3, featuring rumored beau Ottawa Senators center Mike Fisher (inset).
Shania Twain, 43, vacationed in New York City and Florida in December with a group of friends that included Frédéric Thiébaud, 38, the ex-husband of Twain's former pal who allegedly had an affair with Twain's ex, Robert "Mutt" Lang.
On Dec. 25 Lady Antebellum's Charles Kelley, 27, proposed to his longtime girlfriend, publicist Cassie McConnell, 25. She said yes!
John Rich, 34, wed his girlfriend of five-plus years, former model Joan Bush, in a Dec. 6 ceremony at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium.
A few days after Christmas, singer Jake Owen, 27, picked up a belated present for himself: a pint-size English bulldog. "My new puppy Vern is my homeboy," Owen told PEOPLE. "We have a lot of good times ahead of us!"
Taylor Swift, 19, is designing a line of sundresses for the teen-clothing label L.e.i. to be sold exclusively at Wal-Mart.... Hello, Dolly, indeed: 9 to 5: The Musical, with songs by Dolly Parton, 62, is slated to open on Broadway April 7.... Following in the footsteps of her heavenly scented hubby, Faith Hill, 41, is launching her own fragrance with Coty Inc. The new scent is expected to hit stores by Christmas.... Kenny Chesney and Constellation Spirits are in the early stages of developing a new premium rum.
Jon Hager, 67, a Hee Haw cast member and one half of the Hager Twins, was found dead Jan. 9 in Nashville. Jon's twin, Jim, died of a heart attack in May.
ON FEB. 7
Travis Tritt turns 46
Carrie Underwood turns 26
Kristian Bush turns 39
Kenny Chesney turns 41