I was thrilled to be able to take the weekend off and hot foot it to London with my younger sister to immerse ourselves in the London leg of the Country 2 Country 2015 Concert Tour, a spectacular weekend country music festival headlined by some of country music’s biggest stars. Supported by the Country Music Association C2C2015 brought together a truly incredible line up of artists and singer /songwriters who between them hold more Billboard Number 1′s, more Grammy’s, more platinum selling albums than I personally could even dream of.
For this 3rd year, C2C headliners included US stars Lady Antebellum, Luke Bryan, Lee Ann Womack, Brandy Clark, Florida Georgia Line, Kip Moore, Brantley Gilbert and Jason Aldean with performances, Q&A’s and signings over the weekend also by Kix Brooks, Kimmie Rhodes, Striking Matches to name but a few.
Firstly, I should point out that I am an artist and songwriter myself with a lifetime passion for the honesty of a great country lyric and although I love to pull on my Nocona riding boots and shout a big yeehaw with the rest of em, being a country music fan adds far more to my life than a just little suede fringing. When you fall into country music, you fall deep.
With the exception of Cornish bred Sam Palladio, it would seem that the main bill of the Country 2 Country Festival was dominated solely by artists fresh from the great US, and on the surface it was. Sure, those guys took sole charge of the o2 arenas main stage, delivering between them world class performances that were an utter joy to witness, whilst our own blossoming country stars, The Shires and Ward Thomas included, sang their hearts out from a satellite stage between sets. But that my friends was exactly how it should be at this point in time.
Where popular music owes so much to fashion and often trades on it’s own cheap currency of representing the ‘now’ with a constant drip of disposable hits, country music has always been ‘all about the song’. In this genre honesty is everything, words sung from the heart, souls bared, the good, the bad, the downright ugly, whatever you have or will ever feel, I guarantee there is a country song out there that will distill your feelings into those few simple words that are often impossible to find. And these country songwriters are so damn good at it.
The legendary Nashville sound isn’t just a bag full of tricks, it is several generations of experience, decades of respect, years and years of precious time dedicated to the process of handcrafting words and melodies into the perfect song – and a level of musicianship that is so staggeringly impressive that it is constantly humbling.
Country 2 Country brought some of that experience to London this weekend and so generously allowed some our emerging UK country music acts to share a festival stage that attracted tens of thousands of true country fans, all deeply in love with the genre to the event. Whilst for those curious to know more and for the fans that couldn’t make the weekend, BBC Radio 2 Country (a four day digital pop up radio station) broadcast a truly fantastic selection of country music past & present, interviews, phone ins and coverage of C2C live from backstage.
Showcased on stages around the venue were performances by rising UK & US artists such as Sasha McVeigh, Luke & Mel, Gary Quinn, Callaghan, Lucy May, Sonia Leigh, Jess & The Bandits, Millers Daughter, Flats & Sharps and Fitzwallace among dozens of others who were all equally enthusiastic!
While tucked away in the intimacy of the low lit Saloon bar ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris scheduled performances by a selection of his personal choice of artists from both sides of the pond and recorded their sets for his utterly wonderful ‘Under The Apple Tree Sessions‘, which I strongly recommend you watch.
Throughout the C2C2015 weekend, which I will tell you now is going to be a must attend event for both me and my now “I–am- so-fully–converted–to-country–music” sister (sorry Kate, your secrets out!)), I heard many people talking about how much Bob Harris ‘was doing’ for country music in the UK, a statement that is so in-eloquent that I really wanted to expand on it.
Bob, along with his wife Trudie and their family has truly supported and encouraged a deeply felt appreciation for country music on these shores in a most inspiring and practical way. And like those true Nashville stars, it is something that he has shown a lifelong commitment to. Bob Harris does not ‘promote’ country music, what he has done is shared with us his passion for it. He really has put in all those years and years of work, he has done his time and is I believe a great example for all of us aspiring country music writers and performers that the values underpinning country music are values that we should keep foremost in our minds. It is all about the song. A great song, is always going to be a great song, it will rise above the voices screaming at us in the now, it will do a hard days work then it will leave it’s boots at the door and will stay with you for life.
Perhaps we UK country music songwriters & artists still need perhaps a little more time to find our own sound. We have such a rich history for being the creators of some of the greatest music in the world, it is here in our roots and there are some astonishingly great artists and writers coming through now on the UK country scene. But we must take a moment to breathe. Anything truly great is definitely worth waiting for, and when we really do have a song ready to sing, I know that Nashville and her devotees will hear it.
If C2C2015 is anything to go by, then right now here in the UK country music is most definitely the new ‘cool’. But hey!! Why y’all just want to be cool when y’all can be country?
By Rachael Muller – Stanford Road 09/03/2015