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Valentines & Fried Green Tomatoes – CMA Fest 2019 Part 3

No I have not forgotten how to do primary school maths or lost the ability to count to 3, this is the 2nd piece I have written about this years trip to the States but the 3rd part of the story. I sort of wanted to do a Marvel Universe type jump back and forth in chronological order in terms of release order because I thought that would be pretty fun to end with.

Anyhows let’s kick back on, every night I have ever set foot in The Stage on Broadway has always ended really badly so after my Cinderella alter ego took over on Wednesday night (that bitch just comes and goes when she pleases on a night out) and I don’t really remember leaving I was amazed to not be in a glorified half comatosed state for day 1 of CMA Fest and miraculously felt quite fresh.

Me and the crazy koala headed for our first visit of the trip to the Listening Room Cafe at 618 4th Avenue South as our friends at Lime Tree Music PR invited us along to Joe Nichols Fan Club Party to kick off the festival. I must admit I was not really overly familiar with his music before seeing him in Nashville beyond “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” but I was absolutely astonished how I had not really been more aware of him as an artist and the extent of his back catalogue! It was clear to see from the attendees of the event how much his music had impacted people in such a significant way. This was the first “fan party” I had been to and it was a format that allowed Joe to highlight his incredible voice and fantastic story telling along with his incredible sense of humour whilst allowing his fans to interact with him and reciprocate their stories back to him. I seriously recommend anyone in the UK makes every attempt to see him when he tours in September: He plays Bristol, Manchester, London & Nottingham (More details available HERE) because you will be blown away by this guy as a vocalist and an entertainer.

On leaving the Listening Room, the temperature in Nashville was not too savage for us but we still started our tendency to head for the magic of air conditioning and paid our first trip to what became our favourite festival stage of the trip. We became really big fans of the Radio Disney Country Stage in the Music City Centre due to the acoustic nature of the stage, how it had a really cool laid back vibe and was heavily focused towards FEMALE ARTISTS! Hang on a minute, people actually come to Nashville to not just support up and coming artists but want to hear the girls play!? This is quite a recurrent theme throughout my upcoming pieces but the #LetTheGirlsPlay ethos needs to be reiterated and is something that people really want to see and we do really stand by it! The other benefit to being inside was it kept you clear from the potential Great British weather that we had brought over with us as there was a little bit too much “liquid sunshine” potentially coming down on Thursday.

Luckily we had some Californian sunshine to brighten things up on stage for us. My friend Claire had been talking to me for absolutely ages about a trio called Honey County as something I would really dig (luckily I reciprocated with sending another Californian trio her way who may feature in the next chronicle – I am gonna go with chronicle as it kind of sounds a bit more exciting) and I liked what I had heard from Dani Rose, Katie Stump & Devon Jane so naturally took the opportunity to check them out. I think the Californian influence that is coming into Nashville right now is super hot and one of the most exciting perspectives and sounds to come into the genre and I especially love the sun-kissed elements that these girls incorporate with their harmonies (plus at least one of them always seems to be liking or commenting on Fairground Saints Insta posts so that is good enough a reason for me to like them even more)

By this point we were feeling rather hangry (trust me you don’t want to leave a fiesty little Aussie feeling like this for too long) so we headed to Acme Feed & Seed at the end of Broadway closest to 1st Avenue and the river and caught up with one of the other girls we were staying with, refuelled our bellies and decided it was a suitable time to get back on the old Michelob Ultra (side note: yes you can find it in the UK but I really wish more pubs and shops would stock it because it’s a really nice and easy beer to drink especially in the summer plus its really low carbs so you manage to convince yourself it is as close to “healthy beer” as you can get. Second side note: I had totally sold out and initially described pubs and shops as “bars and stores” then realised what I was doing and literally slapped myself in the face when sat in the departure lounge at BNA to remind myself I am better than that!) The reason we headed to Acme was to see a duo called Honeysuckle Rose which is the new project from the amazing Ruthie Collins and the girl with the best hair in all of Nashville: Miss Peace, Love & Fiddle herself Natalie Stovall!

I caught both of the girls doing sets last year on my first trip over to Nashville and they are both fantastic entertainers with very different voices which when put into the melting pot as a duo is genius to witness. Together they are a riot on stage with how they bounce off each other telling their stories to set up really witty songs which a few of them may be a little naughty for any snowflakes amongst you but we found them absolutely hilarious and proper badass! Their voices compliment each other so well with Natalie’s raw power along with Ruthie’s sweet angelic tones just work so well.

If any of you only like “lettuce in your salad” if you know what I mean, you will probably be bored already but I’m pretty sure we all want a world where the salad is made of the best ingredients regardless of whether it is a tomato or a lettuce. My CMA Fest experience was pretty much dominated by female artists and without using the anecdotes I genuinely do scrape lettuce, onion, tomato, anything else that doesn’t resemble sauce or cheese and especially pickle off everything I eat! However saying that fried green tomatoes are the best thing you can sample when you head to Nashville so maybe that is an indication of what people like? #JustSaying We headed back outside to the Chevy Breakout Stage in the Hall of Fame Park and saw two of the most kickass and sassy performers you will find in any genre of music!

I first saw Kassi Ashton when I came to Nashville last year and she has obviously been to visit the UK since them when she was part of the CMA Songwriters Series that toured last year (you can read my interview I did with her back then HERE) but it is incredible to see the attitude that she brings with her full band shows and her voice is so unique. This was the most enjoyable time seeing her as she has gradually been putting out new music since we had seen her before so it was awesome to be aware of more songs when seeing her live plus this girl got seriously in the zone and gives off this serious firey level of sass on stage!

Following Kassi was our first time seeing the girl that was probably top of my must see list for the festival due to her not having visited the UK before! Clare Dunn, girl you need to change that and change it fast! Serious attitude, pure sass and a killer guitarist with an array of songs that are absolute bangers!

We headed to The Valentine for what was a long awaited meeting of great minds. I have kind of stanned Kalie Shorr on her socials quite a bit, we had spoken on twitter and when she had chatted to Annette at CRS back in February she had recorded me a video message on Valentines day (the date is probably coincidence but the only message I got from my girlfriend on February 14th was “can you order domino’s for my housemate please because I’m working late and I owe her money” so I do use it in arguments to that I have another girl on the side that at least sends me messages that aren’t completely salty) but this was the first time I had actually met her when I brought Em along to her fan party. The Valentine is a pretty cool venue with the event on the second floor and we were sat on stools at the bar through her set which could have been a lot more dangerous than it ended up.

I’m not entirely sure how I first discovered her as an artist? The appeal for a lot of people is she is pretty much the best reason to be on social media as both her twitter and Insta are hilarious but there is a lot more to her. The way she is very open, honest, spontaneous and at times unashamed of her actions in her songwriting, especially when she tells stories on stage in addition to her socials is reflected by how quick and witty she is both as a lyricist and in her personality. She has a lot of very sassy songs that are real catchy like Gatsby & Astronauts which she hasn’t put either out yet and Fight Like A Girl is a really powerful song too. We had a second chance to say hi to her (and some of her friends) after CMA Fest which will appear in a later post but in a nutshell: she gives great hugs & loves giving them, her hair really suits her since it has been cut shorter, no her mom was not proud of her getting the Nirvana tattoo on her arm and yes she is exactly the same when you talk to her and watch her on stage as she is on Twitter and Insta! An important #SpoilerAlert at this point, sort of like the end credits scene at the end of a film – along with Kassi who we had seen earlier, Kalie was our style guru and had a big influence on my next diary piece!

I mentioned that Thursday was a bit wet, well when we were in the stadium for Kane Brown we were absolutely soaked. I still haven’t actually listened to a lot of his stuff but do like what I have heard. Part of me only went in to see him do Lost in the Middle of Nowhere which he didn’t actually have in his set but people were all seeming happy enough to dance in the rain for him! The set breaks saw everyone dash into the covered concourse around level 1 where we were sat, so as being wet and grumpy always seems to lead you to food so we had pizza (still had kept resisting funnel cake everytime we come to the Nissan despite us both being randomly fascinated by it without even knowing what it actually is)

We stayed for Kelsea Ballerini and Brothers Osborne as we are both big fans of them both and were 2 of our CMA Fest highlights from the year before. Both of them brought out special guests as The Chainsmokers joined Kelsea on stage to perform This Feeling and Brothers Osborne were part of one of those magical CMA Fest moments when they were joined by Brooks & Dunn and also Ashley McBryde on stage which was really special to see the look in her eyes as she was in front of all of those people in the stadium. At this point we were resembling small submerged rodents wearing giant contraception devices that seemed to have too many holes to provide adequate protection so as we were staying fairly close to Broadway on 3rd North we decided we were not too keen on getting wet further and would not be heartbroken about missing the final too acts of the night so along with some of our friends we decided on a few drinks in Honky Tonk Central to let the rain pass which somehow turned into last call which may become a recurring story in these posts. Patti will be doing more thorough stadium reviews so I don’t want to steal too much of her thunder (also there was a weird sense of paranoia writing about Bros Os when John & TJ are on the same flight back to London as you as you are writing this) but I have plenty more to unravel right before your eyes so keep them peeled tomorrow for part 4 when Friday rolls around!

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Jamie Gardam
Without trying to write something that belongs in a Tinder profile, I’m Jamie: sometimes seen as a bit of a rogue potentially even notorious but all in all I am just an Essex boy that loves iced latte’s and colourful hair accessories with a tendency to continually cause disappointment to my mother and a worry to my therapist as I drink too much! It took me far too long to visit and fall in love with the world’s ultimate pub crawl that is Nashville, TN but prior to my next visit I make the most of the sights and sounds of London’s emerging country music scene.
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