Thursday 8th March saw the official/unofficial kick off for Country2Country in London. The CMA Songwriters Series yet gain graced the stage of the IndigO2 bringing the UK audience some incredible songwriters and music.
In a 2000 seater venue it always seems to be bursting at the seems this time of year with people flocking to catch a glimpse of who the CMA have brought us. Previous years have seen some incredible songwriters and recording artists and this year was no exception.
Hosted by CAM, the line up also included, Jimmie Allen, Ross Copperman, Laura Veltz and Travis Denning. With the exception of CAM we were able to catch up with these individuals one on one to speak about their experiences in the UK so far, click on their names to follow those links to the articles on our site!
But let’s get into it, the show that everyone waits for, the show that was worth the wait.
CAM is a seasoned visitor to the UK now and it seemed somehow fitting to have her as a host introducing the audience to the talent around her. She kicked the show off with ‘Diane’, as usual her vocals and performance was flawless and injected with that bubbly personality we have all come to know and love.
The round then continued with Laura Veltz, a new name to the UK and someone who herself seemed surprised she was sitting on that stage, 4000 miles from home, as, in her words, ‘just a staff songwriter’. It didn’t take long however to see just why the CMA brought her over. Veltz is one hell of a character and boasts cuts for some great artists. As the night begin to open up with her introduction her playing ’Drunk Last Night’, written for the Eli Young Band was the perfect intro for her. With a whole lot of sass and charm, looking around the room, you could see the audience were already hooked and waiting to see what would come next from this lady.
Only 3 songs into the show and it was already clear that this line up of songwriters were going to be fun! They bounced off each other at every turn and between them all had the audience captivated. Now, however, was the turn of Travis Denning, just signed to UMG Nashville, he is quickly making a name for himself not just in Nashville but now overseas and it seemed only right that he would kick his set off with latest single ‘After A Few’.
Then heads turned to the other side of the stage as we were introduced to Jimmie Allen. A name many may have heard as this up and coming artist is, just like Travis, quickly making a name for himself. Jimmie is also the only act on stage that chose not to sit for his performances, mixing it up a little for our viewing! After a brief overview from CAM, it came time for Allen to take the stage and play his first song, ‘American Heartbreaker’, it was met with applause and excitement as once again I could see the crowd just soaking all this music in.
Our final stop before heading back to our host was Ross Copperman, someone who is no stranger to being here in the UK. Previously a resident here in London this was a welcome return for this Virginia born, Tennessee resident. His list of songs for the night would be hit after hit so I for one was intrigued to see what he would kick it off with. Again after a small introduction he began his first song, a track that became a big hit for Kenny Chesney and P!NK, ‘Setting The World On Fire’.
With one round completed, you could feel the excitement in the room, the anticipation and the want to hear more from all 5 of these artists up on stage. I want to talk to you all a little more about each artists individually now, let you see a little more into each of their performances.
CAM, she has been around the world and back again, she has recently has had differences of opinion with her, now ex-label, Sony and it’s been a very public journey for her. However, that has not slowed down this firecracker of an artist. Each time she steps onto a stage, she delivers. She knows just how to pull the audience in on the slow songs but give them the freedom to let rip on some of the more upbeat tracks. As she took centre stage for the Songwriters Series, she clearly felt at home up there. Her banter with the other acts and her kind, appreciative introductions to the others around her just cemented why she was given that role.
Her set list continued as follows: Palace (Sam Smith), My Mistake, Forgetting You When I’m Alone and Burning House.
Laura Veltz, a name probably many had not heard here in the UK, but certainly not unheard of. Her songwriting career has gone from strength to strength and her performance on that stage in London was something to remember. She gave the audience one hell of a reason to remember her name, from her stories to her fantastic performances of songs that we all know and love. Though her job is somewhat behind the scenes, she seemed to really start to enjoy being out front and in the spotlight sharing her stories and songs with such an attentive audience. The passion she put into every word and line on that stage was repaid in kind as you looked around the venue. She is the sort of person that is a slam dunk on these sorts of shows. A songwriter who maybe people walk into that auditorium having no idea who they are and they walk out just being dumfounded at how the could have ever not known their name. Laura found the perfect partnership in Maren Morris and boasts 5 cuts on her most recent album alone! She certainly has a long career ahead of her and I would bet a home here in the UK whenever she wants to come and play us some more tunes!
Veltz’s set list continued as follows: Rich (Maren Morris), Live Forever (Kane Brown), Speechless (Dan + Shay),
Sitting patiently, next to Laura, was Travis Denning. Travis Denning. Travis Denning. Just making sure you don’t forget that name! Signed to Mercury Nashville in 2018 this young talent is rising quickly through the ranks, not just as an artist but also as a songwriter. The way he carries himself onstage, his wit and chat on stage, he seems seasoned in front of crowds like this. At 26 he has a long road ahead of him and he certainly made sure that he would lay down the paving stones to come back and visit the UK again. He chose to not only play some of his own songs as an artist but mixed in a couple of his big cuts he has achieved over the past couple of years. He is truly country when he sings and that southern charm and true passion for the music just seems to ooze from every pore. As he sang, again like the others on stage, the crowd were just hanging on every word, waiting to see what he would play and say next, desperate to hear the story behind the next song. Denning’s first release was a track called David Ashley Parker, a song he wrote about an ID he found back when he was younger and went on to use to be the ‘beer guy’ whilst he was still underage. He stated that he didn’t know if it would resonate so much here because of the difference in drinking age but I am pretty sure there are plenty of 16 year olds who have headed out with their fake ID’s for a night on the town here! So it was definitely relatable and a great song to boot. His return will be anticipated by many after that night and the C2C weekend.
His set from his first song continued like this: Her World Or Mine (Michael Ray), Snakes & Needles, David Ashley Parker.
The next act we come back to is Jimmie Allen. A new and rising star in country music, he surely showed the UK crowd just why he deserved to be on that stage. A first trip to London can be daunting for many, playing to a crowd that is so attentive and hanging off you every word, it is something every writer dreams of and we certainly know how to deliver. Allen took this crowd though and really mixed up with atmosphere when he took to the mic. The only artist on stage choosing to stand for his songs it was clear that he had a whole lot of energy ready to put into his performances, his vocal ability and his rapport with, not only the audiences, but the other writers on stage proved that he is someone who has earned his place in the spotlight. In fact I am not sure who enjoyed the show more, us or him! If there was one thing the crowd could see straight off, this was an artist who wanted to move, to really get the audience riled up and someone who was throughly appreciative of the love he was getting on that stage. So, in a CMA Songwriters first, in London, Jimmie broke all the rules. When it came time for his last song he took his microphone and he walked off stage, saying nothing more than ‘I’ll be back’…. Well he did come back, but not to his seat on stage. Allen took the chance to take his microphone out into the balcony audience and get up close and personal with them as he finished up his set with his hit single ‘One Shot’.
Jimmie’s set continues from his first song as follows: Gonna Make Me Want To, Warrior, One Shot.
The last songwriter of the night, but not the last song as CAM closed that out with ‘Burning House’, was Ross Copperman. As mentioned above, this is not Ross’ first trip to the UK like many of the others. In fact he actually lived here for a while. He got signed and had a successful career in music, so he is all too familiar with the London sights, though this was his first return in a decade. Having hashed it out in Nashville and making a name for himself there he was back and he shared with us hit song after hit song, clearly his time there was not spent in vain. He knew just how to tell the stories, how to pull in the already captive audience even more. His cheeky, jack the lad persona made him easy to watch and relate to. Though somehow in that there was also a sense of nervousness in his performance, just enough to see how much being back here on this stage really meant to him through all the bravado. I hope that this return to the UK will be the first of many for this guy because he deserves to enjoy that success again, both sides of the pond!
His follow up songs from his first were: John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16 (Keith Urban), Woman, Amen (Dierks Bentley), Get Along (Kenny Chesney).
After the first round there was also a special announcement as CAM invited British country act Ward Thomas to the stage to surprise them and present them with the CMA Jeff Walker award before they played their hit song ‘Cartwheels’.
Overall this was a phenomenal show and I would even go so far as to say, I think, this was the best CMA Songwriter Series to be hosted this side of the Atlantic yet! Between the songs, the banter and the talent that sung on that stage, it was a night to remember. The CMA are going to have a hard time topping that for next years festival!