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Country Music Week 2018

For the second year running the official C2C line-up announcement for the following March has coincided with an influx of country music artists from both sides of the Atlantic and a mass gathering of fans from all over the country converging on the UK capital for Country Music Week.  Numerous gigs at multiple venues across the city presented a feast of music from some emerging talent from Nashville visiting this side of the pond for the first time along with some artists who have firmly been established as fan favourites over here.

Now let me throw out some housekeeping disclaimers to kick this off: unfortunately I haven’t yet mastered time travel or teleportation meaning there were some events and artists I did not get to catch as you can’t simply be in two places at once.  Also when I am trying to cover a big event or a festival per say covering a lot of different things in one piece I am like a spray gun, go off a million miles an hour in every direction which is perfectly logical in my head but is not really chronological from the time frame or in order of preference.

​One thing that really stood out for me more than ever this week was the fans over here.  I appreciate that our readers in the United States are probably getting sick to death of hearing this but this week there were moments where we did ourselves so proud and fully justified what we hear artists say about crowds over here on stage on all levels.  From every person inside Wembley Arena singing along to Merry Go Round with Kacey Musgraves to how so many of the crowd knew every single word to 11 from Cassadee Pope’s first album when she played it as a fan request at The Borderline to the level of attentiveness and respect for the stories for how well people listened at the CMA Songwriters Series show to finally how that people embraced and instantly supported seeing acts likeFairground Saints and Lainey Wilson (who although I didn’t personally get to catch either of her sets but everyone I spoke to could not get enough of) that people probably had not heard of let alone heard any of their music before.

​Starting out a bit leftfield as I didn’t actually see either of her official CMW performances but from what I heard and saw from a small showcase on Friday afternoon I can absolutely guarantee that the forthcoming new project from Sarah Darling is something people really should get very excited about.  From what we have been privileged to hear so far, Wonderland brings some really creative sounds and melodies to accompany her angelic voice.  The album is reaffirming her love for everything this side of the pond and the new sound sits perfectly amongst the new free and creative direction of country music is heading in whilst still retaining the core songwriting values.  Wonderland is now available for pre-order at https://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/sarah-darling-wonderland and we are super keen to hear the rest of it too!

​When I looked at the line-up on paper before the week there was one name that excited me more than any of the others not just because of how I was a fan of their music and persona but I was absolutely confident of how much the entire country music community all around the UK (as London was their final show on the tour) would be blown away and absolutely would fall in love with seeing Kassi Ashton for the first time and I was so right with this.  The interview we did with Kassi can be found https://thinkcountrymusic.com/whats-new/cma-songwriters-series-london-in-conversation-with-kassi-ashton/ and is probably my favourite chat I have ever written up with an artist.

​The first gig I ever went to was Bon Jovi eighteen years ago and I have seen them eight times since so for a long time they were the artist I had seen more times live than any other, however this changed on Saturday when Kacey Musgraves became the first person I have ever seen live ten times!  This probably is enough evidence in itself of how good I think this girl is but I loved hearing the songs from Golden Hour performed live and the appearance of Tom Chaplin from Keane to perform Somewhere Only We Know brought about a beautiful duet!  I am going to write about this show in more detail in a separate post because I have so much to say about how incredible I thought this show was.

​My Tuesday evening was a little different as I took a vacation from country music and went to see Hayley Kiyoko in Islington which for me was great fun and I love everything that she stands for and how inspirational she is to many of her friends but a far cry from the acoustic setting of the CMA Songwriters show the night before.  As I said before the attentiveness of the crowd is always fantastic at shows like this but rightfully so as it is always good for people to hear the background to songs first hand from established songwriters like Chris De Stefano who is such a great guy (and a terrific rapper as he proved performing the Ludacris part in addition to the parts typically sung by Carrie Underwood of The Champion) with a fantastic repertoire of music he has been involved in whilst allowing people to discover more about artists they may not be as familiar with like Kassi, Tenille Townes & Ashley Campbell.

​Similar to the reaction to what Kassi received over here, Tenille seemed to have quickly become a new favourite for the fans over here particularly in hearing “Somebody’s Daughter” which I think she has a lovely voice to deliver songs and this track has such a deep and powerful message that people really understand and have related to.  Tenille was one of two support acts for Drake White which allowed her to be discovered by even more people and her U2 cover of I still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking for was just beautiful.

​Although he had been over for last year’s Country Music Week the show marked the first time I really discovered anything substantial about Eric Paslay and I didn’t appreciate some of the songs that he written along with how great a voice this guy has.  For a guy that played solo acoustic on his own there is so much likability and energy in the way he delivered a really long set (I am so big on people pushing the limits on proposed early curfews so venues can have separate club nights after!) with plenty of opportunities for the crowd to sing along.  He just came across on stage as a really likable guy with such a natural and relatable style of performing that brought about a really fun Friday night.

​Prior to Eric Paslay’s set there was a superb set that got me thinking “BEHAVE! Where did that come from and how do I have no idea anything about these guys?”  The band I am referring to are called Fairground Saints and they have a sound that is really quirky and cool with such catchy hook lines, infectious melodies and a great Californian take on 3 part harmonies.  I just got the feeling that their sound is something that fans over here will really take to and this was proved so right with the reaction that they gained when they made more new fans at the same venue on Sunday afternoon.  We were very lucky to get to chat with Meg, Elijah and Mason before this second performance which we are excited about bringing it to you in the coming days and I really liked “California” and “Church” from their set in addition to having their brand new single “Somewhere Down The Line” stuck in my head at work this morning!

​A lot of people seem really excited about the C2C line-up for 2019 which was announced before the Songwriters show on Monday night, personally it is all about Keith Urban for me and it will be incredible for all the fans over here that have never had the opportunity to see him before as he has rightfully been top of so many people’s wish list for so long.  The rest of the line-up initially made me really hopeful of new music from Lady Antebellum which we can still keep our fingers crossed for in support of their Los Vegas residency in 2019 (details of which are at https://www.ladyantebellum.com/news/2018/10/24/lady-a-sets-the-stage-for-our-kind-of-vegas-residency where tickets go on sale this Friday November 2nd) but didn’t really have me doing somersaults and cartwheels.

​Although I am slightly disappointed in the 2019 acts overall it is not a criticism in the bookings themselves it will have a lot to do with the fact I have seen 11 of the 12 main stage performers before.  Bringing six artists that have not played the festival at all before including Keith is a fantastic opportunity for fans to see different acts (although Chase Rice and Brett Eldredge have played shows in London before) and it is great to see acts that have played the smaller stages previously graduate to the success where they get to play the main stage.  An example of this is Drake White who I know has a great fan base over here as shown by how enthusiastic they were during his appearance during Country Music Week at KOKO on the Wednesday night.

​Sunday afternoon brought about the eagerly awaited return to the stage in London for an artist from Nashville that has such a loyal and dedicated UK fan base, the adorable Cassadee Pope.  Her set was the final half hour slot at The Borderline’s daytime hub and I think the fans there really wanted to hear so much more from her.  The all too brief acoustic set included songs like I Wish I Could Break Your Heart, Eleven (which was requested to her by a fan the night before at Kacey’s concert) and the Caitlyn Smith masterpiece Wasting All These Tears from her debut album originally released 5 years ago plus a cover of Martina McBride’s This One’s for the Girls along with newer songs from her independent direction including current single One More Red Light.  Hopefully it won’t be too long before Cassadee returns to play her own headline show over here because she really does have a very strong set of fans over here that even with the acoustic performance brought a great atmosphere to The Borderline.

​In addition to the shows we attended, the city was also graced by shows from Darius Rucker along with Russell Dickerson (who also had a solo show at The Borderline) at the Royal Albert Hall, Duane Eddy at the Palladium, a Bob Harris presented Under The Apple Tree show featuring Sarah Darling amongst other artists at Bush Hall which as a venue also hosted a Bluebird Café songwriters round which again included Cassadee Pope and Eric Paslay plus a show from Chase Rice with Jimmie Allen & Lainey Wilson at Bush Hall.  The whole week was a lot of fun and there is always plenty going on in London as a city so would definitely be a great opportunity to people to head to the city whilst catching plenty of live music with lot of choice at plenty of cool venues if the event runs again next year.  In the meantime we have plenty more exciting interviews from the week to bring to you over the coming days which we really hope you enjoy reading.




Annette Gibbons
Hi, I’m Annette, I have been a huge country music fan since the early 90s those were the days we were lucky enough to have CMT in the UK. I enjoy nothing more than listening to country music whilst having a cold beer (or a moonshine) with friends. I try to as many gigs as I can here in the UK and in the USA; I think of Nashville as my second home and I am lucky to have made some amazing friends in Tennessee. Think Country is something I am very proud of, I just want to share my love and passion of all things country music related with you all.
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