Country to Country (C2C) 2017. The Growth of U.K Country Music. Day 3.

Sunday seemed to be the busiest of the three days. Perhaps that was due to more day tickets being sold because The Zac Brown Band were headlining that evening. However, that didn’t take anything away from the atmosphere, in fact it made it better, which I didn’t think was possible. 

I was introduced to and up coming singer songwriter by my good friend and songwriting partner, Emily Faye. He said that he was planning to watch an artist called Logan Brill later on at 2.05pm. He told me he’d seen her perform last year at the Nashville Meets London festival and said she was great. Naturally, I was eager to watch her perform and I’m always wanting to find new artists to listen to. Logan’s performance was awesome and her presence on stage captivated the audience. She performed a mixture of originals and covers, and her arrangement of “Champagne Supernova” by Oasis was a hit with the crowd as they sang along with her. My personal favourites were her original songs, “Shuteye” and “World Still Round”, which are off of her latest album entitled “Shuteye”. If you haven’t downloaded the album, I strongly urge you to because it’s excellent throughout. After her set, I decided that this would be a perfect interview to round off the weekend. After waiting for the fans to finish getting autographs and photos, I had the pleasure of talking to Logan about her thoughts on U.K country music. I asked her if she’d been impressed with the reception of country music here in the U.K. “It’s blown me away. It really has”. She enthused. “There’s such a love for country music here and it’s cool to see a lot of bands that are doing their own version of country from the U.K as well. The audiences here have been incredible”. This was amazing to here from an artist from the home of country music. I also asked if she had any advice for a country band starting up. Her response was, “Just work hard and keep being true to yourself. The great thing about country music is that it glorifies the common man, the common story. If there’s an artist wanting to make country music, they should tell their own personal story”. Logan’s words resonated with me a lot and for me, they solidify the fact that country music is definitely growing in the U.K and it’s only a matter of time before it’s a mainstream genre here. Logan has been at home in Nashville writing for her new record and is back in the studio over the next few months. She hopes to release her new album in the next year or so, and I can’t wait to hear it. Links to Logan’s social media are at the end of the blog.

Now, my blog wouldn’t be complete without a fan interview. Like the other interviews and I asked this fan what his favourite part about the festival was. “I’m just taking it all in really. It’s my first time here and it’s amazing to see so many people who love country music”. He also gave his opinion on the growth of country music in the U.K. “Country music is definitely growing here and it’s great to see so many U.K acts coming forward. Over the last five years it’s come a long way”. 

Overall, I feel that since Country to Country launched back in 2013, it has given country music a voice here in the U.K. It has been influential in getting more people into country music and the proof is in the growth of the festival since it began. Country music will only continue to grow here, and hopefully allow more country artists from Amercia to tour the U.K and inspire people to make country music. Judging by what I saw over the weekend, I’m sure that will materialise sooner rather than later. Country to Country has been truly inspiring and I can’t wait to get out there and help spread the country music love around the U.K. 

I hope you have enjoyed reading my mini blog series about the Country to County festival. It has been a pleasure writing it, and I hope it has given those of you who want to go next year an insight of what you can expect. Over the coming months, I will be filming a documentary about the U.K country music scene, so keep your eyes peeled. Over and out!

Logan Brill’s social media:

http://loganbrill.com

https://www.facebook.com/loganbrillmusic

https://www.instagram.com/loganbrillofficial/

https://mobile.twitter.com/loganbrillmusic

https://www.youtube.com/user/loganbrillofficial/

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Country to Country (C2C) 2017. The Growth of U.K Country Music. Day 2. 

Waking up on Saturday morning, still buzzing from the day before, meant I wasted no time getting to the O2 for round two of the C2C festival. An earlier start meant more time to enjoy my surroundings as I made my way from stage to stage and stall to stall. 

The first band I saw on Saturday were country rock outfit, Backwoods Creek. Kicking off their set at 10.50am, it felt more like 10.50pm under the dimmed lights of Club WM. Spectators already with beers in their hands as Saturday at C2C started with a bang. Backwoods Creek’s performance was filled with energy, fantastic guitar tones, rich vocals, and it was hard to believe these guys were from the U.K and not straight out of Nashville. I had the pleasure of interviewing them after they’d finished and I managed to catch up with the founding members, Jamie Wood and Yannick Van Riet. I asked them if they thought country music was growing in the U.K and Yannick’s response was, “It started really small and in the last year or so it’s grown massively. We like that!” Jamie then added with, “I think this festival shows it enough. I was here the first year and it hadn’t sold out at all. Now, the fact that it’s sold out and people are queuing out the doors to see bands is amazing”. This was something I noticed a lot during my time at C2C. On one occasion you couldn’t even get into Club WM because it was simply too full. It was great to see that people weren’t just here to see the main artists in the evening, they wanted to support the U.K bands too. Backwoods Creek are now heading into the studio to record their next E.P, and playing at Buckle and Boots festival up in Manchester in the summer. Links to their social media are at the end of the blog. 

So, after throughly enjoying Backwoods Creek’s set, I continued to explore the festival. I got to chat to another fan and asked him what he loves about country music. “I absolutely love country!” He enthused. “I like more modern country music as apposed to the more traditional country music. I love artists like, Lady Antebellum, Jennifer Nettles, Darius Rucker and Chris Young”. I then asked him if there was a particular artist he really wanted to see and he told me, “Unfortunately, I’m going to the miss The Zac Brown Band which is such a shame but, I’m most looking forward to seeing Darius Rucker and Chris Young”. To me, his answer highlighted that there is a genuine love for country music here in the U.K and no matter which flavour of the genre you preffered, there was something at C2C for everyone. 

I then saw one of the most exciting performances at the festival. Katy Hurt’s stage presence and catchy songs wowed the audience, and definitely left people talking about her. My favourite moment of her set was when she got the crowd to sing back one of her catchy melodies, and boy did they respond. Everyone watching was singing back at her, which was a fantastic moment. I just had to chat to Katy after her performance, and I managed to grab a couple of minutes with her. I asked her opinion on whether country music is growing in the U.K and she responded with, “I think it’s growing exponentially. I love seeing the reaction people are having to it. It makes my heart flutter”. I also wanted to know her views on collaborating with other artists an whether it is important. “Oh I think it’s hugely important” she informed. “Co-writing wasn’t a part of what I did until about a year ago, and it’s completely changed my life. When you hear other people’s perspective on something, it’s like nothing you’ve ever imagined before. It’s really cool to be able to share stories that way too”. Katy has just released a new single entitled “Dust” and an E.P called “Pieces of Me”. Katy and her band will be at U.K festivals this summer, so watch out because she’s going places. Links to Katy’s social media are at the end of the blog.

I hope you have enjoyed my second instalment about Country to Country 2017. Stay tuned as tomorrow’s blog will cover the last day and include a special interview and and a new project I have coming up. Keep your eyes peeled! 

Backwoods Creek’s social media:

https://www.backwoodscreek.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/BackwoodsCreek/

https://www.instagram.com/BackwoodsCreek/

https://www.twitter.com/BackwoodsCreek/

https://www.youtube.com/user/BackwoodsCreek

Katy Hurt’s social media:

https://www.katyhurt.com

https://www.instagram.com/katy_hurt/

https://www.facebook.com/KatyHurtMusic/

https://www.twitter.com/KT_Hurt13/

https://www.youtube.com/user/KatyHurtMusic

Country to Country (C2C) 2017. The Growth of U.K Country Music. Day 1.

Every year since 2013, AEG Europe and SJM Concerts have put on a multi-day country music festival in association with the Country Music Association. The festival takes place in March each year and is held in London, Glasgow and Dublin. The festival has grown every year and last year, the organisers added a third day to the schedule. Now it reaches over 80,000 fans across the U.K.
Country music in the UK has had a big growth spurt over the last 5 years and artists from America, who a few years ago wouldn’t have been able to tour in the U.K, now have have a big enough fan base to play a run of shows here. Despite a fair few enthusiasts wearing cowboy hats and cowboy boots, British people have started to look past the stereotypes of country music and are actually diving deeper into the genre because country music is not just Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash. There’s something for everyone. Country to Country has been at the heart of the growth of country music in the U.K and it was very apparent as I walked into the O2 on Friday. I was unprepared for how many people were in attendance. It was like I’d taken a portal into Broadway in Nashville. One live act bleeding into another as I walked through the complex. It was definitely more than I expected and I didn’t hear a bad act. The level of songwriting and musicianship was top notch, and most of the bands playing on the free stages outside the main arena were from the U.K. I was very pleasantly surprised. Over the three days I got to chat to a few of the artists and fans to see how they felt about the U.K country music scene and the C2C festival. 

After absorbing the fantastic atmosphere inside the O2 and immersing myself in the spirit of the weekend to come, it was time to ask the opinions of some of the bands. Playing on the Town Square Stage were a band from Sweden called Miss Winter. Fronted by Jenny Hillman, Anna Edman and Linda Pröjz-Ålund, they performed an upbeat set and produced three part harmonies that were amongst the best I’d heard. Their songs have that classic country pop sound and each one tells a story. I decided to catch up with them after they’d finished. I asked them if they thought country music was growing in the U.K. Linda’s response was “Yes, it definitely is growing.” Jenny followed that up with “However, in Sweden the country scene isn’t that big at the moment. That’s why it’s so amazing to be here and meet all the fans that really love country music”. Over the coming months, Miss Winter are recording a new single and going on tour in the summer. Keep up to date with them via their social media platforms. Links are at the end of the blog. 

My next interview was with singer songwriter Jake Morrell. I’ve been wanting to see Jake live for a while as a good friend of mine, and up and coming country artist Emily Faye has written with Jake, and has said nothing but good things about him. His set showed off his songwriting ability and a personal favourite of mine was his single “Wire and Thorns”. This song reached number 2 in the iTunes country charts on its first day of release. Pretty impressive! He also performed his country rendition of “Perfect 10” by The Beautiful South. The classic country train beat rhythm and three part harmonies made the arrangement very stylistically appropiate, which I enjoyed very much. After he’d performed, I asked his opinion on the growth of the U.K country music scene and he replied with “Yeah it’s growing massively! You can tell by the amount of people everyone knows. It’s just great!” I couldn’t agree more with his answer and the proof was the amount of U.K bands performing at C2C. I then asked him whether it’s important to collaborate with different songwriters. “It’s very, very important” he said. “I’m writing with as many people as I can. You’ve got find people with the right energy, and as soon as you get that, you write some really good songs. It’s also a great way to meet people”. Jake is planning to play some festivals over the summer and getting new music out there is key for him over the next year. You can follow Jake via his social media. Links are at the end of this blog. 

As well as artists, I caught up with a few fans and one fan was particularly enthused by the festival. She excitedly told me, “It’s fantastic! All the acts are excellent. I haven’t heard a bad one yet”. This level of excitement seemed to be running though everyone at the festival and it was a joy to be part of it. 

I hope you enjoyed this and coming tomorrow will be my Day 2 instalment of C2C, which includes more band and fan interviews. 

Miss Winter’s social media: 

http://misswinter.se

https://www.facebook.com/misswinter.se/

https://www.instagram.com/misswintermusic/

https://www.youtube.com/user/misswinter/

Jake Morrell’s social media:

https://jakemorrell.co.uk

https://www.instagram.com/Thejakemorrell/

https://www.facebook.com/Thejakemorrell

https://mobile.twitter.com/Thejakemorrell

https://www.youtube.com/user/Thejakemorrell/

J Rockett Pedals .45 Calibre 

Many guitar pedal manufacturers have a “Marshall in a box” style pedal in their arsenal but, this take on a genuine 1962 JTM 45 is up there with the best. Influenced by the classic Malcom Young crunchy rhythm tones and the Pete Townsend Live at Leeds lead tone, the .45 Calibre captures these sounds excellently. 

The pedal features a four control layout including loud (volume), gain, bass and treble. It is also true bypass and runs on a 9 volt battery or power supply. Rockett have used the new “Speed Swtich” system for the footswitch, which makes for a smooth on and off transition. 

It has taken over a year for Rockett to really nail this pedal not only in sound, but also in feel. This pedal really feels like you’re playing through a cranked JTM 45 style amp. So, if you have a clean amp but want a “Marshall in a box” style sound but without breaking the bank for another amplifier, then this pedal is for you. It really is like having a second amp channel and turns your clean amp into a classic rock monster. 

Here is a link to a YouTube demo of the .45 Calibre: https://youtu.be/hhfHvciPYkU

If you could appear on Desert Island Discs 

For the last few days I’ve been thinking of the songs I would choose if I ever appeared on Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4. For a lover of music like me, this is a very hard decision. Trying to pick your favourite seven songs, songs that have special meaning to you or, even songs that remind you of a person or place is very difficult. There is a couple that would definitely make the list without much thought but, out of hundreds of songs you like, the list is forever changing. I finally narrowed it down to the seven and, here is the list in no particular order:

1) I Hung My Head, Sting. 

I have loved this song ever since my Dad first played it to me when I was a child. The opening guitar motif is excellent and draws you into the song immediately. I am a massive fan of Sting’s vocals, so when he comes in with “Early one morning”, it’s just a great moment in the song for me. The instrumentation is great and when the brass arrive in the chorus, the song really takes off but, the main reason I love this song is because it tells a story. Like most of Sting’s songs, the lyrics are superb but, this one just resonates with me and this is why it’s made my list. 

2) Lover, Alter Bridge.

Alter Bridge are one of my all time favourite bands. This song is from their fourth album Fortress, and is an all out powerful  rock song. I love the simplicity of the arrangement and the way it builds to the chorus. I remember lying in bed one night when the album first released, listening to the whole thing start to finish and, going back to this song to listen to it again and again. The moment that puts this song on my list is the ending, where lead singer Myles Kennedy produces in my opinion, one of the best rock vocal moments ever. I won’t describe it as I want you to listen for yourself. 

3) Stupid Boy, Keith Urban.

My love for modern country music developed whilst I was at university and Keith Urban is probably my favourite artist of the genre. Dynamically this song is fantastic and it really takes you on a journey. Now, I’m a guitar player so most songs with great guitar parts already have a big tick from me and this song is no exception. The lead guitar that builds into the outro really made me realise the importance of structure in a guitar solo. The note choice and the dynamics are perfect and I have often tried to replicate that in my own playing. If you like modern country music then Keith Urban is the epitome of the genre. 

4) Message In A Bottle, The Police.

Like Alter Bridge, The Police are one of my favourite bands and let’s be honest, who doesn’t like this song. My Dad introduced me to The Police when I was a small child. I remember watching a live concert on VHS of their Synchronicity tour and being completely amazed. As an impressionable young child, I soaked it all up and watched it over and over again. This song though, stands out for me and is the first song I learned to play by The Police. For me, this song epitomises The Police. I never get tired of this song and I believe, The Police were influential in my growth as a musician.  

5) Calling Elvis, Dire Straits. 

Dire Straits are another band that were influential in my development as musician early on. My Dad used to dress me up in a head band and, gave me a tennis racquet as a guitar to try make me look like Mark Knopfler. I used to watch their On The Night video and pretend to play along with my tennis racquet. Calling Elvis is the opening song on that video and it’s one of those moments where you just think YES, this is the coolest thing ever, this I what I want to do when I grow up. It was this moment that was one of main factors for me wanting to play guitar. 6) Rise Today, Alter Bridge.

6) Rise Today, Alter Bridge.

I first heard this song on a school trip to Pompeii. My friend knew I liked rock music and said, “have a listen to this!” So I did and I thank him a lot for introducing me to Alter Bridge. The song connected with me immediately and I was blown away by the guitar and the vocals. I thought these guys are the ultimate rock band and I didn’t give him his iPod back for a while. Since then, I’ve been to see them live six times and have become a complete fan boy. 

7) Mist Beyond Delhi, The Hellecasters. 

The guitar solos in this song are pure genius. Jerry Donahue, Will Ray and John Jorgenson have produced one of my all time favourite guitar moments. Each solo leads in to the next perfectly and, represents each of their styles which makes it so great. These solos are what puts this song on my list as the rest of the song is, to be honest, alright but not amazing. My Dad used to play it in the car and introduce the solo as if it was me playing it. One day, with a lot of practice, I will play each one from start to finish. 

So there you have it. Those are my seven desert island songs. Please check out my choices if you haven’t heard them before. I think there’s a song on that list for everyone. If you could appear on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, what would be your seven songs?  

Suhr Signature Series Guitars. 

Something untoward happened this year at the NAMM show. Want to know what it is? Well if you don’t already know, Suhr guitars hit us right in the chops with not one, not two, not three, but FOUR signature guitars. If you know the endorsers of Suhr guitars, you might think it had been coming. 

First off, Jazz fusion/blues guitarist Scott Henderson released his signature Strat-style guitar. It features a quarter-sawn Maple neck, Indian Rosewood finger board and an Alder body. The neck shape is Suhr’s classic D-shape neck which, in Scott’s opinion, makes the neck very comfortable to play with both chords and solo lines. The real magic though, is in the hardware and the electronics. The tone controls are completely bypassed when in positions 2 and 4 on the pickup selector. This allows for your tone to be rolled off slightly on the bridge position (which in my opinion every Strat-style guitar should have as standard) then, when you switch to the 4th or 2nd position you have that classic inbetween Strat sound with no tonal compromise. Pretty cool eh? The bridge is a highly modified Fender tremolo system. It’s modified in the sense that the tremolo arm is shorter and thicker and the mounting screw holes are drilled bigger. This means that the screws can be mounted in a way that results in maximum tuning stability. The paint is removed off the steel block of the tremolo to “make the guitar sound clearer”, in Scott’s words. Scott has had the bridge angled off the body so that he can pull up a major 3rd. Wood has been removed from inside the tremolo cavity to allow you to dive bomb as low as an octave below the A string. Scott’s guitar comes with Suhr’s proprietary SSCII system. This reduces the annoying 60s cycle hum and has no impact on the tone. 

Overall, I believe this guitar solves the inherent issues with classic Strat-style guitars and if you’re a Strat lover, you should definitely check one out. 

We now move onto sideman guitarist and YouTuber Pete Thorn’s take on the Suhr Standard. This guitar oozes class and is very sleek in design. It features a Mahogany neck and body, Indian Rosewood fingerboard, and a Maple top. The neck is Suhr’s Even C Slim profile and the fingerboard has compound radius. Optimum for both chords in the lower register and crazy licks and bends at the dusty end. The body is a downsized take on the Standard and, also features longer horns and a sharper radius on the edges. Suhr says this makes the guitar look modern and classy and I agree. Pickup rings have also been included for the first time on a Suhr guitar. This adds to the class of the guitar and gives it a more vintage vibe compared to similar designs. The pickups themselves are Pete’s signature Thornbucker Humbuckers. These are designed to have all the beloved aspects of the highly regarded 50’s PAF pickups but, without the downsides. The electronics consist of a volume and tone control with a push/pull on the tone control for a parralel bridge pickup wiring. A personal favourite wiring choice of mine. A 5-way switch is provided to give you some extra versatility with positions 2 and 4 being coil splits. The bridge is a Gotoh 510 tremolo system and functions with dual steel knife edge pivot points to improve performance. 

The Pete Thorn signature guitar is a true tone machine. It’s the kind of guitar you would choose if you had to take one guitar out on the road with you. The modern and classy design coupled with great playability and versatility makes this a players dream. What’s not to like?

Up next is Big Wreck frontman and guitar player extrordinair, Ian Thornley’s signature. This features a classic offset body design made of Roasted Alder, a quarter-sawn Roasted Maple neck and an Indian Rosewood fingerboard. The neck profile is a custom V shape. It is essentially Suhr’s soft medium V but more pronounced to take on more vintage feel. The fingerboard is a flat 16″ radius which marries the vintage neck with a modern touch. The classic JM body shape has been tweaked to be slightly downsized, which is more comfortable and ergonomic. The electronics are where this guitar really comes into its own. Ian’s guitar features a HSH pickup configuration including a SSV Neck Humbucker, a V70 Middle Single Coil and a SSH+ Bridge Humbucker. These pickups are controlled via a 5-way switch and two slider switches on the upper horn. The 5-way switch works differently to a standard one in the sense that positions 2 and 4 split the humbuckers when paired with the middle single coil pickup and, position 3 is both humbuckers together. The two slider switches allow you to independently switch each humbucker between series or parralel. However, the split positions on the 5-way override the slider switches to easily switch to the split humbucker tones. With all these tonal options, the control layout needs to be comfortable, quick and easy to use. Suhr has achieved this by having the 5-way switch inbetween the volume and tone controls to make sure you don’t  accidentally change the position whilst playing. The two slider switches are low profile and conveniently located on the upper horn. With the Ian Thornley signature, you get a choice of two different bridges. Option one is the Gotoh 510 tremolo system which provides excellent functionality. Option two is the TonePros TP6 Tune-O-Matic bridge which is built of steel and plated brass saddles. It is a string through body design which adds more resonance and sustain to the tone. The TP6 is recessed into the body to create the same low profile and super comfortable feel as the Gotoh tremolo. 

The Ian Thornley signature is another tone monster. It’s a modern take on a JM-style design and those of you who aren’t familiar with that body shape, would feel right at home. 

Last but certainly not least is the Andy Wood signature. This T-style guitar features a Roasted Maple neck and fingerboard, a Swamp Ash body and is available with two different pickup options. The body is torched by hand which burns away part of the wood grain. This, coupled with a satin finish, creates a unique feeling guitar. The neck profile is Suhr’s Modern Elliptical profile and has 24 frets instead of the standard 21 or 22. Andy’s guitar is available with two humbuckers or a more traditional two single coil configuration. The humbucker model is complete with Pete Thorn’s Thornbucker pickups, a 5-way switch that splits the humbuckers in positions 2 and 4 and a push/pull tone control for a parralel bridge wiring. The bridge is a Gotoh 510 tremolo system like on the Pete Thorn and Ian Thornley models. The twin single coil version is loaded with Andy Wood’s signature Woodshed single coil pickups, which offer all the classic Tele tones that you would expect. The SSCII system is also installed to remove the hum without compromising tone. A Wilkinson compensated bridge with brass saddles completes the look which, improves sustain, tone and intonation while maintaining vintage cosmetics. 

If you’re into classic T-style guitars but want a more range in the upper register, then check out the single coil model. Prefer more beefier tones but want versatility too? Then check out the humbucker version. The Andy Wood signature guitars offer something for everyone. 

All guitars feature a contoured heel for easier access to the upper register. Suhr’s staggered locking tuners also come as standard with each guitar. No need for a string tree and adds extra tuning stability. 

Here’s a link to Suhr’s website that shows you more specs and finish options:  http://www.suhr.com/instruments/signature-guitars/

So there you have it. Four great guitars designed by four great players. I know of people are put off by signature instruments but,  these are just great guitars regardless of the name on the headstock. 

Look no Further! The PRS Sonzera Amplifiers are here! 

So for the first instalment of my blog, I’m going to hit you with the new PRS Sonzera amplifiers released at the 2017 NAMM show. 

Starting from just £699 for the 20 watt combo and 50 watt head and £799 for the 50 watt combo, these valve amplifiers offer amazing tonal variety and are a real working musicians amp. The range includes a 20 watt combo, a 50 watt combo and a 50 watt head with a matching 2×12 cabinet. The Sonzeras are two channel amplifiers. The clean channel gives you amazing balance, clarity and great headroom. Much like the clean tones of other American amps. Not too boomy and not too trebly. It is a perfect pedal platform for those of you who get your overdrive sounds from pedals. The 20 watt combo offers bass, treble and volume controls on the clean channel. Whereas, the 50 watt version offers a three-band EQ. 
The lead channel has a similar circuit to the clean channel. What that means is that it can be set to sound like a boosted clean channel or, set to be a full-voiced overdrive. This can be done by tweaking the master and volume controls. The lead channel is equipped with a three-band EQ on both the 20 and the 50 watt versions. The Sonzera amplifiers come with presence and reverb controls. An effects loop is also built in for all you people using crazy delay and modulation pedals. Here’s a link to the PRS website for any more info you may want: http://prsguitars.com/products/sonzera

 In my opinion, these could be the best amplifiers in this price range on the market. Serious bang for your buck!