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/

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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?