Country2Country 2019 Review: Our Team Pick Their Highlights from an Amazing Weekend of Music!
Country2Country Festival in London is the biggest weekend in the European country music calendar, bringing the biggest names from Nashville to Greenwich for an unmissable event. We had three writers down at this years festival, with one in Glasgow (and our editor looking after a newborn back at home!). Here are the views of Neil, Alison and Sally on an unforgettable weekend.
What was your highlight of C2C 2019?
Sally: There are so many for me to choose, from the simple enjoyment of wandering from stage to stage discovering new artists, to meeting friends that we only see once a year. But for me, the highlight of my weekend was being just a few rows from the front for the Sunday night show (the best night for line up in my humble opinion – Drake White, Ashley Mcbryde and Chris Stapleton on one stage!)
Generosity and kindness really shone through, as someone offered me their seats for the night, and after sitting high up in what is commonly known as the Gods, it was a moment I will never forget. There’s a lot of talk about One Big Country Family, and I’m so grateful for them for helping make that dream happen!
Neil: Well, it isn’t part of C2C per se, but I’m not going to get hung up on a technicality. The CMA Songrwriter’s session has become a kind of unofficial curtain-raiser for C2C, taking place as it does on the Thursday evening at the Indigo. What an absolute treat it was! Such a great mix of personalities and styles on-stage, so much interaction between all the writers throughout the evening, and some great songs that everyone brought. Great for Travis Denning and Jimmie Allen too, who both made real impressions on the crowd with both their music and their chat. It created a real buzz for them ahead of their various sets over the C2C weekend. The opportunity to hear Laura Veltz and Ross Copperman, 2 outstanding Nashville songwriters, perform in such a relaxed environment as the Indigo in fully-seated mode was not to be missed. Hearing them talk about creating, and then performing, songs like Kenny Chesney’s “Get Along”, Keith Urban’s “John Cougar…”, Maren Morris’ “Rich” and Dan & Shay’s “Speechless” was just terrific. And the evening had the perfect host in Cam. It truly got proceedings off to the perfect start. A night that will be remembered for years to come.
Alison: Songwriters – the best one yet, lively, engaging and so personal.
Which new artists did you discover that you’ll be listening to from now on?
Sally: One of the things I love most about festivals is the freedom to listen and absorb so many new artists in one place, so I can safely say there is most definitely a few more on my playlists! I’m afraid I can’t narrow it down to one, so I shall leave it at two instead!
The first, Travis Denning, he absolutely blew me away on Thursday at Songwriters. The poor guy was seriously struggling with his voice (battling a sinus infection!) but still he carried on and gave a stellar performance, and it didn’t stop him tearing up the stage in the Town Square on Friday. He is yet to release an album, but yet everyone seemed to know his songs, my favourite being ‘David Ashley Parker from Powder Springs’
Secondly, Lainey Wilson, man that girl is fierce! She has sass seeping from her bones! I’d missed a few of her shows over the weekend, but made sure I was up especially Sunday morning to catch her last performance, and I’m so happy that I did. It was certainly a show to remember, she has attitude that oozes in her songs, and her voice filled the room effortlessly. She is certainly one to watch, I have her pipped for the main stage in a few years. My favourite track of hers was a cheeky number called ‘Middle Finger’
Neil: Lainey Wilson, for sure. I didn’t get to see her shows last year during CMA week, but I’d heard a lot of good things about her. And she really delivered at C2C. She’s so hard working, and she puts it all out on the stage. Great personality, too. Very much looking forward to hearing the new music she’ll be coming out with this year. Travis Denning is another one I’ll be following with interest, too.
Alison: Lainey Wilson (check out our interview here)
Who was the most pleasant surprise?
Sally: I’d done some research prior to going, and had listened to various C2C playlists so I had a rough idea of who I was going to enjoy, and of course who I wasn’t, or at least I thought that was the case.
Lyle Lovett had done nothing for me when I listened to a few of his tracks before going, and embarrassingly when it was his spot on the stage I even headed to the bar, but when his band stepped on stage and started playing I could tell right there my opinion was about to be blown out of the window!
Musically the band were absolutely phenomenal, they had great charisma and an infectious energy that leaked through their music with every note they played, they had me hooked. It was such a nice surprise, and the further into his set we got I noticed more and more people around the arena being converted as much as I was, by the end of his set nearly everyone was on their feet dancing!
I shall definitely be checking out some of his stuff now. It truly goes to say that sometimes you’ve got to go in with an open mind, and to be honest in the future if I don’t know an artist I don’t think I’ll be listening to them before I go!
Neil: I’d probably say Brett Eldredge. I really didn’t think he’d be my cup of tea, but I really enjoyed his set and I’ll definitely be giving him another go. Also, while Lyle Lovett wouldn’t normally be a go-to for me, I thought his set on the Sunday night gave a different texture to the evening and helped to stop the night from being too electric guitar dominated – not that I have any problem with electric guitars, it’s just good to have some variety.
Alison: Cam – I knew of her music, but I didn’t really know her. She hosted Songwriters with a deft touch, took command of the main stage in style and has a voice to die for – get me the back catalogue quickly, I have some catching up to do!
Which main stage artists did you enjoy most?
Sally: I’ve heard a lot of people saying that this year’s main stage artists have been the best they’ve seen in a few years, with this being my first I obviously can’t say that, but I can say that they were all great!
Keith Urban did what Keith Urban does, he put on an amazing show, played his guitar like it was the last time he was ever going to play, and got everyone up dancing to his songs. He certainly knows how to work a crowd.
I’m a huge Drake White fan, and I was a bit unsure about how his performance would be (this is the first time we’ve seen him with his new band) but they didn’t disappoint, he threw himself around the stage like only Drake can and the new band seemed to be able to match his energy perfectly. The only disappointment for me, was the lack of harmonica player!
However, my favourite main stage artist of the weekend has to be Ashley Mcbryde. It’s a name that’s been on everyone’s lips over the past year as she’s gone from strength to strength and made her mark on the scene. She’s a genuinely humble person, and seeing her face as thousands of people sung the lyrics back to her songs was a moment that I’ll never forget. My particular favourite song was ‘Girl Goin Nowhere’ it’s a prominent song as she’s clearly smacked the face of those saying she’d never make it, she was on her own with just her guitar and the whole arena sung every word back to her, it was powerful and brought me to tears; as I feel like we’ve been on this journey with her.
Neil: In no particular order? Chris Stapleton, Ashley McBryde, Drake White & the Big Fire, Cam. There were good performances on each night, but Sunday was easily the best for me, personally.
Alison: Cam, Lady Antebellum, Drake White, Ashley McBryde, Lyle Lovett
Did you have any disappointments this year?
Sally: This is always going to be a touchy question but I feel it’s important we share not only the good, but also the not so good too!
For me the only disappointment I had was Hunter Hayes. I was open minded in listening to his performance, and traditionally he’s not my cup of tea, however he is an absolutely incredible musician (he plays something like 30 different instruments!) and as a fellow musician I take my hat off to him for this.
However, I don’t feel like he really showcased this talent, the sound in the arena was a bit hit and miss when he was performing, and he did most of his set playing the guitar (cracking out the piano for one number) Disappointing as I feel like he could have really done more with the skills and talents that he has.
Neil: In terms of the artists I saw, I can’t think of any that didn’t at least meet my expectations, and a number certainly exceeded them.
Regarding the event itself, it seemed at times that the left hand and right hand weren’t always in close coordination. Different stewards having different ideas of ticketing requirements for the outer venues; Some security would wave you into the O2 without checking your bag, while others would insist the same bag had to go through the scanners; Some festival goers being denied the opportunity to buy the C2C plastic cups because they only wanted a soft drink. Some things more of an irritation than a problem, and any event of such a size as C2C will always have hiccups – it’s a massive undertaking.
Also, fighting in the arena at the end of the night – that’s never anything but disappointing.
Alison: Chris Stapleton – was so looking forward to him and although there were some notable highlights the lack of crowd interaction made it feel like a live recording session rather than a gig. Secondly, it’s the first time for about 3 years I haven’t had a really ‘wow’ moment – I’m thinking Chris in 2016, Drake in 2017 and Ashley in 2018. Although Ashley did almost make it two in a row as she really rocked it on the main stage.
Favourite Six Shooter moment?
Sally: Being a writer for Six Shooter Country is amazing, being able to combine my two passions in life is an absolute dream come true. Having the opportunity to interview artists at C2C was something I’ll never forget.
My favourite Six Shooter moment has to be the interview I did with Noah Schnacky. A relatively unknown name too many (including myself) I’d done a little research beforehand but was excited to meet him and get to know him a little better.
I barely managed to get one question out as he is the nicest guy I think I’ve ever met! So enthusiastic and passionate, and just wanted to chat. He’s definitely someone I’d love to catch up with again – on a side note he also gives great hugs!
Neil: The whole weekend was one massive Six Shooter moment! Meeting up with Sally and Alison, co-ordinating our activities together, the artist interviews, the press conferences, meeting the artist PR and management folks, the Firestarter’s Fan Party in the Slug & Lettuce, keeping in touch with Brian at C2C in Glasgow, feeding back to Mark back at Six Shooter Central… I could go on and on.
Alison: Hosting the first Drake White Firestarter Family Gathering
Best non-music moment?
Sally: I’ve already mentioned that I’m a huge Drake White fan, and am proud to be part of the Firestarter Family (the online Drake White fan club)
Regular meetups are held over in the US after a lot of his gigs and it’s a chance for the Firestarter’s to get together, chat and spread the love. So when the opportunity came around for us to put one together over here at C2C I jumped at the chance of helping organise!
We weren’t sure if Drake was going to be able to attend (he had a particularly busy schedule as he was on stage that day) but seeing him casually stroll into the pub and come over to meet some of his most dedicated fans is something I will hold in my heart forever. The joy and delight on those fan’s faces (including my own!) that he’d taken time out to spend with us was unbelievable!
The whole weekend is etched in my memory forever, I shall never forget the amazing memories I’ve made and I couldn’t have asked for anything more in my first C2C. Roll on the next one!
Neil: Well, meeting Cam’s parents was pretty cool, they were lovely. You can definitely see where she gets it from. Also, a chance meeting with Lyle Lovett after Sunday’s show. A real gentleman, and a gentle, dignified man.
Alison: Stepping into the hotel lift and asking an American couple if they were here for the music – they turned out to be Cam’s parents and really sweet folk.