Gig Review: Brandy Clark in Manchester

“Since you’ve gone to heaven, the whole World’s gone to hell” – Brandy Clark



Well there’s lots to talk about in today’s blog. Both about UK Country artists and our friends across the pond. The focus shall be on last Saturday night. It has taken me a while to write about what a wonderful night I had at the brandy Clark concert in Manchester due to the fact it greatly inspired me to write and on Tuesday night I had my first pitch to publisher session. But just because I haven’t taken the time to write about the night until now doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about it constantly since then. Perhaps my biggest idol in Country music right now, Brandy Clark didn’t disappoint me on my fourth time of seeing her live and the support, Ben Glover wowed the packed out Gorilla club in Manchester. So read on to hear all about the night from start to finish.

I knew very little about Ben Glover before the show, I had seen him play a few songs in a writers night in Nashville and knew that he had written songs with Gretchen Peters but honestly he was one of the best support acts I’ve seen. The Irish born singer-songwriter played a mixture of covers and originals, he played songs off his new record, The Emigrant, which is out in stores tomorrow! The album (which I bought at the gig and played twice on the car ride home) features four original songs and six traditional songs. The crowd really seemed to enjoy his set which included the song Blackbirds which he co-wrote, it’s the title track off Gretchen Peters last album. And he closed his set with Ring of Fire which the crowd threw themselves into. It also helps when an artist has time for their fans and he was lovely when I spoke to him afterwards and I hope to bring you an interview with him soon.


Then it was time for Brandy Clark. From the offset the crowd went wild, cheering loudly as herself and Miles Aubrey walked onstage. She began with Drinkin, Smokin, Cheatin, off the new album. It was a nice start to the show and a good song to introduce us to the intimate setup of the tour. Stripes followed which was clearly a crowd favourite as everyone was singing along and having a great time despite the rising temperature of the room. One of my favourites followed, Big Day In A Small Town, I love the storytelling in this song and humorous lyrics and scenarios. Brandy kept thanking the audience after every round of rapturous applause. Miles impressed the whole time with his guitar skills and his backing vocals. Brandy talked of the best two and a half minutes of her life, playing Hold my Hand with Dwight Yoakam at the Grammy’s, she said if we sang along it might be the next best two and a half minutes of her life and we all gladly obliged, singing our hearts out to the ballad.


In the interview I did with Brandy a couple of weeks ago she said one of her favourite songs to play is this next one, Daughter. It’s a very clever song, a different type of revenge song, Brandy said and the crowd really enjoyed that one. Not once did Brandy’s vocals waiver, they were perfect throughout the night which was slightly surprising as she did keep saying they were very tired though you couldn’t tell. A slower song ensued, You Can Come Over before the tempo picked up again with Clark’s current single Love Can Go To Hell which is perhaps my favourite song off the new record. This was followed by the first single Girl Next Door which was another crowd favourite. I should probably stop saying that as the crowd was buzzing the whole night, something which Brandy seemed genuinely amazed by. Three Kids No Husband was in the middle of the set, co-written by one of my other favourite songwriters Lori McKenna, this song was just beautiful and really suited the acoustic, intimate atmosphere that had been created.


We all know Brandy is one of the greatest songwriters of our day and at this point in the show she took time to share with us some of the songs she’s written for other artists, these included Better Dig Two cut by The Band Perry and Mama’s Broken Heart cut by Miranda Lambert. Then we went back to her first album and she sung What’ll Keep Me Out Of Heaven, my favourite off that record and now my Mum’s favourite too (I drag my Mum and Dad to as many Country concerts as I can, they moan but when they get there they have a whale of a time, mum hasn’t stopped listening to Brandy since!) Another off her debut album, Get High, came next, the song about someone she went to high school with, about the song she said “turns out I went to High School with a lot of people!” Then a new song, never been released, When I Get To Drinkin, I listened closely to the lyrics and it was just beautiful and sad all at the same time but relatable in many ways, I really hope she releases it at some point.


Hungover was a song I listened to about 15 times on the way back from Nashville last year. It always reminds me of watching the sun rise from the plane window on the way back. Though again it has a hint of sadness it’s actually quite an uplifting song, the way it ends. And then instead of going off stage and making us scream for an encore Brandy said we’d cheered loud enough throughout the whole show and so she began to talk about her penultimate song. I began crying before she even got to the singing as she explained how Since You’ve Gone To Heaven came about, in fact I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house as she sang it with such emotion. She apologised and said she would leave us on a high as she concluded her set with Pray To Jesus. It was just such a magnificent night, seeing one of the greatest songwriters tell her stories in these clever songs. I liked that it was acoustic, it was intimate and I felt like we were hearing the songs exactly as they were created, every lyric, every line sung was heard and understood and the crowd, minus a few rude people talking at the start of the show, were so supportive and enthusiastic which was great to be a part of.



So there you go, it was one of the most inspiring nights for me and a night I shall never forget. I said though that that wouldn’t be the only thing I discussed in tonight’s post. As I’ve previously mentioned Ben Glover has a new album coming out tomorrow, The Emigrant, it’s certainly well worth a listen so go and grab your copy and whilst you’re there don’t forget to grab your copy of My Universe by The Shires which is also released tomorrow! They shall also be doing signings in HMV stores across the country next week so don’t miss out on your opportunity to see them and have your CD signed!


Zoe x

Interview with Brandy Clark!

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Brandy Clark’s favourite quote



Many of my readers will know that one of my biggest inspirations and one of my favourite songwriters is Brandy Clark. From hearing her very first album and discovering she’d written some of my favourite Country hits for other artists I have been in love with her style of writing. The stories she tells in her songs are honestly quite captivating and she certainly has a way with words. I’ve seen Brandy perform three times now, at CMA Songwriters Series in London, C2C on the Main Stage a few days later and a few weeks after that at Tin Pan South in Nashville. Each time I was speechless by her calibre of writing and I can’t wait to see her again next Saturday in Manchester, it is going to be one of the highlights of the year! Every performance is like a masterclass in Country songwriting. And so it gives me great pleasure to bring you an interview I did recently with the CMA Award winning Singer-Songwriter.

Who are your inspirations? growing up what did you listen to?

I’ve always been inspired by people and life as much as anything. I’m an observer and I love to watch and listen to people and their stories. I’m fascinated by big personalities and I draw much of my inspiration from them. I love country music. I always have loved it. Some of my faves growing up and still today are Patsy Cline, Patty Loveless, and Merle Haggard.

You are often referred to as the greatest storyteller in Country Music. How much of your own life experiences influence these lyrical themes and ideas and do you take influence from things like poems or films?

Thank you. That is such a compliment. Almost everything I write is either inspired by my life or the life of my friends/families. I do get inspiration from lines I hear on tv or movies but from those seeds grow stories that always have a grain of familiar truth to them. “Pray to Jesus and play the Lotto” was I line I heard in a television show. That sparked the idea and the character then came quickly and was one that I knew well.  The best part of that story is that her daughter actually did win the lottery!

You co-write a lot. Who are your favourite people to work with?

I have such a strong group of co-writers that I not only enjoy writing with but also who inspire me. Shane McAnally, Jessie Jo Dillon, Scott Stepakoff, Lori McKenna – so many and all of them bring something different to the writes.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever written a song about?

I’m gonna have to go with a song called “Crystal Clear”?  A song about the drug Crystal Meth…

Your latest album has been successful in the UK as well as the US do you have a favourite song off the album and if so why is it your favourite?

Songs are like children and it’s always hard to pick a favourite. I will say that my favourite song to play right now is “Daughter”. The response from the crowd when I play that is incredible and it’s always so much fun to play.

When you are performing what are your mid-gig thoughts? Are you completely focused or do you let your mind wander?

While performing I always just try really hard to connect with the audience. Being able to play my songs live and seeing what translates in the crowd is so rewarding. Every night I’m on stage I try to focus on being in that moment and really put it out there for the people in the audience. Sometimes you do notice some things that can be distracting but not in a bad way – whether it’s someone dancing or a sign someone may be holding up – that’s always fun! I love seeing people having a good time.

Do you notice any differences between UK audiences and US audiences?

I’ve only played in the UK once and I was amazed that even though I had not been there before they embraced me wholly. I can’t really say that I’ve spent enough time there to see a difference in the crowds between the two countries just yet but I hope to change that with more trips over. I feel a huge support from everyone in the UK and am really excited about playing my new record over there. We have been planning on finding a way to get back to the UK for a while now and I was so excited to make that announcement.

When talking to Barry Dean he said artists/songwriters like you and Kacey Musgraves have done a lot for Country Music, particularly women in Country. Do you feel that the Country Music industry is improving the way it treats it’s female aritsts/writers?

There are so many amazing female artists out there working really hard and putting out great music. I get to do a lot of shows with other female acts and I see the audiences respond in a big way so I know that fans definitely want to hear from females. I think there has been a huge lack of space for us in the genre for a while and I’m anxious to see that change. There is room for everyone.

I’ve heard you had a basketball scholarship. Do you still get the chance to play any sports? Would you have liked to have done sports as a career or has music always been what you wanted to pursue?

I wish I had the time to play sports. I do spend a lot of time in the gym working out but unfortunately it’s been a while since I’ve gotten to play a sport. As much as I like basketball I am a much better spectator than player these days. I’ve always known that music was what I wanted to pursue. I’ve had all kinds of jobs but music has always been my dream.

What’s next after the tour?

More touring. I love being on the road so I’m just looking to continue to have a full calendar. We are releasing our second single to country radio “Love Can Go To Hell” and there will be a lot of travel with that. I’m definitely getting a ton of airline miles but I love what I’m doing!

So there you have it, if you haven’t got tickets yet to her UK tour, go and get them! This is one artist you’re not going to want to miss. Her latest album Big Day In A Small Town is out now so again if you haven’t got it yet, correct that and get your copy from Brandy’s website. If any of our American friends are reading this, don’t forget to request “Love Can Go To Hell” on Country radio!


Zoe x

My Universe – The Shires album review!

“You only get one life, and I wanna live it, I wanna give it to you” – The Shires – My Universe



Well it’s been a busy few weeks in the Country music World (when is it ever not busy?) We’re not complaining, but it’s about to get a whole lot busier! Last week shortly after the release of the four singles written by Ben Earle of The Shires and performed by Dahlia, Dexeter, Liv Austen and Megan O’Neill it came to our attention that the wait for My Universe, The Shires second album, would be slightly shorter than anticipated. The release date is now the 30th September and the second single, the title track is released TOMORROW! So we thought we’d give you a little insight of what you can expect from the duo who put the UK on the Country music map.

The album opens with the title track, My Universe, Ben’s vocals give it a strong start and when Crissie joins him in that chorus you can see some similarities to their first album, perhaps it’s the sing-ability, I can just imagine the atmosphere at the Bridge Water Hall in Manchester when everyone starts singing La-la-life! The second track we’re all familiar with, Beats To Your Rhythm, and I must say I quite enjoyed the video The Shires posted earlier this evening of them trying to convince the Uber driver that it was them on the radio! After two songs I can hear how the duo has evolved; Still Country, still The Shires just bigger which makes me excited for their live shows.

Not Even Drunk Right Now is one of my favourites. The first time I heard this at their launch event I thought this was going to be their first single. It’s very catchy especially the ooh’s in the chorus and the production is great, I love the way it drops for the middle eight. The echo/reverb effects in the intro of Naked are beautiful and effective. The stripped back, intimate production suits the lyrics and the melodies in the chorus are gorgeous, it’s such a real and original concept. We know Ben and Crissie can write great songs but it’s worth mentioning there are a number of co-writers on this album as well, Dan McDougall, Jeff Cohen, Nina Nesbitt and this next track is co-written with Kip Moore. Drive is a classic Country Pop tune, I like the repetition of the title and the sense of adventure and freedom it gives off. It’s really going to go down well at festivals next year! I wrote a song called Drive this past year at uni… it was nowhere near as good as this song!

At the album launch there was a moment where a number of people in the crowd, including myself, were reduced to tears, it was the moment the pair sang a song written by Crissie about her father. Daddy’s Little Girl has some beautiful and clever lyrics; “I used to wrap my hands around his little finger, turns out he was wrapped around mine.” That lyric jumped out at me the first time I listened. You can hear the emotion in Ben’s voice in Everything You Never Gave, it’s about being disappointed by someone and learning that you don’t want to be that kind of person.

Save Me is in 6/8 though it’s not my personal favourite (I’m torn between three at the moment as to which is my favourite!) Crissie’s vocals are potentially the best I’ve heard from her, they do really showcase her range and ability. It’s a clever and certainly a relatable concept. Common Language begins with a nice guitar sound at the start, it’s a beautiful love song with lovely lyrics but one of my three favourites, actually no, this is my favourite, A Thousand Hallelujahs follows. I truly believe this will be the highlight of each night of the tour for all involved, fans and band! The production is big and there will be lots of opportunities for the crowd to join in! I love everything about this song from the riff at the start to the melody which feels like it’s constantly building to that big chorus which is very catchy. I hope they release this as a single both in the UK and the US as I think it will be received well over there too.

The penultimate track Other People’s Things shows the versatility of their writing as this song is more delicate and softer, it begins on the piano and the arrangement builds throughout. The lyrics are very detailed which is a sign of a good Country song. It also features a nice guitar solo mid-way through. Desperate concludes the album, again it shows the duo’s softer side, I like that it’s just Crissie and a piano right until the end of the first chorus it gives the song more impact when Ben’s vocals come in.

All in all this is a fantastic second album from the pair, it’s still very much The Shires but they have evolved and matured in some ways, their songwriting can’t be faulted and both Ben and Crissie’s vocals deliver the emotion behind each song strongly. If you don’t buy another album all year, make sure you buy this one! You won’t be disappointed.


Zoe x

Ben Earle and Decca Launch Exciting New Collaboration Showcasing UK Country Acts

“Being a part of the UK country music scene is an honour! Everyone is treated like family & in this instance things are no different.” – Megan

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It’s been an exciting time for UK Country recently and today it just got more exciting! Four brand new singles all written by Ben Earle of The Shires were released through Decca by artists Dexeter, Dahlia, Megan O’Neill and Liv Austen. The tracks showcase Ben’s talent as a versatile country writer and give exposure to these very talented upcoming acts. Recorded with Dan McDougall who’s cowritten Made in England, Beats To Your Rhythm and Not Even Drunk Right Now this whole team is a formidable force and a fantastic collaboration in the genre. All being well this won’t be the last collaboration we see as plans are being made to showcase these songs live in an “in the round” style event.

Nashville, You And Me – Dexeter

This song is a fun, foot stomping track, sung very well by our friends Deeanne and Gareth. It suits their style perfectly and will fit well in their live set which always has high energy levels. Dexeter said about the song that they’d “Defy anyone not to be tapping away after the first four bars.”

Only Human – Dahlia

This single marks the trio’s first release and it has been performing well in the charts all day! The song demonstrates a vulnerability, though written by Ben it really was written perfectly for these girls as the melodies are beautiful and lend themselves well to those three part harmonies.

Can’t Put A Price On That – Megan O’Neill

I think this is potentially my favourite of the four (though my mind changes every time I listen, they’re all so good!) The acoustic track really tells a story through it’s lyrics and it has a powerful message behind it. Megan says “The song spoke to me the minute Ben played it for me – a beautiful story.”

Over – Liv Austen

Again this is an emotional song executed very well by one of our favourite artists here at BoB Country Music. Liv said “I got tears in my eyes! I am truly honoured that he trusted me with both singing and playing on this song, I’m completely in love with it.”

This project is very exciting and demonstrates what UK Country is about, helping and supporting each other within the genre, something which we see Ben Earle doing frequently. He had this to say about the project “It’s been such a fun process recording with Dexeter, Dahlia, Liv and Megan. I had a vision for this project but they all brought the songs to life so much in a way I never imagined. They really put their individual spin and personality on each song. I really want to thank each of them for their amazing artistry. It’s such an exciting time for UK Country, and I’m so thankful to Decca too for helping support and showcase these wonderful musicians. Hopefully it’s just the first of many to come.”

I really hope it is a huge success for all involved and that we get to see this collaboration in a live setting soon! Make sure you grab your copy of each song now!


Zoe x

Beats To Your Rhythm – The Shires Single Review!

“You bring out the best in me… my heart beats to your rhythm” – The Shires


When you think of the phrase Best of British Country Music I’m sure one of your next thoughts must be of what artists come under that umbrella and I hope the first artist that comes to mind is The Shires. Whether you’re a huge fan of the duo’s music or not they have had an undeniably huge impact on the scene over here and that’s just with one full length album out. But their second album, My Universe is just around the corner – due out on October 7th and that means it’s time for the first single “Beats To Your Rhythm” which impacts this Friday! So ahead of that we thought we’d take a closer look at the song and what we can expect from the album when it comes out – though a full album review shall be up shortly.

The fun, uptempo single Beats To Your Rhythm, co-written with Dan McDougall, begins with an acoustic guitar at the forefront of the arrangement and the track throughout features a big drum sound on the Toms which goes nicely with the lyrical themes as the beat imitates a heart beating. After a short introduction Ben’s warm vocals begin the first verse, mid way through Crissie’s vocals come in and we soon get to the chorus which with the added instruments is big! Their vocals blend well together of course and though their sound seems to have evolved into a bigger sound there are some Shires trademarks, for example the use of backing vocals shouting “hey” and their use of melodies throughout. Lyrically it’s as solid as you’d expect from Ben and Crissie who are more than competent writers, they can sit up there with Nashville’s best and this song reflects that, the way every line works up to that tag line.

There has been some discussion on Social Media as to whether The Shires shall take this next album away from Country and lean more towards Pop. I can see why people may think that however I think this is definitely still a Country-Pop track off a Country-Pop album, you won’t hear lap steels or banjo’s but you didn’t really hear that in their previous album – they have their own sound, what is Country though is the songwriting, the way the songs are crafted and the use of acoustic instruments as well. Melodically it’s catchy, it will be stuck in your head after one listen and good pop songs do that so I think it’s job well done and takes the best from both World’s as I’m sure the rest of the album will too.

Have you heard their new single yet? Tell us what you think on social media or in the comment section below. We’ll be bringing you more news and reviews of the album in mid-September so keep your eyes peeled for that!


Zoe x

Interview with SaraBeth

“Anything Is Possible” – SaraBeth



It has been a busy summer here on the blog and it has been a busy summer again for Country music over here in the UK. Back in June at the beginning of festival season I caught up with SaraBeth to discuss her music. Now with her new record Full Speed Ahead out and performing well both over here and in the States and with a successful UK tour completed, here is the interview we did to chase those post gig blues away! Complete with some inspiring words for aspiring writers, the Texas born Country Singer-Songwriter talked us through her writing process and shed some light on the stories and inspirations behind her songs. Read on to find out more and if you saw her on tour let us know what your favourite moment of the tour was!

Can you tell me about your journey into Country Music?

Well I grew up in Texas so for me Country music is something I grew up on anything from Merle Haggard to Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline, I listened to all of them and then it was just an instant love affair when I was really little. I remember my Great Grandma gave me Alan Jackson’s greatest hits on cassette tape and I was probably about five years old and I listened to that; there was a three hour car ride from my Great Grandma’s house to home and I listened to it non stop and from there I listened to Dixie Chicks and Shania Twain and it was always just a big part of me.

Where do you take influence from in your songs?

Kind of from everywhere, so for me it comes from real life experiences or maybe something I hear from a movie, I was watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix and they said something and it just really inspired me to write a song so you honestly never know where inspiration will strike. Honestly, Glen Mitchell was talking to me and he said you never turn off as a songwriter as you’re always thinking could that be a song? That’s exactly what I think in my daily life everything’s taken down on my notepad or my iPhone.

What’s the strangest thing that you’ve ever written a song about?

Guacamole! I wrote a song called Holy Guacamole with an amazing artist called Maddie and Glen Mitchell. Glen and I also wrote a song called Girl Scout Cookie Monster, that one’s actually out there for the World to hear, you know girl scouts of America they sell cookies every year, it’s a big fundraiser but it also teaches girls about business and selling and social skills and things like that so I was at a radio station and we had to write a song in an hour and they gave us a topic and it just happened to be girl scout cookies so we wrote the song Girl Scout Cookie Monster. That’s the strangest and Guacamole, it’s like the food diaries of SaraBeth.

Can you talk us through your songwriting process or does it vary every time?

It does there’s no right or wrong way to write a song and that’s something that I really had to learn when I got to Nashville because I thought you know there’s going to be a right and a wrong and i’m doing it wrong, I’m saying too much or I’m saying too little and you realise really quickly that it’s a creative process and everyone does their own thing. Some people like to talk a lot, some people don’t like to talk at all, some people like to start with melody and some people like to start with words.Every day is a new day when it comes to writing songs.

What are your mid-gig thoughts?

Sometimes in the middle of the song I start to think, do I know this? What are the words? What’s coming up next? You get lost in the moment like in the guitar solo I’ll start thinking what are the words for the bridge? There’s lots of times when I think of what I’ve got to do after the show, most of the time I’m really focussed and I’m enjoying the crowd and sometimes I get self conscious like, what am I doing with my arms? Do I look exciting, do I look happy, am I smiling? It’s a mix of everything.

We always ask our artists for a quote, can you give us one?

Yeah so the title track off my latest record is Possible, anything is possible because I think it’s really important not just in music but if I didn’t believe in myself and believe in my dreams I wouldn’t be doing music but I think it’s so easy because the World can be very negative, we get fed a lot of negativity every day, on the news or even people just being rude so I just always tell people anything is possible. If you’re willing to go out there and work hard for your dreams then you can do anything you want to.

What’s next for you?

I’m filming a music video for You Rock My Rodeo and the new EP Full Speed Ahead is out now.

If you’re new to SaraBeth’s music, go check out the links below and don’t forget to pick up your copy of Full Speed Ahead!


Zoe x


Brandy Clark Announces UK Tour!

“My music is for real women and it’s about real women and I am a real woman” – Brandy Clark


One of the greatest Country albums of 2016 so far came from one of the greatest storytellers of all time, hit country writer Brandy Clark who has penned hits for the likes of The Band Perry and Miranda Lambert and who has earned four Grammy Nods. As an artist Clark enjoys telling stories of ordinary people and small town life which is one of the reasons her music reaches so many people, it’s relatable. Her latest album released back in June entitled “Big Day In A Small Town” has already been very successful in the States and the intimate tour performances of these songs have captivated US audiences and now Brandy is bringing it to her UK fans and we here at Best of British Country Music can not wait!

The venues announced yesterday are as follows:

Sept 20 – Birmingham Glee Club

Sept 21 – Glasgow Oran Mor

Sept 23 – London Cadogan Hall

Sept 24 – Manchester Gorilla

And tickets are available from the following website:

Brandy Clark spoke about the album and her live shows saying “This record is a musical journey that has stretched, inspired and moved me artistically, I hope that it moves fans when they hear it half as much as it moves me when I play it every night.”

Find out more on Brandy’s website and check out the video for Girl Next Door to get you in the mood for the upcoming tour!



Zoe x