Life. Love. Flesh. Blood – Imelda May’s most personal collection of songs

“When I’m writing, I mean what I’m saying – there’s a lot of me in each song” – Imelda May

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Hello!

Late last year you may remember an article I wrote about Imelda May’s new image and new sound. The Dubliner, usually known for her rockabilly sound and signature quiff played an intimate show at Ronnie Scott’s showcasing songs from her new album. Her hair hung down framing her face and as she began to sing it was clear that she’d taken control of her career and taken it in a different direction. Now the album is out and after taking the time to listen properly, you can hear the honesty in her lyrics and the vulnerability in her voice. This is the most personal collection of songs Imelda has released. She asserts herself not only as a fantastic singer but as an outstanding songwriter. Though not strictly Country, Life. Love. Flesh. Blood features some beautiful Country Soul Ballads reminiscent of songs like Patsy Cline’s version of Crazy or Eva Cassidy’s Songbird. Whatever your taste in music, it is worth a listen if you can appreciate a well written collection of songs.

The album opens with Call Me, the first single off the album. It features some lovely melodies in the chorus, nothing too complex but it works, it stays in your head. You get lost in May’s smooth vocals and it’s a good introduction as to what’s to come. Black Tears shows off her vocal range and technique, particularly in the chorus when she’s belting those top notes out and we hear that gritty edge to her voice. Produced by T-Bone Burnett, it’s no surprise that the arrangement and production is solid and this is showcased in Should’ve Been You which has a unique arrangement in the Intro. This is one of my favourite songs on the album, it has some great lyrics and it’s a good concept, the melodies in the chorus are lovely as well, the way she slurs and bends those notes as she sings “Who takes care of me?”

This album, written in the wake of May’s divorce, surprisingly does not lack good love songs; Sixth Sense and Human demonstrate this in different ways. Human is one of my favourites, the concept is great and there’s some lovely lyrics in this. It’s truthful in the way it says I want to be the best for you that I can be but I’m only Human, but I want to be your human. The arrangement builds tension going into the chorus and the vocals have room to soar as she sings “So come adore me, but know I’m gonna fall, Off of this pedestal that I hope you’ve put me on.” This is followed by the latin infused How Bad Can A Good Girl Be. Bad Habit has an unusual feel to it in the chorus, I think the melody doesn’t quite flow as you expect it to which creates a unique sound.

Levitate sits in Imelda’s lower register and features a lovely string arrangement. When It’s My Time follows this, it’s in 6/8 time and builds throughout, the vocals once again are sublime and I like the addition of the organ when that comes in. The penultimate track Leave Me Lonely is quite different to anything else on the album again though the melodies and lyrics leave room for May’s vocals to soar through that chorus. The album closes with perhaps the most personal song, The Girl I Used To Be. This has very detailed lyrics and channels Imelda’s Irish roots, it tells the story of her upbringing, again it’s another one of my favourites.

Imelda May is currently on tour in the UK. Visit her website to check out where and when she’s playing near you and grab your copy of Life. Love. Flesh. Blood.

Thanks,

Zoe x

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Interview with Catherine McGrath!

“No matter what happens in life, be good to people because being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind”

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Hello!

I’m really excited to bring you tonight’s blog. This is an interview I did back at C2C with rising star, Catherine McGrath. Recently signed to Warner, Catherine has risen rapidly to the forefront of the British Country scene and is enjoying lots of success on the live circuit, bagging herself some great support slots with The Shires and Kelsea Ballerini to name a few. The young writer is really making a name for herself and building a strong and loyal fanbase so it was great to catch up with her and find out a bit more about her journey so far and her influences. Not only is she a very talented individual but she’s very down to earth and great to chat to. Read on to find out more about Catherine.

Can you tell me a little bit about your journey in music so far?

Well I always sang, for as long as I can remember but when I was about 13 I started putting my covers on youtube because I discovered Country music. Then the president of Warner at the time contacted me and was like “Hi I saw your video, let’s have a chat” and I just thought it was a creep on the internet so I ignored it and then it was real so I came over to London, wrote my first song. Then he called me and said it was really good, we’d love you to move over as soon as you can, so I did and I started writing loads of songs and playing open mics. Then I signed to Warner and that’s what I’ve been doing!

Can you tell me about your influences growing up and what you’re listening to now?

Well when I was younger I think the only music I really heard was traditional Irish music that my mum and dad played. Then I found Taylor Swift when I was 12 and I discovered that whole World of country music, people like Rascal Flatts, Kacey Musgraves and that’s what I’m listening to, at the moment I’m listening to Kelsea Ballerini and Raelynn. It’s kind of a mix of everything.

When you’re writing songs, where do you draw inspiration from lyrically?

Sometimes I’m walking around and get a random lyric idea. Sometimes it comes from a conversation I’m having, it’s always different but usually it comes out as an experience I’ve had or talking about a situation someone else has been in.

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

Hmm I don’t know. I have a song about a Coldplay concert, it sounds weird but I went into a session and was having a big rant about this situation that I found myself in with a guy and I told the other writer the whole story and she wrote everything down on her laptop and we pieced it together. So yeah it’s probably about a Coldplay concert I went to with a guy but it became one of my favourite songs.

What are your mid-gig thoughts?

I think before I start to sing I’m freaking out but then as soon as I start to sing I’m thinking about the song, or who in the audience is smiling, you know I look at people and see who likes it and as soon as I see someone smiling I relax into the song.

So you still get nervous when performing?

Yeah I get really really nervous, but it’s a good kind of nervous and as soon as I start to sing all the nerves are gone. It’s more like excitement.

Do you have a favourite quote?

Yeah it’s a Taylor Swift quote I can’t remember the exact wording but it’s something like “No matter what happens in life, be good to people because being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind.” Sometimes I get caught in between saying what I think of someone and keeping my mouth shut and I think, no be nice, I want to be nice to people, so I have to think of that quote haha.

What’s next?

I think we’re just going to do loads and loads of live shows. I’ve got a few support slots coming up, a show with Una Healy in May and obviously I’ll keep writing but I just want to get out there and play live.

As previously stated Catherine has shows lined up with The Shires, Una Healy, and Kelsea Ballerini in the next few months so make sure you get to one of those shows. I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more from her in the near future!

Thanks,

Zoe x

 

Introducing VAMOS Festival!

“Time is intended to be spent not saved” – Wainwright

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Hello!

So today I’m taking a break from the interviews from C2C to tell you about VAMOS, a new music festival focusing on American styled music coming to Perth racecourse on the 12th – 14th May 2017. Now this festival has 6 stages and features Rock n Roll, Bluegrass and of course Country music. Being a Country music blog we’re going to focus on the stars that will take to the stage in our genre but at this festival there really is something for everyone so check out some of the other artists that are playing throughout the weekend.

Two stars which I know a lot of you know and will be excited about are SaraBeth and Glen Mitchell, yes the pair who took last years Buckle and Boots festival by storm are heading over from Nashville once again to entertain their UK fans. We’ll hopefully catch up with the pair who always put on a good show and are bound to draw a large crowd. There are a number of familiar names on the bill this year, Narn who also played at Buckle and Boots and is currently perfecting her craft at university. Kira Mac who’s on the bill for this years Buckle and Boots is also on the line up to entertain Scotland. We also have Ellie Dibben on the bill who is the youngest person to have played at C2C festival, I first saw her perform in 2015 and it’s been a while since I’ve seen her live so it will be great to hear how her sound has progressed. And Blue Genes will also be performing on the Saturday and Sunday at VAMOS. This band really intrigues me and I’d love to catch up with them and have a chat!

There’s a lot of buzz around Angels With Dirty Faces on social media at the moment and they’re performing on the Sunday. I’ve yet to see them live so I’m quite excited to see what all the fuss is about! The Rising, a great band with a lot of talent, are playing on the Saturday and Emma Moore and Roni Perry have been announced as well. Again, I’ve heard a lot of good things about Emma and Roni so I’m looking forward to seeing them live. Festivals are great to get a feel for what someone is like live, the artist’s job is harder than playing their own shows as they’ve got to really work to capture that crowd’s attention and turn them into fans.

As I said there are six stages and stage times have not yet been announced so hopefully your favourites won’t clash with each other! The good thing about this festival is there is a mixture of indoor and outdoor areas, lots of seating around venues and a wide selection of food outlets. The stages also seem to be themed, singer-songwriter, Rock n Roll etc. I shall be there, hopefully doing some interviews, however I’m also performing under my stage name Just Zoe at 7pm on Saturday and 2pm on Sunday so it would be nice to see some friendly faces in the crowd if any of my loyal readers are in attendance! We’ll update you when we have a full schedule of when and where all your favourite artists are playing. You can buy tickets below:

http://www.vamosevents.co.uk

Thanks,

Zoe x

Interview with Raintown at C2C!

“It’s not about what you’ve got and where you come from it’s about who you are” – Paul, Raintown

Hello!

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Today we’re back to our coverage of the C2C weekend and the final interview I did was with one of my favourite couples in Country music, yes you guessed it, Raintown! I loved this interview as it was great to see Paul and Claire’s eyes light up as they talked about their wee baby girl Alba Rose. This is a duo we have watched grow from strength to strength in the UK scene and it was wonderful to see them back and better than ever in building six on the third day of C2C with quite a sizeable crowd to watch their comeback. I was surprised but glad to see they still performed with so much energy and belief in the music. Read on to find out what they had to say about Raintown after becoming parents and what the future holds.

I watched your performances over the C2C weekend and you guys haven’t lost any of your energy since having a baby?

Claire: I think we’ve probably got more energy now haha! More energy to keep going at it, it’s been really great to get back performing again, I’ve loved every minute of the weekend, obviously we miss our wee baby girl, it’s the first time we’ve left her so that was a bit challenging. It was great to get back though and relaunch Raintown at C2C in front of the best fans in the World.

Are you raising her on Country music?

Claire: Oh yeah she’s got no choice!

Paul: I was going to say there’s literally no choice and it’s funny because we put on Brad Paisley and at the moment it’s Brad, Keith Urban and Elvis that get’s her to sleep, she calms down and gets into it.

Claire: Yeah she loves it, every time music is played in our home she tunes into it and zones out of everything else.

Paul: Yeah and clearly she’s not but it looks like she’s dancing haha. It’s amazing, we are so so grateful first and foremost to be parents but the fact we get to spend as much time as we do with her because of what we do is a real bonus.

What’s in the pipeline for Raintown at the moment?

Claire: We’ve got a few live dates coming up over the next few months, we’re going to Newcastle, Inverness, Skye, back to our hometown in Glasgow, Manchester, so yeah it’s going to be quite full on. So we’ve had a lot of band rehearsals for this so that was a good way to kick start our live shows. We have new music coming out soon as well, not an album right now, we’re just going to put up some stuff we’ve been writing. Just got to get it out there for the fans and see what their reaction is.

Back to your baby girl, Alba Rose, has she inspired any new songs?

Claire: Yeah she actually has.

Paul: It’s funny Zoe because when people said to us it’ll change how you view things you think of course it will but you don’t realise how much it changes things. There are things we see now through that filter of being Alba Rose’s mum and dad and you think, well I’ve thought about it but I never realised how much it matters. It re-establishes how important it is to spend time with your family but also how important it is to be an example for her and how we want her to live her life and what we want is for when she’s five or ten years old to say “when are we going on tour mum and dad” instead of “oh did you used to be singers?” You’re driven from that.

Claire: You do get that focus. I know it sounds silly as you’re always wanting to achieve and be successful before you had a baby but it’s like we want it more now.

Paul: I would say we’re pretty driven in what we do. The amount of work we’ve done in the past 7 or 8 weeks since we’ve got back, I would say we’ve surpassed what we did last year already. So it’s full on and at the same time we’re trying to adapt to being parents. We’re just really lucky, we’ve got an incredible baby, we’re so lucky.

Claire: She’s a good baby, when everyone meets her they say she’s really smiley, really laid back, nothing fazes her at the moment, she’s not a screaming baby which is good haha.

Paul: So yeah we’ve got songs about wanting to be as good of a mum and dad as we can be and also looking at the World differently now, wanting her to learn from us, it’s not about what you’ve got and where you come from it’s about who you are and that’s hopefully what we’ll teach her along the way. We want to get her out there and show her what performance is about, we are very much in a digital world, we’re very much about technology but nothing beats live performance. In those two half hours we did at C2C they just went by so fast and all you want to do is stretch it out a bit longer, the stage managers have told us to get off haha. We’ve had some great feedback and we’re very appreciative of that.

Is there anything you’d like to say to our readers and your fans?

Claire: Just thank you for the support over the years and we promise there’s new music on the way so keep checking out the Facebook!

Below are the tour dates that are coming up!

Fri. 21st April – Newcastle – The Cluny2
Fri. 5th May – Inverness – Eden Court Theatre
Sat. 6th May – Portree (Skye) – Aros Centre
Fri. 2nd JUNE – Glasgow – King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut
Fri. 9th JUNE – Manchester – Gullivers

Thank You!

Zoe x

Interview with Kevin McGuire!

“It’s really difficult sometimes as an artist but I think if just one percent of you feels you can go on and it’s worth it then you need to keep on going, even if the other ninety nine percent says you can’t do it, if that one percent believes you can achieve then you need to keep going!” – Kevin McGuire

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Hello!

So I have seen on social media that the majority of us have post C2C blues but for me I get to relive the weekend over and over again in the coming weeks as I get those all important interviews out to you. Last Sunday I had the pleasure of book ending my day chatting to two pop up acts both from Glasgow, Kevin McGuire and Raintown and today I bring you that interview with Kevin. As you can see from the above quote, Kevin has a way with words which is crucial for a songwriter and it was a pleasure talking to him before he took to the big entrance stage, drawing a large crowd. Check out what he had to say below.

Can you tell me about your journey into Country music?

I get this question a lot and it’s a strange one as I never grew up with anyone around me listening to Country music. When I was in my early days at school I would always come home and check out the latest Country music charts in America and I would just download as much of the music as I could and it felt like my own little World as it was the days before social media so I didn’t know anyone else listening to that sort of music. So it was fun, I really  related to it and I got introduced to guys like Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts, Josh Turner and I fell in love with the music and it’s been with me ever since.

Can you tell me what your influences were growing up, what did your parents play to you?

My parents listened to a wide variety of music, I guess the way I got into music was my Dad was a drummer so there was always instruments lying around the house as he played guitar as well. My sister’s a singer as well so since like the age of two we’d be putting on shows for the family. Just being surrounded by music, though it wasn’t forced upon us, it just happened naturally.

What’s your favourite artist at the moment?

Rascal Flatts, easy!

When you’re writing songs, where do you draw inspiration from lyrically?

I try to be as open and honest as I can be. Sometimes I’ll write about my situation and sometimes I’ll go to other people and if I see something that someone else is going through, I’ll think I could write about that. But I think it’s best to be open and honest so the audience can relate to your music and hopefully that builds a connection so I guess that’s where it really comes from.

Do you still get nervous when you perform now?

I think I get more nervous performing to family and friends than I would with like a larger audience. I think it’s good to have some nerves, well not so much nerves but you’re scared to screw up, you’re anxious to make sure everything’s in place and it goes well. But it’s good, it’s more like butterflies than nerves.

What are your mid-gig thoughts?

Sometimes I let my mind wander, I think the more you concentrate the more likely you are to mess up. I think if you just relax into it, you’ve sang it a thousand times, the band’s played it a thousand times, if you just relax and feed off the audience I tend to think that’s a better route than to be fully concentrating on every single thing you need to do on stage.

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

Oh, it has to be a relationship between two of my friends, and they had no idea the song was about their relationship!

Haha did they like it?

Yeah they did but it was from one of their points of view and I don’t think the other person knew the other was feeling those feelings so it was a little bit awkward, so I think that was the strangest thing.

What’s next for you?

So I’ve got my EP coming out called Foreign Country, that’s out on April 7th and my new single, Alright Tonight. Then we’ve got some festival bookings organised for the summer which I’ll be announcing in the next few months.

So get that date in your diaries, April 7th, new music from one of the UK’s fastest rising stars in Country music. Make sure you show your support if he’s playing a festival near you.

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Thanks,

Zoe x

A crazy, energetic end to C2C 2017! – Day 3 review

“We all share one thing, we’ve all been brought together by music” – Maren Morris

Hello!

Well I just had a crazy night, it was fantastic. But before I get carried away with myself, let me tell you about it all, from first arriving this morning. I kicked off the day chatting to Kevin McGuire and Orfila who were both playing the pop up stages today, I first saw Kevin at Buckle and Boots last year and I was instantly a fan. Just after 12, he gained an awful lot more fans. As people arrived to start their day at C2C Kevin was the first thing they heard at the Big Entrance stage and the crowd kept on growing as he played his country pop original songs and a cover of What Hurts The Most by Rascal Flatts. I headed off after his set and acquired a second pair of cowboy boots before heading in to the afternoon Bluebird session. I was really looking forward to seeing Josh Osborne after I saw him a few years back in Nashville doing a round with Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally. I could remember coming out of there and my tummy hurt as I’d been laughing so hard! I knew he was going to be good, I mean I doubt guys like that have ever written a bad song as three of the four songs he played have been number one and the other has won a grammy for best country song. And he hasn’t lost any of his humour either, as he regularly had the audience laughing. Charlie Worsham, a particular favourite with the rest of the audience showed off his guitar skills and played one of my favourite songs of his, Lawn Chair. I wasn’t too familiar with Lucie Silvas before today but I really wish I’d have checked her out sooner, she played Smoking Jacket, a song she co-wrote with another of my favourite writers Natalie Hemby for Miranda Lambert’s latest album, and a really well written song called 2 birds, 1 stone which I thought was excellent! Then I headed off and managed to catch Marty Stuart in the press room, what a lovely guy, it was great to shake his hand and ask him a question and he was who I was most looking forward to tonight, so now, on to the shenanigans in the arena!

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Brothers Osborne kicked things off with one of my favourite songs, written by Jessi Alexander I believe, Down Home. They really impressed me actually as they went on to play various songs from their album Pawn Shop and their set was riddled with guitar solos that showed their level of musicianship and skill. My favourite song they played was Stay A Little Longer but I also enjoyed 21 Summer as well. They did an amazing job especially for an opening act and the crowd recognised this. Drake White played the Yamaha stage in between Brothers Osborne and Maren Morris. Now I’ve heard nothing but good things about Drake all weekend, ever since the Songwriters series on Thursday there has been a buzz about him which has grown and grown over the three days and tonight he showed us what all the fuss was about. I mean he has good songs but his voice is so powerful and he came back onto the Main Stage later on to sing Free with the Zac Brown Band so it’s great to see fellow artists recognising the talent this guy has.

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As I said Maren took to the stage after this. The grammy award winning Country Pop star has achieved so much in the past year since she played the yamaha stage at C2C and she’s earned that spot on the main stage. She sang a lot of her album Hero, including hit single 80s Mercedes which is one of my favourites. She really shows off the control and power of her voice in Rich with those oh’s at the start. I love the honesty in I Wish I Was and the way she sang it tonight there was a vulnerability to it. But the highlight of her set was My Church. She spoke of her experience on the yamaha stage last year and being surprised that the whole audience knew the song and was singing it back to her. She also talked about us all having this one thing in common, that we’d all been brought together by music and she was right of course. We have all come together this weekend, chatted to people we’ve never met before because of Country music. When she actually sang the song the whole Arena began singing along with her just as she’d asked. She ended the set with Second Wind and a cover of Halo mixed in. Then back to the Yamaha stage, Crissie and Ben from The Shires introduced Lucie Silvas. She played a gorgeous song, For the Record. She really seems to have a way with words, her lyrics are great and though she said she was croaky she still sang beautifully.

Marty Stuart was phenomenal though. I knew he was going to be good, many people were skeptical, and although I wasn’t over familiar with his solo stuff I had read all about him playing in Johnny Cash’s band and marrying his daughter and of course now he’s married to Connie Smith. Basically he’s a legend and he proved that tonight. I realised in the press conference that this guy was genuine, he really was happy to be there and even though he’s been doing this for years, he doesn’t seem the least bit tired of any of it like a lot of people who have been in the industry as long as he has. I think my favourite song he did was Whiskey ain’t Workin however I did really love what he called his Johnny Cash song, Dark Bird. He told us the story, which I have read in Johnny Cash’s autobiography about Roy Orbison’s house burning down sadly killing his two sons. Cash bought the land for $1 and promised never to build on it so instead he planted fruit trees and flowers and it was here that Marty got the inspiration for Dark Bird. Again, he showed a lot of appreciation to his fellow musicians and invited them one at a time to come and sing and play, cousin Kenny an exceptional guitarist stepped up and did a couple, Handsome Harry who’s been playing drums must have had the biggest set of lungs in the room, I mean how did he hold those notes for that length of time? Then there was Professor Scruggs and you know they all stepped up and gave us something good. And throughout the weekend I’ve said this about a number of artists but Marty Stuart really can play that guitar and mandolin! That standing ovation was deserved.

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Jana Kramer played a couple of songs on the yamaha, she was also doing a very good job later on at the afterparty when I left. I liked her interaction with the fans, that’s a really important part for an artist and not something that always comes easy. It was great she came down to their level took selfie’s as she sang and let them sing into the mic too.

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Moving on to the headliner, the Zac Brown Band and they just brought the party to life, what a great way to finish the weekend. All their greatest hits were included, two of my favourites Sweet Annie and Goodbye in her Eyes both written by Sonia Leigh demonstrated those sublime harmonies. Jump Right In and Toes got the fans up on their feet, dancing. One song which really took me by surprise though was their cover of Bohemian Rhapsody. That is a very bold move to cover such an iconic song like that but wow what a superb job they did of it and the crowd went wild at the end. I’ve seen them cover Devil Went Down to Georgia before but it never gets old, again it just demonstrates their skill sets. It’s hard to choose a favourite or a highlight as I really enjoyed the whole set and you know where I was there was a real party atmosphere but I enjoyed Colder Weather, that’s one of my favourites anyway and as I’ve said previously Drake White came and sang with them and Marty Stuart came and played guitar and I think those moments are really important, collaborating and just enjoying making music together and of course for the fans it’s great to see them come together. The encore included Beautiful Drug and of course Chicken Fried, I don’t think there was a single person stood still in that song, everyone seemed to be dancing!

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I began the evening sat around four rows from the back of the top tier, my row was empty. I ended up five rows from the front on the lower tier at the side of the stage all thanks to a group of lovely people who had a spare ticket since their daughter had flown back to America. They were an energetic and friendly group and since I had spent much of the weekend alone up in the Gods it was great to meet new people in the arena, get to know them and have a great time with them! Honestly, I’ll never forget this weekend but in particular I will never forget tonight and the generosity of those people. That’s what Country music is all about, good, fun loving people like the ones I met tonight! Now it’s been a fantastic weekend but get home safely and we’ll do it all again next year! Tickets go on sale this Friday (yes, not a long time to get that bank balance back up!).

To all the people I met at this years festival, thank you and don’t be a stranger, come and say hello at the next gig!

Zoe x

Dan and Shay, Hunter Hayes, Darius Rucker and Reba McEntire take to the stage at C2C day 2!

“It won’t be like this for long” – Darius Rucker

Hello!

Day 2 was crazy! The day has been packed full of top quality entertainment, and that’s before you even get to the main Arena! I started my day off (well after I’d done a survey for CMA) at The Roadhouse stage where Raintown kicked things off nicely. This was the first time I’d seen them perform since their little baby girl was born and I can tell you they still have as much energy as they did before. After that I rushed off to try and catch some of the CMA industry talk in All Bar One. It’s great that C2C puts those on, it was headed up by Paul Sexton who is a great guy, very knowledgeable and to his left was Kristian Bush and to his right was concert promoter Ali Harnell, label head Jon Loba and agent Rob Beckham. It was nice to see the room was full of people wanting to learn more about the business side of things as well. From there I went back to Roadhouse to catch The Wandering Hearts, who blew me away with their harmonies, they’re a very tight group and I love the song they closed with, I think it’s called Devil in Disguise. Catherine McGrath played a good set from what I heard, Una Healy drew a big crowd and I heard great things about Sarah Darling as well. In between all this I managed to squeeze in a few interviews so I will share them with you in the coming days and weeks after C2C.

Now going on to the main arena, this was the night I was looking forward to the least. I knew of each of the artists but I didn’t know any of their repertoire particularly well but I was still excited to see them especially Reba. So the verdict coming out? I got it completely wrong… it was fantastic and all the acts have convinced me that I need to pay more attention to them and buy their CDs. It began with Dan and Shay, they worked really hard throughout their set to get the audience excited and involved. They achieved this in the cover they did of You Give Love A Bad Name. The pair were very energetic and this rubbed off onto the audience. There was a really nice moment where they played their hit single From the Ground Up and the audience held up their phone lights, I think it touched the boys and they threw in an extra song, Obsessed as they were “obsessed” with London and being here. Dan kept saying how Shay has the best voice in Country music and it was sweet to see the closeness of the band and the belief and respect they have in and for each other.

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On the yamaha stage we saw Bailey Bryan, the 18 year old has a unique voice I thought it’s quite high pitched. She was good, had a few good songs although I think she needs to work just a little on her stage presence but I think there may have been a few sound issues going on there. Definitely someone to keep an eye open for in the future.

Now I’ve heard mixed reviews about Hunter Hayes performance tonight so I’m probably going to be unpopular because I thought he was great. I’ve seen him previously when he came over and toured on his own and I actually thought he was better tonight. When he first came out I think he was nervous but sometimes it makes it more real and you see what it means to an artist to perform at that particular event and venue. He opened his set with I Want Crazy, again this got the crowd moving. I like how so far all of the acts have really been encouraging of their fellow stars and musicians, in a World where we like to turn everything into a competition it’s great to see these guys getting up on stage with each other and having a good time. Hunter was no different as he welcomed Charlie Worsham up to play a bit of guitar with him. That’s another thing I’m noticing at this festival, they have a lot of acts who not only write good songs and sing but they’re all great guitarists, Hunter could really play! The highlight of his set for me though was the new song he played, I think it was called Tell Me, it was raw and his vocals were excellent when he sang that.

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Another new face came onto the yamaha stage after Hunter. Seth Ennis who is apparently supporting Little Big Town on their next tour. He played three songs and it was the last one that really caught my attention, Woke Up In Nashville, prior to this he gave a nice shout out to Mac McAnally, who he said was a great inspiration to him.

I’d heard a lot of good things about Darius Rucker and though I knew the odd song or two I hadn’t gotten round to really listening to his past work. He opened with a song off his last record Lighter Up, this was a party starter and it became clear to me that many had come just for Darius… a few songs later it became clear why they’d come for Darius! Southern State of Mind was one of my favourites on the night, as was It Won’t Be like This For Long, it was just honest and there was real emotion in his performance. I think what got the audience going though was his cover of Friends in Low Places, everyone around me was up on their feet dancing. He too introduced his band and showed his appreciation for their level of musicianship and he stood back and let his banjo player and slide guitarist play freely. Wagon Wheel was another that got the audience on their feet, singing at the top of their voice and dancing along. Darius looked like he was enjoying the atmosphere and he grinned most of the way through. To conclude his set he played a touching tribute to Prince by playing Purple Rain and once again those lights were raised in the air like stars. It was an emotional end to what was a superb set. The audience were on their feet applauding and rightly so. Last on the yamaha stage was Cassadee Pope, I really like this girls voice. It wasn’t her first time playing the O2 as she mentioned in the press conference that she’d played back in 2009 with her previous band Hey Monday. She too played three songs, the second of which was a brand new song, it sounded great, I’m looking forward to hearing more of that at some point but the last song, Wasting All These Tears reminded me of a young Taylor Swift.

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Then it was time for the headliner, the one and only Reba McEntire. Wearing a sparkly top she shone in more ways than one tonight, I was blown away, speechless. Being Country music royalty I knew she was going to be good but I didn’t think she’d be that good! Songs that stood out for me were Fear of Being Alone, And Still, and Going Out Like That, the latter of which was a really energetic performance. I really liked the fact that she spoke a lot, she told us stories behind certain songs – why she recorded it, about the music videos – where they were filmed, watching her first one, waiting for it to come on after a film. I mean she showed her age telling some of these stories but who cares, she’s been doing this for forty odd years!! It was great to get to know her and her music better through her talking to us about what she’s going to play next. She talked of her upbringing, which I found interesting, I didn’t know her father was a rodeo champ! It was nice to hear her take it down a step and play Greatest Man I Never Knew. Again it was lovely that she introduced and thanked her band but Reba took it one step further and thanked all her crew that work behind the scenes that we as an audience don’t get to see. Then she played sweet Chariot which started off very stripped back and quite slow and built up so that by the end everyone was dancing and clapping along. A highlight for me was actually when she told us about her friendship with Kelly Clarkson and how that progressed into Clarkson becoming her daughter in law! Then she sang Because of You which I’ve always thought is a well written song. The duet she sang with her backing singer was phenomenal as well, I mean that really moved me, it was just so powerful. When she left the stage I knew she had to come back, she couldn’t leave without playing Fancy. And sure enough after a quick change into a red sparkly dress, reba returned and played the song which she says is becoming her signature hit. It was fantastic, and again a standing ovation was given and someone even threw a bouquet of flowers onto the stage for her, I’ve never seen that before!

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So with just one day left now all I’ll say is make the most of it! See as many acts as you can on the pop ups and enjoy the main stage artists, and if you can stay and see them all, it’s a shame to see half empty arenas for the opening act or the headliner. I know there’s trains to be caught and some music might not be to your taste but maybe check it out, give it a chance, you might just be surprised!

Thanks,

Zoe x