I received a strange text a couple of days after the first Nashville Meets London festival last year. It was from my usually-coherent lawyer friend Dan asking what I’d done to him and where could he find more of this Country and Western. I forgave the inclusion of ‘Western’ – he didn’t know any better. A few months later he sent me a picture of his new wide brimmed hat. Dan has never been a hat wearer. Dan has also never said anything like “Drake White is my musical hero” before.
Thinking logically, there is a chance the body snatchers got him while I was engrossed in my Lynchburg Lemonade at Canary Wharf’s country music festival. Dan denies this alien invasion (well, he would, wouldn’t he) so here’s his own account of what happened with a little guide to this weekend’s festivities at the end.
Nashville Meets London Festival should have come with a warning. I came because I’d heard so much about country music from friends lately but I couldn’t marry their enthusiasm with the old-school songs I’d heard in my pap’s car. Plus it was free so I could escape with negligible losses. A year later, I’m going back to the festival without any coercion and a changed man.
The first thing that impacted me about the country music festival wasn’t actually the music…
London is so frenetic and even when you go to gigs and festivals here, the city still has that nervous energy. But in this square – under the buildings which represent the most manic of London’s tribes – I was bowled over by the by how chilled and relaxed it felt as people of different walks of life and ages were mingling.
But then, the catch. To be part of this friendly crowd, I’d have to listen to country music.
My knowledge of country music was probably a collection of 1950s clichés. But everything I’d thought country music was; it wasn’t.
I love story telling, probably inherited from the Irish side of my family. Through the music and emotion coming from that stage it felt like I was living the stories every act was telling. Then one voice in particular caught me off guard: Yola Carter. She was in a league of her own and words cannot describe the passion and emotion you will experience seeing her perform live.
The festival was a catalyst.
I have eclectic musical tastes but had never ventured into country far enough to see if I liked it. It had always been my granddad’s music. Now, I set myself a challenge to see if it could possibly be my music too or whether I’d just been swept up in the atmosphere and camaraderie of the festival. I decided that for one week I’d listen to no music but country. By day two I was fascinated. The more I discovered, the more I liked.
I have put down my outdated ideas and found that “country music” isn’t just one thing. There’s so much variety and are so many influences – from folk to R’n’B roots – which make up the genre. Some of my listening was like therapy. Some of it relaxed me as much as being back on the picnic blanket in Canada Square.
The first Nashville Meet’s London opened a door into a new universe for me and, like the red pill, there’s no going back. For better or worse, I’ll be returning to Canary Wharf this year as a bona fide, hat-owning member of the country music cult. So to all non-country fans coming along this year; proceed with caution, you might get converted too.
Dan (the real Dan)
Nashville Meets What?
If you want to convert your non-country friends too, Nashville Meets London is a free contemporary country music festival on at Canary wharf’s Canada Park Square Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd August 2017. Bring a blanket and your own refreshments if you’d like (though no glass and there’s also food and drink available around the square). The event showcases talent from both sides of the Atlantic. The line-up is below and while our pick of the bunch is Sam Outlaw, it was actually an unknown name who blew us away last year so try An artist or band new to you.
2-3.15pm Raintown – Scottish duo, stalwarts of the UK country scene.
3.45-4.30pm Wildwood Kin – Brilliant Americana all-girl trio from Exeter
5-6.15pm Kevin McGuire – Catchy pop-country from a rather American sounding Glaswegian
6.45-8pm Jo Smith – Rolling Stone tipped U.S. pop-country singer
8.30-10pm Russell Dickerson – Crooner straight outta Nashville
1.45-2.45pm Angaleena Presley – Feisty Kentucky singer songwriter from girl-group The Pistol Annies
3.15-4.15pm Flats and Sharps – Bluegrass from Cornwall
4.45-5.45pm Ashley Campbell – American songstress; Glen Campbell’s daughter
6.15-7.15pm Sam Outlaw – Talented California guitar man on the traditional country side
7.45-9pm Lucie Silvas – Soulful Brit singer based in the USA, who’ll soon be touring with Chris Stapleton!