There are a couple of things in our favour when it comes to setting New Year goals as country music fans; whiskey contains zero carbs and line dancing to Luke Bryan is pretty much an aerobics class. But even country fans have room for a little improvement, so here’s to better in 2019…
1. SET A GIG BUDGET
This has only become a recent necessity, as the number of country music gigs in the UK has soared. Last year was the first time we couldn’t go to every country event in our cities, as dates clashed and disposable income dwindled.
2. STICK TO THE GIG BUDGET
Many country friends made some brave, financially sensible decisions last year. They decided to forgo certain gigs in honour of things like house deposits, weddings and feeding themselves. But usually the week before the gigs, the FOMO drove them to shell out for trumped up resale tickets and pricey, non-advance train fares. So make sure yours is a realistic budget with a little contingency pocket for emergencies, like Kip Moore announcing a tour just as you’re about to go Christmas shopping.
3. SUPPORT HOMEGROWN TALENT
It’s easy to be dazzled by the big names from the States who are coming over more regularly. But, we have world class country and Americana music coming out of the UK at the moment. With The Opry, The Ryman and Nashville’s Americana Fest booking British acts like The Wandering Hearts and Yola Carter, let’s support other upcoming locals and catch them at intimate venues while we can. (We’re starting with Foreign Affairs who are playing this month).
4. READ MORE
Obviously, listening is the biggest part of country music fandom, but there are also some enlightening book offerings to go along with the genre. Choose from inspirational biographies or the newest incarnation of the Little People, Big Dreams inspirational kids’ series; Dolly Parton.
5. GO AND SEE AN ARTIST YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF
Thanks to showcases and small festivals we discovered some new favourite artists last year. These weren’t names we knew at the start of the year but it’s artists (like John Moreland and Lainey Wilson) whose craft shone through and whose songs have stayed with us long after their short sets. So this year, we’ll be looking out for more unsung singers.
6. GO COUNTRY
Last year we went camping. And we didn’t die. Despite a love of songs like Where the Green Grass Grows, a campsite is not our natural habitat. We were swayed by the location of The Long Road festival and its lure of after hours fraternising. But as we strolled back to our humble abode (4-birth, 2-room, standing-room tent with duvets, rugs and mood-lighting) after listening to an epic harmonica player at the campfire, we realised it’s quite fun to embrace the country lifestyle as well as the music. As long as there are decent toilets.
This one needs to be a joint resolution. Almost every American country act who came over to play in the last decade commented on the UK being a listening audience. We never quite understood what the fuss was about. Of course we listen; we paid money to hear you sing and tell us secrets about the songs. But last year, there was a LOT of unrestrained chatting through sets. We’re not sure what’s changed. Maybe this unprecedented frequency of gigs means we’re taking them for granted. Maybe there’s been some odd support act pairings (someone quiet and thoughtful before a main act that attracts a rowdy crowd). Maybe some people just weren’t raised right. But hopefully this year, we can earn back that ‘listening crowd’ reputation.
8. ACTUALLY LEARN THE WORDS TO THAT SONG
The good news is, there are plenty of opportunities for country music nights out in the UK now. The bad news is, there are plenty more opportunities to shame yourself by singing the wrong lyrics when the DJ cuts the track. It was fine when you were the only country fan you knew; signing alone in your bedroom, hairbrush ‘microphone’ in hand. But by now you really ought to know: how many bucks Luke Combs spent at the Moose Club Raffle, exactly whose songs Gretchen Wilson knows all the words to, why Hank Williams Jr drinks, and that Lucille didn’t leave that poor bloke with four hundred children.
9. SUPPORT FEMALE COUNTRY ARTISTS
We’re a bit guilty here. With UK radio station Chris Country playing such a mix of artists (and with us still playing our 90s country albums) we started last year a little unaware of just how significant the country music gender imbalance is. Thanks to social media warriors like @bellesandgals we can plead ignorance no more. Having grown up with such a powerhouse of female artists we want to help support the next wave of Tricias, Rebas, Martinas. Step one, don’t just stream but buy the albums of female artists we like. You can buy a few of our favourite albums here.
10. BE A LITTLE MORE HOLY WATER THAN BURNING MAN
Last year CJs mum joined Instagram. Her first comment: why are you holding drinks in all of your photos? Well, mum, a few years ago we started the “have a drink every time a song mentions a drink” gig game. But it turns out it’s actually more of a challenge to think of a modern country song which doesn’t mention a drink. So, we’re not going as crazy as Dry January or anything, but this year maybe we’ll occasionally Hide the Wine, resist picking up a Beer Can or not start every gig with Tequila Again. The judgement of CJ’s mum Ain’t Worth the Whiskey.
What are your country music resolutions for 2019?