Since the line up for C2C 2018 has been announced there has been a big discussion on social media, some who love the line up, some who don’t and a few who have said… “who?” I personally am delighted with the line up, Kacey Musgraves is one of my favourite artists, Little Big Town recently brought the house down when I went to see them in Manchester and well Tim and Faith, who wouldn’t want to see a couple of legends like them? But there are a few surprising names on the line up and some which required research! And now with the day splits and more artists announced recently, I’m going to take you through a day by day guide of the artists and recommend a song to start your research into each.
So it’s all going to kick off with Old Dominion who first made their way across the pond 2 years ago for the C2C after parties. Needless to say they went down a storm with the crowd here so there seems to be a few smiles on the faces of the C2C regulars. They have two albums out now, Meat and Candy and Happy Endings the latter of which made it to number 1 on the US Country Albums charts and the first single off that record “No Such Thing As A Broken Heart” recently clinched the number 1 spot on the Country Airplay charts. The band are very good songwriters too, Matthew Ramsay co-wrote The Band Perry’s Chainsaw with Josh Osborne and Shane McAnally before Old Dominion became a household name and has since had cuts on the likes of Sam Hunt’s record and Trevor Rosen has written for Dierks Bentley, Blake Shelton and Keith Urban to name a few. Recommended song? Song For Another Time.
Then one of my favourite acts will take to the stage Kelsea Ballerini. Kelsea has two albums out and lets look at her figures for a second here because she may not be headline worthy at the minute but if she continues like she has been doing, it wont be long until she is playing top of the bill. Love Me Like You Mean It her debut single, reached number one on the Billboard Country Airplay chart, making her the first solo female country music artist to score a number one hit with her debut single since Carrie Underwood did with "Jesus, Take the Wheel" in 2006, and only the eleventh in history. Her second single Dibs also reached the number 1 spot making her the fifth solo female to achieve back to back number ones. But it’s not over yet, her third single Peter Pan reached number 1 on the Airplay and Hot Country charts making Ballerini the first solo female country music artist to top both country music charts simultaneously. So you can see why she is so far up the bill and opening for legends like Tim and Faith because it wont be long until she becomes a legend in Country music if she carries on like this.
Then for the talk of the festival at the moment Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, the pair who have been married since 1996, have had successful solo careers as well as having success together on their most recent Soul II Soul tour. Tim has released 14 studio albums, 10 of which have made it to number 1. 65 singles have come from these albums and 25 of those have made it to number 1. He has 3 Grammy’s, 14 ACMs and 11 CMAs to name a few. Need I go on? He really has dominated Country music for over 2 decades. And his wife hasn’t done too bad either! Very rarely does a Country artist make it into the UK charts in our generation but Faith Hill took the song There You’ll Be from the soundtrack of Pearl Harbour to number 3 in our charts and in fact it charted in 19 different countries. She’s released 7 studio albums, soon to be 8 with this new one she’s doing with Tim! She has sold over 40 million records worldwide making her one of the most successful Country artists of all time. So recommended songs from each? Tim McGraw - Diamond Rings and Old Barstools written by Barry Dean, Luke Laird and Jonathan Singleton is my favourite track though it didn’t perform as well as other Tim McGraw songs have done on the Hot Country Charts. Faith Hill - This Kiss, it’s one of Hill’s most famous songs but it’s just so good!
Brett Young is kind of a new name around here however he has been pursuing music and releasing albums independently for some time before Big Machine signed him back in 2015. He has since released an EP and an album on the label and his single In Case You Didn’t Know went to number 1 on the country airplay charts.
Morgan Evans did a fantastic job at Buckle and Boots last year and it was great chatting with him. Recently married to Kelsea Ballerini the young Australian is a fantastic writer and performer who often uses a loop pedal to great effect. In the past year he signed a record deal with Warner Nashville and has released the single Kiss Somebody which performed reasonably well in the charts. It should be a great set from him especially if he uses his loop pedal.
Ashley Campbell daughter of the late legend Glen Campbell is going to open the show on Saturday. I love this girl, you should check out the interview we did with her at The Sage earlier this year here. She’s apparently doing a tribute to her dad which I know will be beautiful but emotional for her and the audience but I hope to hear some of her music too, she is an outstanding Banjo player and I hope she gets the chance to show off those skills. Her career started by playing Banjo in her Dad’s band so it’s only right she plays some of his wonderful music! So lets talk about Glen first of all, 45 million records sold worldwide, 70 released in his 50 years in the industry, 12 gold, 4 platinum and 1 double platinum. Yes it can’t be disputed that Glen Campbell is a legend but when I spoke to Ashley and saw her perform in Gateshead earlier this year I was blown away by her talent, her songwriting, her playing skills, she is going to do a beautiful tribute to her father and I really think this may be the highlight of this years event!
Luke Combs is second on the bill on Saturday. I’m really looking forward to seeing him, his current single When It Rains It Pours co-written by one half of Walker McGuire who played at the launch, is proving to be rather successful in the US charts and in Canada where it went to number 1. His first single Hurricane went to number 1 on the Country Airplay charts as well. But it’s not just a couple of songs that are good, no he has a whole album of great songs. When It Rains It Pours is a funny song but he's versatile, One Number Away is a fantastic track about almost calling an ex. It’s written by Combs, Sammy Mitchell, Steven Andre Battey, Carlos Battey and Robert Williford so not all big names on that list of writers and in fact the whole record is written by many unknown writers yet it’s competing with the best of them which is a great sign, showing that there’s lots of new writers coming through in the genre. So the recommended song from me is either the latest single or One Number Away.
The penultimate act of the night is Kip Moore who's not long since released his third studio album, Slowheart. His style is a little more country rock than some acts, particularly this latest album which shows his edgier side. He’s only had one number 1 song in the States and that was Somethin Bout A Truck from his first record, Beer Money made it to number 1 in Canada but none of his albums have made it to the top spot. However this doesn’t account for everything, Kip is very popular in the UK, he treats his fans well when he comes over here and goes out of his way to meet people. His music is his own, he doesn’t conform to what the labels and commercial market want he just writes what he feels and believes and sets that to his own Country Rock sound! Moore takes his music so seriously that after a couple of tracks underperformed he completely re-wrote his second album which became Wild Ones. So a recommended song, well my favourite is Something Bout A Truck but I also like Plead The Fifth, the opening track off his latest album Slowheart.
Sugarland are the most recent editions to the lineup and they are one of my favourite bands, in fact, after Taylor Swift they were the first Country act I heard. I thought Jennifer Nettles was outstanding last year and it was a pleasure to meet her and ask her the first question in her press conference. The news that the duo were back together was music to my ears and a lot of other fans too (quite literally). The group have released 5 studio albums and 16 singles. Their 2008 album Love On The Inside was their first album to hit the number one spot and produced three consecutive number one singles, All I Want To Do, Already Gone and It Happens and that is one of my favourite albums of all time from any artist and any genre. The duo have received 69 award nominations and won 18 of those including two Grammy’s, five ACM’s and six CMA’s. Whilst on their hiatus both Jennifer and Kristian have had successful solo careers. In terms of recommended songs I’d suggest Still The Same as that’s their most recent and shows the new direction in which the band is heading however I love every song on the Love On The Inside record especially Keep You.
And our headliner on Saturday is my favourite act on the bill, Kacey Musgraves. Yes, whilst Kacey was planning her recent wedding she was also planning this trip across the pond it seems and though she has played the festival before, this is her first time as a headliner. With two studio albums under her belt and a cracking Christmas album it is rumoured we might hear more new music from Musgraves before March. Both her studio albums clenched the number 1 spot on the US Country albums chart, unfortunately her singles haven’t performed as well on the Hot Country Songs Chart or the Country Airplay Chart however this may have something to do with the sometimes “controversial” nature of her song lyrics. I say this loosely, in this day and age should singing the line “kiss lots of boys or kiss lots of girls if that’s something you’re into” be controversial? Well in Country I guess it is. She has been described as Outlaw Country in the past and to an extent I would agree, she sings about what she believes, what she wants to talk about even if it doesn’t put her in the number 1 spot. However, charts aside the songs we are talking about have won Grammy’s for Kacey and her fellow writers, CMA’s and ACM’s. And Kacey is very popular here in the UK and her international success is reflected in the recent award she won at last years CMAs for International Achievement. So a recommended song, well obviously Follow Your Arrow is a popular choice but if you haven’t already heard that you’ve probably been living under a rock so the song I’m going to recommend is actually the one that won a Grammy and that’s Merry Go Round.
Lukas Nelson is the son of Country music legend Willie Nelson. Again just like at Summertyne Festival this year there seems to be a thing with legends children coming over at the same time to play our festivals, which is great of course. Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real have released a number of studio albums independently as well though their last record was released on Fantasy Records. This self-titled album was their most successful reaching the number 1 spot on the Americana Radio Charts in November 2017. They have collaborated with Neil Young and Lukas sang on 10 out of 14 of the tracks on his father’s Heroes record back in 2012.
Jillian Jaqueline was a name I was unfamiliar with prior to her being announced as one of the acts playing C2C. However, like many of the satellite stage artists, she has been plugging away in the industry for some time. Her music is true and features honest, heartfelt lyrics set to a pop-country backing. My favourite song is God Bless This Mess off her latest record.
I’m slightly sad this next artist is only on the satellite stage and so wont do a very long set. Ashley McBryde is fast becoming one of my favourite artists, I just love her lyrics and storytelling within her songs. Reminds me a little of Brandy Clark and everyone who knows me, knows she is my favourite artist/songwriter. My favourite tracks of Ashley’s are A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega (which was named one of the best songs of 2017 by the New York Times), Girl Goin Nowhere and Bible and a .44.
Sunday begins with a band that has been talked about a lot in the last couple of months and not always in a good way, but hey, all publicity is good publicity right? Many people have been questioning Midlands back story and authenticity but whatever side you sit on lets just focus on their music shall we? Signed to Big Machine their debut single Drinkin Problem climbed its way up the charts where it came to a comfortable stop at number 1 on the Canada Country charts, number 3 on the airplay charts and number 4 on the hot Country songs chart. The band, which have a lot to do with Shane McAnally (who doesn’t work with that guy in Country music, he’s the man!) have landed themselves some big support slots on Tim and Faith’s tour, Little Big Town and Thomas Rhett and their album features songs co-written by the three members and all the big named writers out there today including Shane, Josh Osborne and Luke Laird. Needless to say it debuted at number 1 in the country albums chart. Sonically they keep getting compared to Dwight Yoakam and Alabama. Recommended song - Make A Little.
Well Sunday continues with Margo Price. I’ve heard a lot about Margo but not heard a lot of her music before. She has had a lot of success in the Americana genre having won Americana Honors and Awards for Breakthrough act of the year in 2016 and also winning International Song of the year at the UK Americana Awards proving she is quite a hit over here! Her debut album reached number 1 in the UK Country charts and she has paid a visit across the pond on a number of occasions even playing Glastonbury Festival. Again she’s described as many things, Americana, Country-Soul and Country-Outlaw, her music is quite different from other acts we’ve seen at C2C in the past. She cites Emmylou Harris as an inspiration so it’s great to see her on the line up alongside her idol. Recommended Song - This Town Gets Around.
Does this lady need any introduction? Well apparently yes, some on social media when Emmylou was announced said… “who?” Well you don’t have to look very far to discover who she is, she’s a legend in the genre! She has been inducted into the Country music hall of fame and has won 13 Grammy’s, impressive right? The list of awards she’s been nominated for is a long one as is the list of artists Emmylou has collaborated with. She has released 26 studio albums, 3 live albums, 11 compilation albums and 70 singles. Having such a catalogue of songs makes it very hard to choose just one to recommend so I’m going to talk to you about two songs instead. One artist Emmylou collaborated with a lot was Gram Parsons and I have always loved their duet of Love Hurts off the record Grievous Angel which was released posthumously after Parsons died of an accidental overdose. The second song which I love is Emmylou Harris’ version of Beneath Still Waters released in 1981.
Little Big Town completes the line up. Now Little Big Town are one of my favourite bands and they have played C2C twice before but they have never headlined. This band has released 8 studio albums and 26 singles, 3 albums went to number 1 and 3 are certified Platinum in the States. A number of singles have gone Gold and Platinum and their 2012 hit Pontoon is certified 2x Platinum and 2014 hit Girl Crush is 3x Platinum! The group founded in 1998 are known for their beautiful four part harmonies which is probably why they’ve won Vocal group of the year four times at the ACMs and six times at the CMAs. They have also won two Grammy’s. So recommended songs? Well Girl Crush is obviously a favourite, I believe that’s the kind of song that goes down in history but one of my favourites at the moment is When Someone Stops Loving You written by Lori McKenna, Hillary Lindsey and Chase McGill.
Walker Hayes definitely has a unique sound. After a couple of unsuccessful record deals with major labels Hayes signed a publishing and production contract with Shane McAnally and SMACK/RareSpark. His debut album Boom was released by Monument and was produced by McAnally who also co-wrote a couple of tracks on the record. As an outsider looking in, I think McAnally was the difference here, Walker hayes has talent but McAnally saw it where others in the industry didn’t or didn’t know what to do with it. I’m looking forward to his set, it’s different to what I usually like but I’m excited nonetheless.
Russell Dickerson has seen chart success this year with his song Yours still sat in the top ten of the hot Country charts and Country Airplay charts. He is an alumni of Belmont University where many great Country acts have graduated from. He made his Grand Ole Opry debut back in June 2016 before he signed to Triple Tigers Records, a collaboration between Sony music, Thirty Tigers and Triple 8 Management.
I first saw Lindsay Ell supporting The Band Perry back in 2013, the first thing I thought was wow this girl can play that guitar! She was excellent and over time she has gone from strength to strength especially with the support of Producer Sugarland’s Kristian Bush. On her latest record she has written with a lot of different writers, all big names within country music songwriting like Travis Meadows, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne, Kelsea Ballerini and Ross Copperman. She’s sure to wow the audience with those guitar skills alone but her songs are strong and bring something different to the satellite stage line up.
We’ll keep you updated with all the latest C2C news right here, so keep your eyes peeled!