Today may have been one of the best days of my life! There’s so much to talk about. My day began at the Indigo where Levi Hummon opened the BBC Radio 2 Stage. The Queue was rather long at 9.30am an hour before he was due on stage. He’s obviously the son of the very talented hit songwriter Marcus Hummon and he has his dad’s Songwriting talent. His lyrics are really good and he seemed to be enjoying himself as did the crowd, some of whom had beers in hand just after 10am, I’m not sure if they’d just started drinking or if they’d never really stopped from the after parties the night before! A quick dash across to the Town Square and once I’d meandered my way through the stalls to the stage I just caught the last song of Katy Hurt’s set. She’s a really talented UK Country singer and the crowd was rather large there too which didn’t surprise me as I know how good Katy is but it did surprise me because of how early it was in the morning, as people had been partying until 2am.
I stuck around to catch the beginning of Stephanie Quayle. I’d heard so many good things about this girl who seemed genuinely happy to be here. Back at the Indigo Delta Rae were taking to the stage so we rushed back. They have such a high energy. Their harmonies are beautiful and they have some great songs that are quite different from what other artists around them are doing. They’re all such talented vocalists too. They played their single There’s No Piece in Quiet which the majority of the crowd sung along with and the last song they played was really good they made percussive sounds with their vocals as well as using drum sticks to click together. They were so talented and went down so well with the growing crowd.
Then, the most talked about acts of C2C this year Ashley McBryde was about to come on but as they readied the stage for her I saw her peep out and film the crowd. When she did emerge it was to a loud reception from the excited fans. Her stage presence was great she was so down to earth as she talked between songs and the audience found themselves laughing a lot at the stories she told. She played Bible and a .44, my personal favourite A Little Dive bar in Dahlonega and Girl Going Nowhere. A song that went down well with the crowd was a song she’d been asked to write for a high school reunion called Fat and Famous. She closed her set with American Scandal and wow her vocals were so powerful and flawless. She ended her set and the crowd broke out into rapturous applause, whistles and whoops! She seemed genuinely overwhelmed and excited by the crowds reaction. I was left speechless which is usually a rarity but is becoming quite a habit at C2C this year, the quality of acts is fantastic.
I headed back to the press room where Russell Dickerson chatted to us. He’ll be playing the satellite stage tomorrow and I think he’s another artist that I’m going to see and be sad that he only gets ten minutes in the Arena! But check the app there’s other opportunities to see him I believe. Danielle Bradberry was on at the Indigo not long after and as I passed the Water Margin there was a queue a long way out the door to get in and I could hear Holloway Road doing a fantastic job from within. The Indigo was reaching capacity crowds when I arrived and its no wonder with artists like Danielle Bradberry in there, another artist that everyone’s raving about! Back in the press conferences and Luke Combs discussed his journey to getting where he is today, Ashley Campbell talked about her new record and the tribute she was doing to her Dad and Sugarland discussed their reunion. Kip Moore discussed what it was like to play the CMA Songwriters Series and I asked Kacey Musgraves about the strangest thing she’s ever written a song about and wether she lets her mind wander when she’s on stage. So stay tuned for transcripts and videos from those in the coming days!
On to the main arena and it was Ashley Campbell who opened the night with a touching, emotional tribute to her Dad - the great Glen Campbell. Showcasing her banjo skills she did a medley of some of his most memorable hits such as Galveston and Wichita Lineman. The second song she played was her first single Remembering which was featured on the Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me Documentary as Ashley wrote it for her Dad. It was really beautiful and was made all the more poignant by the clips being shown in the background of Glen. When Ashley finished the crowd were shouting for more and though they hovered, Bob Harris asked one of the organisers who said there wasn’t time. It was disappointing we couldn’t hear more from the legends daughter but it was wonderful that she got that reception from the crowd.
First to take to the main stage was Luke Combs who walked on stage with a beer in his hand. He strikes me as being a really laid back guy and he looked really relaxed as he began his set. He played a mixture of songs off the album and some new songs. He of course played When It Rains it Pours which went to number 1 for him. The crowd were singing along loudly to the fun upbeat number. He played my favourite off the record One Number Away which is a very well written song. But what I really liked was when he invited different members of his band to take a turn on the mic, a little bit like Marty Stuart did last year but not for quite as long as he let them last year. It kind of shows how laid back they are as artists and that it really is all about the music for them, not about being centre stage but just making good music as a unit. He finished his set with Moonshine and Hurricane, his first single.
Ashley McBryde then came on the satellite stage and played American Scandal. The she told us the story behind Girl Going Nowhere and how a maths teacher asked everyone in the class what they wanted to do when they were older. When Ashley said she wanted to write songs in Nashville that were going to get played on the radio either with her singing them or somebody else, the teacher told her it was a stupid idea and to get a really good back up plan. Ashley paused before saying “Excuse me while I take a sip of my back up plan” The crowd laughed. It’s a great song, the lyrics as you now learn to expect from Ashley McBryde are fantastic storytelling lyrics and she has a really powerful voice.
Kip Moore was second on the main arena stage. I’ll be honest I’ve struggled to get into his music in the past when I’ve listened to his records, it’s not really my style of country however this time seeing him at the CMA Songwriters Series and indeed tonight he’s converted me! Yes, I was really impressed with his set. He played a mixture of songs from across his three albums including Wild Ones and Plead The Fifth, a song which I really enjoyed. Kip has a great, gravelly voice however the power and control he has when he sings is fantastic. Beer Money was another high energy song which had the crowd rocking. He played More Girls Like You and The Bull, I don’t think the crowd would have let him leave without playing The Bull as people at the CMA Songwriters persistently asked for that song and he kept telling them to wait until Saturday. He stripped it down and played Hey Pretty Girl acoustically before bringing the full band back in for Something Bout A Truck. He concluded his set acoustically again with Guitar Man.
Jillian Jaqueline then took to the Satellite stage. She played a song called Hate Me which I hadn’t heard before. She gave a shout out to her mum which was really sweet. Then she sang her latest single Reasons followed by God Bless This Mess. She’s an artist, I have to admit, that’s quite unfamiliar to me but I really enjoyed her set and look forward to checking out more of her music. Then one of the acts that first got me into Country music. A duo who I never thought I’d get to see together live. Sugarland took to the stage and as promised in the press conference they played lots of their old hits. They opened with Find The Beat Again which was a great song choice to get the crowd moving and the words were fitting after their hiatus. They looked great as well, kind of like a 70s pop group with the rainbow jacket Jennifer was wearing, I loved it. In fact there was quite a theme with colourful jackets today as Ashley Campbell was wearing a gorgeous jacket she had specially made for her.
They played some songs from my favourite record Love on the Inside such as All I Wanna Do and Jennifer showed off her dance moves as she strutted and boogied backwards and forwards across the stage. Kristian switched to the mandolin to play Already Gone. You could hear especially at the end of this song how tight the band was. They then played their new single Still The Same which is a message to fans that despite the five year hiatus and them pursuing solo careers, they are still the same Sugarland as before. It was nice though that they played a song each from their solo projects and Kristian Bush played his song Trailer Hitch before handing over to Jennifer who gave a short speech on what she feels Country music is about and then she sang Unlove You. They then joined together again to play Incredible Machine. One of my favourite songs off Love on the Inside followed and that was It Happens. They then took it down a notch and with just an acoustic guitar and organ played Stay which is a beautiful song, the majority of the crowd was singing and some held up their phone lights. Baby Girl took the tempo back up a bit and once again this seemed to be a fan favourite. I loved their set, I think their energy levels were great, Jennifer never stopped moving and never stopped grinning!
Lukas Nelson took to the satellite stage. He sounded just like his dad when he sang Just Outside of Austin and Find Yourself. I’m sure he really entertained at the afterparties tonight, I’m sorry I missed that!
Then it was time for the main event. I was delighted when Kacey was announced as headliner, she is one of my biggest inspirations, I just love her lyrics. She opened with a brand new song which she’d spoken about in the press conferences called Slow Burn and it wasn’t the only song we heard off the new record either. Following that was Stupid off her first record, this is quite an upbeat number which was good to get the crowd moving and singing again. Butterflies is another new one which she released recently as a double single with Space Cowboy. It was good to hear the new songs mixed in amongst the songs we’re all familiar with as it gave us a side by side comparison of how she has progressed and evolved as a songwriter and artist. She sang Silver Lining and I’m Fine before she performed her own version of Mama’s broken Heart, a song Kacey wrote for Miranda Lambert. Her version was different though, I enjoyed her interpretation of the arrangement.
She talked about how great it was to be back and to be headlining and mentioned how she sold out the Royal Albert Hall last year and how it was like performing in a giant cake. She continued her set with Late to the Party off Pageant Material. Love is a Wild Thing came next, another new song which started off with a similar vibe and arrangement as her back catalogue with some banjo and steel guitars in but then these electronic drums kicked in and it surprised me, but I really enjoyed it. Family is Family is a witty song and I was glad it was included in the set. The arena seemed to slowly grow a little emptier after each song, hopefully just because people had trains to catch. She took time to announce that she is going on a World tour starting in London at Wembley Arena on the 27th October. Then went on to play a couple from the first record It Is What It Is and Keep It To Yourself. As Kacey began another new song she meandered her way through the crowd to the satellite stage where a white grand piano was waiting and she talked about a song she’d been sitting on for six years that was her Gran’s favourite that she’d decided to release called Rainbow which she sang accompanied solely by the pianist.
She finished her set on a high with High Time (see what I did there?) followed by her new single Space Cowboy which I love and judging from the people singing along a lot of others do too and finally finished on Follow Your Arrow which everyone sang and danced along to. Of course it couldn’t be over just yet, we wanted more! So Kacey came back on and sang her grammy award winning song Merry Go Round acoustically. That is an incredible song, stripped back it holds its own and in an arena no less as part of an encore! Throughout the set which was going out live on BBC Radio 2 Kacey’s goals were flawless you really couldn’t fault them and her band as ever was excellent. She then sang her own version of Neon Moon by Brooks and Dunn. She concluded the encore in true Kacey style with a song called High Horse and on the floor giant beach balls that lit up and changed colour were thrown out to the fans. It looked really cool from the top of the arena, we were just sad as it looked like so much fun down there! The song came to a close as a burst of gold confetti rained down on the C2C crowd.