This weekend, thousands upon thousands of country music fans will descend upon London’s O2 Arena, Glasgow’s SSE Hydro and Dublin 3arena across March 9, 10, 11. The reason? Country To Country: the epicentre of the genre's burgeoning UK scene. Last year’s event saw some incredible moments, but with the line-up 2018 has in store there is certainly the potential for it to be even better. Of course, there are a host of acts you should be watching across all the three days – Margo Price is on incredible form, plus Ashley Campbell will be paying tribute to her late father Glen Campbell – but here are six you absolutely cannot afford to miss…
If one performer looks set to own C2C this year, it’s this week’s Music Week cover star Kacey Musgraves. As anyone who saw her at the festival last time can attest, she is already capable of making a venue the size of London’s O2 Arena her own. Add to this the fact that she will be coming armed with songs from her upcoming album Golden Hour – including Butterflies and Space Cowboy – and the sense is very much that this could be a moment to rival the Texan singer’s stunning headline performance at the Royal Albert Hall in 2015.
Lukas Nelson is not only the son of country's greatest outlaw Willie Nelson, he’s also a member of Promise Of The Real, the band Neil Young has been both recording and playing with in recent years. Let’s face it, some people are just cooler than others. Last year he released his brilliant self-titled fourth studio album. If he unleashes magnificent songs from it like Forget About Georgia and Runnin’ Shine, odds are he's going to come away from C2C with a lot of new fans.
At last year’s London leg of C2C, the first performer to grace the main stage actually provided the greatest talking point of the entire weekend, courtesy of Jennifer Nettles. And since that performance, Nettles has reunited with her old Sugarland partner in crime Kristian Bush. We're willing to bet £100 that Stay will be one of the best moments of C2C 2018.
Little Big Town
Little Big Town’s profile has grown significantly in the UK in recent years, and coming back to headline C2C with a host of new songs from last year’s album The Breaker – including the Taylor Swift-penned Better Man – can only help that. Prepare your vocal cords to sing along to Girl Crush. Expect to lose your body weight in tears if they roll out Can’t Go Back. And brace yourself to probably get that little bit extra drunk when Pontoon’s chorus kicks in.
There was a very good reason Catherine McGrath appeared on the cover of Music Week’s 2018 preview issue alongside Pales Waves and Mabel: this young singer-songwriter is one of the most exciting country talents to emerge from our shores since, well, ever. Having spent the past year releasing an array of compelling singles, it's safe to say there will be sing-alongs. Lots of them. Her set is sure to provide an excellent litmus test for how our homegrown scene is doing in 2018.
The ride Music Week’s charismatic former On The Radar star Kelsea Ballerini has been on in the past three years has been nothing short of extraordinary. In 2016, she became the first female artist in a quarter century to launch three country chart-topping singles from a debut. And that was just the start of her career. While the pop sheen of her huge hit Dibs made her famous, her latest album – 2017’s Unapologetically – has shown a real maturation of her songwriting on tracks like Legends and I Hate Love Songs. Conquering C2C should be a breeze for her.
Our Kacey Musgraves cover feature is just part of our huge Nashville special. Elsewhere in the issue, The Shires chat about taking UK country global with their new album Accidentally On Purpose, the promoters of C2C talk about the exponential growth of the genre in the UK, and we give a detailed report on how Nashville became the songwriting capital of the world. There’s also a masterclass in songwriting from country legend Brett James, we also present five country and Americana acts to keep an eye out for in 2018, and “whispering” Bob Harris takes on The Aftershow.