"It's shaping up to be the biggest yet!": Inside the return of the Americana Fest Awards show

Tonight (January 31) sees the return of the annual gala UK Americana Fest Award Show for its fourth year. The evening, presented by the Americana Music Association UK, caps three days of showcases and conferences geared around promoting the genre.

The night is set to see special performances both from nominees and special guests including Graham Nash, Rhiannon Giddens, Ethan Johns, Israel Nash, Yola Carter, Jade Bird, Curse of Lono, Mary Gauthier, Ben Glover, Bennet Wilson Poole, Seth Lakeman and Chris Hillman.

The awards are just one example of the rapid growth of Americana in the UK, with Black Deer Festival also set to return this year at Eridge Park, Kent, on June 21, 22 and 23. The festival includes appearances from Band Of Horses, John Butler Trio, Jade Bird and The Wandering Hearts.

Here we speak to Stevie Freeman, CEO Americana Music Association UK (Americana Awards & Conference) and Gill Tee (co-founder, Black Deer) to find out more about why Americana is sweeping the nation…

How is the Americana Awards shaping up this year so far? 
Stevie Freeman: “This year, the Americana Awards and Conference is shaping up to be our biggest yet. Having moved the event to London three years ago, we’ve grown the event to a three day conference featuring the industry’s most prominent movers and shakers, including a two night showcase festival with 55 trailblazing artists performing. This year, our theme for the Awards and Conference is inclusivity, diversity and equality, following on from last year’s theme of wellbeing, mental health and finding truth in art. The conversation around inclusivity, diversity and equality is important to us, and we’ll be covering gender equality in all elements of the music business, career longevity and diversity, and recognising the barriers that are faced by many, and discussing how to break them down. We’ve got a real opportunity to discuss these subjects with artists, managements, promoters and festival organisers at the Americana Awards and Conference, which is really important to make sure all voices heard.” 

Why in your opinion is it important that this event exists and how is it helping Americana in the UK?
Gill Tee: “Americana Fest turns this indefinable genre into something tangible. The event brings together a community who care about the music and want to nourish it. Like Black Deer, it’s inclusive and encourages growth. There’s now an Americana category at the Grammys – we don’t think that would have happened without the rapid progression of AMA and AMA UK.”

Personally speaking what are you most excited about tonight?
Tee: “It’s a great opportunity to discover emerging artists and meet up with the wonderful Americana community Stevie and the AMA UK have been a catalyst for. We also love catching up with artists – we never just want to book an artist where possible, we want to understand them and get to know the person behind the music. As promoters, it’s important for us to chat face to face with all agents, managers and musicians. We love going to the showcase gigs and enjoying new music from the new talent performing at AmericanaFest.”

How have you seen the genre grow in the UK over the past year? Do any particular examples stand out?
Freeman: “We’ve witnessed the rise of Americana’s popularity in the UK first hand at the Americana Awards. From 2016, we’ve seen homegrown Americana artists such The Worry Dolls, Robert Vincent and The Wandering Hearts perform on our awards stage alongside the likes of Mumford And Sons, Robert Plant and Van Morrison -everyone on that stage is equal, the community is growing. The UK Americana scene is strong, creative, and developing in so many ways. As a genre, Americana is a melting pot of so many influences it’s hard for audiences to ignore both UK and US artists. When we’re in Nashville, there’s a real buzz around our UK artists because of what they bring to it, whether it’s lyrics, subject matter or instrumentation.”


You can see the full nominations shortlist – including special awards – for the ceremony below:   


UK Album of the Year

•          All On Red by Orphan Colours (produced by Steve Llewellyn, Fred Abbott and Rupert Christie)

•          Bennett Wilson Poole by Bennett Wilson Poole (produced by Tony Poole)

•          Shorebound by Ben Glover (produced by Neilson Hubbard and Ben Glover)

•          Treetop Flyers by Treetop Flyers (produced by Reid Morrison, Sam Beer and Laurie Sherman)


International Album of the Year

•          By The Way I Forgive You by Brandi Carlile (produced by Dave Cobb and Shooter Jennings)

•          Let Your Kindness Remain by Courtney Marie Andrews (produced by Mark Howard and Courtney Marie Andrews)

•          Ruins by First Aid Kit (produced by Tucker Martine)

•          The Tree of Forgiveness by John Prine (produced by Dave Cobb)


UK Song of the Year

•          Be More Kind by Frank Turner (written by Frank Turner)

•          Chicago by Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker (written by Josienne Clarke)

•          Southern Wind by Dean Owens (written by Dean Owens and Will Kimbrough)

•          Uh-huh by Jade Bird (written by Jade Bird)


International Song of the Year

•          Hold Your Head Up High by Darlingside (written by Auyon Mukharji, Caitlin Canty and Donald Mitchell)

•          Mockingbird by Ruston Kelly (written by Ruston Kelly)

•          Rolling On by Israel Nash (written by Israel Nash)

•          The Joke by Brandi Carlile (written by Brandi Carlile, Dave Cobb, Phil Hanseroth and Tim Hanseroth)


UK Artist of the Year

•          Bennett Wilson Poole

•          Ethan Johns

•          Robert Plant

•          The Wandering Hearts


International Artist of the Year

•          John Prine

•          Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real

•          Mary Gauthier

•          Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats


UK Instrumentalist of the Year

•          CJ Hillman

•          Gwenifer Raymond

•          Martin Harley

•          Seth Lakeman


Lifetime Achievement Award

Selected by the board members, our highest honour is awarded to a UK artist, duo or group in recognition of their outstanding contribution to the Americana genre over the span of their career and life in music. The 2019 recipient will be Graham Nash.

Trailblazer Award

Selected by the board members, this special award celebrates a UK artist, duo or group that has taken an exceptional path, inspiring others to follow in their footsteps in developing the Americana genre. The 2019 recipient will be Joe Boyd.

Bob Harris Emerging Artist Award

Selected by Bob Harris OBE, this special award celebrates the breakthrough artist, duo or group that has particularly impressed the legendary music broadcaster throughout the year. The 2018 recipient will be Curse Of Lono.

Best Selling Americana Album

AMA-UK works with The Official Charts Company to create the UK Americana Album Chart. This Award is given to the bestselling AmericanaAlbum by a UK Artist. The 2019 recipient will be announced in January.

Grass Roots Award

Selected by the board members, this special award celebrates the sometimes un-sung heroes of the UK Americana scene. It is presented to individuals working in the industry (in a capacity other than as artists) who have made outstanding efforts to support Americana music from the grass roots up. The 2019 recipients are Immy Doman and Risa Tabatznik of The Green Note

The 2019 ceremony will be hosted by Bob Harris.



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