Since launching relatively modestly with its inaugural event in 2013, the Country to Country Festival has rapidly become Europe’s most important annual celebration of country music.
The 2016 C2C event will roll into London, Glasgow and Dublin next weekend (11-13 March), spread for the first time across three days, as a stellar bill of superstars, rising talent and emerging domestic artists provide further undeniable proof that country music is now a truly international phenomenon. Organisers expect to sell some 60,000 tickets for the London event alone, with another 10,000 visiting the free daytime stages within The 02 venue.
This year’s celebration got under way this weekend, with C2C events in Stockholm on Friday (4) and Oslo yesterday, both headlined by chart-topping country superstar Carrie Underwood. When the country train pulls into its main European stops in a few days’ time, she will headline at Glasgow’s Clyde Auditorium on Friday, London’s The 02 on Saturday and Dublin’s 3Arena on Sunday, as country music royalty alternates on the main stages of what is by far C2C’s most powerful line-up to date.
Underwood’s friend Miranda Lambert will make her own much-anticipated headlining appearances at the festival, and we’ve featured the pair together on uDiscover’s newly-updated Country to Country playlist, which accompanies this story. ‘Somethin’ Bad’ comes from Lambert’s Platinum album which, true to its title, turned platinum in the US a month ago.
Co-headliner Eric Church is sometimes cast in the rebel role suggested by the title of his current Mr. Misunderstood album. But the massive audience he’s built up over the last decade understand perfectly that he’s become one of the key exponents of “outlaw” country, with a hugely eclectic range of other influences.
Other artists on the bill are outlaws in their own way, from triple CMA and double Grammy award winner Chris Stapleton, making his European debut, to frequent visitor Kacey Musgraves, who’ll deliver her irreverent and boundary-pushing songs from the current Pageant Material album and its hugely popular predecessor, Same Trailer Different Park.
In the five months since they played at the Brooklyn Bowl inside London’s The 02 to announce the festival bill, Little Big Town’s star has risen even further. Their song ‘Girl Crush,’ one of many delights on the quartet’s latest album Painkiller, cleaned up with Song and Single of the Year at the CMAs, and then the Grammy for Best Country Duo or Group Performance.
Meanwhile the presence of Dwight Yoakam in the line-up will be a delight both for new admirers and those who remember his key role in bringing country to a new audience fully 30 years ago with his debut album, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. The incredibly comprehensive bill of fare in the arenas will also feature hip-hop-flavoured chart-topper Sam Hunt and BBC Radio 2 favourite Thomas Rhett, breakthrough duo Maddie & Tae and the admirable singer-songwriters Ashley Monroe and Andrew Combs.
BBC Radio 2 will again run its Radio 2 Country digital and online pop-up station around the festival, starting on Thursday (10) at midday. Breakthrough British duo the Shires will be acting as ambassadors, performing and introducing acts, at the London event, where visitors will also be treated to a wide variety of acoustic performances on the arena’s smaller platform, the Yamaha Stage.
These include sets on Friday by Monroe and Charles Esten, much-loved in the role of Deacon Claybourne in TV’s Nashville series; Texan native Maren Morris and Canadian band High Valley on Saturday; and Sunday shows by Frankie Ballard, soon to release the follow-up to 2014’s breakthrough Sunshine & Whiskey, and by Striking Matches, the IRS Nashville duo on their third consecutive visit to the festival where they proved a huge hit in 2014 and ’15.
The vast range of further attractions at the London C2C include sets by dozens of artists on the pop-up stages, on late Friday afternoon and throughout the following two days. These include visiting notables such as Ashley Campbell (daughter of Glen), Brooke Eden and David Nail, and up-and-coming British names like Balsamo Deighton, CC Smugglers, Carolynne Poole, Callaghan and Red Sky July. Jess & the Bandits, fronted by Texan vocalist Jessica Clemmons, will open the Brooklyn Bowl stage at 4pm on Friday.
Callaghan, Balsamo Deighton and Jess & the Bandits are among the artists hand-picked for the newly-expanded Under The Apple Tree Sessions on Saturday and Sunday of the London event, presented by much-revered broadcaster Bob Harris. Now at the much larger Building Six venue, close to the Town Square, the performances will run between midday and 4pm, also featuring Liverpudlian singer-songwriter Robert Vincent, Texan artist Kimmie Rhodes, Swedish-born Benjamin Folke Thomas and rising British names Laura Oakes, Dexeter, Frankie Davies and Pauper Kings.
C2C London’s new features this year include a Bluebird Café stage, presenting ticketed events which have sold out featuring hit country songwriters Shane McNally and others; the BBC Radio 2 Country Stage, C2C Sessions at NY-LON, Sounds Like Nashville presents Late Nights and the launch of a dedicated C2C App, which can be downloaded free from the App Store and Google Play. More information about the 2016 Country to Country Festival is at the event website here.
Follow uDiscover’s dedicated C2C preview coverage this week, leading up to the event, with features and audio on some of the great visiting artists, and then even more news stories and UDTV features over the C2C weekend
Listen to our extended Country to Country playlist on Spotify