AmericanaFest: The British Invasion!

 

The British are coming! The British are coming! Don’t be alarmed, for these Brits are of a musical — not Redcoat — variety, and, while they very well may be intent on capturing our hearts, the weapons they wield are voice & song. Not unlike their counterparts from five decades earlier, they’re finding great success playing American music back to Americans.

Over the last few years, Septembers have seen a growing British delegation of music industry professionals and artists descend upon Nashville for AmericanaFest, and with direct flights to and from the UK now available on British Airways it seems to follow that the British contingent this year will be the largest ever.

Brit Americana is a fast-growing genre, with key tastemakers like British Underground offering support to emerging UK talent. Performances on their stages in Nashville this week are made possible with funding from the International Showcase Fund. The Brits even have their own awards show (courtesy of the Americana Music Association UK) in February, endorsed by high profile figures including Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin and the BBC’s Bob Harris.

New festivals are springing up in the UK that provide an opportunity to showcase the growing British scene alongside US talent. The Long Road and Black Deer festivals launched this year, with East Nashvillians Erin Rae and Kashena Sampson performing alongside John Moreland, Jason Isbell and many more.

So, how does one get a taste of the British take on Americana? Here’s our guide to the best UK artists to watch and where to find them during AmericanaFest this year.

 

The Wandering Hearts

(Decca Records) - MUST SEE BRITISH BAND!

London-based four-piece The Wandering Hearts were discovered less than half an hour after uploading their first demo online, and when you hear their seamless vocal harmonies, you’ll know why. Signed to Decca Records, the band released their debut album, Wild Silence, and picked up the coveted Bob Harris Emerging Artist Award at the UK Americana Awards 2018. They sound like First Aid Kit channelling Fleetwood Mac’s pop sensibility whilst wearing their British roots on their sleeve; vowel sounds aren’t adapted to comfort the American ear. Lots of buzz around them, especially since their US debut at The Ryman. They received a personal invitation from Marty Stuart to join his Late Night Jam at the Ryman and became the first UK band ever to debut at both the Ryman Auditorium and Grand Ole Opry in the same week.

Friday, Sept. 14, 8 p.m.
Official showcase at The 5 Spot, 1006 Forrest Ave., 37206
(Conference pass/wristband only)
Saturday, Sept.15, 3:30 p.m.
The Bootleg BBQ at The Groove, 1103 Calvin Ave., 37206
(Free and open to the general public)

 

William The Conqueror

(Loose) — COOLEST BRITISH BAND

Following a triumphant summer of festival appearances in the UK, William the Conqueror (pictured up top) returns to AmericanaFest. Their sensational official showcase at the 2016 festival had The 5 Spot’s packed crowd of industry delegates a-buzz and landed them a deal with Europe’s leading Americana label, Loose. The resulting debut album, Proud Disturber of the Peace, won them critical acclaim and was shortlisted for UK Americana Album of the Year.

Thursday, Sept. 13, 8 p.m.
Loose 20 Year Celebration
The High Watt, 1 Cannery Row, 37203
(Conference pass/wristband only)

 

John Smith

ONE TO WATCH FOR 2019

Acclaimed English singer, songwriter, and guitarist John Smith bridges the gap between folk and Americana. After opening for likes of John Martyn and making a name for himself in the UK, Smith is turning his attention to Nashville. All eyes will be on him in the when he releases his highly anticipated new record Hummingbird through Thirty Tigers.

Saturday, Sept. 15, 2 p.m.
The Bootleg BBQ at The Groove, 1103 Calvin Ave., 37206
(Free and open to the general public)
Saturday, Sept. 15,10:30 p.m.
Hutton Hotel, 1808 West End Ave., 37203
(Conference pass/wristband only)

 

Loose 20 Year Celebration

EUROPE’S BEST AMERICANA LABEL

 

Respected British record label Loose celebrates 20 years of leading the charge with Americana in Europe when it takes over at The High Watt during this year’s AmericanaFest. The showcase will feature top acts from their US and UK rosters, including Courtney Marie Andrews, Sons of Bill, Israel Nash, The Americans, and the aforementioned William The Conqueror.

Keen to spotlight the importance of Loose is Sturgill Simpson, who signed to the label in 2013 after a performance at British Underground’s AmericanaFest showcase The Bootleg BBQ.  He was spotted there by Loose founder Tom Bridgewater, who signed him on the spot.

Speaking to Music Week, Sturgill stated, “Tom Bridgewater is a true music man, one of the last real tastemakers, and Loose gave me my first musical home when nobody else would. He also didn't flinch when I told him I wanted to release two albums in less than a year one month after signing me. Tom will always be my brother and Loose will always be my family.”

Thursday, Sept. 13, 8 p.m.
The High Watt, 1 Cannery Row, 37203
(Conference pass/wristband only)

 

British Underground’s Bootleg BBQ 

MUST ATTEND FREE EVENT

 

UK showcase producer British Underground presents its sixth annual Bootleg BBQ — the unofficial UK music hub during AmericanaFest — at The Groove with host Baylen Leonard. This year’s lineup features Worry Dolls, Ida Mae, John Smith, William The Conqueror, The Wandering Hearts, and the East Side’s very own indie-rock superstar Aaron Lee Tasjan. As he recently told The East Nashvillian,“I can't wait to play the British Underground's Bootleg BBQ in Nashville! The UK is one of my favorite places to play on the planet. Playing the Americana UK Awards last year was truly an amazing experience. Performing on stage with folks like Ethan Johns and Robert Plant was something from a dream. I hope to be back in the UK a lot over this coming year. The audiences are second to none and the music scene is exciting and vibrant.”

The Groove, 1103 Calvin Ave., 37206
Saturday, Sept. 15
(Free and open to the general public)

 

Visit americanamusic.org for a comprehensive line-up and schedule. And yes, they even have an app for that.

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