Nashville woos the UK: Carrie Underwood and Tim McGraw to play largest country music festival at O2

 

Britain is preparing for a rhinestone invasion as Nashville’s stars launch a bid to inject country music’s whisky-soaked anthems into the nation’s musical mainstream.

The O2 Arena will stage the UK’s largest gathering of ten gallon hats when Tim McGraw, Carrie Underwood and a host of country music’s biggest-sellers perform at the first festival devoted to the sound of America’s heartland.

Until recently the UK has looked askance at cowboy-attired singers paying homage to a life of monster trucks and marital infidelity.

But with the Nashville country-pop queen Taylor Swift finding a willing audience of teenage fans, the two-day event marks a determined attempt by the US industry to spread the country gospel into new territories.

The Country 2 Country festival this weekend will spearhead an “industry education and awareness strategy” launched by the US Country Music Association.

As well as uniting headline artists, who have sold more than 150 million albums, including LeAnn Rimes and Vince Gill, on one showcase bill, the O2 will host a retail zone featuring leading Nashville clothing brands and food outlets.

The first-ever International Country Music Marketing Summit, held at Disneyland Paris this month, discussed plans to expand the genre’s popularity across Europe and into China.

Boosted by crossover artists like Swift, Lady Antebellum and Underwood, an American Idol winner who last year sold out the Royal Albert Hall, country is appealing to a younger generation. Sales of country digital albums soared by 38% last year, Billboard reported.

Social media is helping US stars like McGraw, 45, who has sold 40 million albums, find a new audience overseas. “I’ve never been on the road in the UK before and I’m so happy to be playing this festival,” McGraw told the Independent.

His latest album, Two Lanes Of Freedom, hymns the American freeway but McGraw believes his songs will cross over to anyone stuck on a traffic-clogged M4. 

“The themes are universal,” said the singer, who is married to country star Faith Hill. “It’s a rootsy, Americana vibe but the core is about everday life, family, faith and heartbreak. It’s the same themes as Bruce Springsteen.”

CMT, the UK’s only dedicated country music television channel, was taken off air. But YouTube has filled the gap. Steve Moore, head of the Nashville-based Country Music Association, said: “The digital revolution is allowing fans around the world to find these artists without the traditional record company promotion model. We’re encouraging stars to give the US a rest and explore new markets like the UK.”

Chinese broadcasters are screening the US Country Music Awards for the first time. “Nashville is about life experiences and they translate to everybody,” said Mr Moore, who predicts the O2 audience will be “blown away by the quality and integrity of the artists” playing the festival, which will become an annual event.

The perception that country is a platform for “redneck” conservative views, is also challenged by McGraw, who campaigned for President Obama and may one day run for office as a Democrat.

“I was probably drinking when I said that but if it ever came to a situation that felt like I could help and make a difference I wouldn’t turn my back.”

Bob Harris, who gives a platform to the latest country sounds on his late night Radio 2 show, said: “It’s fantastic to see such a great line-up of major Nashville talent performing in the UK. There’s a very vibrant music scene in Nashville at the moment and it feels like a particularly exciting time for country music.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
    France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

    Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

    Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
    'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

    Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

    Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
    Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

    Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

    New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

    The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need
    Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

    Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

    Its use is always wrong and, despite CIA justifications post 9/11, the information obtained from it is invariably tainted, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Rebranding Christmas: More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence

    Rebranding Christmas

    More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence. They are missing the point, and we all need to grow up
    A Greek island - yours for the price of a London flat

    A sun-kissed island - yours for the price of a London flat

    Cash-strapped Greeks are selling off their slices of paradise
    Pogues could enjoy fairytale Christmas No 1 thanks to digital streaming

    Pogues could enjoy fairytale Christmas No 1 thanks to digital streaming

    New system means that evergreen songs could top the festive charts
    Prince of Wales: Gruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence

    Prince of Wales: Gruff Rhys

    He is a musician of wondrous oddity. He is on a perpetual quest to seek the lost tribes of the Welsh diaspora. Just don't ask Gruff Rhys if he's a national treasure...