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.”

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary charm: Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in 2004’s ‘King Arthur’
FilmGuy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle the legend
Arts and Entertainment
Corporate affair: The sitcom has become a satire of corporate culture in general

TV review

Broadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: There are some impressive performances by Claire Skinner and Lorraine Ashbourne in Inside No. 9, Nana's Party spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Glastonbury's pyramid stage

Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair

Arts and Entertainment
Ewan McGregor looks set to play Lumiere in the Beauty and the Beast live action remake

Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie feels the lack of food on The Island with Bear Grylls

TV

The Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts and Entertainment
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, in a scene from Avengers: Age Of Ultron
filmReview: A great cast with truly spectacular special effects - but is Ultron a worthy adversaries for our superheroes? spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Ince performing in 2006
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Beth (played by Jo Joyner) in BBC1's Ordinary Lies
tvReview: There’s bound to be a second series, but it needs to be braver spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, the presenters of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 2015

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Harold Ramis' original Groundhog Day film, released in 1993

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

  • Get to the point
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.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence