Country to Country 2015 was life changing. I knew I would love it, but I really wasn’t expecting the whole experience to be so uplifting and joyous. I go to so many gigs these days, but there’s something about the mutual respect for the music that country acts share with their audience.
C2C Festival started life as a single weekend event in London back in 2013, extending to an Ireland date a year later, then taking over Stockholm and Oslo this year. Next year will see the addition of a Friday date in London making it the biggest Country music festival the UK will have ever seen. I thought I’d take a look at some of the artists I’m tipping for a place on the now extended bill, with some returning C2C alumni next to some fresh faces.
I’ll kick things off with the act I am 100% certain will be on the main stage. The Shires are the act that C2C has been nurturing for the last 3 years. First appearing on a free stage in the entrance of the O2, this year securing a 3 song acoustic set on the arena’s Satellite Stage, 2016 is surely the year we see the UK’s biggest country act take to the main stage? When their excellent debut album Brave was announced to have made the top 10 to the Arena, the duo breaking out the champagne at the news, it was a really sweet, genuine moment and was a testament to the success The Shires have had. It wouldn’t be C2C without them.
Sticking with returning acts, there are a couple that we might see again. The Band Perry are on the verge of debuting their new single, which might finally be the record they cross over with here in the UK. If we are going to see a returning group though, money should be on Little Big Town who were part of the inaugural lineup in 2013. The band have had an incredible 2015 so far, scoring the biggest hit of their career with Girl Crush and performing at pretty much every high profile event of the music calendar. An O2 Arena singalong of that song would be incredible.
Heading over the men of country, 2015’s event was criticised by some people for leaning a little too heavily on ‘Bro Country’. Personally I think this was more the split of acts on each day, Hilary Scott of Lady Antebellum literally being the only woman on stage on the Sunday. One name comes to mind that would slot in perfectly this year, Eric Church. He’s toured Europe before, but his stadium rock country needs the bigger venues that C2C offers. A personal favourite of mine, I’d be very very happy to see Eric on the lineup.
When you have some rock, you probably need some pop country too, a spot on the lineup that could be filled by so many acts. Hunter Hayes is an obvious name here, especially given his big European presence this year. He’s one of the few country acts to find airplay on UK radio stations other than Radio 2, so could be a good choice here. Up-and-comers Cassadee Pope and Kelsea Ballerini are potentials here too, while Brett Eldridge is possible too, but perhaps that’s more wishful thinking on my part than a true prediction.
The final non headliner I wanted to mention is probably the second most likely behind The Shires. I’ve been saying that Kacey Musgraves will do C2C for the last 2 years and surely 2016 is the year she finally manages it. She’s had so much exposure on Radio 2 especially, performing at their own festival last year, and her latest album has outperformed albums from nearly every other act to appear at C2C prior in the UK. I’d say that in some ways she could potentially even be a headliner, but given the huge names they’ve had in years prior, I think there are some others who would take that spot from her.
The new Friday headline opportunity begs the question to whether this date will be a full ‘festival’ set or simple a glorified concert date. If it is billed as a solo tour date then we could see someone ‘bigger than country’, I’m talking Shania Twain, Dolly Parton or Garth Brooks level. The issue here is that none of those acts ‘needs’ Country to Country to headline an arena, despite it being the perfect time for the first’s farewell tour to come to Europe. Instead I’d go with a legend of country act, someone like Reba McIntire or Kenny Chesney. I wouldn’t even rule of someone like Willie Nelson, who may not be relevant enough for the youth focused main festival, but would certainly draw the crowds. I’d say Kenny is the most likely here, but as it stands it could be the most surprising headliner we see.
The other two days are much easier to predict and there are two artists who I just know would and more importantly could headline. First up is Keith Urban. When I was going through a list of acts big enough to headline, he really stood out, not only because he’s an Australian in an ocean of Americans from the South, but he has that global ‘star’ level of popularity that’s needed. With a new album on the way it could be the perfect time for him too, his latest single currently climbing the US chart.
With a male solo headliner I’m predicting another solo female headliner to follow in Carrie Underwood’s footsteps back in 2013. Of course it could be no one else but Miranda Lambert, current reigning queen of country. Her latest album Platinum feels like a defining moment in her career, especially in the context of her very recent divorce from Blake Shelton. At one point I had envisioned a double headline spot for the ex-couple, but it looks like that wasn’t meant to be. Miranda is the one act I would personally want to see perform at Country to Country 2016 more than any other and she would be the perfect headliner.
There we have it then, just my thoughts on the acts I think we will see performing in March of 2016, alongside some personal picks that’d be on my dream lineup. I’ve created a fake lineup below, which is sure to be proven as complete rubbish once C2C announce the full details in the coming months.
The Band Perry
Little Big Town