If you had told UK music fans five years ago that one of the biggest music trends of 2016 was going to be country music you would have received some strange looks and a lot of laughter.
It’s crazy to think, but even as little back in time as 2012, country was only thought of as an ‘American thing’.
There were no UK acts on the scene, well not in the main charts anyway. Of course we did have US stars slotted into our charts, such as Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum, but even these powerhouses of American country couldn’t top any of the UK’s main charts. Their albums scored top five at best, which was a major success for a Country act in Britain.
But fast forward to 2017 and country music is one of the fastest growing genres in the UK. Homegrown acts such as Ward Thomas and The Shires are well and truly flying the flag for British country. The two duos have become massive chart successes with Ward Thomas becoming the first ever British country act to ever score a UK number 1 album on the Official UK Chart with their sublime Cartwheels. Whilst their success may have come as a surprise to the industry, I believe that it proved to the world that if done right, Britain can produce Country acts to rival those from across the pond.
The success is even more impressive when you realise that the feat follows Shania Twain, who sat pretty at number 1 way back in 1999, with the record-breaking Come On Over.
Then there’s The Shires, who have become the fastest selling country act in the UK of all time. They’ve since signed to Big Machine Records in the US – the very same label that helped make Taylor Swift a household name.
These two British record-breaking and record-making acts have paved the way for British music fans and artists to openly proclaim their love for the genre.
But it’s not only new artists who are embracing the country genre, even household names such as Niall Horan from One Direction has turned to country with his solo efforts. ‘This Town’ has a definite defining twang to it while ‘Slow Hands’ boasts a folk vibe.
A few years back we saw many country stars turning to pop, but it feels as though this is the first time where the tables have been turned. This just proves that listeners are really embracing country and are starting to realise it’s not all about cowboy hats and boots. Niall Horan has even been in the studio with Shania Twain, which is just crazy exciting.
The pop stars in America have caught the bug too. Pop princess Selena Gomez has teamed up with country star Thomas Rhett on a song that will feature on his upcoming album, and Nick Jonas recently performed ‘Party For Two’ with Shania Twain at the Stagecoach Festival.
There’s no denying that the TV show Nashville has played a part in the shift in the industry and we who have loved country for many years without it being deemed “cool” owe a lot of gratitude to the US drama. It has opened many doors for the genre and we’re very thankful to the creators for showing country in such an amazing light.
2017 is truly the year of country, and our expectations for 2018 are even bigger.
Words by Laura Klonowski
Words by HQ