Ever since I took my Dad’s guitar to school to play Blowing in the Wind and English Country Garden in the school assembly, I’ve been hooked on country and folk music.
I love the life lessons and simple metaphors told alongside the rhythm of natural string instruments – real instruments played by real people. Music that can be enjoyed by just a few folk sat together anywhere. I’ll always listen to Bob Harris’s Country to while away the miles on my way to Countryfile locations. My love of this type of music has always been a source of amusement for many, but eat your words you lot, as country music is set to be the big sound this summer.
In my opinion, the line between country music and some of our most popular music today is very thin – the hugely successful Ed Sheeran is a perfect example. His tour is basically him on stage with just a guitar, telling his life story.
The Shires, who are the first UK band to be signed with the world-famous DECCA label in Nashville, played for us on The One Show a while back and there is a sense that many more are ready to break through. This spring, 50,000 people turned up at a two-day country music festival at the O2, proving there is a real thirst for this type of music in Britian and we have the talent to quench it.
A country’s music has always been a constant undertone of my travels around the world. Whenever I was filming abroad of an evening, I would find myself being entertained by some kind of live performance – from tribal celebrations to yodelling Austrians – and often I would return home with a traditional musical instrument. It’s hilarious, as I now have an orchestra’s worth of percussion and stringed instruments just waiting for someone to pick up. Country music is a passion that was instilled in me by my Dad, who has guitars lining the walls of our farm house. He lives the dream of strumming on the porch in front of open countryside, heading into the big city of Gateshead once a week to play with a group he founded called Frets on the Tyne.
This time last year, my Dad and I were in the country-music mecca Nashville celebrating his 70th birthday – and what a trip! Bar after bar of live music with bands up on stage earning a living from their tips and the connection they achieved with their audience. I would love to see more of this kind of vibe in Britain, with locals encouraged to get up and do a turn, extending our live country music experience beyond the festivals and fairs of this time of year. I hope that our music moguls’ predictions are correct, and together we’ll all remember the summer of 2015 with plenty of yee-hah!