Yola
feature

A Guide To: AmericanaFest UK 2021

By Helen M Jerome

link icon

Link copied

AmericanaFest UK is a celebration of Americana music in the UK, now in its sixth year. This year, it’s taking its programme online for the first time, featuring international artists from Europe, North America and Australia across a strong line-up.

Americana, says AMA-UK CEO Stevie Smith, “is a genre for lots of music that doesn’t fall into a pure form. We scoop up the people that have fallen through the cracks, and they get noticed - people who should’ve been rewarded for their work, years before, like Joan Armatrading, who will be getting a Lifetime Achievement award. Same with Steve Earle, who is getting the International Trailblazer Award and Christine McVie with the Trailblazer Award. It’s a genre that does these things for people we appreciate and celebrate, but maybe not in the way they should be, because they don’t fit into pure forms of any particular genre. It’s an ever-moving genre, with quite a lot of influences this year. You can’t predict what’s going to happen; it’s one of the joyous things about it.”

Here’s everything you need to know (and more) about this year’s event.

AmericanaFest 2021 Lineup

The Basics”

Dates: 26-28 January 2021

Numbers: Two nights of showcases from across the world with 75 artists; alongside the UK Americana Awards Ceremony.

Tickets: £25 for full access to both days of showcases and the award ceremony, with the ability to catch up and re-watch in full for a fortnight after: www.bitly.com/AMAUK21

The Process”

Every member of the AMA-UK, may that be artist or group, is invited to play the showcase – so you need to join the association first. Then, once applications are closed, a smaller committee of board members put a line-up together – with gender balance and diversity at the heart of their decision. As it’s a showcase festival, the association want to present the best in Americana music to bookers, press and audiences. To be booked to play, an artist needs to be ready - are they touring; have they got an album out; or are they simply just an incredible talent?

The Showcases”

When you get your ticket, you’ll gain full access to the website; here there will be two stages running side by side at the same time to choose from. It will run live to the programme time but once it’s shown you can also watch back. So, you can watch on the night, then go back the next day and catch up on things you missed - the ticket allows you two weeks to watch the whole line-up of showcases.

Along with the individual performances, there’s a strong line-up of guest showcase hosts from Americana labels, like YepRoc, Thirty Tigers and Loose Music. Alongside them, associations from other countries’ export bodies will also be in attendance; including the Canadian Independent Music Association, Prince Edward Island’s and North Carolina’s export body).

There will also be songwriting workshops and a John Prine tribute show – there'll include appearances from Billy Bragg, Danny Champ, Ida Mae and the Wandering Hearts. With the annual award’s ceremony also still taking place, its great value for three nights of fantastic music.

A live chat will run alongside every show, so audience members can interact with one another while watching – the performers themselves will be invited into the chat too. For the awards, a virtual red carpet will take place across The AMA-UKs Facebook page, encouraging people to show off their award show attires; it's the perfect opportunity to dress up, make a cocktail or and celebrate the event.

The Awards”

Seven categories are voted on and awarded by the membership; each member can nominate up to four artists in every category, with the board making the final decision on each winner. All other awards (Bob Harris Emerging Artist, Bestselling Americana Album, Lifetime Achievement, Trailblazer and Grassroots) are all decided by the board or chart company. This year, they’ve also added the International Lifetime Achievement and International Trailblazer awards – and a special Songwriter’s Legacy award, which this year will be awarded to the late John Prine.

The full-list of nominees are as follows:

UK Americana Instrumentalist of the Year

  • Anna Corcoran
  • Lukas Drinkwater
  • Martin Harley
  • Michele Stodart

UK Americana Song of the Year

  • I Should Be On A Train by Ferris and Sylvester (Written by Issy Ferris and Archie Sylvester)
  • Ain’t One Thing by Lady Nade (Written by Lady Nade )
  • Thin (I Used To Be Bullet Proof) by Our Man In The Field (Written by Alexander Ellis)
  • I Don't Wanna Lie by Yola (Written by Yola, Dan Auerbach, Bobby Wood)

International Americana Song of the Year

  • Welcome to Hard Times by Charley Crockett (Written by Charley Crockett)
  • Brightest Star by Lilly Hiatt (Written by Lilly Hiatt)
  • Already Dead by Austin Lucas (Written by Austin Lucas)
  • Hand Over My Heart by The Secret Sisters (Written by Laura Rogers, Lydia Rogers)

UK Americana Album of the Year

  • A Dark Murmuration of Words by Emily Barker (produced by Greg Freeman)
  • Song For Our Daughter by Laura Marling (Produced by Ethan Johns, Laura Marling)
  • In This Town You're Owned by Robert Vincent (Produced by Ethan Johns)
  • Hannah White and The Nordic Connections by Hannah White (Produced by Hannah White and The Nordic Connections)

International Americana Album of the Year

  • Lamentations by American Aquarium (Produced by Shooter Jennings)
  • Old Flowers by Courtney Marie Andrews (Produced by Andrew Sarlo)
  • That’s How Rumors Get Started by Margo Price (Produced by Sturgill Simpson with co-production by David R. Ferguson and Margo Price)
  • Expectations by Katie Pruitt (Produced by Michael Robinson, Katie Pruitt)

UK Americana Artist of the Year

  • Emily Barker
  • Laura Marling
  • Robert Vincent
  • Yola

International Americana Artist of the Year

  • Courtney Marie Andrews
  • Jason Isbell
  • Gillian Welch and David Rawlings
  • Lucinda Williams

Re-live the 2020 Awards show below:

Silver linings”

AMA-UK CEO Stevie Smith says that in previous years, availability has been a problem, “When somebody is nominated they’re excited, but unfortunately they’re on tour, so they can’t possibly be involved. This year, I’ve had the opposite problem - almost everyone nominated wanted to send in a performance. So, we’re finding a way to incorporate as many performances as possible, as we’re thrilled with the amount of people who’ve been willing to get involved. We also signed up to the Music Declares Emergency Pledge last year, so not putting any air miles or pollution into the air this year is something we need to take as a positive.”

Stevie Smith's Wish List”

“I would love Bruce Springsteen to play, definitely. My door is always open to him. I’ve also dreamt every year of having Brandi Carlile sing at our Awards ceremony. She blows me away. She’s involved this year, in that she’s presenting the International Lifetime Achievement award to Mavis Staples – and she produced the Secret Sisters, who are nominated in this year’s International Song category – but hopefully next time she’s nominated, she’ll come and perform.”

Holler’s Top Picks”

Dan Bettridge

Judy Blank

The Northern Belle

Declan O’Rourke

The Good Lovelies

Larkin Poe

Church of Roswell

Joshua Burnside

THE AMA-UK AmericanaFest and Award Ceremony take place from January 26-28.

Tickets for the full virtual event cost £25 and are available here.

Read Behind The Industry with AMA-UK CEO Stevie Smith here.

Be sure to visit Holler for all of the up-to-date news, reviews and coverage of this year's festival.