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.
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
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?
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.
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:
Re-live the 2020 Awards show below:
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.”
“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.”
The Northern Belle
The Good Lovelies
Church of Roswell
THE AMA-UK AmericanaFest and Award Ceremony take place from January 26-28.
Be sure to visit Holler for all of the up-to-date news, reviews and coverage of this year's festival.