Five days. Five hours sleep. Five hundred miles. That’s the story of an adrenalin-charged project covering the CMA Songwriters Series, The Country 2 Country Festival, the CMA International Marketing Summit and the exclusive taping of Brad Paisley and his songwriter friends at BBC House.
Mid March crept up quickly and the buzz around the UK was that some of the biggest names in country music were going to be performing at a country-takeover of London’s O2 Arena on the weekend of the 15th and 16th of March.
I was fortunate enough to be placed on assignment, working for the Country Music Association, 2country.net and Universal Music’s new brand Sounds Like Nashville to capture the highlights of the event – which meant three things – lots of driving, lots of editing and not a hell of a lot of sleep. But.. as always, the rush of being involved in the country genre and being able to provide content to the relevant organisations (not to mention see some of my favourite artists up close and personal) overtook any kind of human needs.
First up was the CMA Songwriters on Friday night at the IndigO2 – showcasing some of Nashville’s finest, this year including mainstays Bob DiPiero and Brett James alongside the incredible Martina McBride and new sensations Striking Matches. The event was followed by shots backstage which included the artists and President of Big Machine, Scott Borchetta and the board of the CMA.
The Saturday and Sunday was saw the O2 Arena transformed into a replica of Downtown Nashville, with popup stages, merchandise stalls, cowboy boots, Stetsons, Wranglers and 20,000 partygoers all taking over the North Greenwich peninsula. Artists this year included Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley, The Zac Brown Band, Rascal Flatts, Martina McBride, The Dixie Chicks, Chris Young and The Band Perry and their performances exceeded expectations. Fortunate enough to shoot all but one of the acts from the pit, I was really happy with the results, including a hang-time shot of Dierks Bentley which started viralling globally once Dierks himself acknowledged it.
Monday saw the CMA International Marketing Summit at the British Music Experience which was a full day of talks, acoustic performances and interviews with big names associated with country music including Bob Harris (BBC Radio 2), Scott Borchetta, Sarah Trahern (CEO of the CMA), Iain Snodgrass (Universal Music) and loads more – all discussing the future and expansion of country music globally. A very productive day which I was honoured to be a part of.
Finally on Monday night, not only did I get to shoot, but was able to experience an intimate performance from legendary Brad Paisley and his songwriter friends at the BBC Broadcasting House (a special which will be aired later this year). A stunning venue with beautiful lighting which made my optimisation job easier – this was something truly special.
The five days took a lot out of me, but as always, the results and feedback received have made it all worthwhile. I’d like to reach out and mention some people that made the entire assignment run smoothly for me – Senior CMA staff Damon Whiteside and Bobbi Boyce, The Outside Org’s David Cox, Erica & Rob Fielder and the whole team at 2country.net – it’s great to be working with such professional people who are also passionate about the cause.
Next stop – Nashville CMA Fest 2014. Bring it on!