C2C day two kicked off in the best possible way for me as I had a front row seat once again in the cute little NY-LON lounge for sets by Ashley McBryde and Jillian Jacqueline, two artists on my “ must see” list this festival. Very different stylistically but both singer/songwriters who have made a great impression on me.
Ashley seemed genuinely taken aback by the massive reception she got (the festival is her first visit to the UK) as she walked out with her acoustic guitar, and laughed when even her mini sound check was applauded!
“I’m still not sick of telling this story “ she said when revealing how what started out as a REALLY bad day for all three co writers ( involving broken windscreens and guitar strings, being dumped in a parking lot and dropping a phone in a bar’s toilet for starters!) ended with them coming up with “ A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega”, the song that helped propel her career last year. Oh a few beers helped things along the way too ( with the songwriting, not her career I mean!). Quoting its lyrics, they definitely made “ the best of the worst day ”. It may have been an early morning call for this artist but vocally she was spot on right from the off, so in touch with her lyrics always knowing when to unleash her powerful voice and when to pull back. This song has a short acapella section which was perfection. And her guitar playing was amazing, not something that seems to get mentioned a great deal when people speak about her performances. She also demonstrated her wicked sense of humour in between songs, saying after her opener that it was great to see young folk in the audience as for years she’s been playing to an older crowd in biker bars ….and warning us that subsequently her language isn’t very appropriate sometimes for younger ears!
The second of her three song set ( all taken from her forthcoming album “ Girl Going Nowhere” released on March 30th but which she didn’t even mention!) was its title track, again we got to hear a detailed and hilarious story of how it came to be, which this time dates back to her school days. Telling her algebra teacher her plan was to move to Nashville and write songs that’ll be played on the radio, the reply was that she’d better have a good back up plan! This in itself turned into a joke when she told us that she actually did have a very good back up BAND! This song was the most emotional of her set, it obviously means so much to her that her dreams have come true. And it was wonderful that everyone in the audience seemed familiar with it already, the line “ I hear the crowd “ provoking a huge cheer from us all every time she sang it. Oh, and there were two Scottish ladies present who had actually heard Ashley perform his at her Opry debut!
Admitting that she doesn’t find it easy to write love songs mainly as she finds most of them so hard to believe ( “ how can anyone move mountains for someone, or keep a promise to never hurt their partner’s feelings?” ) she finished by playing “ American Scandal” which she said is what she actually wants love to be like. “ Hold me…..like you ain’t mine to hold, Kiss me…..like you don’t care who knows….love me….. like Kennedy and Monroe” Passionate lyrics indeed, and passionately performed, with Ashley getting totally lost in the performance and seeming almost shocked when she finished and came back to reality. An eruption of applause and the Arkansas native left us all knowing we’d been truly privileged to witness this performance.
Jillian cut a tiny, demure figure in comparison when she took to the stage accompanied by her lead guitar player/backing vocalist Brian ( no surname!) . Perching on her stool she joked that she’d have worn cuter socks under her black patent DM’s had she known we were all going to be close enough to see them……she admitted to having only been up an hour as “ last night was pretty wild”, a reference to her Arena Spotlight Stage appearance ( apparently she cried…..it was “ probably the coolest moment of my life” she said ) . And there were seemingly quite a few in the audience who had been there to share it with her. But if she was sleep deprived it definitely wasn’t reflected in her performance which I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish.
I was expecting her set to be largely tracks taken from her latest release “ Side A” but apart from her opening number “ Holier Than Thou” ( dedicated to anyone who has friends or family members with big egos) we were lucky enough to hear as yet unrecorded songs and in true UK style we hung on to her every word! “ We’re figuring out the setlist as we go!” she told us, the second song being introduced as a Lori McKenna co write ( cue a massive cheer ) which i think was called Girls Cry ( apologies ladies if that’s wrong!) but as Jillian said it played out like a little movie and she is definitely including it on her upcoming album.
A really new song followed, “ Priorities” , written just two weeks ago, and turning to Brian she asked if it had even been performed in this format before …..but said that anyway they would have fun with it ( which they did! )even if they did mess up (which of course as far as we could tell they didn’t!) . This was the highlight of her set for me, the fast paced song had a really funky vibe to it, was really catchy and I can imagine people singing along with its hook. I loved its message about concentrating on relationships and not getting sidetracked by everything else that’s going on in our increasingly busy lives as ” It’s just a matter of time now honey til we lose all our looks and money “ .
Jillian continued by telling us that after signing her record deal 18 months ago her booking agent had asked her what she wanted to do and top of her wishlist was travelling, playing music and visiting London! Asking us where else in the UK she should play when she returns resulted in an immediate and chaotic response of various suggestions …..which we all agreed should probably best be put to her via social media!
Thanking us for such a fun experience ( of course, she’s the one who needed thanking!) the closing song was another newbie, “ Tragic” which was explained as being autobiographical, about being positive about the future rather than wallowing in self pity…” Sometimes you just surprise yourself with what you do to move on” she sang in this uplifting and particularly wordy song. Judging by this set Jillian has every right to be positive about her future and I’m excited at the prospect of both her upcoming album and UK tour dates ….of course as soon as we hear anything about either we will let you know!
Review written by Lesley Hastings (twitter.com/lesleyhastings)