2019: My Year in Review – Laura Klonowski

2019 has been another incredible standout year for the country music scene and I have been lucky enough to attend more concerts this year than ever before: I saw Sarah Darling 9 times alone. Kicking off the year I was lucky enough to see Ward Thomas at the Glee Club venue in Cardiff Bay as part of the Nation Radio series and they were absolutely incredible in such an intimate setting.

A few weeks later I was invited to attend their album launch in London by their PR company and record label – the evening was a laid back affair with just a select few journalists asked along to hear the twins performing a few tracks off their new album ‘Restless Minds’ ahead of its February 10th release. It was a true honour to be invited and a night I will treasure forever.

January was also the month I went to Bristol to catch Charles Esten live for the very first time – he put on a phenomenal showcase and proved what a born entertainer he is. He was joined by rising Brit act The Adelaides who were an incredible support act and ever since I have become a huge fan of the girls.

In February I was sent the ‘Restless Minds’ CD ahead of its release to review before its launch and I was completely blown away by the powerful record that showcased Ward Thomas’ immense songwriting growth with the songs touching on themes such as mental health, and women’s rights – it is hugely impressive body of work and one of the very best LP’s of 2019.

This year I was also lucky enough to interview Cassadee Pope – this was just my second phone interview and beforehand I was slightly nervous but Cassadee was so easy to talk to and gave thoughtful and insightful answers and talked openly.  The Wandering Hearts was also another interview highlight from 2019 – they are such a talented and lovely group and it’s always a pleasure to work with them.

Interviews have always been my favourite form of journalism and back in February, I was honoured to get the chance to talk to Ward Thomas once again where we discussed their new music, and tour. They are always a joy to talk to and will forever remain one of my very favourite country acts.

February came to a close in the best way possible with a Ward Thomas gig – this was my first Restless Minds tour date and they did not disappoint. They delivered a polished live set that shone a light on their incredible growth and it was a joy to watch them having the time of their life on stage.

March is always a hugely exciting month for the country music scene thanks to the C2C Festival but this time it was even more special for me as I got to see Ward Thomas once again this time in Cardiff at the St David’s Hall – it was an incredible night and it was so wonderful to see them sell out such an impressive venue in the city centre. I was also lucky enough to see Sarah Darling three times throughout the month, in Liverpool and Bristol for her Wonderland tour, and in London at the C2C Festival at the Bluebird Cafe where she was joined by Catherine McGrath and Jeff Cohen – it was a truly special afternoon of live music that will stay in my heart for life. It was also wonderful to finally see Liv Austen live and Laura Oakes who both supported Darling on the road.

It was during the Bluebird Cafe show that Sarah dedicated the song ‘Wasted’ to me for the very first time – this song has a deep personal meaning for me and it was such a sweet moment having Sarah dedicate it to me publically and I will cherish that moment forever.

C2C Festival also allowed me to see Lady Antebellum live once again – they are always incredibly excited to see perform and this time was no different. Carly Pearce kicked off the main arena show and after waiting since 2017 to see her live she did not disappoint, she was phenomenal and I can’t wait until I get the chance to see her perform a headline set.

Getting the chance to interview Sarah once again this time about the ‘Wonderland’ record and her run of UK dates was amazing and I will forever be grateful as to how generous she is with her time. Kicking off April in style I attended my third Restless Minds tour date in Birmingham – this was my favourite of the three gigs as the atmosphere was electric.

April was also the month I decided to go niche and focus all my energy on country music in terms of article journalism. I have been lucky enough to build up a strong contact list within the industry and this felt like a natural move for me.


I ended April by booking a holiday to Nashville for February 2020 – this is a trip of a lifetime for me and I cannot wait to explore the country music capital of the world.

May started with a day trip to London to see Sarah Darling support Jamie Lawson at the stunning Shepherd’s

Bush Empire venue – there aren’t many artists I would travel to London from Cardiff for to see perform a supporting set but Sarah is definitely worth it. She delivered a breathtaking performance and it was so worth heading to the city to see her once again.

I also had the chance to talk to Sarah once again to find out how the song ‘A Little Bit Of Rain‘ came about – it was a lovely piece to work on. This was the month I also booked the Acapela Studios venue in Pentyrch for the Country Mind charity concert in aid of Mind charity – Liv Austen, Eleri Angharad, and Louise Parker will be performing at the March 29th gig with all ticket proceeds going to the mental health charity.

June was a beautiful month in which I went to Bath for the first time and had a magical day in the sun at the Pub in the Park festival seeing Ward Thomas live – I also managed to have a quick catch-up with the twins after their stellar set. I was also lucky enough to be given an early listen to the breathtaking ‘Wonderland‘ LP from Sarah Darling – the record later went to number 1 on the UK Country Album Chart.

It was in June that I attended the songwriter’s circle in London where I saw the likes of Sarah Darling, Riva Taylor, and Jeff Cohen for a truly remarkable evening of live music.

July started with a spellbinding night of live music from The Shires in Bristol as part of the RiverTown Festival – Ben and Crissie are always a joy to see live and this night they were on top form. This month also saw me attending the Nashville Meets London festival for the first time. This day will forever hold a special place in my heart as it was the day I conducted my first face-to-face interview – so grateful it was with Sarah Darling as she was so easy to talk to and was so gracious with her time chatting for around a half-hour in her dressing room before wowing the crowd.

This showcase also introduced me to Twinnie and she has since become one of my very favourite artists and I am so excited for what’s to come from her next year, seeing Lauren Alaina live was also an incredible moment.

August was the month I finally visited Montmarte in Paris after falling in love with its beauty thanks to the music video from Sarah Darling. It was a surreal and beautiful moment walking in the same footsteps of Darling in the clip and was a major highlight of 2019.

Mid-September was truly wonderful as I was given press passes for the inaugural The British Country Music Festival in Blackpool where I was lucky enough to meet Sarah Darling, and Ward Thomas once again after they delivered truly spectacular sets. This weekend was also the first time I met Twinnie – who is an absolute sweetheart and a true entertainer. The Adelaides also impressed during their set.

September also gave me the incredible opportunity of interviewing Grammy-nominated artist Kelsea Ballerini on the phone – she was such a sweetheart to talk to.

October was a truly special month as I travelled to Germany for one night in order to see Sarah Darling perform at a little venue in Cologne alongside Kenny Foster, and Robert Counts for the Sounds Like Nashville event – Sarah made the night extra special and this is truly my highlight of the year for many reasons. I was also lucky enough to interview the wonderful Carly Pearce.

October was also the month I saw the incredible Twinnie in Cardiff supporting Kiefer Sutherland – it was a magical evening and getting the chance to meet her once again was a wonderful experience.

This month I also became a team member at Scarlet River Management where I will work alongside their team working on the PR side of things.

November was a fun one as I got the chance to listen to the truly remarkable Lady AntebellumOcean’ LP ahead of its official release. I also had the opportunity to chat to Sarah Darling once again – this time to discuss her December Christmas gig. Interviewing the lovely Jenn Bostic was also a major highlight.

December ended on a truly magical high thanks to a stunning Opry style concert from Sarah Darling with friends in London at the gorgeous Union Chapel venue. Darling invited Ward Thomas, Jamie Lawson, Jessica Sharman, and The Wandering Hearts for what was a truly spectacular concert.

2019 was a truly wonderful year and with a trip to Nashville and gigs from Ward Thomas, Lennon Stella, and The Shires already booked for next year plus work with The British Country Music Festival also in the diary for 2020 – I’m excited for what’s to come!

Laura Klonowski

Qualified music journalist! Writing single/album/live reviews, feature articles, interviews, and news pieces. Portfolio: lauraklonowski.com Twitter: @cherylssoldier1 Instagram: @musicandtournews Email: [email protected]

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