26th October 2018

Kate spoke to Stevie ahead of the AMA UK Awards nominations evening November 7th at The Borderline London.

You’ve recently posted some photos of yourself as a young woman on your socials. Who did you like as a teenager? What style of music?

I was an 1980’s teenager so I loved Bananaramma and all two tone music – as a younger child my parents played the Beatles, Neil Young and Van Morrison so I was seeped in the great from a young age. I loved Joan Armatrading too, one Christmas my step dad and I both gave each other ‘Me Myself I’ on cassette. My sister was a punk rocker – that never really got me!

How did you get to becoming the CEO of the AMA-UK from running a burlesque boutique?

It was more than a boutique – we used to host huge events and club nights etc – a lot of fun! I sold that business in 2010 and a few months later my musician husband Jamie and I opened Union Music Store – a folk, Country and Americana record shop – we had been going to Nashville regularly and decided to make our dream of owning a record shop come true, we wanted to focus on live and local too, we held weekly live music in-stores and it quickly became a local music hub. Shortly after that we started promoting gigs with artists from USA and Canada with local artists to open for them – this led us to start the label to help out some local musicians who we felt needed a boost to go to the next level. A year or so later I got a call from Bob Butler who told me about the AMA-UK that he and Bob Patterson had founded and if I would join the board, I quickly got very involved, setting up social media, website etc – we had our first conference that year at Maverick Festival with 50 people – two years later we moved the whole event to London and held our first UK Americana Awards and launched the Official Americana Chart in 2016. This past year we had 200 delegates and 1200 at the awards so it has grown quite quickly.

How do you choose the artists to play at AMA awards and Americana fest in Nashville? What’s the process? Do they get nominated? Do they audition?

Two very different processes: The awards performers are all selected by the board from the nominees – our board member Trudie Myerscough-Harris is the awards show producer and she and Ethan Johns work out the best show from the nominated artists. Nominations are led by the members and finalised by the board.

Nashville artists are selected by the team in Nashville – we encourage the members we feel are ready to showcase abroad to apply – there is no point going to showcase in the USA if you do not have a team to make it worthwhile, a plan, either a current release or a plan to tour etc – The PRS will only fund artists that can demonstrate this as well.

Stevie Freeman AMA UK

What did you think of Americana Fest?

I absolutely loved it, this was my 7th year – only downside for me is we are now so busy with AMA-UK and our UK artists that sometimes I miss out on seeing new artists

What were your highs?

The reception our UK events and artists got from the international delegation was fantastic – really thrilled with the attendance to all our hosted events. Hearing John Smith sing a welsh hymn at the Thirty Tigers gospel brunch brought a tear to my eye.
Personally I was really lucky this year as Jamie and I were asked to help back stage during the awards at the Ryman – we were Talent wranglers – basically meaning we had to make sure the performers were at the side of the stage at the right time, collecting from their dressing rooms etc. It was a lot of work and a lot of fun, but mostly just great being back stage at that iconic theatre.

What could be improved?

Only problem I can see is a good one to have – is it has got so big!! Some venues were very far away so there was a lot of planning to be done to try and fit the right things in – ultimately meant missing stuff. We are very aware of this when planning the growth of AmericanaFest UK.

(It was my first time and I had a ball. I loved the whole week. I found a lot of new artists UK and US and have bought their albums. Looked the artists up and booked to see quite a few of them; John smith,Aaron Lee Tasjan, JP Harris ( I really liked him)).

I find the lines are blurring between folk/roots/Americana etc. For example, John Smith’s ‘Hummingbird’ album is very folky to me but I believe it’s Americana?

Americana is an umbrella genre that encompasses all forms of roots music specifically folk, country, blues, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, gospel.

The AMA in the USA describe the genre as ‘incorporating elements of various American roots music styles resulting in a distinctive sound that lives in a world apart from the pure forms of the genres upon which it may draw.’

You must be really happy with the way Americana has progressed in the last few years, albeit mostly due to the AMA UK.?

There is no doubt that the AMA-UK has helped the rise of the genre here, with the official charts and the UK Americana Awards we have put a stamp on the genre and it’s here to stay – people say they feel they have a home now, where they were not really in the folk world, not county and not pop – we have been able to give people a community that they can feel free to explore their artistry and still feel supported.

I’ve noticed that recently, certainly the last couple of years the audience is getting younger. Have you noticed that as well?

Yes absolutely – this is a good thing but we must not negate our loyal audience that have been with these artists from the very start – some from before we even called it Americana. I definitely think the rise in popularity of country music has also had an effect on this – C2C has a younger audience and some times they may find themselves drifting towards Americana from that route.

Also the musicians appear younger ? Ida Mae seemed quite young I was really impressed by them. I think Americana is the cooler sister of country music.

Well I like to think it’s the cooler side, but one persons cool may not be the same for another ;-). The fact is once you create a scene around a genre then younger artists find they have the safety to explore a genre while still discovering their sound.

What are your hopes for Americana in the UK?

More radio recognition for what we do, the charts never get mentioned by any DJs on BBC Radio 2 or 6 Music and it’s a really good chart – it gets more recognition in USA than the UK. I would love Americana artists to have more column space in MSM and music magazines like Mojo and Uncut.

We currently host 7 stages at festivals across the country, I would love to extend this to more mainstream festivals and Glastonbury in the future.

What would you like the American scene to look like in five years time?

Our membership is growing really healthily – we have just launched a new membership type for supporters because we recognise the importance of loyal fans and people who support live music and artists by buying their music – this genre would be nothing without them – we are delighted to be able to bring them in on the nomination and voting for the awards too. I just hope to continue with this steady growth of the association so we can continue to do the work we do and provide more opportunities for our artist members to thrive. For the association to be recognised by the funding bodies so we would feel financially viable to continue with the development work we do with artists – we want to provide training for showcasing, performance and recording in the future too.

Finally, what would you like from a website like ours ? We have purposely tried to give the same support to Americana and roots as we do to the more mainstream country music. We also are supporting the UK scene as much as the US scene where possible.

Continue with the great work.

Share This