Since its inception, the Country Music Week Hub has become one of the most distinct parts of the event. Held at Bush Hall in London, the event serves as a weekend afternoon showcase for many up-and-coming artists, giving them the opportunity to perform their songs in a more intimate setting. This year’s show took on a slightly different format as a writers’ round, featuring BRELAND, Matt Stell, Kezia Gill and Caitlyn Smith (Elvie Shane was also scheduled to appear, but had to cancel due to illness – best wishes for a speedy recovery!).
BRELAND kicked off the show with “Beers On Me”, his number one hit in the US, and brought a great sense of humor to the performance – including his “Hardy impression” – as well as a soulful vocal and a great sense of energy despite his arrival. off a full show just over 12 hours early. I loved the versatility he displayed on his four songs, whether it was the heartfelt breakup ballad “For What It’s Worth” or the bluesy slow jam “Don’t Look At Me” (which featured also a killer riff from his guitarist Christian), as well as his humor on stage. He and Matt Stell in particular had great banter, cracking jokes and bouncing off each other really well, and it was like the most relaxed performance I’ve ever seen from him – more of that at the moment. future please! His section ended with “Praise The Lord,” an energetic number that had the crowd cheering and singing and giving them the opportunity to show off some impressive vocals. He really cemented his rising star status this week and I look forward to hearing more from him in the future.
Matt Stell’s set couldn’t have been more different, but I felt he really shined in this format. Her first track was “One Of Us,” an ode to small town life that was full of detail and really showcased the depth and grit of her vocals. Elsewhere, he struck a chord with the current single ‘Man Made’, the eager ‘Everywhere But On’ and closer ‘Prayed For You’, which definitely blew my mind! He’s shown he can definitely command a stage and I’m really looking forward to seeing him back at C2C in March – I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people.
Of course, it wasn’t just about the men. Talented Brit Kezia Gill showed she could more than handle herself, starting with her ode to Nashville’s “Country Song” which showcased her incredible voice and mesmerizing stage presence. She followed that up with her heartbreaking new single “Like I Did Before” – receiving her very first live performance that day! – the tongue-in-cheek “Thirties,” an ode to enjoying life’s simple pleasures as you age, which included a venue name check, crowd applause and lots of laughs. Her last song was ‘Whiskey Drinking Woman’, with a haunting acapella intro and huge note at the end (as well as a sneaky chair dance from BRELAND). I also really enjoyed her sense of humor as she joked around with Matt, and I’m now desperate for her and Caitlyn Smith to write a song together!
Speaking of Caitlyn Smith, although she arguably had the toughest job out of the four performers, she more than held her own with her gorgeous music. Her first song was “High”, which was utterly heart-pounding with its delicate vocal balance and huge power on the chorus – I even spotted BRELAND filming her singing at one point, which , I think, shows you how good she is! Her set also included the new song “Mississippi,” a lovely warm ode to her home in Minnesota, and “Maybe In Another Life.” She delivered the latter with such raw emotion that it was impossible not to be moved, and you could absolutely hear a pin drop in the room as she performed – it was just stunning. Her last song was ‘Contact High’, a rock number that showed her sensual and more playful side. It really lifted the energy in the room and was a brilliant note to end the afternoon with.
All in all, the return of Country Music Week Hub has been a great success in my opinion. The songwriters round format gave the artists a great opportunity to tell stories, share jokes with the crowd and bounce off each other, as well as showcasing their incredible talent in a more respondent. My personal stars were Kezia Gill and Caitlyn Smith, but I enjoyed all four performers – they did an absolutely brilliant job and I think they are all destined for great things. Hoping for a return from this upcoming event and showcasing even brighter talent!
List of sets: 1. Beers On Me (performed by BRELAND) 2. One Of Us (performed by Matt Stell) 3. Country Song (performed by Kezia Gill) 4. High (performed by Caitlyn Smith) 5. For What It’s Worth (performed by BRELAND) ) 6. Man Made (performed by Matt Stell) 7. Like I Did Before (performed by Kezia Gill) 8. Mississippi (performed by Caitlyn Smith) 9. Don’t Look At Me (performed by BRELAND) 10. Everywhere But On (performed by Matt Stell) 11. Thirties (performed by Kezia Gil) 12. Maybe In Another Life (performed by Caitlyn Smith) 13. Praise The Lord (performed by BRELAND) 14. Prayed For You (performed by Matt Stell) 15. Whiskey Drinking Woman (performed by Kezia Gill) 16. Contact High (performed by Caitlyn Smith) Performance date: October 22, 2022