Various Locations | September 20–25
Seventeen years ago, 33 people secluded themselves from the glitz and glamour of the Nashville country music boom to talk about their shared passion for a different kind of music—a music that wasn’t recognized on any Billboard chart or Grammy category and whose name was still years away from making it into any dictionary.
This year, on September 20–25, a considerably larger number of people will fill the streets and music venues of Nashville, drawn by that same music. Thanks to the organization that bears that name, The Americana Music Festival & Conference has become a landmark event for all who appreciate the genre’s resistance to commercialism and its adherence to the roots of American culture in its many manifestations.
“Americana Music has always been an integral part of the American fabric,” says Jed Hilly, executive director of the Americana Music Association. “It’s just that in the past decade it’s coalesced as a community. I look at this genre, with its various styles and traditions, from gospel to blues to rock ‘n’ roll to country, as a representation of the art of music, by contrast to the commercial art forms of music that inundate us.”
But, Hilly adds, the essence of Americana is celebration rather than opposition. “When you see a Van Gogh, you’re not saying, thank God I saw that because I’m so sick of the billboards on the highway. You’re thinking, this touches me in a way that’s unique. You’re not even thinking about that billboard.”
This year’s Festival will feature more than 200 artists performing at a greater-than-ever number of venues, including The 5 Spot, 3rd & Lindsley, 12th & Porter, The Basement, Basement East, The Family Wash, The Cannery Ballroom, and City Winery. Confirmed performers range from up-and-coming innovators from around the world to Bonnie Raitt, Jason Isbell, The Lumineers, Chris Stapleton, Lee Ann Womack, and a bevy of legends and all-stars at the 15th Annual Americana Honors and Awards, scheduled for September 21 at the Ryman Auditorium. The agenda includes a keynote address by celebrated producer T Bone Burnett and a rare appearance by Country Music Hall of Fame member George Strait as he introduces and presents a Lifetime Achievement Award to Jim Lauderdale.
“The Festival is our annual fundraiser,” Hilly adds. “In the decade that I’ve been here, we’ve lobbied for and achieved three categories of Americana artists at the Grammys. That helps Americana artists pursue their careers. If you’re selling a painting in a gallery or a song over the radio or on iTunes, no one is going to know about it unless you have an advocate. That’s what we do, on behalf of artists and songwriters. What Sundance is to film, the Americana Music Festival is to music.”
Various levels of registration to performances and to the daytime seminars, panels, and networking events can be purchased at www.AmericanaMusic.org. The premium conference registration pass enters attendees into a lottery for limited-ticket admission to an intimate John Prine performance at The Station Inn and other exclusive shows. For more information, visit www.AmericanaMusic.org.