Published on July 7th, 2015 | by Nigel Cartner0
Sasha McVeigh Interview
Sasha McVeigh is a British Country singer who is proving quite the hit in both the UK and US. Her debut album, ‘I Stand Alone’ was released last month and has garnered much plaudits from critics on both sides of the pond. She has the unique recognition of being the only British act to have ever been signed by WME Nashville, and the only British and unsigned act to grace the main stage of five of the main Country festivals in the US over one summer. This accomplishment has rightfully led her to be heralded one to watch via several recognised music publications. Having already completed tours of the US, she will now embark on her first headline UK tour, this time bringing her Nashville friends The Cains Trio as special guests.
Sonic Bandwagon caught up with Sasha where we found out why her album has such a personal touch, how she came about performing on the Nashville circuit, and why she’s involved with Amour Propre Anti Bullying Clothing.
How has the debut album, ‘I Stand Alone’, been received so far?
I’ve been blown away by all the positive and 5 star reviews. Some people have compared my style to artists like Kacey Musgraves, Carrie Underwood and The Band Perry which is an incredible compliment, but they’ve also said I’m very unique. This album is like my baby, all these songs mean so much to me therefore it’s wonderful the album and music been so well received.
Tell us about the album’s theme and why it’s very personal to you?
The theme of the album is really honesty because I wrote all of these songs from true life experiences. I like to say the album is a compilation of rhyming diary entries. But honesty is also reflected in the message of the album title, ‘I Stand Alone’. I wasn’t going to conform with this album, I wasn’t going to have people telling me how to write or how to record. I’m happy to take advice but when people are out and out trying to make you a sell out, that’s when I draw the line. Nobody should be told who they should be. This album is wholeheartedly ‘Sasha McVeigh’ and I’m very proud of that.
What is the one song on the album that defines Sasha McVeigh?
I’d say ‘Mr Brown Eyes’ reflects my personality the best and also shows a reflection of my songwriting with lines like “wasting away again”, which is a reference to the fact I first saw the guy the song is about, when he worked at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville in Nashville, and that line is from the Jimmy Buffett song ‘Margaritaville’ – I love putting those little subtleties in there that tell the story. Also, in the recording you can hear me laughing as I remember the story and the song in general just expresses my personality really well I think.
Did you gather inspiration from recording in Nashville?
There’s so much talent in Nashville, it’s a very inspiring town. When I’m there I try to act like a sponge to soak up as much as I can. It was a blessing to have such amazing musicians play on my album and I loved watching them in the studio, I learnt a lot from them.
How did you come about performing on the Nashville circuit?
When I finished Sixth Form College in May 2012 we sent my music off to some venues up and down Broadway in Nashville. We figured the best place to gain experience in country music is Music City and if they liked me there then I’d know I was doing something right. They loved what they heard, so they booked me and kept asking me back. The time I spent playing in those honky tonks was like the University of Music and I’m so thankful to have been given that opportunity. I have the best memories and met some lifelong friends.
Tell us about the C2C festival and what it meant to perform there?
C2C is a wonderful festival and they do a great job at involving British country artists in the event. This year was my first time playing the festival and it was a wonderful experience. I think the only issue was there being so many artists playing the Pop-Up Stages all at the same time. I know a lot of the general public were having problems seeing all the acts they wanted to see. But on the flip side, it meant more artists got a chance to perform. It was an electric atmosphere the whole weekend and I’d definitely recommend all country music fans to attend in 2016.
How was the recent StageIt performance?
Ha ha – that was actually my first time doing a StageIt show and it was a lot of fun. I loved being able to chat with the fans as I played. they could make requests and it was very intimate. I can’t wait to do another one!
You recently toured with Sonia Leigh. Can you tell us a little about how that came about and how the whole tour went?
Sonia and I met through a mutual friend out of Atlanta. She’s become like a big sister, she’s family. We had a blast on tour together! I had been planning on doing a tour in the UK, as had Sonia. We realised we were both playing C2C on the same day as each other and suddenly the idea of the co-headline tour was born. It was very humbling to sell out venues and to see how many people turned out to the shows when you consider neither Sonia nor I have had any major UK radio play. I actually put together a tour video which I’ll be posting soon, it’s honestly one of the funniest things I’ve ever watched!!
What was your favourite show?
It’s difficult to gauge which was my favourite show. I loved them all for different reasons. Some of them it was because I saw so many friends and family in the audience, like in Birmingham. Then Culpeppers was great because I love the venue owners. London was sold out so that was incredible. They were all fantastic because the thing I enjoy most is being on stage performing.
What does it feel like to be embraced by the US country scene?
I can’t even describe it. I love the US so so much. I like to say I was born in the UK but made in America because I’ve been going over there from the age of 3 and a lot of my friends are American. The US country scene has always been very welcoming and I think that’s because they can see my passion for the genre. I’m not an artist who’s only recently gotten into country or who got into it because of the more modern pop/country acts. I was brought up listening to the old country like Willie Nelson, Don Williams and Dolly Parton, all thanks to my Dad, from 18 months old. Lots of Americans can identify with that story, or at least that’s what they’ve told me. I’m very grateful to be able to tour at home and in the US, that’s really my dream, to be able to go wherever my music takes me and wherever the fans want me to be.
How is the music scene different in the UK compared to the US? Do you feel more at home in the US due to your style?
In the US, country is a way of life, not just a music genre. When these songs talk about tailgate parties, trucks, dirt roads, mud on the tyres, tractors and all those things it’s very much talking about what really happens. When I play these big festivals over in America, that’s what you see. There really are these small towns in the middle of nowhere that people are desperate to get out of. Of course the music is very much tied up to patriotism and supporting the military, so I think all of those variables combined makes the Americans a lot more passionate than country fans in the UK. Not to say the Brits aren’t enthusiastic because they really are which I believe is down to us not having many outlets for our fandom in the UK. No matter if you’re as Pop/Country as Sam Hunt or as traditional as Garth Brooks, the same fans are going to come to both of those shows because the British country fans are hungry for the genre.
Country music is making somewhat of a resurgence in the UK and I’m interested to see how it develops over the course of the next year. When I started this professionally in 2012, it was impossible to get gigs as a country artist because venues were so opposed to the genre. Now they welcome artists with open arms. A lot of that has to do with C2C, the show Nashville, Lady Antebellum’s crossover hit “Need You Now” and of course Taylor Swift. All of those entities have brought the genre to a new generation of fans which is incredible. I still think we have a way to go as far as getting a dedicated country radio station that people can listen to in their cars and country music being a genre considered at The Brit Awards. Plus in the US there are a lot more avenues for independent artists, whereas in the UK unless you have money or a record label you’re going to have a hard job making your voice heard, which is another reason I’m thankful for how my career has developed. I’ve somehow managed to “beat the odds” I guess or maybe I just shout a little louder than some other people – ha ha!
Haven’t you been booked for five summer country festivals in the US? Tell us about which ones you’re playing? How excited are you to be performing them and which one are you looking forward to the most?
I have to pinch myself on a regular basis because it’s unbelievable that I get to perform at these festivals and alongside some of the artists I look up to in the industry. So far I’ve played Taste of Country Festival, Country Jam Colorado, Country Stampede and Headwaters Country Jam, then I still have Country Jam USA to play in July. We’ve already driven 7,000 miles in our little rental car which is now known as the “bug graveyard” because of all the insect carcasses lining the front of the vehicle!! It’s been barrels of fun and the festivals have been incredible. The crowds are enormous and it’s very humbling when I see so many people showing up to my meet and greets and CD signings. I must admit I was really excited to play Country Jam Colorado because Keith Urban was a headliner and I’m not ashamed to admit I managed to touch his hand – ha ha – so that was pretty funny. But all the festivals have been dream come true experiences, especially when the organisers have been asking me to sing the American National Anthem. At Taste of Country Festival all of the 20,000 people in the crowd were singing it back at me, it was so surreal and very heart-warming. I’m having the time of my life!
You signed with William Morris Endeavour Entertainment (WME) in Nashville. How did that come about and what does that mean being the first British country musician to do so out of the Nashville office?
When I submitted to open for Lindsay Ell, somehow the email worked its way to her representatives at WME. They listened to my music and then emailed to ask if I was playing any other shows in Nashville, which I wasn’t, so I told them I’d happily come and sing in their offices – ha ha. I’m not one to give up easily! So I did and we were talking about all the festivals I’d been booked for and they couldn’t believe we’d been able to do it all ourselves. They figured, well if you can do all of that yourselves, think what could be done with a team like WME behind you! It’s an indescribable feeling to have been the first British country artists to be signed to WME Nashville and very comforting to know I have a team of dedicated, hard-working and kind-hearted people there behind me.
You’ve recently been an advocate for Amour Propre Anti Bullying Clothing. Can you tell us a little more about that and why it’s important to you?
I was bullied a lot in Primary School and High School. It was awful! I can remember times I’d dread going to school and I felt like there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I wrote ‘I Stand Alone’ when I was 14 years-old because there came a point where I made a decision that I wasn’t going to allow these bullies to change who I was and that’s what the song is about. Ever since I wrote the song I had the idea of one day joining up with an Anti-Bullying Charity to try to raise awareness. When this opportunity presented itself I was over the moon. Amour Propre do wonderful things to connect to people of all ages and promote their “love thy self” message which really correlated with ‘I Stand Alone’. I’m very touched they wanted to join forces with me.
What is it about country music that’s so captivating and inspirational to you?
I love the storytelling, the honesty and the openness in both the music and the lyrics. I feel like it’s the only genre that has that. I’ve always loved telling stories, reading stories, writing poetry and that kind of thing which I think is why I’ve connected with the genre from such a young age. If your dog’s just died, you’ve lost your job, you’ve got married or you want to party, there’s a country song for you. It’s music about real life and that’s something everyone can relate to.
Will we see you on a solo UK tour at some point?
I’m actually embarking on my first headline tour of the UK in September and I’m bring The Cains – a Nashville-based trio and fellow C2C alumni – along with me as main support. It’ll be an 8 date tour plus during that time I’ll be opening for Will Hoge on 2 of his UK tour dates which I’m really excited about. I’m going to all the main cities plus some fan requested locations. I just played my first headline show in Las Vegas at Brooklyn Bowl which was incredible so I’m very much looking forward to headlining some shows on “home-turf”. So everyone get your tickets because it’s going to be high-energy, super fun and all about brining country fans together!