THE HOUSE OF SONGS GOES TO LONDON FOR
AMERICANA UK CONFERENCE AND FESTIVAL
Our very own Graham Weber was invited to speak, on behalf The House of Songs, at the AmericanaFest UK Conference and Festival
in London. Weber (Director of Artist Management and Programing) has been working with Americana Music Association UK CEO
Stevie Freeman since the summer of 2018, when Freeman recommended Robbie Cavanagh and Demi Marriner as participants in the
Songwriter Summit held at The House of Songs Ozarks in September of last year. After that summit, the group traveled to AmericanaFest in Nashville. It was after Cavanagh and Marriner concluded their performances at a showcase put on by AMAUK, British Underground, and
Under The Apple Tree where Freeman asked Weber to come and speak on an esteemed panel of other British and American facilitators
and participants of successful songwriting workshops and camps.
As details emerged, it was revealed that the conference / festival was held throughout The London Borough of Hackney, which is
the sister city of Austin, Texas. The House of Songs Founder, Troy Campbell, set up a meeting with his longtime friend and head of the
Austin-Hackney alliance Fred Schmidt, who also invited British officials and other professionals with vested interests in the Austin/Hackney relationship. It was there where Campbell and Weber met “Arkansas” Dave Pennington, the owner and CEO of Big Indie Records.
Big Indie, a label based in both Austin and London, ended up being a sponsor of one of the four official festival stages.
Pennington, (who was born in Little Rock and raised in Camden), has a lot of family ties to Northwest Arkansas, and was eager to be
involved with THOS. A few days later, Pennington came to tour the Austin house. By chance, NWA songwriter and THOS alum, Willi Carlisle
stopped in to say hello while en route to perform in San Antonio. After an introduction and recommendation from Weber, Big Indie invited Willi to perform in London as part of their official showcase. They also invited fellow NWA artist Dylan Earl, in addition to giving a portion of
the evening to The House of Songs to showcase UK artists that have participated in THOS summits and residencies.
The showcase was held at Night Tales, a large club in Hackney and was full from beginning to end with attendees and paying public
concert goers alike. Dylan Earl kicked off the night, and was followed by an electrifying performance by Willi Carlisle. Graham Weber
followed with a three song performance and brought up Manchester’s Robbie Cavanagh (September 2018 Ozarks Summit), and 2018
Artist of the Year Nominee Danni Nicholls (February 2018 Ozarks Summit, and September 2017 Artist in Residence at Austin House).
“It was so gratifying to see members of all of our Summits and alumni of our program performing and continuing to build the bridges that
we, in some way, had a part in fostering.”, said Weber. “I was able to see Kaia Kater from our first Ozarks Summit perform to a packed house
at a different club. I saw Welsh songwriter/guitarist Gareth Bonello who was part of our first Austin Summit, and also traveled with me as a
THOS delegation to the north of Sweden in attendance. As well as Danni, Robbie, and Willi, who are all phenomenal talents and who also
gave unsolicited glowing endorsements of The House of Songs and how it has benefited their careers and processes”.
The conference featured Austin’s Ray Benson (Asleep at the Wheel), a keynote address from Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops),
a live interview of John Oates (Hall and Oates) by BBC’s Bob Harris, as well as numerous panels featuring industry professionals from both
sides of the Atlantic focusing on career advancement, marketing, and creative improvement.
Weber spoke on the panel entitled, “Honing Your Craft At Songwriting Camps”.
Moderated by Dan Moore from The British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA), the panel also featured
Chris Difford (Squeeze / The Buddy Holly Foundation), acclaimed Nashville songwriters Amy Speace and Beth Nielsen Chapman, 2018
UK Artist of The Year Robert Vincent, and Scottish songwriter Roseanne Reid, and was attended by a capacity crowd at Hackney House.
“It was a great honor to be among such heralded artists who also facilitate and/or participate in co-writing workshops and speak to the
value of collaboration. It was also clear to me that no one else is doing what we are doing.” Weber continued, “While many songwriting camps
have a large number of participants, our model at the Summits is to have a curated smaller group, in an effort to not only collaborate artistically
but to grow the personal and professional relationships that can create opportunities and grow the networks for our artists. At our Songwriter Summits, everyone works with each other at least once, really binding the group together in a way that a camp with 20 or more participants
can’t do simply due to the size of the group. The House of Songs is also unique in our residencies throughout the year, in that we pair visiting
artists in residence with local artists in whichever location the guest is staying. This gives the visiting writer a better understanding and more
in depth sense of where they are, and that then finds it way into the new compositions.”
Later that night, Weber attended the AMA UK Awards at the historic Hackney Empire. Where friend of The House of Songs,
Mary Gauthier won International Artist of the Year, and Graham Nash was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award. THOS artist and
participant in the February 2018 Ozarks Summit, Jaimee Harris took lead vocals on a verse of Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land
during the grand finale, and brought the house down.
Closing Ceremony with Jaimee Harris singing Lead on "This land is your land"
Graham Weber and Graham Nash
At the closing night party, Nashville’s Wild Ponies served as the backing band for over 20 official guest artists to perform classic
Nashville and Memphis songs. Weber was asked to do a Johnny Cash song, which tied even more into THOS’ connection to
Arkansas. “I met (Peruvian born UK artist) Beth Rowley two minutes before it was my turn.” said Weber. “ I asked her if she knew
Ring of Fire and if she would perform it with me. It was great! And in the spirit of The House, I was able to collaborate with a stranger
and a new friendship was made”.
The following night, Weber was asked by Mary Gautier to attend and be a guest performer at her show at Cadogan Hall in Chelsea.
The show consisted of Gautier, Beth Nielsen Chapman, John Paul White (formerly of The Civil Wars), award winning producer
Ethan Johns, and Jaimee Harris. Other special guests included Robert Vincent, and Harry Shearer (Spinal Tap, The Simpsons), among
others. “I hadn’t been to London in twenty years,” said Weber, “I can’t think of a better way to return to such an amazing city. And to be
able to spread the word about what we are doing in NWA and Austin, and spread goodwill as an American whose work focuses
on inclusion and collaboration is meaningful to me on so many levels.”
Mary Gautier at Cadogan Hall in Chelsea
In addition to speaking and performing, Weber met with PRS Fund, The Arts Council, artist incubator The Rattle, as well forming
a partnership with AMA UK that will bring more UK artists to both Austin and Northwest Arkansas, and also create more
opportunities for US artists to perform and work with artists in the UK.