As the largest music festival to return to Music City since the start of the pandemic, The Americana Music Association‘s annual AMERICANAFEST brought in an estimated aggregate attendance of more than 23,000 to Nashville, Tenn., from around the world during its 21st annual run on September 22-25. The association has also announced the dates for its 22nd event, taking place Sept. 13-18, 2022.
For the 21st year, AMERICANAFEST has united a dedicated community of artists, industry professionals and die-hard music fans over four days filled with 200+ musical showcasing acts, almost 50 conference panels and more than 40 special events — featuring over 400 performances. Music City served as the ideal backdrop, with festivities in close to 40 local venues located in seven Metropolitan Nashville/Davidson County city council districts.
“This year was a giant family reunion that we needed more than ever. I’m so proud of our team for finding a way to bring this event back safely to Music City after our hiatus in 2020,” said Jed Hilly, Executive Director of the Americana Music Association. “For more than two decades now, AMERICANAFEST has brought folks together from around the world to network and enjoy great live music. It’s an incredible feeling to watch this creative community thrive even during these trying times.”
The four-day gathering commenced with events that set the tone for a week of musical discoveries and unforgettable experiences. These events included an inspiring keynote interview and guided meditation with Valerie June and NPR Music’s Ann Powers at The Westin Nashville, host of AMERICANAFEST’s music business conference.
The 20th Annual Americana Honors & Awards served as the association’s hallmark event that week, celebrating distinguished musicians of the community with coveted awards while presenting show-stopping performances at the historic Ryman Auditorium. Featuring performances by Brandi Carlile, The Highwomen, The Mavericks, Keb’ Mo’, Margo Price, Allison Russell, Carla Thomas with June and more, the critically acclaimed program ended this year with a moving tribute to the late Don Everly by Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell. The ceremony has been taped for broadcast at a later date.
Official showcases during the nighttime music festival gave attendees the opportunity to witness music legends in intimate settings while also offering the chance to discover buzz-worthy acts. 2021 showcase highlights included Riddy Arman, Crowell, Sierra Ferrell, Natalie Hemby, Lilly Hiatt, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Manchester Orchestra, The Mavericks, Po’ Ramblin’ Boys, Maggie Rose, Russell, Sarah Shook & The Disarmers, Brittney Spencer, Joshua Ray Walker and more.
Throughout multiple notable and fan-favorite music venues, official showcases were held at 3rd & Lindsley, The 5 Spot, 6th & Peabody, The Basement, The Basement East, Brooklyn Bowl, Cannery Ballroom, City Winery, City Winery Lounge, EXIT/IN, The High Watt, Mercy Lounge, ONE at Cannery and Musicians Corner at Centennial Park.
Since the inaugural AMERICANAFEST in 2000, daytime conference panels have provided a first-rate educational forum to discuss varying cultural and industry-related topics among top professionals and artists from the Americana music community. This year, forward-thinking discussions ranged from an intimate conversation with Jackson Browne and The GRAMMY Museum’s Scott Goldman to a behind-the-scenes look at Joe Henry and Aoife O’Donovan’s recent collaboration with insight from Henry, O’Donovan, Darren Schneider (FullSail University) and Bruce Warren (WXPN).
Standout conference sessions at The Westin Nashville included a conversation on diversifying the music industry beyond the stage with musician/DJ Megan Coleman, Candice Watkins (Big Loud) and journalist Andrea Williams; Williams was also a part of “All Americana: The Black Experience,” a spotlight on visionaries in Americana music – Kyshona Armstrong, Allison Russell and Adia Victoria – who all discussed current realities and future hopes for Black Americana musicians during a panel moderated by Caroline Randall Williams (Vanderbilt University); and “Speaking Honestly About Mental Health,” an impactful talk with Rachel Baiman, Chris Bullard (Sound Mind), Elizabeth Porter(Entertainment Health Services) and Langhorne Slim.
In an ongoing partnership with the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum, AMERICANAFEST also presented quality programming at the renowned museum featuring an album preview and interview with Carlile, an in-depth songwriter session with Vincent Neil Emerson and a special conversation and performance with Americana stalwart, Jim Lauderdale.
Despite a challenging travel year, AMERICANAFEST 2021 was once again a national and international affair, with Conference + Festival Passholders attending from 46 states and D.C., plus from five countries outside of the U.S.: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom.
In August, event organizers shared a statement on its health and safety policy. For the Americana Honors & Awards and every AMERICANAFEST-produced event, attendees must present proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours in order to access a venue. More information on the policy can be found here.
AMERICANAFEST is the annual fundraising event for the Americana Music Association, a not-for-profit music trade organization. For more information, please visit www.americanamusic.org.