Each year the Country 2 Country Festival brings many artists over to the UK to perform for the first time. Some may be brand new names to the crowd, while others are familiar names and have already built a fan base before stepping off the plane. On Friday night in London, Mackenzie Porter will be the next artist on the long list of people who make their UK debut over the festival weekend. For Mackenzie introduction to the UK, she will be playing on the BBC Radio 2 Stage and the Spotlight Stage on the opening night at the O2. A long way from where she grew up. I grew up on a ranch about thirty minutes outside of Medicine Hat. The one thing about Nashville that is cool compared to other big cities is it still has some energy of a small-town vibe – although that’s changing a but lately – but I still feel like it has a homely feel like where I grew up. We fly Wednesday, so we have the weekend now to pack and rehearse. I’m so excited as we’ve never played shows over there, I’ve been to London before on vacation but I’m excited to get to play London and Glasgow, and then we are going to stay an extra three days and go to Edinburgh to be tourists for a couple of days before we fly home.
For some in the crowd, they will have a long list of songs they will be wanting Mackenzie to play during her sets, and she is hoping to keep everyone happy. Both sets are acoustic, which is different to what I normally play, but I kind of love it because it brings in the whole Nashville acoustic songwriter round and that’s how I started here. I will definitely be me telling how I wrote the songs more as we won’t have a whole stage production like we normally do. To make it cool, I’ll be telling people why I wrote the songs and what they mean to me to make sure I still get that connection. I’ll probably add a new one from the record but I want to play the songs that I hope people would’ve come to hear.
The night before we caught up with Mackenzie, she had been to watch Carrie Underwood at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena as part of her Denim and Rhinestones Tour. We did a girl’s night in my agent’s box. She’s just so incredible and her shows so big – she even flies across the arena – and its cool to see. Every time I go to a show now I think about the moments I like and how I can add it my set with my own spin so I’m always taking notes to see how I can make my show better. I can’t watch a regular show anymore. I’m watching it as a fan but thinking about it from an artist’s perspective to make my show better. Using people’s ideas and making them your own is how we all get better and that’s what everyone does to grow and be better. You need to take a little moment from here and here to create something cool for yourself. I used to go a lot more, I’m not in town as much anymore – especially weekends – to see shows but last week we went to one and then again last night so I get to them when I can but all my friends that are songwriters or are in the industry we all talk about how we don’t go to as many shows as we probably should! You’re always around it and there’s always a show going on, but last night was epic and I’d never pass up an opportunity to see a show like that. With Mackenzie looking to break into the UK market with her upcoming appearances, she has been working hard over the last year to introduce herself around the world – having also played shows across Australia. It’s really cool. Those are the pinch me moments - specifically Australia – and hopefully that is how it will be when I come over to the UK, but I was so shocked at how many people knew my songs. So shocked! If you aren’t there then you don’t feel like anything is happening, so when I showed up and played the songs, they didn’t just know the singles, they knew the albums cuts too and that was so cool. I hope that when I come to London and Glasgow people will know at least the singles.
Canadians are no strangers to the C2C weekend, with three being on the line-up this year, and many have now gone on to perform their own headline shows in the capital. But why the UK? I think we are all trying to build fans in all different markets. For me the country scene in the UK and Australia is growing so much that why wouldn’t we try to go over there and meet people; grow our fan base; build a touring business; and get to play music. I’m personally really impressed with the Canadian artists – especially the females – who are making these bigger moves and make big progress for the Canadian country scene in the rest of the world. I’ve never done a headlining show before, so this year I’m doing a run in Canada and want to do that everywhere. I think that’s what’s so cool about travelling to these places as you can really build something. You go the first time and 20 people go to your show, you come again and the 50 people come, then 200 people come. You’re growing the number of people that are hearing your music and I want to keep doing it. We couldn’t talk with Mackenzie without finding out more about some of her recent collaborations, having worked with Dallas Smith, Dustin Lynch, and Cheat Codes I wrote that song back in Covid during a writer’s retreat. It was a pretty pop song so didn’t fit on my project that I’m about to put out but the A and R guy from my label was telling me about the Cheat Codes record and asked if I had any EDM/ Country songs! I said I had one that had that kind of vibe so I sent it to them thinking nothing was going to happen. Once I heard they liked it I thought they would just want to get a big name on it but they said no and wanted me on it. It was a song that was good fun to write out of a cabin two years ago!
Mackenzie was thrust into the limelight last year with the success of her track with Dustin Lynch – Thinking ‘Bout You. But how bigger impact can a smash hit song have on an artist so early in their career? Within Nashville I now get to write with the best writers in town for my record and I’ve gotten to play so many cool shows from it. Even with radio in the US they now know me so it has opened so many doors that has now set me up to hopefully make my debut record a lot bigger. Throughout our chat Mackenzie hinted about new music so we had to find out what was in the works I have about ten songs recorded already, but we want it to be up to twenty songs! There’s till another five ready to cut and five we still need to write, so hopefully if all goes well it will be out for the end of the summer. I think in the fall we will be touring it, definitely up in Canada, and looking to do things with an artist in the States. We’ve already spoken about coming over to the UK again and returning to Australia. It all falls in place once the music is out, so these next few months the focus is on the record and then the rest will come. I already know I want to come back to play and I’ve only been there as a tourist before. I get to go into these shows with no expectations and that’s so exciting for me.
Mackenzie Porter will be appearing at C2C: Country to Country in London on Friday 10th March on the BBC Radio 2 Stage and in the main arena on the Spotlight Stage before heading to play in Glasgow on Saturday 11th March. Full festival details and ticket information are available on the WEBSITE or socials (INSTAGRAM / TWITTER / FACEBOOK)