The Top 10 Eurovision related country music songs
This weekend will see the Country Music of Australia Awards, better known as the 'Golden Guitars, take place in the country music capital of Australia, Tamworth.
To mark the occasion, I'll be looking back at the country music songs to grace both the Eurovision stage and those all around Europe during national finals.
What makes a country music song is often up for debate. Well a definition from the great source of dictionary.com says it's “a style and genre of largely string-accompanied American popular music having roots in the folk music of the Southeast and cowboy music of the West, usually vocalized, generally simple in form and harmony, and typified by romantic or melancholy ballads accompanied by acoustic or electric guitar, banjo, violin, and harmonica.”
It is a starting point.... but there are so many genres and sub-genres it can be quite intense. It's sometimes no exact science. (Watch the video below if you want to learn!)
I'm going to use my own ear and experience as country music fan to find the 10 best.
So grab your whiskey, beer, pick-up truck, momma, gun and tractor and get settled in...
10. Petter Øien and Bobby Bare - 'Things Change' (Norway)
3rd Melodi Grand Prix 2012
Bobby Bare is a legend of country music in the United States. With hits songs from the 1960s up to the 1980s, his biggest hit 'Marie Levau' was no.1 on the US Country Charts while he also had hits on the US Billboard charts with 'All American Boy', 'Detroit City' and '500 Miles Away From Home'. He performed with Petter Øien who some MGP fans will remember is the lead singer of Sie Gubba who competed last year with 'Kjære Du'.
The unexpected entry came about after Petter contributed to one of Bobby's albums and they started playing together. Petter described his relationship with Bobby as a "super cool grandfather, who knows everything about music and about life". The song is one of the most pure 'country' songs in this list, it's an understated classic and with lyrics like "Things change / don't blink your eye / 'Cause if you do / they'll pass you by", it's simple but you believe the authenticity from the then 76-year-old Bobby.
The pair did incredibly well finished 3rd in the Gold Final of the 2012 contest losing to Tooji's 'Stay'.
9. Jill Johnson - 'Crazy in Love' (Sweden)
4th Melodifestivalen 2003
Jill Johnson representedSweden at Eurovision in 1998 with 'Kärleken är' finishing in 10th place. But before Jill competed in Birmingham she had started her musical career fronting a country and western band at age 12.
She returned to those roots when she took part in Melodifestivalen in 2003 with 'Crazy in Love'. The song piggy-backed on the success of big country pop that was led by Shania Twain in the late 90s and early 2000s. Although not one for the purists of country music, this definitely fits the genre of the time with a dash of Swedish Melfest thrown in. She finished 4th in the Melodifestivalen Grand Final losing out to Fame's 'Give Me Your Love'.
8. Waylon - 'Outlaw in Em' (The Netherlands)
17th at Eurovision 2018
It was only a matter of time before The Netherlands came up on the list! If we forget the problematic and just plain odd staging of 2018 in Lisbon and go back to it in its purest form, this is a fantastic country song. Bringing a dash of rock and bro country to Waylon's distinctive voice was a recipe for success. Although not an official national final, Waylon showcased five songs without a vote, but the response to 'Outlaw in 'Em' was so strong, he opted for it to go to Lisbon. ('The World Can Wait' is probably my second favourite and worth checking out.)
Waylon is the stage name of Willem Bijkerk. He idolised country music superstar Waylon Jennings and spent time with him in America learning his craft with the man himself. Some say he may have taken a tad too far with sharing the same name, but regardless it has produced one of the strongest country musicians to grace the Eurovision stage...twice!
7. Dina Misund - 'Needs' (Norway)
=5th Melodi Grand Prix 2014
Dina has rose to prominence in Norway after winning an X Factor online contest called 'Studio X' back in 2009. Her debut album soon followed in 2010 before she competing in Melodi Grand Prix in 2014. Her entry 'Needs' is a soft, mid-tempo ballad that eases along like a long train journey. You can imagine her sat with a guitar singing this in her home town, Midsunda, a small coastal village 600km north of Oslo. After competing in the first semi-final she qualified for the Grand Final where she finished outside the Top 4.
6. Pernilla Andersson - 'Desperados' (Sweden)
Andra chansen Melodifestivalen 2011
Pernilla has some musical chops behind her. With a Master's Degree from the Royal Academy of Music she has released 10 solo albums since 1999 and also produced many for other artists. This has seen her recognised numerous times at the Swedish Grammy Awards and also as a judge on musical reality show 'True Talent'.
In 2011 she entered Melodifestivalen with 'Desperados'. Its sound and her vocal is unmistakably country with a dash of pop sensibility and soaring strings. Her storytelling is strong here with lyrics of the chorus saying "And the leaves are falling over Stockholm and my home / You say, I'm never gonna leave you / You're never ever gonna see me leave / And if you give me your sorrow / I'll carry it for you / Until you've got the energy to see two desperados who always wanted more."
This is no "Shuffla, Shuffla".
She made it through to the first Andra Chansen before falling just short of the Grand Final.
She came back to Melodifestivalen in 2016 with 'Mitt guld' but went out in the first semi-final.
5. Revals - 'Kirjutan romaani' (Estonia)
8th Eesti Laul semi-final 2020
This absolute gem was overlooked at Eesti Laul in 2020. This delightful country love song had great energy, great vocals, a quality chorus, a wagon on stage and one very good looking man.
Aesthetics aside, this is quality and one the juries would have put through in 6th place. Being in Estonian also meant some of the lyrics could be lost for an international audience. The title means 'I'll Write a Novel' which appears in the chorus: "The world seemed invisible to us / From the heart to the lips / I'll paint [only you] as the most beautiful picture / I'll write a novel about you".
What was more disappointing is that Laura made it through ahead of them with her faux-country song 'Break Me' which is as authentically country as Madonna in a cowboy hat.
4. Airi Vipulkumar Kansar - 'Saatuse laul' (Estonia)
9th Eesti Laul semi-final 2015
There is no doubting the authenticity of this Eesti Laul entry from 2015. This has almost been transported from the Grand Ole Opry in the early 1970s! The sound, hair, costume and delivery is just delightful. Airi is a Queen of country of music in Estonia and had previously performed as Airi Ojamets at Eesti Laul in 2004 and 2005.
In 2015 her song, which translates to 'The Song of Destiny', competed in the first semi-final of Eesti Laul. She unfortunately finished 9th out of 10 acts and didn't get through.
3. Douwe Bob - 'Slow Down' (The Netherlands)
11th at Eurovision 2016
Douwe Bob is a country folk artist who rose to fame in The Netherlands after winning 'De beste singer-songwriter van Nederland' (The Best Singer-Songwriter of the Netherlands) in 2012. The following year he released his debut album 'Born in a Storm' which reached no.7 on the Dutch charts before hitting no.1 in 2015 with his second album 'Pass it On'. On that album was the duet 'Hold Me' with Eurovision 2013 artist Anouk which reached no.2 on the Dutch singles chart.
In 2016 he was internally selected to compete at Eurovision in Stockholm with 'Slow Down'. Remove the gimmicky silence pause midway through the song and this is a great track. Douwe's smooth vocal works so well with this melodic mid-tempo country entry infused with pop (it is a little repetitive of course).
A great front man for the performance, he finished 5th in the semi-final and managed an impressive 11th in the Grand Final including 12 points from Iceland.
2. Texas Lightning - 'No, No, Never' (Germany)
14th at Eurovision in 2006
It doesn't get much more country than this. In 2006 this Hamburg based group represented Germany with the classically country song 'No, No, Never' complete with cowboy hats and cactus on stage. The song itself was written by the group's vocalist, Australia's own Jane Comerford.
Jane was born and raised in Newcastle, and while that part of Australia features many country artists, Jane was trained in violin, piano and ballet. After moving to the United States and then on to Europe, her musical genres expanded including musical theatre before joining Texas Lightning in 2006.
To make Eurovision Texas Lightning had to defeat Eurovision royalty Vicky Leandros (1972 Eurovision winner) as well as Thomas Anders who was the former singer of German super-duo 'Modern Talking'. They easily won the national final (100% televote) before going on to place a very respectable 14th at Eurovision
They were awarded an honorary Texan Citizen in June 2006 after a proclamation was passed by their Senate. If that's not a stamp of country music approval, I don't know what is!
1 The Common Linnets - 'Calm After the Storm' (The Netherlands)
2nd at Eurovision 2014
Two of The Netherlands' and Europe's biggest country artists, Ilse DeLange and Waylon, combined to form 'The Common Linnets'. Their aim was to make it a group that consistently changed artists and to showcase country and bluegrass music across Europe.
And boy in 2014 at Eurovision they certainly got their message across!
After being internally selected, they weren't given much chance of succeeding after all studio versions of the songs were released. However their staging was pure magic in its simplicity. The moving road, the slow sweeping camera shots showcased the journey that the song itself took the listener on.
You will so often hear the undulating beat and rhythm of a country song sound like a train on the tracks or long car journey. 'Calm After the Storm' delivered that musically and visually to capture Europe's hearts, minds and ears to finish and incredible 2nd place.
It doesn't get much better than that.
So that's it, many great songs that stray too heavily into pop or folk, or others that are still great that just missed out were:
Firelight - 'Coming Home' (Malta - Eurovision 2014)
Sebalter - 'Hunter of Stars (Switzerland - Eurovision 2014)
Carousel - 'That Night' (Latvia - Eurovision 2019)
Albin Freddy - 'Music for the Road' (Denmark - Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2018)
Monika Marija - 'If I Leave' (Lithuania - Panbandom is Naujo 2020)
ManuElla - 'Blue and Red' (Slovenia - Eurovision 2016)
Follow and listen to our country music playlist below: