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2016 iHeartCountry Festival


2016 iHeartCountry Festival

Nathan Armstrong

“Keep Austin Weird”, more like “Keep Austin Country”, am I right?! The third annual iHeart Country Festival took place in Austin, Texas this past Saturday and we were lucky enough to get to hang out for the evening! From countless performances by legendary country artists to chatting with people on the red carpet- the night was a whirlwind, but we tried to catch it all.

Hosted by Bobby Bones and Brooklyn Decker, the iHeart Country Festival was a massive event with performances by artists including Florida Georgia Line, Sam Hunt, Brett Eldridge, Cole Swindell, Miranda Lambert, Thomas Rhett, Lee Brice, Keith Urban, Chris Young, and Zac Brown Band; as well as special guest appearances by Ben Higgins and Lauren Bushnell from The Bachelor, Minka Kelly, Ashley Greene, and American Idol’s Trent Harmon. A night this big is hard to summarize but we can definitely talk about highlights of the night and things we got to discuss with artists!

We got to hang out on the red carpet before the show began and some of our favorite people to talk to were Ben Higgins and Lauren Bushnell from The Bachelor. We asked them about their musical guilty pleasures, and they truly proved themselves the most precious couple of all time when they immediately called each other out on them! Lauren let us know that Ben sings Adele… all the time. Can’t say we’re surprised though, seeing as the entire world has probably had “Hello” stuck in their heads since the day it came out. When asked what Lauren’s musical guilty pleasure is Ben said, “Definitely Justin Bieber. She has a poster of him in her room!” Lauren cleared the air for us though and said that the poster is not there anymore, and that she took it down when they moved after The Bachelor ended.  Bummer, I’m sure it would have made a lovely addition to their new home!

There were too many amazing moments to count during the show, but one of the most memorable ones came from Zac Brown Band’s set. They did a tribute to Prince by covering his 1984 hit “Let’s Go Crazy” – and it was a beautiful way to honor the late rock star, and everything he has done to creatively further music through his career- even among different genres of music. 

Another great moment was when Chris Young brought Cassadee Pope on stage during his set to sing their duet “Think Of You”. We got to chat with Pope before the show and talked about her musical influences. 

“My biggest influence is definitely Shania Twain,” said Pope. “She stands for so many amazing things like women empowerment and standing your ground, and being sexy and classy at the same time. And I also love her storytelling through her songwriting, it’s always relatable on every level.”  Cassadee must be taking the right notes from Shania Twain because we could say the same about her!

Personally, my very favorite moment was seeing Keith Urban’s entire set.  He’s been in the country scene for as long as I have listened to country music and he’s always been one of my favorites. If you’ve never seen him live- please go. He is truly amazing and you’ll be just as floored as I was by his guitar skills. He sang his new single “Wasted Time” and I’m happy to say that Keith’s still got it. Will he ever stop bringing us summer hit after summer hit? Let’s hope not, because I wouldn’t want to live in that world.

To say that the iHeart Country Festival was amazing is a true understatement, and it’s hard to fully summarize the magnitude and energy of such an event. It’s so big that the city of Austin has now declared Saturday, April 30, 2016, “iHeart Country Day” as a new holiday in the city. We are all for it and we hope that iHeartRadio can continue to keep Austin country for years to come with this festival.

- Lauren McFadden