Union Music Store was born from Stevie and Jamie's interest in British and American music, their holidays with friends in Nashville and their individual skills: he's a musician and songwriter, while her background is in retail. A dream of running a music shop "one day" became reality much faster than they'd expected, as she explains. "This beautiful little building came empty just as I had sold my old shop and so we thought 'let's do it now'. That's how it started."
The size of the shop forced Stevie and Jamie to think carefully about the music they sold. "It's very small, so we went for the genres that we love: folk, country, Americana. They're all entwined. We started with about 300 records; at the beginning it was mainly CDs but now it's an equal balance of CDs and vinyl." Most importantly, there's room for a tiny performance stage: a feature the duo had seen in Nashville's music shops and wanted to bring to the UK.
Since 2010, they’ve added more room for stock and have launched their own record label. “Again, it's very much to do with our hearts, really, and what we love.” In addition, Stevie has been elected as chair of the Americana Music Association UK, an organisation that's planning to launch the UK's first Americana awards next year and also hopes to introduce an official Americana chart. "The definition of Americana music gets discussed all the time", Stevie tells me. "It's constantly changing." She describes it as an expansion beyond folk and country music, "a bigger umbrella" that covers a spectrum from bluegrass to rock.
To give me a better understanding, Stevie’s been asking other people for their definitions as well. Del Day of Ark PR, a Lewes-based company that specialises in music publicity, also emphasises the broadness of Americana. "I'd say the genre has stretched beyond the confines of just a 'country' connection and incorporates a wide range of incredible music these days", he says. "I think we are gonna need a bigger church!"
But the most emotive description comes from Jed Hilly at the original Americana Music Association in Nashville. “If you can taste the dirt through your ears, that's Americana”, he says. It sounds like Lewes is a good place to get your ears grubby.
Union Music Store, 1 Lansdown Place. 01273 474053. unionmusicstore.com
First published in Viva Lewes issue 106 July 2015.