Throughout its eight-year history, The Festy Experience has worked hard to produce a diverse festival experience that illustrates its core values: a family-friendly atmosphere, a love of craft food & beer, appreciation for the outdoors, and of course, stellar music. This year The Festy Experience will be held October 5-8 in the Blue Ridge Bowl at Infinity Downs Farm in Arrington, Virginia. The (largely female) lineup comprises a carefully curated blend of national and local roots music acts including Ani DiFranco, Phoebe Hunt, and Joan Osborne who graciously took some time to chat about The Festy, her critically acclaimed new album Songs of Bob Dylan, and more.
This is your first appearance at The Festy, what drew you to want to be a part of the festival?
I am a big lover and appreciator of outdoor festivals. In general, they’re such wonderful laid-back experiences that I’ll always say yes to. They’re a really great way to connect with the fans in a fun and casual way, and I always end up meeting other musicians or hearing a band I did not already know and become friends with, or a fan of, them.
Outdoor festivals are something special. Do you find that you adjust your set list for them as opposed to say playing in a theatre or club?
Yes, because acoustically, playing in a big field outdoors is entirely different from playing a theatre or club. I wouldn’t do a whole show of ballads or slow songs because that would fall flat, so we try to keep the energy up. We adjust the set list a bit to try to load it with tunes that are more suitable to an outdoor environment.
You mentioned that you always end up meeting different musicians. As a performer, do you enjoy seeing live music?
Oh, absolutely. That is one of the reasons I love doing festivals because normally when I am on tour I don’t have the chance to go out at night and see other bands because I’m working. And when I am at home, I try to stay at home and hang with my daughter and family. So, a festival is the perfect chance to catch bands that are on before or after me as well as hang out and meet people in the green room. It’s a great thing.
Is there anyone performing at The Festy that you are excited to see again or for the first time?
I’m so excited to see Jerry Douglas. I worked with him years and years ago in Scotland when we did The Transatlantic Sessions, but I have not worked with him since. I’m also looking forward to seeing The Infamous Stringdusters and perhaps discovering someone new.
Throughout its eight-year history, The Festy Experience has worked hard to produce a diverse festival experience that illustrates its core values: a family-friendly atmosphere, a love of craft food & beer, appreciation for the outdoors, and of course, stellar music. This year The Festy Experience will be held October 5-8 in the Blue Ridge Bowl at Infinity Downs Farm in Arrington, Virginia. The (largely female) lineup comprises a carefully curated blend of national and local roots music acts including Ani DiFranco, Phoebe Hunt, and EmiSunshine who graciously took some time to chat via email about The Festy, her stellar new album Ragged Dreams, and more.
The Festy is in its 8th year. Have you performed or attended before?
I was at Festy last year; the event is like a big family gathering--the artists and fans… all together. It's a very relaxed atmosphere and the most awesome musical experience ever (for everyone).
You will be the emcee at The Festy this year, which is really exciting! How did that come about and what do your duties entail?
Well, when organizers extended the invitation, I had to think about it some; I mean, I'm still learning. I watched Jim Lauderdale last year and he's the best! I'm 13; I don't know exactly what my duties are but I'm up for anything. I've been researching each band (and that's been fun to get to know them and learn about their music and careers). I just want to be hospitable and welcoming to everyone... I hope to do a good job! I just want to be me.
Being that you are a performer, do you enjoy seeing live music and is there anyone you are excited to see at The Festy either again or for the first time?
I really love going to live shows…going to concerts during my off time. While all of the artists on the Festy bill are amazing, I'm really very excited to see the Jerry Douglas Band, Sam Bush, and Joan Osborne. I love the Infamous Stringdusters; oh...and I love Cabinet…and well, just about all of the performers that will take the stage. It's going to be a thrill for everyone.
Switching gears a bit, you recently released a new album, Ragged Dreams, which is simply wonderful. To me, you write with the perspective of someone who seems to have an old soul. Where do you draw from when writing?
I'm an eavesdropper! I listen to everything; I take everything in. I draw from everyday life and what's happening around me--within family and friends, our community and around the country.…and sometimes 'real life' is just hard, or sad, or tragic; that's what I like to write about. I also use my imagination to create stories and situations. Sometimes a scary movie will give me an idea for a song (I LOVE scary movies). My mom taught me to write (she's a great writer as well); I draw from her and she from me. She starts a line and I finish; it's really a great way to write.
Singer-songwriter Jesse Terry delivers a personal, honest, and lushly orchestrated album with his fourth full-length, Stargazer, which was released on September 15th. Infused with the warmth of a beautifully arranged string quartet, “Stargazer” brings a sense of hope that Terry carries within himself. A few days ahead of the album's release, Terry took the time to chat about the project, songwriting, and more.
Even though you released an EP in 2015, your last full-length came out in 2013. How did things pull together for Stargazer?
Technically it’s been four years, but with the EP released in 2015, it doesn’t feel like that long ago. During those years, I was touring all over the world [Terry frequently plays in the UK, Europe, and New Zealand] and needed time to write, prepare, and plan for this record. Time flew by, and here we are.
Stargazer has a few different touches than your previous records.
Yeah, there’s a bit that’s different. There was a lot more pre-production, a lot more arranging, and a lot more thought about what we could do to make it interesting and exciting. For example, I had the idea to use strings on the album because it was something my favorite artists and inspirations, like The Beatles, Roy Orbison, and ELO, did. We brought in a string arranger [Danny Mitchell] and an amazing string section to play on the album which, for me, was a dream come true.
Why did you choose to title the album Stargazer, which is also the first track on the record?
I had been playing the song out for about a year, and it was one of those songs that just had an impact on people. I felt the strings, which to me bring so much emotion to any song, added a cosmic, dreamy, and magical element to the record. It just seemed like the perfect title. Additionally, Sarah Darling put "Stargazer" on her album, which was incredibly humbling and exciting, and the positive response to the song there put extra validation on the fact that the song should be the title.
With two albums, Heroes & Hometowns and Let Love In, under her belt, Ayla Brown brings new music to her fans both new and old with the release of her new single, "Label," a mid-tempo country rocker which ponders the relatable question many of us face when in a relationship - "what are we?" Recently, Brown took the time to answer a few questions via email about her roots, the single, and more.
Before we dive into the single, when did you first become interested in music and know you wanted to pursue it professionally?
I became interested in music at a very young age, but I never even took the stage until I was much older. My first performance (in front of people) was when I was 12 years old. I sang the National Anthem at a high school girl’s basketball game and still to this day I remember how nervous I was. After I was done, the announcer called me over to the table and handed me an envelope with a check in it for $12! I ran to my mom and excitingly said, “Mom, I just got paid to sing the Anthem! If I did every home game, this could be my living someday!” I always love telling that story because I am doing this for a living and I couldn’t be happier.
Do you have any musical influences/inspirations?
I’ve always been a huge fan of Celine Dion. To me, she is everything. (If I could only hit the high notes like she can though!) But, over the years my musical loves have expanded to artists like Brandi Carlile, Josh Turner, Brett Young, and Holly Williams. I am a big fan of artists who writer their own music. I feel as though that’s the best way to get to know an artist.
Recently, you released your new single, “Label.” Did you write it? If so please tell the story behind the song and if not, what drew you to the song?
I co-wrote “Label” with Erik Halbig in a little writing room in Nashville on a cold winter day. I had the idea to write a song about a label on the bottle, but like most songs, it evolved into a song about a relationship. In many relationships you end up dating a person for a number of months and all of a sudden you reflect on where the relationship is headed and you say, “Are we just a fling? Or are we a thing? If so, we should probably put a label on it.” I guess in a nut shell, that’s what this song is about.
Will there be a music video for it?
I hope so! Music videos are expensive. I am an independent artist and everything I make musically is re-invested back into my career. I love that aspect of my career, but in cases like these, it becomes hard to keep spending money. If there’s anyone out there who wants to help me with a video I am ALL EARS! haha
Hailing from North Carolina, singer-songwriter Erin McLendon earned her Bachelor's of Music degree in Commercial Voice (with an emphasis in Music Business) at Belmont, but she continues to “study” music as an extension of her personal and artistic growth embracing various styles into something that is uniquely her own. Recently, the newcomer released her latest project, MAKING IT UP AS WE GO, a seven-track collection of tunes with clever and relatable storylines that make for a welcome listen. Via email, McLendon kindly took the time to answer a few questions about her roots, the record, and more. Get to know her in the interview below!
You graduated Belmont with a Bachelor's of Music degree in Commercial Voice with an emphasis in Music Business, did you always know music was something you wanted to pursue?
Being a recording artist and stage performer has been a dream since childhood, but it wasn’t on my radar as a viable career path until I visited colleges and learned that I could major in music business. The education offered so many potentials to open different doors in the music and entertainment sector.
I hear a lot of varied sounds on the album, which I love, so where do you draw from artistically?
I listened to a variety of artists growing up. My parents listened to two entirely different radio stations taking us to and from school. My Dad tuned into a station that played Queen, The Beatles, Jimmy Buffett, Aerosmith and Phil Collins. While my Mom listened to Aretha Franklin, Earth Wind & Fire, Michael Buble and Rod Stewart. In middle school, I changed the channel to listen to country music. I loved all the musical stylings of the artists I grew up listening to and I’ve always been a "curious" listener; I like to explore various genres and learn from them. What drew me to country/Americana was the honesty and rawness of the lyrics. I don't really follow any genre-specific rules; I incorporate sounds and lyrics that I am drawn to and that I find interesting. I’m a firm believer that if you shut yourself off to other genres of music, you’re limiting yourself and your music from being the best that it can be.
Did you write all the tracks on the album? If so where do you pull from when writing and if not, what drew you to record the songs?
I wrote and co-wrote all of the songs on my new album (MAKING IT UP AS WE GO); "Honolulu Love" is a solo write -- a song that I wrote coming back from Hawaii. I really love going into writing sessions with an idea or two and seeing where it goes. Most of the songs on the new album reveal where I am in my life right now. I’m at a place where I’m very comfortable and happy with who I am, with what I’m doing and where things are going!
Why did you choose to title the album Making It Up As We Go, which is also a track on the record?
"Making It Up As We Go" is actually one of the most auto-biographical songs I’ve ever written. When you graduate from college, you’re suddenly expected to know exactly what you want to do and how you’re going to do it. But, let’s be honest; that’s ridiculous. I’m five years out of college now and I look back at who I was then; "that girl" is almost completely different from the woman I am today. I chose “Making It Up As We Go” as the title track because I think it offers a message to remind ourselves that everyone grows and changes as they go through life. Every day is a mystery as to what’s actually going to happen; so…we’re all literally “making it up as we go!
Hailing from California, country newcomer Natalie Alexander is here to make her mark on the music industry with her versatile songs that evoke a range of emotion. A singer, songwriter, and guitarist, Natalie recently released her self-titled EP and is seeing its current single, “Cruel" connect with country listeners. Via email, Natalie kindly took the time to discuss her roots, the EP, and more.
Before we dive into the song, can you give a little background as to when you began having an interest in music and knew you wanted to pursue it professionally?
I've been involved with music my whole life. My mom is a classically trained vocalist and my brothers are talented musicians as well. Piano was a huge part of my life, I began playing when I was 8 and really fell in love with it. When my brothers' band was developing I became involved in managing it that was really my introduction to the industry. There came a point when I decided I wanted to start creating my own music and so I began working on my own projects privately which culminated into the release of my first single "Cruel" in June, followed my EP that was released a month later.
Do you have any musical influences or inspirations?
I've always listed Shania Twain, Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift as my greatest influences and that definitely remains true today but there are some new artists who I really admire, especially Maren Morris. She really came out and took the industry by storm. Her sound is so unique in how it incorporates elements of both old and new country music. I can see myself experimenting with certain parts of her style in the future because she is such an inspiration to me. She's incredibly bold in my opinion. It's great!
Why did you gravitate to Country music in particular?
I've always loved country music, I would listen to it every day on the way to school. When deciding to enter that market specifically, it was an easy choice not only because it's what I'm passionate about but because it fits my voice and my sound really well. I also love the country music community so that was definitely a factor that influenced my decision.
One of the hardest working names in showbusiness – and a lifelong devotee of country music – Marty Stuart put out his 18th studio album, Way Out West, earlier this year.
An ode to the state of California and its music (the Bakersfield Sound, surf guitar, etc.), the record was produced by Mike Campbell, guitarist with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and was highly acclaimed upon its release.
Marty, 58, is currently on tour in the US and next month will undertake a short tour of the UK and Ireland – his first visit to that part of the world since March when he performed at the C2C Festival. He laughs when asked what he's been up to of late. "Same thing I've been doing for 45 years! Play music, go to bed, get up, play music…"
Commenting on his appearance at C2C, Marty notes: "It had been a while since I'd been there [to the UK]. Things can change so fast and I knew that the look and the sound and the feel of country music had probably changed.
"It had a lot of contemporary fans who had probably never heard of Johnny Cash, other than seeing a Johnny Cash t-shirt or something. I was interested to see how it worked, but it worked out fine and I think everybody responded to what we did in a very favourable light.
"Before we left the arena in London that night, we were invited to come back and do the tour this fall. I was glad, so here we come!"