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.
Switching gears a bit, you released your new album, Songs of Bob Dylan earlier this month. I read that it was inspired by a residency at NYC’s famed The Carlyle. Why in particular did you choose to focus on Bob Dylan as opposed to anyone else?
Well, the idea for doing the Bob Dylan songbook record had been in the back of my mind for a long time. I had this collection of Ella Fitzgerald’s called The Song Books where she picked out different writers from her era, like Cole Porter and Duke Ellington, and devoted one album to each of them. In the back of my mind, I knew that I would love to do something like that myself, so when we got the call to do a residency at The Carlyle, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to test this idea out and pick one writer and focus solely on their work for the whole residency. We went to them with the idea of doing that and using Bob Dylan’s songs and they were completely down with it. It turned out to be a real successful residency that also allowed us to run with the material, work through arrangements, and decide what worked and what didn’t. It was great to have that period to develop the material and then make the album.
Part of the reason we chose Bob is because of the vast amount of material - he has hundreds of amazing songs, so we were never going to run out of new material to try. Also, I had a history of covering his songs in the past; we did “The Man in the Long Black Coat” on Relish and “Make You Feel My Love” on Righteous Love, and I had also performed with him, so I felt like there would be this natural affinity – it just felt right.
Are the songs on the album strictly ones you did during the residency?
We worked up and learned a lot more songs than we had room for on this album, so part of what we’re doing with the live shows is drawing from that bag of songs that we learned, yet for whatever reason didn’t get on the record. I like to do something special for the live fans because they are what sustained me as an artist over the many years, so when people come to a show they will be able to hear songs that are not available to download or stream or hear anywhere else. They're like live bonus tracks.
That’s really special.
Is there any particular reason you closed out the album with “Ring The Bells?”
It’s kind of an instinctive process to place a running order for an album and that song felt like a closing prayer. It’s sort of an elegy, and has a bit of sorrow in it, but it also has a great dignity and the feeling of continuing in the face of sorrow. It felt like a closer to us.
Moving forward, is there anyone you have in mind for the next songbook?
I have several people in mind. We could certainly do a Volume 2 of Bob Dylan, but I also love Lou Reed, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, and Lucinda Williams and would love to see if there was a way to bring something different and fresh to those songs. There are a lot of great writers I would love to give the songbook treatment to.
With the new record and touring, what does the remainder of 2017 hold for you?
There will be a lot of shows, which I am excited very excited about, and I will be doing a lot of writing. I love the idea of doing a songbook series while also having a parallel track I can travel working on my own material.
For more information on Joan Osborne visit her official website
Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Spotify
Purchase Songs of Bob Dylan HERE
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