Kate and Caroline chatted to the lovely Leslie Stevens ahead of her set at The Long Road Festival.
Kate: Hi Leslie, how are you? You survived staying at Jacquie’s this week? She is a really good friend of ours.
Leslie: I did, she was so sweet. She couldn’t do enough for me.
Caroline: Did she get you lots of bacon?
Caroline: Yes, she always gets lots of bacon and sausages!
Leslie: Very American breakfast.
Caroline: How have you enjoyed your UK tour?
Leslie: It’s been great, really lovely. It makes me feel like a real artist.
Caroline: You are a real artist! What are you talking about?
Leslie: I know, but I am the kind of person that every day I wake up and tell myself I am not a real artist.
Kate: Someone is going to tap you on the shoulder and say “What are you doing?” – imposter syndrome?
Leslie: Yes! I can’t help it.
Caroline: You are here, in a foreign country, playing a lovely festival – you are a real artist!
Leslie: I am, and it is so much fun! It takes a little bit of effort to get here, it takes a little bit of money so its legitimising when all of these people are listening to you play the little songs that you made. It’s like a needlepoint pillow that you come to display, it really is a craft.
Kate: The Long Road is such a good opportunity to get yourself known over here. I’ve just seen Charley Crockett’s gig. I’m sure that most people watching and listening to him would not have heard or seen him before. But, I bet the next time he comes over his gigs will sell out. It is a great platform for the less, shall we say, ‘commercial’ artists to get their music heard. Sometimes it is the finding of the music and artists that is difficult.
Leslie: It is really cool.
Caroline: Have there been any English ‘culture shocks’ that you’ve noticed since you have been over here?
Leslie: Everyone seems to be so courteous here. The audience really listen, you don’t really move around. When I played in London everyone was stock still except for one person moving his head, and it turned out that he was American!
Caroline: Was he talking too?
Leslie: No, but he caused a big problem at the club.
Caroline: Your new album is fantastic, so different. I know that you were a country rock artist for a long time previously?
Caroline: So, how much has motherhood mellowed you and your song-writing? How has it changed you?
Leslie: You know, it hasn’t changed me at all in terms of my writing, but it has made me a sucker for every human being. I see every single person walking the earth as someone’s child now and it is painful. I cannot help it, so it has really changed my view of the world and made me really empathetic and I wish that I could have five children, but there is no way, it is not going to happen! Maybe I will adopt more kids. I am a single mother, it is very scandalous, and I was not married, I didn’t even marry him!
Caroline: I love you even more now!
Leslie: I am a sinner!
Caroline: I note that you are labelled as cosmic country…
Kate: Is that like Sturgill cosmic country?
Leslie: A little bit..
Caroline: Is that something you are happy with? Is it something that you’ve said?
Leslie: It is something that other people labelled me, but I love that stuff, some people call it trippy country, druggy country. They will not necessarily have been on drugs or just altered states of consciousness. It is really down to earth at its foundations, and it’s really fun to take it to places that are a little bit more cosmic or out there.
Caroline: Obviously we are at The Long Road Festival so metaphorically or literally, what is the longest road that you have travelled?
Leslie: Travelling to here was pretty long! Only the obvious answer, it’s motherhood. It is brutal. It is really challenging and so great at the same time.
Kate: Does your daughter come on the road with you at all?
Leslie: She doesn’t. She hasn’t really heard my music. I do try to sing to her though. She is six and in kindergarten. She never really wants me to sing to her.
Kate: On the Front Porch Stage, Smith and Brewer were playing and one of their sons came up to the stage and said “It’s too loud Daddy!” Ha ha!
Leslie: That is hilarious! There have been a couple of times that she has come with me. One time I took her on stage with me and she peed all over me. She was really little and the only accident she has ever had! She was at that stage where you can keep them up really late as they sleep a lot in the day still. I had her on my hip and she just peed on me. One other time she came on stage with me she held on to my thigh. She was really clingy. I always wanted a clingy baby and now I think, “Oh why did I ask for that?!”
Caroline: Looking at the music industry at the moment, are there any changes that you’d like to see?
Leslie: I’m excited for these streaming services to calm down and give a little bit more of their profits back to the artist. I do not know how other musicians are going to be able to survive. I met a 14 year old girl yesterday who wants to be songwriter. She showed me some of her beautiful work. I want to be able to say to her, ‘Yes, you can do this.’
Kate: The pluses of streaming and the internet now is that it is easier to get your music out there initially, but the negatives are that you do not get reimbursed correctly or fairly. It is our responsibility as music fans to pay for the music that we have the privilege to enjoy, whether it is a t-shirt, cd, vinyl etc. I read somewhere that one t-shirt was worth the same as 5,000 streams, 76% of all music is streamed. The best way to directly support an artist is to buy their merchandise. (Rocksound 2019). 150 streams of a song equals one paid download. An artist’s music will have to be streamed 1500 times for an album sale to be counted. (Forbes 2016).
Leslie: Exactly and the prices have remained the same. So, we get the same now as we did 15 years ago.
Kate: I find it infuriating. Fans wouldn’t work for free, it works both ways. Plus you have to pay your band, the studio time etc. I’m not sure that it is that fans want music free so much as they do not think too much about the business model behind the music they love.
Leslie: That is a really good way to example how much artists are making. One t-shirt is worth 5,000 streams! I actually got the Danish gig because I played a show over here with Tyler Childers and the booker for the festival was at the show.
Kate: You mean Tonder Festival?
Leslie: Yes, it was lovely. I hope that I get asked back.
Kate: I am hoping to go next year.
Leslie: It was so much fun. I love Lucinda Williams. I ask myself ‘how much have I personally given to this particular artist’. I try to think like that. I own two of her records, I have gone to a few of her shows. How much have a really given her? $50 … Is that enough?
Kate; I flew to Boston for two days for Eric Church and then to Nashville for a week. I think I have paid enough to Eric. Ha ha!
Leslie: I love that!
Caroline: We are really looking forward to your set later.
Leslie: I really wish that I had a full band, it is just me.
Caroline: We are being wound up unfortunately, but next time you must bring your full band with you.
Leslie: I will, thank you!