Kate: Hi, so, The Long Road Festival…. it was a great success wasn’t it? Did it meet your expectations?
Baylen: I was really happy with year one. You know, you never know when you are putting something like this together, it can sound really great. You had it great on paper but obviously it boils down to how people experience it and what people think once they are there. I was just really pleased to look around and see people having a good time. You know they’re obviously seeing acts that they already loved but also going to see acts that they hadn’t heard of before. Then coming out after The Long Road and being big supporters of those bands. That is exactly what The Long Road is about. It’s being able to see those artists that you know you love but also being able to discover new artists that you haven’t heard of and find something that you love there as well.
Kate:There were quite a few new artists for us to enjoy. Was it Lone Bellow and another band that said that they hadn’t been to the UK before? They were really popular.
Baylen:I think Folk Song Revival. Yes, it was great for them, you know. They had never performed in the UK before. I knew that the UK audience would cut it and get what Folk Song Revival were doing. I was really, really pleased to see that that was the case. You know it is as much about the fans enjoying it as it is as it is about the bands. If the fans can get something new out of it and the bands can realise that there is this appetite, this hunger and this appreciation of what they do here. That just means that the genre’s got to grow and grow and grow.
Kate:The other thing that I thought was good about it was the mix of artists; Americana, Roots and more mainstream country like Aaron Watson. The fans of popular country music who may not have paid money to see someone like Brent Cobb or Zach Logan prior to The Long Road had the chance to see them and many would now go to their solo gigs. I loved the AMA UK ‘Front Porch’ stage. My abiding memory is watching Zach Logan at eleven at night, it was chilly and you could see your breath. He just stood there sang and played. His Dad was beaming away with pride filming him. It was just such a lovely moment and he was just amazing. Most of us hadn’t heard of him.
Baylen: That was the first time he’d ever been to the UK as well. I knew that he would resonate with the fans. He’s doing really great things in America. He’s managed by Neil from the Cadillac Three. It was Neil who approached me and said ‘Hey listen to this guy. I think he’s going to be really great for your festival’. He was, and we have loads of that for this year, as well as people that you already know like Kip Moore, Lanco, Morgan Evans and Eric Pasley. Josh Turner’s never been here before which is unbelievable. Asleep at the Wheel, back in the day they won lots of Grammys. They’ve been going for years and years and years.
Kate:So is the whole band coming? Not just Ray?
Baylen:The entire band. And this is the first time I think, in fourteen years that the entire band has been to the UK. Of course you know there’s loads of artists that we’ve already announced that maybe some people haven’t heard of them but just like those bands last year that really resonated that people hadn’t heard of before I know that’s going to happen again this year.
Kate:I think with Rhiannon Giddens a lot of fans of the more mainstream music may not have heard her music before will love her. She is so knowledgeable and talented in such a quiet way. She was so amazing at Americana this year.
Baylen: That’s what it’s all about. You know coming to see the artists that you like and then discovering somebody. Conversely people may come to see Rhiannon Giddens or Asleep At The Wheel thinking that Kip Moore isn’t for them or Thompson Square isn’t for them, but listen to them and think that they are brilliant artists as well.
Kate:Sometimes you may not like the recorded music of an artist but then you see them live and it is a totally different experience. Aaron Watson replacing Carrie as the headline when she was sick, if you hadn’t known that there was originally someone else headlining you wouldn’t have been disappointed. He was masterful.
Baylen: He was amazing. This is a guy that plays to stadiums in the U.S. Just a few weeks before The Long Road he played to eighty thousand people at a rodeo in Texas. I had no doubt that he would absolutely step up. It was also really wonderful for him as well because he played to a bigger audience than he has he’s ever played in the U.K. He absolutely delivered and made so many new fans, so it worked out fine.
Kate: I liked the way that he worked the stage, always checking in with the kids. There is something different about the country artist to other artists that I can’t really put my finger on it.
Baylen:Well, The Long Road has a real family vibe to it. If you if don’t bring your family of course you can have a whole different time, but if you do bring your family there’s so much there for them. Not only were the artists doing that but also at the Interstate Stage where it was really, really packed, our security team were letting the kids come around in front of the crash barriers to get right in front of the stage and be protected and that’s just the environment that we want to create. Everybody is welcome and it’s a place where whether you’re three years old or whether you’re eighty years old you’re going be taken care of. You’re going to have a good time.
Kate: Which is great because you’re not only building new fans but also allowing parents to come because they haven’t got to worry about childcare. Are there any sort of major things that you would change?
Baylen:I think everything worked really well last year. There were two things that we knew quite instantly just from being there and then also from feedback because we listened to our audience. We asked them what they would like differently and that was the Interstate Stage and the Highfalutin VIP area. The Interstate Stage is going to be completely reimagined this year, it’s going to be much bigger. It’s be more integrated with the festival and themed more like the rest of the festival so it creates a much nicer environment to be in. For the VIP area we are adding a lot more seating and adding more undercover seating. I think that what we were creating with the VIP area was the place to be comfortable and somewhere to get away from the crowds and to have a higher standard of amenities. I think that maybe along the way we didn’t communicate correctly what it was that we were offering. So, we went back to the drawing board a little bit and we’ve added a lot of the things that people said they wanted; more seating, undercover seating, more fires and things to keep people warm when it gets dark and if it is cold. So that’s good. We’ve addressed those by listening to the feedback that we received.
Everybody seemed pretty happy with everything else which made me very happy.
Kate:I think it was the fairground wheel that was distracting for some of the artists, for example The Wandering Hearts you could hear the fairground over them. The Interstate Stage sometimes was sometimes quite loud for the Front Porch Stage when the artists were playing acoustic.
Baylen: That’s something we’ve taken into consideration as well. And of course, those little things like getting them to turn off the music on the Ferris wheel. We did all of our due diligence in the way that we faced the stages. But sometimes if you have a particularly windy day, even if you have done all of your due diligence, it is crazy to think about, but the wind actually does carry the sound. It is definitely something that we have thought about and we are going to work on this year.
Kate:What are your goals going forward for The Long Road festival? In five years time what would you hope it would look like?
Baylen: Obviously we want to grow it but I never want to grow it so big that we lose the heart and soul of what it’s about. We don’t want to lose that authenticity. But I also want more people to experience it. With the reaction that we’ve had for ticket sales this year it’s certainly going to be the case. As we go forward we will obviously add more stages. We’re not adding more stages this year because I think five stages is a really good place to be in for year two and gives us a real opportunity to showcase lots of different artists. But as we grow the festival we will grow the stages and it just means that we’ll be able to add all of those things and we will get to grow the lifestyle element of it out as well. That downtown bit of Nashville that we created with a honky tonk, in years to come we will grow that. I just want to get it to a state where I don’t want people to feel like they are overrun and that is too much to deal with. I want people to have space and be able to enjoy the music to have a good time with their friends and their family and to know it’s a friendly festival and that can only happen when it remains a certain size I think.
Kate: Are there any more artists to still to confirm?
Baylen:Oh yes! We’ve only announced thirty so far and last year keep in mind that we had over seventy artists at the end of the day. We still have a lot to announce, absolutely!
Kate:How is the new radio station, Country Hits UK?
Baylen: Very good. It’s really just an exciting time for country music and so exciting that there’s so much energy behind it and so many people figuring out that actually they do like country music and joining all the folk that that have already been loving country music. It’s just a really great time and I’m just really excited to be able to play country music on the radio every day. What a joy!
Kate:What are you listening to at the moment?
Baylen:I’m listening to everything at the moment. Lainey Wilson I’m absolutely loving. Lauren Jenkins, I’m liking Clara Bond from the U.K. I love the new Brooks and Dunn Reboot album. I’m constantly listening to music and finding stuff that I like and wanting to share with people so I’m just really happy that I have six shows a week.
Kate: Is there anybody that is on your bucket list that you would love to play at The Long Road? Apart from Dolly – that is a given.
Baylen: Well yeah that goes without saying! My bucket list changes all the time. When I started putting together the lineup for this years festival suddenly this was my bucket list line up. Getting Josh Turner to the UK for the first time is a huge bucket list tick.
Kate:Thank you very much for you time.