Tag Archives: Maverick Festival

Americana on the Farm: Maverick Festival 2018

Maverick Festival, which took place for the eleventh time from 6 to 8 July 2018 at Easton Farm Park in Suffolk, not far from London, is one of those rare outdoor events, where you can experience quality live music in a beautiful boutique setting. Beside the usual line-up of excellent Americana artists from the UK, the USA, Canada and Australia, the festival always has a extra few surprises in store and what a gloriously sunny weekend it was!

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After setting up the happy tent in the heat, it was definitely time for an iced coffee and a first hello to all my favourite furry farm creatures, including brand new additions Harry, the Punch horse, and Madge, the 5 day old donkey baby. In addition, there were lots of friendly dogs around again, as the festival allows them on site.

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As more and people started arriving in the course of the afternoon, I headed over to the Peacock stage for sets by Jeffrey Martin and Anna Tivel (see pic below), who have also been touring the UK together. Their music is very well matched, quiet and thoughtful with some memorable melodies, just the way I like it. Anna and Martin were some of the musicians who spent the whole weekend at Maverick, so I got to listen to them quite a bit, which was a real treat, as their songs are all well worth giving more than one listen.

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I then made my way over to the Barn for Jonathan Byrd’s only Maverick set. He is currently touring the UK with fellow ‘Pickup Cowboy’ Johnny Waken, who excelled at guitar solos and added an extra touch of humour to Byrd’s already entertaining songs. Their set also included serious touches though, such as this poignant haiku:

we are in heaven
the sky is an illusion
like any border

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Saturday at Maverick is always a busy day with the open air Southern Sounds Stage in full swing from around 11am until 6pm, including the exotic Hawaiian sounds of Kehau Kehananui with top UK pedal steel player BJ Cole. Apart from The Cordovas from Nashville, whose guitar and harmony-heavy sound I took a while to warm to at first, but whose only Maverick set I enjoyed quite a bit in the end, I spent most of my day switching between the Barn and the much smaller Moonshine stage. I’m always trying to catch as many of the overseas artists as possible, as they generally make less frequent UK appearances. So it was great to see Dylan Earl for the first time, whose online bio states that ‘I’m from where I woke up this morning’ and who, like many of the Maverick artists, plays a type of country music, which keeps things real rather than just providing sing-along fodder for the masses. I also thoroughly enjoyed dancing to the music of one of my favourite UK Americana bands, Brighton-based The Mountain Firework Company.

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However, the female musicians stole the show as is so often the case in this genre. Amelia White, Alabama native Amy McCarley and singer-songwriter Imogen Clark (mostly sharing a stage with fellow Aussies Lachlan Bryan and the Wildes as well as The Weeping Willows) were all excellent. So was Amy Lott from Meridian, Mississippi, who, as we found out during her Sunday set, had to overcome some serious health issues for a long time, but never gave up and is living proof that personal struggle can make for outstanding songwriting. Another one to watch for me was Texas-born Nashville-based Bonnie Bishop (see pic below), who is to make a welcome return to these shores in autumn.

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While the Arkansas Dave set and the Johnny Cash Tribute (with many of the festival artists contributing cover versions) took place on the Peacock stage, I decided to stick with the Barn Stage on Saturday night, where Tennessean-born, New York-baed Hans Chew and his band and female-fronted Southern Avenue (see pic below) from Memphis got the party going around 8pm. The latter’s very danceable set proved that booking a lively blues and soul outfit added just the right amount of variety to the festival.

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One of my favourite UK-based live bands, Danny and the Champions (see pic below), provided a worthy finale after a very busy and sundrenched day of music.

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Sunday is traditionally a shorter day at Maverick and after Saturday’s highlights tends to be a sort of a mellow finish to the festival weekend. This year, however, I was glad to get a second chance to see some of the festival artists who stuck around all weekend, such as Lachland Bryan and the other Aussie musicians he shared the stage with as well as UK roots band Porchlight Smoker.

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The festival weekend also included the Jimmie Rodgers Buskers stage again, which was hosted by James Hodder this year and gave up and coming talent (see pic above) a chance to shine.

With so much great live music going on, I nearly forgot to mention the yummy food on offer all weekend – from espresso to full English breakfast, wood oven pizza (including a vegan option) and my favourite, an amazing plantbased plate (see pic below) from Suffolk-based Juan Pablo Food, we were never short of great festival food and drink.

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All in all, the eleventh edition of Maverick Festival was one of the most enjoyable and relaxing ones I remember. The beautiful Suffolk farm setting, the quality music and the friendly crowd it attracts year after year make for a great recipe for enduring success. While other festivals struggle with constantly trying to upscale, Maverick seems to stay reassuringly small, but only in terms of festival size. In every other aspect it punches well above its weight and is bound to continue for many more years to come.

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Maverick Festival 2018 Preview

Maverick 2018 Logo

The Maverick Festival launch event in London always feels like the start of summer festival season! Every March, the festival organisers present some great live acts, who this time included previous Maverick artists Don Gallardo (see below) and ‘The Living Bluesman’ Tom Attah (see last pic), to press and industry and you get to catch up with what everyone is up to over the summer months. Having said that, it’s hard to imagine summer ever coming back with the weather we have had here in the UK in the past few weeks. But I trust once June and July roll around, we’ll be in the mood for cocktails and ice cream again and some great live Americana from the UK, the USA and further afield.

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This year’s line-up is as tempting as ever. In just one weekend you can listen to lots of quality Americana, folk and country artists you already love and find some new favourites you had maybe never heard of before. I was really happy to hear to that the following singers and bands are all joining the line-up this year: Jonathan Byrd (US), Lachlan Bryan and The Wilds (OZ), who I somehow managed to miss last time, Anna Tivel & Jeffrey Martin (US), Southern Avenue (US), Bonnie Bishop (US) as well as awesome UK live bands like Danny And the Champions of the World, The Mountain Firework Company and The Vagaband.

There will also be a special feature with music from Hawaii, which I’m already super excited about, including the Hawaiian singer and dancer Kehau Kahananui. Other highlights include Nashville cult favorites The Cordovas, native Tennessean pianist and  songwriter Hans Chew and Arkansas-based Dylan Earl.

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The Maverick programmers always manage to book artists that had been on my list for quite a while and find Americana jems that I was glad I discovered at the festival. This year is no exception. I’m already looking forward to getting a chance to listen to The Local Honeys (US), Bonnie Bishop (US), The Most Ugly Child (UK), Imogen Clark (OZ), Arkansas Dave (US), and many more live at the farm this summer.

I’ve been to the festival quite a few times now and it’s been one of the most relaxed and  enjoyable outdoor events on my summer calendar ever since. Read my previous reviews and my top 10 reasons to attend to get an idea what the atmosphere is like. You can buy day tickets or stay for the whole weekend, which I recommend, of course, as it’s just a lovely place to hang out for a weekend.

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If camping is not your thing, you can book a nearby B&B, the closest train station is Woodbridge and Easton Farm Park is not too far from the sea and nestled in beautiful rural Suffolk countryside. On top of all that, it attracts a super friendly crowd, dogs are allowed at the festival site and there is some yummy food and drink on offer (think Suffolk cider and local ales), so you definitely won’t go hungry or thirsty.

Make sure you keep an eye on the Maverick Festival website for the full line-up so far and for any additional acts, which are likely going to be announced in the coming months.

Disclaimer: All photography in this blog post was provided by Sophie Boleyn Photography.

Americana Anniversary: Maverick Festival 2017

Maverick Festival, which took place from 30 June until 2 July 2017, at Easton Farm Park in beautiful Suffolk, East Anglia, was celebrating its tenth anniversary this summer and I’ve been lucky to have been to four of those in 2013, 2014, 2015 as well as this latest edition. It’s quite a special little festival and here are my top 10 reasons why I’m always enjoying it so much:

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1. Quality Line-Up: Most people who come to Maverick book their tickets without even knowing who’s on the line-up for that particular year, they just expect quality music, and the festival rarely disappoints. Paul Spencer and his team know the Americana scene well and always book a great variety of reliably excellent acts from the USA, Canada, and even as far afield as Australia as well as the best of what the ever-growing Americana scene in this country has to offer. It was great to see Police Dog Hogan, Case Hardin, Don Gallardo (see pic below), Erin Rae, Dean Owens, Hannah Rose Platt, Hannah Aldridge and Annie Keating again, make sure you give them a listen.

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2. New Discoveries: I love when I turn up at a stage not having heard of a particular musician before and then being blown away by their music and enthusiasm for their craft. This year’s favourite new finds included The Roamin Jasmine (New Orleans), Royal Jelly Jive (San Francisco), The Danberrys (Nashville) and Amy McCarley (Alabama). Two others who I regretted to have missed, but got thumbs up from various other attendees, were Tom Attah (UK) and Lachlan Bryan and the Wildes (Australia). Virtuoso US mandolin player Sierra Hull (see pic below) was also excellent, as were US duo American Young.

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3. Friendly Vibe & Hanging Out With Musicians: While headliners like two-time Grammy winning guitarist Albert Lee (great set with BJ Cole on pedal steel!) and Steve Earle’s son Justin Townes Earle were no doubt a particular attraction to some festival goers, another reason why I love this event is how relaxed and friendly the atmosphere is. It’s one of those festivals where you can just wander between the different stages and food stalls all day, sit under a tree and read a book, share a table with other music lovers or have a chat at the merch area with one of the bands playing. Despite the unrushed pace, it never gets boring because there is great music playing everywhere from late morning until about midnight every night.

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4. Idyllic Location & Great Site Layout: When I first walked through the gates of Maverick Festival a couple of years ago, I fell immediately in love with the beautiful setting of the event. Unlike other festivals held on a big field with nearly no other natural features, Easton Farm Park boasts some beautiful historic farm buildings, meadows and lots of trees and it all just looks like you’re entering a set for a Western movie – including our equivalent of mustangs, the beautiful and rare Suffolk Punch horses (pictured below). As it’s a rather boutique festival, you can easily pop back to your tent for an extra jumper or during this good weather extra sun cream as the camp ground is only a five-minute walk from the music stages. And as the music finishes quite early (around 11.30pm) there isn’t too much noise late at night (apart from the odd folky session around a fire, which actually makes for a nice lullaby). While there aren’t very many showers (I counted only a handful), there are two buildings with proper toilets and lots of additional portaloos strewn around the site.

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5. Dog-Friendly Event: The one thing I’m often missing at other outdoor festivals is the lovely presence of dogs who are often not allowed on site for all sorts of reasons. Not so at Maverick. Everywhere you go you’ll meet smiling pooches likes this happy pair below, Moss and Sky, and I loved hearing about their (rescue) stories. You can find more pictures on my Cuddle a Dog a Day Instagram account. If you have a friendly dog who doesn’t mind crowds, it’s a great festival to take it to, as a lot of the music can actually be enjoyed from outside most of the venues, so pooches can be in the shade and away from most of the noise, but you can still have a good time. Win, win.

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6. Still Kicking Against All Odds: A fascinating addition to this year’s festival was a short, and retrospectively very funny, documentary entitled ‘The Peasants Are Revolting’ charting the journey from idea to festival and the difficulties faced by festival founder Paul Spencer before being able to run Maverick for the first time in 2008. He initially encountered a lot of resistance from a number of villagers who feared there would be a noisy ‘rave’ (anti banjo protests? goats vs sheep standoff? rowdy cowboy hat throwing competitions?) threatening their otherwise peaceful lives and that their quaint Suffolk village would be overrun by all sorts of undesirable individuals. As you can see from the pictures in this post, there was clearly a lot of cause for concern ;-). Luckily, the festival founders persisted and I am now even more grateful for the festival than before I knew about all these (pretty major) teething problems. The screening was followed by a live Q&A with Paul and Tim Dowling with lots more anecdotes from the beginnings of a festival which is most definitely here to stay!

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7. Learning By Doing: I didn’t get around to any of the workshops this year, but there were a bluegrass as well as a banjo session plus a workshop on cigar box guitars and diddley bow. If you felt inspired enough to stick with your new chosen instrument, there were some music stalls with a choice of instruments to take home, including one with beautifully hand-decorated guitars and the pretty cool looking cigar box guitars (below).

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8. Plentiful Food & Drink: As with many smaller festivals, there aren’t quite as many food choices as at larger events. But I was pleased to see that the veggie options had increased since I last visited and there were also quite a few vegan dishes on offer. I had Thai street food, pizza from a wood-fired oven and a squash and feta cheese pie with mash. There were also plenty of desserts, like waffles and ice cream, and a few stalls serving cappuccinos. Plus Easton Farm Park’s café did a decent if not very exciting veggie breakfast in the mornings. Drinks (variety of beer, local cider) were not cheap, but a few freebie cocktails in cans given out by a new sponsor made up for it.

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9. Fun For All Ages: As Maverick is such a safe and friendly environment, families will have no problem finding activities to entertain the little ones. I spoke to a few whose kids were already keen to return, which is no wonder given the many cute animals to pet and feed (goats, horses, llamas, pigs, rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens) as well as an adventure playground, which even includes a mini-zipline. Nashville-based duo Chasing Summer also added to the kids entertainment by doing a lovely live show and art workshop on a new outdoor stage in the orchard, which was enthusiastically received by the children.

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10. Additional Gigs By Touring Musicians: Yes, post festival blues is a terrible thing and hits me every single time for a day or two after getting back home. Luckily, there is a silver lining as most of the overseas musicians booked for Maverick tend to also be on tour in the UK and other European countries while they are over here. So do look for their tour schedules and additional gigs the week before or after the festival. You might even end up on a train together, like I did with Royal Jelly Jive, who were on the way to their next gig in Belgium. A great way to extend the festival for another few hours.

You might not have heard of Americana as a genre of music before and be reluctant to book a weekend of bands you’ve never heard of. Don’t worry! Give a few of them a listen on Yotube before you visit and enjoy the fact that after attending Maverick you’ll be the one in the know giving your friends, who may well still be stuck in mainstream music land, the best recommendations for ‘the next big act’ like a pro!

Disclaimer: Life is a Festival was provided with a weekend pass for the 2017 festival in exchange for a personal review of the event and mentions on social media. Opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily the same as the official views of the event organisers. All photography used in this blog post was taken by Life is a Festival.

Maverick Festival 2017 Preview

Maverick 10 Years2017 seems to be a year for festival anniversaries and Maverick Festival, which has been attracting Americana musicians from both sides of the Atlantic for a decade now, is joining the ranks of festivals who aren’t just a one-summer wonder! Maverick has been true to its roots from the beginning. It is a fairly small and very friendly three-day event in the beautiful Suffolk countryside and focuses on booking quality music plus offering other fun stuff like music documentary screenings, workshops and music industry talks.

So, when the invite for this year’s festival launch landed in my inbox, I rsvpd straight away, of course. The preview event was held at the Gibson Guitar Studios near Oxford Circus again and featured live sets from Scottish singer-songwriter Dean Owens as well as Brigitte de Meyer and Will Kimbrough from Nashville (see picture below). Besides the already announced headliners, including two-time Grammy winning guitarist Albert Lee, and other fantastic Americana acts, there were some new names revealed on the night, such as Justin Townes Earle, Amy McCarley (Alabama) and US mandolin player and singer Sierra Hull (Nashville). Canadians Terra Lightfoot, Amelia Curran and Dennis Ellsworth will be helping to celebrate Canada Day on 1 July in style while The Black Sorrows and Lachlan Bryan & The Wildes are representing Australia at the festival.

Brigitte de Meyer Will Kimbrough Maverick Launch 2017

Other favourites, who are returning this year, include Police Dog Hogan, Don Gallardo (Nashville), Case Hardin, BJ Cole (pedal steel fans take note) with his band The Golden Nugget, Annie Keating (NY), Erin Rae & the Meanwhiles (Nashville), Hannah Rose Platt, The Black Feathers, Hank Wangford and Norton Money (with band members from the fab Hallelujah Trails). There will also be plenty of new to me names, both from the UK and further afield, such as The Life and Times of The Brothers Hogg (already winner of the longest band name I’ve ever come across), The Fargo Railway Co., Hymn for Her (USA), The Danberrys (Nashville), Worry Dolls, Low Lily (Vermont), Tom AttahC.C. Adcock (Louisiana) and many more!

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If you’re like myself and you love music AND animals, then this little gem of a festival might just be the perfect weekend away for you. Besides the amazing artists (who you can have a chat with over a pint) and some yummy food (pizza, pasta, paella and chili including veggie options, artisan coffee, local Suffolk cider as well as regional craft beer and wine) Maverick is a dog-friendly festival, so you can bring your well-behaved pooch along or pet other people’s (yes, that would be me). Plus, as it’s taking place at Easton Farm Park, festival goers have exclusive access to all the adorable four-legged resident creatures, such as horses, donkeys, goats, giant pigs, rabbits and even llamas. I for one am sure to bring some extra carrots and apples along again and I truly, truly cannot wait for July to roll around! You are most welcome to join me on this weekend festival adventure, tickets can be booked online, it’s accessible by train (plus taxi) as well as by car and you can camp on Friday and Saturday night or stay in one of the nearby villages. Feel free to contact me if you have any other questions. Also check out this year’s up to date line-up and my previous festival reviews (the pictures above were taken at the sunny 2015 festival). See you at the ranch!

Southern Sounds in Suffolk: Maverick Festival 2015

This year was my third Maverick Festival (3-5 July 2015) and there are a lot of advantages to being a repeat festival goer. You know the camping spot that suits you best. You can make a beeline for your favourite food and coffee stalls, even blindfolded. You remembered to bring enough carrots to feed the many adorable, four-legged farm creatures. All of this makes it a really relaxed affair.

One problem it doesn’t solve, however, is your favourite musicians always clashing. The only solution to this issue is to either see a lot of half-sets, rushing between them all day or to simply go with the flow, see fewer acts, but maybe have a more enjoyable time in the process. With very few exceptions I mostly opted for the latter. Yet with 50+ fantastic live musicians hailing from the USA, Canada, Australia and, of course, this very island playing the Maverick stages this year catching even half of them was no small feat indeed.

Maverick 1So here are my top 5 reasons why Maverick 2015 was awesome again and in fact those exact same reasons are also why you should consider attending Maverick in 2016!

Small is beautiful
Die-hard Glastonbury fans might not agree, but there are many, many upsides to attending a small festival (some of which I already mentioned in the first few lines of this post). The best part for me is always feeling like being among like-minded people. At Maverick specifically, the audience is pretty knowledgeable about Americana music, which the artists seem to very much appreciate (e.g. see my recent interview with Don Gallardo). This also makes for inspired conversations between the sets, which are also great for getting new artist recommendations.

As in previous years I also very much enjoyed the friendly and idyllic venue, Easton Farm Park. Of course, as a non-meat-eater, it was impossible to ignore that while some of the farm animals were there for us to pet and engage with, others (not from this farm) had not been so lucky and were, literally, dinner. But the farm staff always do a great job keeping the facilities in good working order and take good care of the animals they look after. In fact, the veggie options seem to have increased this year and one of the coffee stalls even had organic soya milk on offer.

Maverick is also one of the most dog-friendly festivals I have been to, or shall I put it the other way around, it is where I have come across some of the friendliest dogs of any festival yet. To my delight, a cute puppy I had met last year was back again with her family in tow while another dog-loving family had got a second pooch in the meantime. Happy days.

Maverick 4It’s not about the big names…
This is an interesting one and, if I’m honest, I still fall for it myself sometimes. You glance at a festival website, scanning it for names you recognise and if failing to do so are thinking: is this event really worth my while? I hear you, so do I! Luckily the festivals reviewed on this blog have been pre-approved, so to speak, and all the legwork has been done, so you can relax and trust that you will have a great time. Reliably excellent again were quite a few artists this year, so here are just a couple to get you started if you are new to this sort of music: Chastity Brown (USA, video here), Andrew Duhon (USA), Case Hardin (UK), Luke Tuchscherer (UK), Don Gallardo (USA), Hannah Aldridge (USA) and Larkin Poe (USA) – each of them quite different in terms of musical styles, so enjoy sampling their work.

…it’s about discovering new (to you) artists
As most of the overseas musicians tend to play on these shores about once a year or even less often, I do like to focus on catching as many of them as I can at any festival I go to. Yet there are also lots of great UK-based Americana artists worth checking out. This year the bands that particularly caught my eye and who I had not seen live before were The Rosellys (UK), Anne McCue (OZ/USA), Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Review (USA) and Debbie Bond & Rick Asherson (USA).

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Join in and learn a new skill
Full disclosure: I really don’t like trying something new while lots of other people watch me do it. If this sounds like the kind of fun challenge you enjoy though, fantastic news. If you’re more like me and are a bit hesitant about these sort of situations, I suggest you go by the motto to try at least one thing at every festival that scares you (and I’m not talking about trying to retrieve your mobile phone that you dropped down the portaloo). Most festivals offer some sort of workshop to get you involved in one way or another. At Maverick 2015 you could try playing the banjo, ukulele (have tried this at Shrewsbury a few years ago, still waiting to be signed by a record label though), dobro (!) and the blues harmonica. Now guess which one I went for?

Exactly. The humble harmonica seemed like the perfect starter instrument for an hour-long workshop that could actually be put to good use at other festivals too. And Rick Asherson accompanied by blues singer/guitarist Debbie bond did an excellent job teaching a good dozen beginners to make pretty impressive “train sounds” (pats herself on the back) and even sort of play along to some basic blues melodies. It was a whole lot of fun and I have actually picked up my newly acquired harmonica at home a few times since returning from the festival. No complaints from the neighbours yet, so there you go, I faced my fear and it wasn’t all that bad. Go on, if I can do it, you can do it too!

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Stoke your wanderlust
Admittedly, another reason why I love listening to all the overseas artists is my love for travelling. Nothing makes me want to go to a place more than finding some awesome musicians, which often prompts me to research the area and music scene where they are from. Nashville and Austin have been duly visited in the past few years, but both New Orleans and Memphis, for instance, still remain to be explored. So is the whole state of Alabama, which I have yet to set foot in. The fact that Alabama Tourism has been sponsoring Maverick festival for the second time helped to once more bring over some fantastic musicians, such as Debbie Bond, Hannah Aldridge and Lisa Mills. They also have a nifty new website for anyone wanting to explore the Americana Music Triangle. The artists listed above should get you started in terms of music for your road trip.

So pencil in Maverick Festival for the first weekend in July next year and check out the tour dates for the above mentioned artists, as many of them are playing various towns and venues around the country in the coming weeks. See, there is no excuse for not listening to some great live music. Life is a festival!

Meet the Music Makers: Don Gallardo from Nashville

As Maverick Festival 2015 is just a few days away, I thought it was a great opportunity to chat with one of the US-based musicians on the line-up this year, Don Gallardo, about the upcoming festival, his new album and his experience of UK audiences.

Don Gallardo 1 (photo of Don by John Morgan)

Life is a Festival: This summer will be your second time at Maverick Festival here in the UK. How did it compare with other festivals you played at? Any memorable moments?

Don: Maverick is one of my favourites. The location and surrounding area is amazing. The people there all like Americana/folk/country, so you know you will get people who will enjoy any act playing. The vibe there is absolutely amazing.

Life is a Festival: You recently launched your fourth album, Hickory, on the UK Americana label Clubhouse Records. For those who have not heard you play live yet, how would you describe your music and what was your inspiration for this particular album?

Don: This album was kind of a coming of age for me. Although its my fourth full-length album and I am pretty darn old, I feel this album holds a lot of very personal issues that I’ve been through and continually go through. It was more of a stepping out of the shadows album and into the real world. I’ve been playing with many great Roots/Americana acts over the years (Rosanne Cash, Jim Lauderdale, John Prine, Emmylou Harris, Elizabeth Cook, Tim Easton, Kevin Gordan, Anne McCue, David Olney, John Fulbright, Tommy Womack, and more) and still feel I’m kind of struggling to be heard. I feel this album is more mature and puts me closer to my goal of being heard by more people. I think it really shows the direction of music I am going. I feel it was done the right way. It wasn’t rushed and the musicianship and songwriting were more elevated than my previous albums.

Life is a Festival: Americana as a genre, if we can call it that, seems to have been increasing in popularity in this country in the past few years. What is your own experience of UK audiences?

Don: UK Audiences are my favorite. Music is a huge part of your culture and I absolutely love playing to UK audiences because you all listen and don’t talk during performances. That is really all an artist wants… is for people to listen. There is no better feeling than being on stage and singing the songs you write and the audience is engaged and right there with you. The audience is a huge part of the songs. If the songs and performance come over good than that’s a result of the audience giving the performer the energy/vibe/platform, so to speak, to perform at that level. The producer of Hickory, David Pinkston and I have already been discussing the next album. I’ve got a handful of songs but have no plans as of yet to begin the process of recording. Future touring….well Amy Speace and I have been talking a bit about doing some short tours regionally in the US. Who knows maybe we’ll do something over in the UK too.

Thanks a lot to Don for the interview! You can catch him live at Maverick Festival 2015, which takes place from 3-5 July at the idyllic Easton Farm Park in Suffolk (a mere hop, skip and jump from London) and is a family – and dog! – friendly boutique festival for Americana fans and anyone else with good taste in live music.

Don’s latest album Hickory is out on Clubhouse Records and he is touring the UK this July including a shared gig with Hannah Aldridge at the Green Note in Camden, London, on 14 July. For reviews of music, food and the atmosphere at Maverick Festival check out my blog posts from previous years: 2013, 2014.

High on Americana Music: Maverick Festival 2014

The moment I walked through the Easton Farm Park gates on 4 July with the familiar Maverick sign above them I knew it was going to be another great festival. Having been to Maverick for the first time in 2013 I had come to expect excellent live sets, friendly folks and yummy food all with a backdrop of grazing horses and bleating goats. This year was another winner! After catching a few songs by Irish-Cornish duo Winter Mountain  at the Barn, I started the Friday night at the Moonshine Bar, the festival’s most intimate venue, as had become tradition since last year. It was decked out with all sorts of country saloon paraphernalia making it look more like a Maverick version of the Grand Old Opry than the Suffolk countryside. All three acts were new to me and they didn’t disappoint. First up was Jacob Navarro  (Seattle), followed by Thom Chacon (Colorado) and Don Gallardo (Nashville). I then headed back to the Barn (sadly missing House of Hats, who got thumbs up from others) to catch the very danceable Police Dog Hogan. Last up on stage that night were Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, whose sound certainly left an impression (even though the giant pigs next door to the stage didn’t seem too fazed).

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After having basked in glorious sunshine all day on Friday we woke up in our tents on Saturday morning to the sound of raindrops hitting the canvas. Taking one look at the upcoming programme for the day was more than enough to put a smile on my face though. Luckily, the spacious cafe shed with indoor playground opposite the main Barn stage was open for breakfast from 8am and the rest of the morning was spent exploring the many animal pens around the farm. Getting around all the adorable furries took quite some time. There were two three-week old baby donkeys, goats everywhere you looked, huge Suffolk Punch horses, giant and not so giant pigs and piglets, several dozens of fluffy rabbits, some just two days old, lamas, cows and chickens.

The day’s musical proceedings started for me with M.C. Hansen and band on the outdoor Sweet Home Alabama stage hailing from Denmark, who I happened to have seen live at Literaturhaus in Copenhagen just a few weeks earlier. As a rain shower hit the front of the stage, the three of them sang a song for us acapella while the tech crew worked on moving their gear out of the rain. There was so much on at the same time that it was impossible not to miss a few good bands. I spent most of the afternoon sampling various acts including Peter Bradley Adams  (Alabama), The Mae Trio (Australia), Massy Ferguson (Seattle) and the always fab Danny & the Champions of the World. Saturday night at the Barn was pretty much a dream line-up: Hannah Aldridge (originally from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, now Nashville), Holly Williams (granddaughter of Hank Williams), Mary Gauthier (Nashville) and Larkin Poe (Georgia). At different stages in their respective careers, each of them had a repertoire that surprised, delighted and kept our toes tapping until the very last song.

Maverick Collage 2

As it was raining partly pretty heavily on Sunday morning things started out fairly slow. Everyone huddled around the coffee stalls discussing their favourites and petting some of the many friendly dogs (one of the few festivals which allow them, yet another plus as far as I’m concerned). Today’s line-up wasn’t too long. I returned to the Moonshine Bar to see Dan Beaulaurier (California, currently London) with The Hallelujah Trails, which turned out to be a fun set in a lovely dry venue (not to be underestimated). Afterwards it was time for The Henry Brothers (aka murder ballads central), April Maze and, finally, The New Essex Blue Grass Band before the happy tent got taken down again and it was time to say goodbye to the bunnies, goats and baby donkeys for another year. Having been to Maverick twice now, there is absolutely no doubt that it stands for quality Americana music with a friendly vibe in a beautiful countryside location. What’s not to love? If you’re reading this I hope you enjoyed Maverick this year as much as I did and/or are considering joining us for 2015, see you then!

P.S. I really liked the nifty little festival programme that is one of the best I’ve come across (and that is quite a few) and the addition of Leon’s veggie food stall this year (hurrah for healthy dinners). Personally, I would love the festival to be three full days in order to be able to catch more of the acts, who all seemed excellent.

For videos of the bands who performed at Maverick this year check out the lifeisafestival youtube channel.