Spotlight with Baylen Leonard

We sat down with the man himself to talk all things country and the upcoming Long Road festival...........

#TEAMw21 - We've been big fans of yours for some time going back to the halcyon day of you with Danny Baker on Radio London where between the pair of you lots of Country music used to get played?

BAYLEN - Thank you, that’s very kind! That was a very fun show to work on, we never knew what we were going to talk about until we opened the mics. Danny is a big fan of country music, and obviously I am, so we were constantly coming up with songs and artists to play for each other on air. It was a great platform to play country music for an audience that wasn’t necessarily “into” country since so many different types of people listened to that show each day.

#TEAMw21 - Your connections with W21music also go back a long way - as you were our compere at our first ever London show we put on for Laura Oakes and her EP Launch

BAYLEN - Yes I remember that night well, not only had I just come back from the States with a new shirt with eagles on it that I was eager to wear out. It was such a warm and supportive room of UK Country fans and other artists all supporting each other and having a good time.

#TEAMw21 - Has it surprised you quite how wide and diverse the UK scene has become since then?

BAYLEN - Not really, as I’ve always believed that country has something for everyone and they just need to have the opportunities to dig in. So while I’m really happy at how the scene has grown, I always had faith it would, and long may it continue.

#TEAMw21 - It was a great night we even had some bloke called Ben Earle pop on stage to play with Megan O’Neill - whatever happened to him - actually of course it is Dr Ben now.

BAYLEN - Yeah Ben is such a nice guy and it was great to see him there supporting his mates. You see that a lot in Nashville as well, artists who’ve had success still playing with, supporting and showing up for their friends. Country music really is a community that way, both here and in the states.

#TEAMw21 - Last years Long Road was obviously a great success despite some high profile last minute changes - of all the "Americana" Festivals, I think its safe to say this was the most diverse, with the likes of Billy Bragg rubbing shoulders Danielle Bradbury. At any time given there was something for everyone - was the plan always to make it quite so diverse?

BAYLEN -Thanks, I’m glad that comes across. Yes that was always the plan from the beginning, our goal is to show that there is something for everyone in country and Americana music.

#TEAMw21 - What were your particular highlights from last year?

BAYLEN - Just being there and sharing it with everyone. We as a team had worked so hard and for so long putting it all together, so once people starting arriving it all just came to life and that was really exciting.

#TEAMw21 - Were there any bits that you thought worked really well and others that might be slightly tweaked this year?

BAYLEN - - Overall I think it came together as we planned and had the vibe and atmosphere that we hoped for and the audience was a huge part of that. The Front Porch and the Honky Tonk really worked and people seemed to love those, we have such an amazing creative team who really went above and beyond in making those stages a reality. They are so realistic that even performers who grew up playing on front porches and in the honky tonks of Nashville couldn’t believe they were temporary structures. This year we've tweaked the Interstate stage, made it bigger and worked to make it another atmospheric and comfortable place to hang out in. The VIP area has also been stepped up with more seating and undercover areas as that was something people said they wanted. We are a young festival so listening to the audience and growing together is important to us.