I recently caught up with Miles Harris (Whispering Bob’s son) to talk about the inaugural Under The Apple Tree Roots Festival
It’s called Under the Apple Tree Roots Festival and the name and the ethos of the festival really both come from a series of session sets, Bob Harris who is my father among many other things, and I have been running on line for a long time, it’s called Under the Apple Tree Sessions and they first came about because we have a studio in the garden of our family home that does sit under an apple tree.
The branches of the apple tree over hang the roof of the studio so because obviously we get a lot of artists that come down to the house, and lovely artists as well, we thought it would be really nice way of featuring performances by them, that we’d invite them down to do little acoustic sessions and record them and put them out on our YouTube channel which is called the Whispering Bob TV and so we were doing that for about two years now and we’ve done over 250 sessions altogether in the studio and we’ve been around to do sessions at various festivals ourselves.
About a year go now probably we were approached by a couple of people who we were friends with first and foremost but they run festivals and live events, Nick Woodley from Goose Live Events and Suzanne Lee-Barnes who runs Dean Street Studios and they said they had just been down and had a chat with people at the site who we had chosen to run the festival which is Silverstone Woodlands and they said they were looking for some sort of music festival to be going on at the site and obviously with the sessions going on we’ve thought about doing a festival for a long time so it was a great meeting of minds and happened at just the right time. That’s basically how the idea of the festival came about and the Under the Apple Tree Roots Festival was born.
Bob is known very much for country music, but the festival is more than just country has a great variety of people.
I mean obviously we’ve put it Under the Apple Tree Roots Festival, it’s kind of a pun but the sort of roots aspect of it is basically the way that we’re seeing the genre, the overall genre of the festival is being everything that encompasses roots so that runs from country to Americana to a bit of blues, folk and all that sort of stuff.
You’ve got some absolutely fabulous artists on the list. What was the reaction from the different artists about the new festival that you were doing?
Honestly Annette it was amazing actually. We weren’t expecting the response we got. I mean it was one afternoon, and we were having a meeting with our festival partners the following day about getting everything organised and things and so we thought that we’d start approaching some artists so that we could have a few names for a line up to go into the meeting the next day and so we sent email to all people that we’ve had into the Under the Apple Tree sessions previously, we probably sent off about 40 emails that evening and it was absolutely unbelievable, by the following morning every single one had already come back and said yes to play which was remarkable and the support that we’ve had from all the artists and our friends has been absolutely amazing, it’s been really really lovely.
For Bob I suppose it’s the realisation of a lifelong ambition. It’s the first festival he’s ever put on so I think it’s generated some excitement as well through the artists that we know. But we’ve been really bowled over by the support and are very thankful for all the artists and how supportive they’ve been in the early stages of this and helping us, announcing it and get everything set up, so it’s been really lovely actually.
I think that’s a real testament to Bob, and to yourself for the Under the Apple Tree sessions that you do and then Bob’s support on Radio 2, to me it feels very much like he’s always given a lot to the country community, everyone wants to be giving back to Bob and yourself to make this a successful festival.
Yes, well it’s lovely and the feeling is definitely replicated here, we want to give back to a lot of the artists who have been supportive and put them on the festival and make them have a great time as well. All the artists who come along obviously want to enjoy the festival as much as everyone else and watch the other bands going on and maybe do a few jam sessions and all that sort of thing, so you know it’s hopefully going to be an absolutely wonderful and enjoyable experience for everybody who comes along.
You’ve chosen Silverstone Woods, I’ve not been there so is it quite a big place? How is it going to be if we get a typical English summers weekend and it’s pouring down? Is it going to be like a Glastonbury and bring your wellies?
Well we’re hoping it won’t be. I mean we kind of judged the weekend that we put it on, obviously the last Bank Holiday in May and judging by the last year it was very nice so we’re hoping that the weather will replicate itself but if not the festival is more than equipped to deal with adverse weather conditions.
A couple of years ago, probably verging on five or six years ago actually, they had a completely new irrigation system built in there so the drainage on site is absolutely amazing and there are purpose build roads and everything as well so there is hopefully going to be no mud issues with cars driving in and all that sort of thing. Also the main stage itself is going to be housed under a big top marquee so even if the rain is pouring down we can fit 5,000 people in the main stage marquee so everybody at the festival will be able to enjoy the main stage in the warm and dry and also the second stage is a pub stage because there is a purpose built pub on site that already has its own stage in there so that will be the second stage which obviously then is also under cover (since recording this interview, another stage has been added)
So we’re hoping that there’s going to be no problems with weather, we’ve catered for it and the site itself is actually enormous. Obviously we’re only going to be using a small part of it the first year but it’s got the capacity to expand to a very large festival and it’s got beautiful woodland areas with bluebell clearings and loads of space for camping and parking so it’s a really wonderful site, we’re very lucky to be hosting it there.
It sounds fabulous. Are you going to have vendors around for food and drink?
Absolutely yes. One of the things that we’re also very excited about is doing the food for the festival, officially it’s Nigel Barden who is the resident chef on the Simon Mayo show on BBC Radio 2 and he’s going to be creating a very artisan menu of lovely dishes for the festival goers and we’re going to have a little sort of food festival in the music festival as it were really.
There’s going to be lots of amazing stalls of incredible food so yes the crowd certainly won’t be going hungry and there is going to be some delicious offerings there. We’re going to have lots of other vendors come in selling various bits and pieces and activities for the whole family as well are going to be available. So yes there’s going to be lots of stuff going on outside the music as well.
I also caught up with some of the artists playing the festival, here is what they had to say
As a country artist in the UK, there are a number of things you strive for, not least of which is to try to get the attention of Whispering Bob Harris. Bob’s recognised authority and integrity as part of the British music establishment for more than 40 years is unrivalled and well respected so we were over the moon when we got that first tweet almost a year ago about the prospect of our own Under The Apple Tree session. As it rolled closer we were so nervous – we had worked so hard to get to a point where things like this could happen, which is hard for an independent act, particularly in an emerging genre. So, you can imagine what it was like to actually go there and perform the songs, and then meet the legend in person. He and his family were so welcoming and lovely.
We couldn’t believe we were in the room. A few months later when we were invited to play his inaugural Under The Apple Tree Roots Festival we couldn’t believe it. It was reassuring and thrilling in so many ways and meant the world to us to know that the hard work was beginning to pay off, and that someone who really knew music was prepared to take a chance on us and include us in something so new and exciting. We can’t wait to be part of the first ever festival, and are so grateful for the opportunity to take part.
Jess and The Bandits
We are so thrilled to be a part of the inaugural UTAT Festival. Bob Harris is an institution in the UK, especially when it comes to supporting home grown and up and coming acts in the country music scene. This festival is going to be one that shouldn’t be missed! A weekend full of amazing music and fun for everyone. We can’t wait!!
“We are absolutely honoured to be asked to be perform at the inaugural Under The Apple Roots Festival. Bob Harris has commented that this festival is a lifelong dream of his and to be a small part of that, well that it is really pretty cool!”
I’m very excited and honoured to be performing at Bob Harris’ first ever Under The Apple Tree Roots Festival, the talent on that line up is immense and i’m thrilled to see friends amongst the bill along with many influential artists and songwriters within the Americana and roots scene. As a Country artist it was essential for me to gain recognition and the support from Bob Harris because he is so influential in the Country scene in the US and the UK, so when Bob invited myself and 2 others to represent BBC Introducing at the Americana Music Festival in Nashville in 2014 that was a huge deal for me. From that to having performed 4 Under the Apple Tree Sessions with WBBC I’m just extremely happy to be a part of the first UTAT Festival, I know Bob, Trudie and Miles have worked very hard for this and I know it will be very special indeed.
You can find out more about this great festival and but tickets at www.undertheappletreefestival.com