Country Music People May 2019 - Page 26

WORD FROM THE FRONT PORCH DUNCAN WARWICK SPEAKS TO BAYLEN LEONARD, THE MAN BEHIND THE LONG ROAD FESTIVAL, ONE OF THE MAJOR STARS OF THE RECENTLY LAUNCHED COUNTRY HITS RADIO AND TIPPED BY MANY TO ONE DAY TAKE OVER FROM BOB HARRIS. F rom the pop-up BBC stations at C2C to the newly launched Country Hits Radio, Baylen Leonard is everywhere. His naturally Southern tones - Baylen was born in the ‘Birthplace of Country Music,’ Bristol, Tennessee - have mellowed to a soothing mid-Atlantic tone that can help lend authenticity when it comes to talking about country music. And that’s a thing he can do, and does a lot. As well as weekday shows on the new DAB station, Leonard brought his show - The Front Porch - over from its previous home on Chris Country for Sunday afternoons, is the voice behind in-flight country entertainment on our national airline, and presenter on Total Country TV. He’s presented Radio 2 specials for the Beeb, is artistic director of Nashville Meets London, and he is ‘curator’ of The Long Road festival which launched last year and is back this September. It’s a wonder he’s got time for anything else such as being on the board of Americana UK. Keen to take me to task on the suggestion in a recent CMP feature that the corporate connection between Universal Music Group, Total Country and The Long Road Festival loads the dice in favour of Universal artists, Baylen retorts, “I can see from the outside the leap that was made there but the main thing was that I just didn’t want…I just thought that just because something actually has secure financial backing doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have heart and soul to it.” The heart and soul at this year’s Long Road is undeniable. With a line-up encompassing mainstream country acts as well as more roots-driven Americana and even some Western Swing it’s almost like two festivals in one. “Yeah, absolutely,” agrees Leonard, “and that is by design. 26 cmp - MAY 2019