Country Music People May 2019 - Page 29

were absolutely for that. And then of course my show Monday through to Friday, yeah, they will lean a little bit more towards the commercial stuff, the station playlists will be involved. I still have free pick to play music that I love in that but I love that stuff too.” Naturally, any discussion with one of the people at the forefront of country music in the UK is bound to head at some point into what is and what might not be country. In defence of a lot of the newer more pop- influenced material that fills the playlist of his weekday shows he says, “I think it’s important to remember that when Patsy Cline, for example, added strings and this really lush sound people thought she was absolutely crazy and ‘no way is that country. What are you doing adding basically an orchestra and calling yourself a country artist?’ Well that now is what’s defined as the Nashville Sound. Johnny Cash, he was going through rock. People went crazy saying, ‘What’s Johnny Cash doing?’ What about when they added drums to country music? There was an outrage. The first time that drums appeared on the Ryman stage there might as well have been a riot. People couldn’t believe that they were adding drums. People said that Hank Williams was selling out because he was too popular and he was going too pop and now we look back at that and I don’t think that anybody would say that Johnny Cash or Hank Williams or Patsy Cline aren’t country. They were just evolving the sound. They were taking it to a wider audience and ultimately I think that’s a really good thing.” Evolution is one thing, but Darwin himself might question a whole new species suddenly showing up. “Americana’s a great example, people often ask me, ‘What is Americana? Define Americana?’ And even within the Americana Music Association we have a tough time defining Americana because, ‘what is Americana?’ Yeah, it’s an American roots based genre that can have elements of jazz and blues and all of these things, I get what the textbook definition of it is, but to the man on the street, ‘what is Americana?’ So if we take somebody like Sturgill Simpson, for example, and his last album, when that came out people were like, ‘This isn’t country. This isn’t Americana. What is he doing? What is this?’ And Sturgill Simpson said, ‘Look, anything that I write with my heart and anything that I sing with my accent is gonna be country. I don’t care what you call it.’ I think that’s it’s really easy to say, ‘That’s not country. That’s country. That’s not country’, but I’ve never been that because country to me has always been so many different things. I know what you’re saying about if you’re incorporating so much of something else when does it become that other thing.” Baylen Leonard may already be a veteran of broadcasting having learned the ropes at BBC Radio London and worked for years with radio legend Danny Baker. Falling into it almost by chance, he recalls, “When I first moved to the UK one of the first jobs that I got…I was a voice-over mainly in New York…and one of the first gigs that I got when I moved here which was just by sitting by somebody at a dinner party that I’d been invited to the first or second week that I moved here, was somebody who said, ‘Oh, my radio station is looking for an American voice-over to do some trails so let me connect you’. And they did and I went in to do these voice-overs and it turned out that it was for the Breakfast show on Radio 1 for Sara Cox. I kind of had no idea. I’d just moved here and I didn’t even have a radio at that point. I knew of the BBC but I didn’t get the full kind of gravitas that the BBC had so I was just really excited to have something to do and to go in and be in this exciting environment. So after I did that for a little while I thought, ‘Oh, I quite like radio’. You can be really gung-ho when you don’t know anything about it, right, so I wasn’t intimidated by the BBC because I didn’t really know that much about it so I just thought, ‘Maybe I’ll do radio. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do’. So I went and I took this course to learn how to ‘drive the desk’ they call it and the guy who was teaching the course worked at Radio London. So through him and through Amy Lemé who I had met… I got a work experience job on the Lisa I’Anson show on Radio London for a week. I went for a week to do this work experience thing and then at the end of that week I said to the producer, ‘Oh I really like this. I’m going to come back next week’, and she said, ‘Okay’. And I basically just kept showing up and making myself as useful as I possibly could.” That has now led to Leonard’s name being spoken of in hushed tones [a whisper perhaps] that he might be the one to someday fill Whispering Bob’s shoes on the only real national country show on radio. “Well, I’ll tell you what, Bob Harris has been so kind and so open and supportive of me and that means the world to me. Just being able to just kind of sit by his side and present programs like we do at C2C or some of the other things like having him at The Long Road last year to host the BBC Introducing stage means the world. But also becoming his friend has also meant the world to me because he’s such a complete and total legend and he is nothing but open and kind and there will never be another Bob Harris. There will never be anybody that can do what Bob does and I kind of just try to do what I do and what I know and that’s all I can do. I hope Bob goes on for as long as he wants to go on and continues to do what he does. I think that we both have the same mission which is to share this love of country music with as many people as we can so I’m just really happy to be a part of it.” The Long Road Festival is Sept 6th, 7th & 8th. thelongroad.com MAY 2019 - cmp 29