Interview: Paul Spencer (Maverick Festival)

Ten years and still kickin’ was the recent tagline to Maverick Festival, which has had a decade at the top of the tree when it comes to putting on Alt-country, Americana and Roots festivals in the UK.  Based at Easton Farm Park, near Woodbridge in Suffolk it provides three days of multi stage twang based action.  Its Director is Paul Spencer, a drummer and the man that makes it all happen.

Ten years then Paul – quite a ride?
We screened the documentary at the fest this year about how the festival got started and I got to watch myself at the birth. Painful, messy and a bit embarrassing but ultimately worth the blood sweat and bruises. It’s probably the thing I’m most proud of – apart from my daughters of course!

Did you think you’d see 10 years? Do you fancy doing 10 more?
As long as Easton Farm Park will have us, I will keep it going but I wouldn’t want to do it anywhere else.

What have been the big changes?  And importantly what have you learnt?
I think we got the formula right from the get go. We’ve added stages and more artists but that’s been more of an evolution than a change. It’s certainly been harder than it looked back in 2008. Over time, we have built a loyal following but I never take them for granted.

A few other, boutique festivals have popped-up, I’m sure that’s flattering, but is it making it harder?
There is room for everyone but as the song goes, only the strong survive.

When it comes to booking how do you choose? What’s been your best booking? You seem to get a lot of support from the states?
I rely a lot on YouTube. Raw footage shot on a camera phone is my favourite cos what you see is what you get. If I like them, I book them. It’s as simple as that.

It’s hard to choose a favourite year. The first was hard to top with Mark Olsen, Sam Baker, Devon Sproule, Elizabeth Cook but having Mary Gauthier and country royalty Holly Williams on the same bill was pretty special.

I like that bands can often play multiple times/stages – was that your idea?
I picked up the multiple stage idea from the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. You start out heading for the main stage and end up in a little tent somewhere caught up in the spell of some unknown but magical artist who you’ve never heard of and forget about what you set off to see

I’ve also seen you play a few times!
I’ve played a couple of times when needs must. I particularly liked the look on the face of BJ Cole who had no idea I had the chops! It’s nice to have that in the back pocket but it’s not the Paul Spencer show.

You do some tribute shows, Hank Williams etc, but I’ve never seen you do a show in the round – it’s a great format, something you’d consider?
In the round – great idea Rudi. I may just steal that one.

Please tell me it’s coming back next year it’s my favourite weekend?
We are certainly planning to be back in 2018. We wouldn’t be here without the encouragement and support you have given us over the years so a big thank you for that.

Author: Rudie Hayes

Rudie is the weekly host of the syndicated radio show – The Horseshoe Lounge Music Session – playing the best American Roots and hosting terrific live guests.

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