Black Deer Festival

Interview: Jarrod Dickenson discusses his time at Black Deer Festival, his album Ready The Horses, playing The Long Road Festival and much more

Americana Singer/Songwriter Jarrod Dickenson from Texas has become quite the UK favourite. Having toured here for a number of years now, his audience just keeps growing and growing and it isn’t hard to see why. Whilst categorised as Americana/Country, Jarrod offers so much more within his music such as elements of Folk, Blues, Jazz and more.

Jarrod Dickenson played the first ever Black Deer Festival in Kent, UK this past June, playing three sets over the weekend. A highlight for us and many, Jarrod “wowed” the crowd with his full band set and songwriters round.

We caught up with Jarrod to discuss his Festival appearance, his current album Ready The Horses, playing Long Road Festival in September and much more.



Hi Jarrod – Firstly, How was Black Deer Festival?

Black Deer was absolutely brilliant, it was a fantastic way to end a two and a half month tour – we couldn’t have asked for more out of it to be honest.

It must be nice to be a part of the first one (Black Deer Festival) too as I think it is going to be quite a successful festival – it had such a lovely atmosphere.

It was! There was something very special about it and I think that everyone there, artists, volunteers and fans alike were all pretty excited to be a part of it – It definitely felt like the beginning of something that we will all hopefully be talking about for years.

You played quite a few sets across the weekend – tell us a bit about your performances.

We had a busy day. We kicked things off at The Ridge stage on Saturday which was our first show and that was a full band set. We had bass, drums, Hammond Organ, Horn section and then myself and my wife up there too so it was an absolute blast to have the big band there and recreate what we did in the studio for my last album in a live setting – that was special for us. Right from the start it was great, the crowd filled in as soon as we started and everyone was dancing, cheering, all you could ask for really so it was a great way to kick things off.

We then rushed over to the SupaJam stage – we did the Bob Harris Under The Apple Tree Songwriters In The Round which was a completely different feel and vibe but special non the less. We were up on stage with Ward Thomas, Ashley Campbell and then myself so it was a pretty diverse group of artists up there. It was a really great time. We then closed things out at Haley’s Bar a few hours later with another full band set in a much smaller space which felt a lot like a saloon I would be used to back home, it was really well done and well put together, a great way to send it out. It felt like a late night bar room set. It was wonderful, we had a blast.

What did you think of our UK girls Ward Thomas then? Was this the first time you had heard them?

It wasn’t actually. We saw them play in Nashville a few months ago – they were in town to do an industry showcase at the Basement so we went out to see them there. But this (Black Deer Festival) was the first time that we actually got to meet them and chat to them. They are really sweet girls with beautiful harmonies, stunning harmonies.

You have played the UK a lot now, what keeps bringing you back?

Pretty simple really, people keep coming to gigs haha. It’s a nice relationship we have built up in England – I book shows and it’s a good turnout so I keep going, the cycle continues. It has been a wonderful place for me over the last five or six years. We have built a nice audience over here and for whatever reason people keep coming out and in seemingly greater numbers than the time before which is obviously what we were hoping for. It’s been great, a very welcoming and supportive crowd and we are very grateful to have found them.

Is there a massive difference between your UK and US crowds?

I think so yeah – obviously a difference in personality comes through. The UK crowd seem to have a bit more respect with what’s happening on stage – they are very attentive and know what they are listening to. They are very clued in with all the different American styles of music with Jazz, Blues, Country, Rock and Roll all kind of thrown together so it means that they sort of understand what you’re trying to get across which is nice. They are quiet when they should be quiet and rowdy when they should be rowdy.

Tell us about your album Ready The Horses and the writing and recording process.

That was a really special record for me. I made it with a bunch of friends right after we finished supporting The Waterboys in the UK for a solid month. The day after the final show which was at The Hammersmith Apollo in London we went down to a studio in Eastbourne called Echo Zoo studios. The studio is is owned and run by a guy named David Lynch, not that David Lynch haha (Film Director) but a good friend of my friend David Ford who is a native Eastbornian and a phenomenal songwriter and performer and so he hooked us up. It is sort of a hidden gem of a studio – it’s really an incredible place, it’s got a great sounding room and more incredible studio vintage gear that you could possibly imagine and he knows how to use it. So he invited us to come in (David Lynch) and gave us a mates rate because we are broke and we all just went in and played the songs live, sang them live all playing together. He cut it straight to two inch tape and mixed it to quarter inch tape so it was a very real and honest recording, no trickery, what you hear are full live takes that we did in the studio. It was a blast. I was catching up with Mark Edwards who played with us at Black Deer Festival and he played all of the Hammond Organ and Piano that is on the record. We were reminiscing about being in the studio and both of us had such fun memories of it because it felt like you were making a record- it doesn’t always feel that way with a lot of the way people make albums these days where you’ll record a scratch acoustic track and a drum track and then a bass track, all these layers. The way we prefer to do it is to get a bunch of players in a room together and make music together and feed off one another. I think there’s an energy that you can’t get otherwise unless you did it that way and it gets captured on the record.

One song that stood out for me was Way Past Midnight – can you tell us a bit about that?

That’s probably my favourite tune on the record. It’s like choosing a favourite child which you’re not really supposed to do but that one was such a blast to record. It’s a tune that I wrote with a good friend of mine called Seth Walker and we wanted to have this New Orleans(y) story of late night possibilities and the mis-haps that follow. It was my attempt at a Ray Charles kind of tune. I loved the groove of it, the story that is happening with it, it is definitely one of my favourites.

Do you test your songs on a live audience before deciding what songs to place on an album?

Yeah. Since I tour pretty heavily I am always trying out tunes and that is sort of the best way to know if a song is good. After you write it you are always kind of excited about it but you never really know until you test it out on an audience. About half of those songs (on the album) I have been playing live for a good while and then the other half I have played either once or never to a live audience. It is sort of a mixed bag but I try to sneak new songs into the set whenever I can.

You played a couple new songs at Black Deer Festival?

Yeah, we played one called Later Than You Think which is sort of my take on a fifties, Doo – Wop, early Rock ‘n’ Roll song and then another song called Prefer to Lose – so we have been trying out new ones here and there on the tour.

Another song that stood out at Black Deer was your duet with your wife called Your Heart Belongs To Me.

That’s another special one for us. That’s a tune I wrote when I was living in New York and Claire and I were long distance at the time. We had dated about three and a half years long distance, New York to Belfast. I wouldn’t necessarily say that the song is autobiographical completely but it was certainly influenced by where we were. When you’re dating long distance, the thing you want the most is to spend time with one another and I think that’s what the song is trying to convey. I always heard the song as a duet when I wrote it but it took a little bit of convincing for Claire to come up and sing it with me but as soon as she did, it immediately became a favourite in our set every night.

You have played Glastonbury before too?

Yes we did in 2015, we played the acoustic stage. It was amazing, it was a trip haha. I grew up in a town that had about 200,000 people in it so the capacity of Glastonbury was about the same as my hometown only in a field haha. It was pretty incredible to see that amount of people in one place. It was a blast, we had a great time playing, we had a full band for that too. We got to see Mavis Staples play after our set which was really special. It is a completely different kettle of fish to Black Deer Festival but enjoyable all the same.

You will be back in the UK in September for The Long Road Festival – another first ever festival that you have been asked to play.

Yeah, we will do a headline run and Long Road and Millport.

Brilliant, well we will see you at The Long Road, it looks amazing and I can’t wait for it.

Thank you so much for chatting today, we will see you soon.

Fantastic, I look forward to seeing you at The Long Road.

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