Bob Harris on Under The Apple Tree Festival

The event of the Summer in London for followers of roots and Americana music will surely be Bob Harris and his team’s presentation of the Under The Apple Tree Festival at the wonderful Cadogan Hall on Saturday 10th September. Pete suggested a chat with the radio maestro, having known Bob since Marquee Club days of course and this is their conversation about everything related…

Marco van Rooijen

JLTT: We meet again, Mr Harris!

BH: Yes! I’m very good but how are things, Pete?

Well life is rocky, but sitewise we are doing really well and I think that’s because we cover a lot of types of music..which of course is your forte, too. Glenn wanted me to ask what made you choose the Cadogan Hall for this splendid show?

Oh! Because it’s such a beautiful venue! It’s so near Sloane Square, Kings Road, Central London..the capacity is great for what we need and it divides into different areas so we can have different things going on. There’ll be a main stage, a second stage, a food area, merchandise. So this hall was exactly right for wat we want to put on.

We love the Cadogan and go and see the Royal Philharmonic there – do you plan to have any meetings or signing sessions at all?

Yes there will be a signing area so that each of the artists so inclined can indeed meet their fans and friends, in with the merch section. As you know, it’s quite a good space and so the answer to that question is ‘Yes, we shall’

A little bit of history on UTAT, as we discussed last time we met, this is Plan B for the Festival as the outdoor version planned proved logistically difficult

Yes – so I think we are going to concentrate on this venue-based event now and hopefully build it up. With the great benefit of hindsight we probably overstretched ourselves on what we could attain..but Cadogan has been there as a possibility all along and when we stopped and thought about it fully, we thought we could condense everything down and do an inaugural festival-in-day and hopefully build up from that

I have to briefly namedrop, I was talking to Billy Gibbons last week – lucky me – and we were talking about ‘playing the room’ in that every venue has a different sound quality..the Cadogan has its own acoustic properties

That’s absolutely true! I couldn’t have said that better myself..the acoustics are wonderful and the other aspect about Cadogan is the atmosphere has a’s a music venue at its purest

The word I use for Cadogan before I take people there for shows is that it has a strand of nobility about it..when you walk in there you automatically want to respect the place

‘Nobility’ – yes that is a great word for it..the pairing of UTAT and Cadogan Hall can lead to a host of things, events, whatever in the future…sessions, concerts. Maybe filming events there.

We’ll talk about the artists you have booked in a minute, Bob but this all set me thinking of acts that would sound good in the rooms and very UTAT – you can shoot this down at will, I have no pride, but – Marty Stuart? Beth Orton? Stevie Forbert?

Yes! He has a new album coming out…

It would fill in the gaps of what the more mainstream festivals are presenting

Yeah, you’re right..again…I have nothing but respect for Marty Stuart. I know him pretty well, see him at Nashville..and yes he doesn’t come over here too often, too

Correct, I last met him at Royal Festival Hall and we were talking about the song that connected you to an artist – in my case a bluesy song of his and he just looked at me and said ‘Any road in, Pete.,whatever does it’

I love Marty – he’s rooted, he’s a historian, an archivist, he knows his country music inside out and backwards ..that’s a very good thought for a future show. It’s a broad church from bluegrass to English folk to deep Americana and we are trying to widen the range of artists that the audiences can enjoy..and yes on Beth Orton, exactly right for us

I wonder how long David Ackles would have lasted on The X Factor..I think he would have been gonged off ! but what a songwriter..his words resonate with me still

And the same for Tom Rush! Absolutely..

OK, the booked acts – Dan Bettridge

I met Dan for the first time at another festival last year or the year before and we recorded session, he’s from Wales and we just hit it off and a few months ago myself and Jo Whiley and Jamie Cullum did a programme at Maida Vale introducing some of our up and coming BBC artists including Dan. So I have been with him from Day One in his career and he is one of the emerging artists I wanted to feature.

Lake Poets is that chap that Dave Stewart told me he liked and then he produced him for an album – for me, it’s a twist on what Woody Guthrie was doing decades ago in the US, pastoral storytelling. What’s your take?

Well it’s very heartfelt music and one of the things here is that he was at one of Chris Difford’s songwriting retreat sessions…it happens just before Glastonbury and quite a mix of performers, established and new. So you might have Beth Nielsen Chapman..Kimmie Rhodes..working with brand new acts. It’s a beautiful atmosphere. That’s where I first saw him perform. Dave Stewart came down last year. He has been finding old churches and getting music events put on in them. There’s over 300 dark churches, we understand. The Church Conservation Trust is involved. I hosted the first one.

He’ll sound good in the room…now Ward Thomas of course we were all at their album plug show at The Hospital Club…these girls have the knack of writing songs that stick in your head and they’re sounding more and more commercial but hopefully won’t lose that edge and country freshness..

Yes, we all hope that for them, I think ..they are spontaneous and charming and lovely people…and such songs!

Quite and this is a golden age for Judith Owen and her new material…songs of Laurel Canyon quality

(Enthused) Yeah! On the previous record show was saying to herself on arrangements ‘What would Joni do ?’ – for inspiration. Kunkel, Sklar, Wachtel, now these are a group of musicians who have been playing for fifty years!

They play differently with say Stevie Nicks than they might with James Taylor, because Judith doesn’t yell and shout, their playing with her takes on an almost subterranean subtlety that makes all the chord changes’s quality

It definitely is – they came in for a session at my studio and Leland (Sklar) said in fifty years of playing nobody did this sort of material better, the songs breathe, they fascinate

Patty Griffin – again a very regal person in a Judy Collins way, but she does connect with everybody

She really does – I remember the very first time I saw Patti I had been playing her Flaming Red album

Which has some stark moments….

Then I saw her play at the Albert Hall with Emmylou Harris..Patty was on her own centre of the stage, looking tiny in the spotlight and in talking between the songs she managed to create an amazing atmosphere. There’s a depth to Patty that I sense.

Well Lucinda Williams had depth up at Cornbury! My pal Bob Bonsey had told me not to miss a chance to see her BUT the band were like Crazy Horse, it was so intense..and you wanted to hug her, she seemed so frayed

I first saw Lucinda at South By South West and she was fantastic…a future booking maybe…..also, Pete there’s Andrew Coombs and I promise you will enjoy what he does.

Pete Sargeant


The Under The Apple Tree Festival website is at:

You can read our review of Bob Harris’ recent double album of country artists session here:

Here’s a link to the Festival venue:

(Many thanks to Bob and Stevie)