As the godfather of Barn On The Farm, Josh Sanger has not only predicted some of the biggest things to come out of the UK music scene over the last few years, he’s also played a huge part in their journey. From pubs and clubs to Glastonbury and beyond, Ed Sheeran, James Bay, et al all can thank Barn On The Farm for that step up from new act to established artists, as Josh booked them to play the quietest corners of the farm and, just a few years later, had them at the top of the bill.
Ahead of this year’s festival, we had a chat with Josh about what to expect from this years acts, the new Behind Barn Doors day, and the decade anniversary next year. (Before reading, don’t forget that we have two tickets to give away and an exclusive playlist from Lily Moore on our Barn On The Farm preview right here.)
TRASH: This year you’ve got The Toms headlining – Grennan on Saturday and Misch on Sunday. What can we expect to see?
Josh Sanger: Tom Grennan played last year and he’s one of those artists you go and see and you just want to be his mate straight away. He’s all or nothing, really. There’s that gravel in his voice, and he’s got that gravel to his personality too. He’s one of those artists – and I don’t think there’s many around at the moment – but he just doesn’t care, and will do absolutely everything to win, and I love that about him. He’s a bit of a ‘fuck you’ to modern culture. His headline performance will be one of those that makes you want to instantly get up, have a pint and get going.
And then Tom Misch… I am obsessed with Tom Misch, I’m not gonna lie. I think he’s going to be one of those producers that crosses over from being an artist to an outstanding producer for other people. And as an artist he’s got a real flavour to his music which is just quality. It’s quality musicianship and quality music, and harks back to particular eras and genres. He’s a bedroom producer at the end of the day, and has made stuff that is world class, which is thrilling to see how that’s come together. He’s a force to be reckoned with and this is just the beginning of the journey.
And there’s another Tom – Tom Walker. It’s been a great year for him, he sold out his UK tour.
His single Leave A Light On has blown up worldwide. He’s exceptional and he’s played the festival for the last 3 or 4 years. We found him when he was very small, just starting out, and just loved the quality of his voice and his ability to write songs. It’s quite simplistic in a way but really captivates whoever’s listening and speaks to you whether you’re 40 or above or 16, and I think that’s quite rare.
Looking back over previous years, it’s like you’ve had a crystal ball for who’s going to be the next big thing and booked them just before it happens. George Ezra, Bastille, Hozier… what’s your secret?
I don’t know. I didn’t realise I was doing it. I’ve always been someone that creates, and comes up with ideas. When I was younger I set up a car wash outside the house and put signs up everywhere and it ended up being really popular every summer. It was during that point I’d be playing tunes and I didn’t realise at the time, but I was playing artists like Bombay Bicycle Club and Maccabees before anyone knew of them. Then I got to uni in London and had become mates with Ed Sheeran and Ben Howard and realised I wanted both of them to headline a festival, so put on this festival and both headlined the same weekend.
Really it’s just something I do. I love music, I literally live and breathe it all day or night. I’m digging through YouTube videos or blogs or going out to gigs or whatever, just to hear the latest stuff. And it’s not because I don’t like the old stuff that’s out there, I listen to that too. I just love finding and nurturing new talent. It’s been a real passion of mine and I’ve found so many artists along the way. James Bay for example – he came and played the festival to 20 people in the cafe – and then 3 years later he headlined. And the same goes for Jack Garratt, and Hozier. It’s been amazing – for a festival that no one’s really heard of, we’ve had quite a story. But I’ve got to a point now where I try to not list the names of people who have played over the years, and try to focus on the newcomers each year.
The only other thing is trying to figure out – and this kind of sounds bad – who’s going to be able to cut though, because there’s so much new music. And I don’t always get it right, but my mum is a really good person with that side of things, because she was so into her pop music, anything from Fleetwood Mac and all that to more poppy stuff like… Even Unkle Kracker: Follow Me, remember that? Some stuff that’s hideously embarrassing to speak about now, but she was the one who introduced me to all that stuff and I think once you’ve got that sort of pop sensibility in your brain you’ve just to apply that: Does it have a character and quality that’s not out there? It’s a bit easier now, but way back when with Hozier, it was risk at the time – he wasn’t even getting played on the radio and I had him headline. And that freaked me out because we weren’t selling tickets, and then eventually he got played on the radio and we sold out. So you have to believe in your gut that some of these artists will pull through, and they’ve got this quality about them that they’re going to win and succeed.
Of this year’s acts, not including headliners, who do you think further down the line up could be headlining in future?
There’s quite a few actually. There’s some who I won’t even name because they’re that new – but that’s the Thursday and Friday kind of vibe (cause that’s sold out already) so I get to road test some very, very young fresh talent, and it’s a really safe place for them to play. In terms of artists that are just starting out, Lily Moore is one of those – I think she’s incredible.
We’re big fans of Lily Moore here.
She’s just got that tone – something to say, and she’s not demanding attention but has an understated quality about the way she performs. There’s very few artists that have got that at the moment. She’s really got everything going for her.
And there’s a girl called Lola Young – I think most people will have come across her possibly, she doesn’t have many tracks out but if you go and watch her live she just so captivating. Vocally stunning, incredible songwriter, and a relentless musician who just really wants it. I’d say Dermot Kennedy – I know he’s already well known but I’m obsessed with him. I think he’s got a real ability to write songs that will cut through but are a bit different. They’re not the traditional kind of pop songs but a bit more in that Ben Howard or Damien Rice kind of lane that speaks to people on a different level. Maisie Peters just put out a really great track on Spotify. It’s all about the songwriting and having that character. But there’s loads, absolutely loads. If you look at the Wooden Barn line up – which is our third stage – that’s usually where most of the undiscovered talent is. To be honest, I could say any one of those artists on that bill and they’d probably be one for the future.
But it’s not all new music this year, you’ve also got Mystery Jets who are more established than usual BOTF booking. How did that happen?
I’ve always loved Mystery Jets. I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for them, and I think they’re an artist that can transcend time a bit; every time they bring out an album it’s real quality. One of the band plays for Jade Bird, and they’ve got this ability to play with other artists and be very current in the way they keep creating new sounds. You get to the point with a line up where you think – as much as I love new music, it’s great every now and then to have an artist that people are just going to go hell for leather for because they know all the tunes already.
The majority is happening on Saturday and Sunday, but there’s also Thursday and Friday. Can you reveal anything about these days?
Behind Barn Doors is going to have two stages, and on the two stages there’ll be secret headliners, so no one will know until they arrive who they’re going to be. Same with the Thursday, that’ll be a secret headliner so there’s going to be three secret artists on those bills, and the rest of the line up will be artists that Barn On The Farm’s had over the last few years, plus some extremely new artists that are just starting out. It’s an amazing place for people who are big fans of music and fans of the festival to find out who the new artists are going to be for the next few years. For me those slots are the starting points for those artists who then work their way to being headliners. It’s a real pleasure to have really new talent on the bill.
And those days have sold out – I imagine that’s likely to be regulars who love the festival and the new music aspect to it.
It sold out in 30 seconds this year, which is mad. The website crashes every year – I had to pay a lot to make sure it didn’t crash this year! The rest of the weekend is still on sale and will probably sell out very, very soon. For those regulars that come every year those days are really special ones, and it’s a weird vibe cause it’s not really like a festival, it’s super intimate, like more of a gathering of people who are in love with music. Whereas the rest of the weekend feels like a full on festivlal – even if it is intimate.
Next year is 10 years of Barn On The Farm – are you thinking about how to celebrate that already?
Yeah I’ve sent a couple of emails – I’ve started, I’m no way near Glastonbury levels of preparation. I’d love for it to be secret artists across the bill, but all who have been with the Barn On The Farm family over the years, as well as obviously some new artists. I’d love for some international talent to come back, playing to people that they played to four or five years ago. If I can pull it off it’d be amazing but I have no idea if the artists would be up for doing that when they get to the kind of level that Sheeran and Howard and all of those are. But I’m going to try my damn hardest.
For anyone who hasn’t been before – maybe they usually head to Worthy Farm for Glastonbury but can’t this year – what’s so special about Barn on the Farm?
In a similar way to how when Glastonbury started, it was very a back to music ethos, and that’s exactly what we’re about. We’re not trying to put any falsities or fourth walls up, it’s literally artists amongst the audience – and sometimes they’ll get on the stage and play. And we’re all about creating a super intimate space where music can really resonate and you can come with your mates, get involved, have a nice pint on a farm with some local food and local brews and just enjoy a weekend away from everything. It goes without saying that you’re going to hopefully discover the next big thing, and it’s beautiful to be part of the journey. Once you come you’re going to want to come for the next few years. Fingers crossed anyway…
To get your tickets before Barn On The Farm 2018 sells out head here.