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The Artist & The Truth - Billy Bragg Delivers Keynote at AmericanaFestUK

Billy Bragg delivered the keynote address at this year’s AmericanaFestUK, run by the Americana Music Association UK and supported by the Musicians’ Union (MU). The two-day festival includes panels and advice sessions culminating in the Americana Music Awards. The theme this year was 'The Artist and  the Truth', the focus of Bragg’s speech which also took a look at the history of Americana in the UK…
As artists, what is our relationship to truth?
Bragg challenged the audience to think about their relationship and responsibility to truth, and what their truth is as an artist. "What I'm putting out is not necessarily what the audience is coming for... as an artist you have to connect with that," he said.
The cross-pollination of ideas is very important.
“The way forward can often be found at the back of the rack in a record shop,” advises Bragg. He spoke about listening widely; “That exploration of American culture is the essence of Americana”.
Americana in the UK was about rejecting the mainstream and reaching out beyond it.
“That’s the great thing about music, it breaks down those barriers… the power, the currency of music is empathy. It can make you feel respect for that music and the community it came from. All music has the ability to make you feel empathy and communion.”
Live performance is an important part of it.
Bragg talks about how it feels to be in the audience and to the be the artist on-stage, experiences of acceptance and solidarity, and how a single song can create a moment for everyone to feel a part of. “There’s something you can get at a gig that you can’t get online… that feeling of connectivity,” says Bragg.
“Take it easy, but take it” – Woody Guthrie
Bragg closed with his advice for performers in the audience, encouraging musicians to protect their rights, warning against cynicism – the biggest enemy of those who want to make the world a better place - and imploring artists to find their truth. “If you can find your truth, get in-front of an audience, and it resonates them, then you have a chance to build a career in this fabulous industry.”
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Published: 02/02/2018
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