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Local musicians unite through annual Denton Folk Festival

Local musicians unite through annual Denton Folk Festival

Local musicians unite through annual Denton Folk Festival
October 10
13:13 2019

Last weekend, the third annual Denton Folk Festival took place at Backyard on Bell, featuring 24 artists over the three-day span. These artists included R.W. Ratcliff, Edgar Derby, Blue GrassFire and Boxcar Bandits.

The festival was put on by the Denton Songwriters Guild, who began planning months ago to make this event come together. The Denton Songwriters Guild is a 501(c)(3) local nonprofit that is devoted to facilitating the art of songwriting in local musicians. They have monthly meetings and challenges to inspire creativity in artists. Matt Grigsby, Denton Songwriters Guild president and Denton resident, said every component of the guild had to work together with outside sources to put on the festival.

Denton Folk Festival organizer Landon Taylor watches R.W. Ratcliff’s set with his daughter Evren Taylor at Backyard On Bell on Oct. 4, 2019. Image by Hope Alvarez

“We’ve been coordinating with the venue to make sure that all of our staff needs are filled,” Grigsby said. “We’ve also been finding volunteers in the community and booking not only local bands, but we also have some coming from Austin.”

To make the event known throughout the community, those in charge of the festival had to market and promote the festival to local residents and music lovers.

“Since I’m part of the songwriters guild, we’ve been promoting, sharing it on social media, we were on the Frenchy’s truck and we’ve given a few interviews,” said R.W. Ratcliff, Denton Songwriters Guild vice president and Denton resident. “Personally, I posted [the event] on my music page on Facebook. We’re hoping as many people heard about it as possible.”

This year, the festival has had many improvements from past years, Grigsby said. This is the first year that there is a third day of the festival. Additionally, he said, the weather was much nicer and it took place at a better venue. 

In addition to those putting on the event, the performers had to work to prepare for their performances through extensive rehearsals and planning. R.W. Ratcliff is a group that performed on the first night of the festival. 

“To get ready for the festival, we did a lot of rehearsing and getting the songs ready,” R.W. Ratcliff bass performer and Denton resident Jacob Dill said. “We put out an album earlier this summer, and we performed songs from that album.”

Different musicians have various reasons for pursuing folk music. Rachel Yeatts, leader of music group Blue GrassFire and Denton resident got into folk music due to her long-time admiration for the art. 

“I love bluegrass and old-time music for its raw authenticity in expressing lived human experience without varnish or apology,” Yeatts said. “I now write songs in those traditions.”

Some artists have been with the Denton Folk Festival every year since the inaugural event. This is Boxcar Bandits’ third year in the festival and they plan on returning next year. Listening to Doc Watson’s music is what inspired Boxcar Bandits singer and manager Rex Emerson to start making folk music. Emerson said his favorite part of the festival was the loyal audience and he particularly enjoyed this performance because it was well-organized and fun. 

For the folk artists, music comes naturally and it is something that they feel compelled to do. 

“[Music] is just something that I’ve always had and has always been around,” Ratcliff said. “I don’t think I would be a full person without doing it.”

Killian Smith and Edgar Derby perform at Denton Folk Festival at Backyard On Bell on Oct. 4, 2019. Image by Hope Alvarez

The Denton Folk Festival is an event that local folk artists look forward to each year for the sense of community. Folk music is not as common as other types of music in Denton, so the network is small and close-knit. 

Playing at the Folk Festival is fantastic because there is always an attentive audience and so many great musicians around,” said Edgar Derby, opening performer and Denton resident.

The festival gives folk arts a chance to unite through their love for folk music. Meeting new people and also seeing familiar faces is important to the artists. 

“One highlight [of the festival] was getting to share the special event with other musical groups I’ve admired for a long time,” Yeatts said.

The Denton Songwriters Guild plans on continuing this event for future years. This year’s event was a success and the largest one yet and guildmembers said they hope to carry that into next year. 

“Many people came together to make this festival happen. The Denton Songwriters Guild is a Denton treasure,” Yeatts said. 

Featured Image: R.W. Ratcliff performs at Denton Folk Festival on Oct. 4, 2019. Image by Hope Alvarez

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Maria Lawson

Maria Lawson

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