5 Questions with LEAF performer Matt Townsend

In advance of this season’s LEAF, the 41st bi-annual iteration of the festival, we’re talking to performing artists from the LEAF lineup about the festival’s New Orleans-meets-WNC theme. LEAF takes place Thursday to Sunday, Oct. 15-18, at Camp Rockmont.

Local musician Matt Townsend is a regular at songwriter events and also fronts his band, The Wonder of the World. Townsend performs at The Barn Saturday, Oct. 17, at 6 p.m. with the Alex Krug Combo.

Xpress: Tell us a little bit about the performance you have planned for this season’s LEAF.

Matt Townsend: I’m incredibly excited about the band we have for the performance at this season’s LEAF. On drums we will be joined by Bill Berg, who has some incredible credits to his name, including Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks. We will also be joined by Christian Howes on violin who has played with numerous greats of the jazz world, including Les Paul and many more. Jackson Dulaney of the Blood Gypsies (and many other bands around Asheville) will be playing the lap steel guitar and Rodney Easter Jr. is on the bass. We’ll be playing a lot of new material, as well as songs from my last record, Matt Townsend and the Wonder of the World.

Will you be incorporating any New Orleans elements or inspirations into your performance?

We are having internal band discussions about possibly garbing ourselves with Mardi Gras masks, but I cannot confirm that will occur. It may be too obvious. We are having additional internal band discussions about handing out some free Jambalaya after or before the set, but again I can’t confirm that either. In truth, these discussions have only been with myself, but since this is going in print, I’ll probably talk to Rodney about it. He makes a mean Jambalaya.

Can you share a New Orleans memory?

For me personally, New Orleans remains a mythical city, the birthplace of American music as we know it and a cross-section of history that I have yet to experience in physical form. All that I know of it are the tall tales and songs of the great artists who have emerged.

Now, I can’t speak for all the band members as we haven’t been able to discuss it yet, but Rodney has a memory to share. It was his honeymoon. It was NOLA Jazzfest. It was Bruce Springsteen leaving the stage, venturing into the crowd and yes, making physical contact with Rodney and his wife Chelsea. Shortly thereafter, Charles Bradley blessed their nuptials before his show, and it has proved a powerful blessing.

Can you share a favorite memory from a past LEAF?

One of my favorite memories from last spring’s LEAF was hearing Charles Bradley preach before his set. He was standing by the merch table and a crowd gathered around and, unprompted, he leaped into a spoken song for several minutes, expounding on the necessity of love in this troubled world. His words were filled with the humanity, grace and gratitude that is present in all of his performances. It was a special moment. Also, performing in the barn was pretty great, too.

If you could collaborate with any other performer at this month’s LEAF, who would it be and why?

If I could collaborate with any other performer at this LEAF, it would be Alex Krug! Not only that, we are in fact collaborating, as we are sharing band members as well as the Welcome to Mars Barn stage, and a few choice cuts of song.

And in the dream world, I would love to collaborate with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Rebirth Brass Band or Bashiri Johnson.

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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