Weekends in the Ocean State were made for road trips to the coast, and there’s no better reason to get to South County this weekend than the United Folk Festival, taking place in Westerly on Saturday, July 1st from 12-9pm. This FREE fest, in it’s second year, is stacked with a killer lineup, including Langhorne Slim, Blitzen Trapper, The Barr Brothers, Providence’s own The Low Anthem, and many more!
We sat down with Sean W. Spellman, member of the band Quiet Life, and producer of the United Folk Festival to learn more about what to expect, and what’s coming for Westerly.
PVDlive: Thanks for talking with us about the United Folk Festival! You’re a musician and a Westerly resident so it seems fitting for you to be producing this, but how exactly did you get involved?
Spellman: Last year was a much smaller show, with only three bands, one of which was my band – Quiet Life. After the event, I told the event committee how I thought they could improve the experience, which resulted in them asking me to be a part of United Theatre, and to help with events throughout the year, including this festival.
PVDlive: This is one of the most outstanding line ups I’ve seen at a festival in our good ol’ Rhody! Can you tell us a little about some of the bands?
Spellman: Thanks! We worked hard to curate this lineup, most of them have new records out this year and many of them have never played in Westerly, or even RI for that matter. It is rare to see a lot of these bands play in our state so we’re excited for them to experience it as part of United.
PVDlive: Outside of curating this event, as a musician and artist what have you been up to creatively?
Spellman: Well, this festival has been my 24/7 lately, but I have a few other projects I’ve been working on. I have a number of other events I’m planning in Westerly; a big farmer’s market in the park, a winter festival, some more street art, and a lot more. I’m also finishing up a solo record that I hope to have out in September. And I’ve been painting too, of course. You can catch Quiet Life playing a Newport Folk Fest after party as well as some other festivals this summer.
PVDlive: People involved in festival production are some of the most passionate and dedicated people in the industry, and they often have a deep connection with music. What is one of your earliest memories of experiencing live music?
Spellman: My Dad took me to my first show in 1997, the H.O.R.D.E. Festival with Neil Young, and a bunch of great bands. I remember thinking how cool it was to have a bunch of people altogether feeling that energy and enjoying themselves; it’s a great thing.
PVDlive: How do you feel this festival encourages a sense of community?
Spellman: Presenting this as a free music festival, with such authentic and great music, allows our residents to enjoy themselves, while getting out-of-towners turned on to Westerly.
PVDlive: You have traveled quite a bit around and across the country, often with your band, and sometimes solo. What are some unique aspects that you love about Rhode Island that you don’t really see anywhere else?
Spellman: I like being near the beach and being able to walk in the woods, and I like warm ocean temps in the summer so I can swim. Those are my main requirements for where I live. I also like how small of a state it is, which helps cultivate a tight knit creative community where we can all make wonderful things together, for everyone to enjoy.
PVDlive: The community aspect is really special. Since we are pretty proud of Providence, and its creative culture and sense of community, what is your impression of the city?
Spellman: I think Providence is a scene of interesting and resourceful artists who don’t give a fuck, which is a great thing when it comes to exercising any kind of creativity. I’m not super into the slow nature of politics going on in Providence, but I am inspired by the grit and color the city has. I’d live there if it wasn’t so far from the beach!
PVDlive: Well, we’d live by the beach if it wasn’t so far from Providence! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk about United Folk Festival, and your dedication to community and the arts! Besides the fact that sun and perfect Ocean State conditions are on the forecast for tomorrow, is there anything else you want people to know about the festival?
Spellman: Westerly is a small town with a lot of potential to become a cool zone for artists and musicians – to live or visit. It’s on its way, and us younger folks in town hope to create a community that will encourage more like-minded folk to come here by establishing art organizations, more live music venues, creative work spaces, and of course… music festivals!
PVDlive: Thanks Sean! We look forward to spending the day with you all in this up-and-coming creative town, and we can’t wait to hear your new tunes in the fall!
Sean: Thanks! See you there!
Get out of the city, and head to the United Folk Festival Saturday from 12n-9pm in Westerly. In the meantime, familiarize yourself with the artists in the lineup by checking out the festival’s official playlist.
Interview by Chrissy Stewart
Edited by Sarah Goodrich
Don’t forget to check out our ever-evolving PVDlive Spotify profile, where we’re creating and promoting playlists to highlight artists coming into the area!