Deep Roots Festival 2015: Interview with Jimmy Holder

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Deep Roots Festival is right around the corner and if you’ve followed the site for some time, you know that we’re huge fans of the event and how it’s helped transform Milledgeville and the live music community in Middle Georgia.

The festival has provided fans the opportunity to see numerous acts before they made it to the big time (Grace Potter, Shovels & Rope, just to name two) and draws thousands to the small Georgia college town.

The 2015 lineup features an eclectic mix of acts; an internationally known headliner (JR JR), a wildly popular, young breakout act (Hippo Campus), regional favorites reuniting for a one-time show to celebrate their 20th anniversary (Moonshine Still), and more. There’s something for everyone at Deep Roots, whether you’re into music, folk art, food, or cars.

Deep Roots 2015 takes over Downtown Milledgeville on Saturday, October 24th. You’ll want to be there.

We chatted with one of the many people that makes Deep Roots possible, Jimmy Holder, about the history of the festival, what to expect, and where he envisions things heading. We’ll see you there!

What’s the brief history of how Deep Roots Festival began in Milledgeville?

Deep Roots started in 2004 with very humble beginnings and has grown into Milledgeville’s Biggest Day. We like to laugh about it, but the first year our stage was two flatbed trailers that were uneven in height. Some friends pulled together a sound system for Moonshine Still to play. When the sun went down we realized we had forgotten lights!  It was a great show in the dark. Additionally, the number of arts vendors could be counted on our hands and our volunteers cooked all of the food. Today, of course, we are using a 30×30 stage with full production and host over 50 unique vendors. 

The festival is a major source of revenue for Milledgeville Main Street, correct? How was the organization helped shaped the downtown and what’s one of the most drastic improvements you’ve seen since the festival began?

Besides the intentions of boosting culture and traditions for Milledgeville, Deep Roots Festival was (and is) a fundraiser for Milledgeville Mainstreet. While Milledgeville Mainstreet does receive funding from the City of Milledgeville, Deep Roots Festival helps bridge the gap between the funding and what’s needed to provide resources to downtown businesses. Deep Roots Festival has helped provide bicycle racks, new planters, seasonal street banners, fund the facade match program and help other events like First Friday and Sounds of the South. The festival has also had a dramatic impact on tradition and establishing roots with our citizens. Downtown Milledgeville is now a destination location for locals and tourists for food, entertainment, shopping, living and more. While this was true prior to the beginnings of Deep Roots Festival, it has certainly expanded exponentially since.

What’s some of the feedback you’ve received from downtown business owners or residents about how the festival has affected them?

Deep Roots Festival is Milledgeville’s Biggest Day and that is greatly appreciated by the downtown business owners. While financially DRF is like a second Christmas in terms of revenue, the appreciation by business owner extends beyond fiscal measures. The branding DRF accomplishes for Downtown Milledgeville and the culture it harvests is a continual year long reward.  

How did the 2015 lineup come together and what are some things you’d like to highlight about the bands?

I’m quite proud of this year’s line-up. I think it is our best line-up to date. Regarding how it came together: JR JR, Bronze Radio Return and Ethan Tucker have been on my radar for a few years now, but their routing never worked with our date. This year, it all fell into place with their new albums and tours. Those three were booked in the early part of the year and were hard secrets to keep, especially as their new albums and EP’s came out. JR JR’s new album is spectacular and Ethan’s is so refreshing.

Moonshine Still’s reunion show was an idea that’s been kicked around a few times and luckily it seemed to stick this time. They will be an exciting performance for their loyal fanbase. 

I came to know Charlie Belle from an article I read about their performance at SXSW and knew then they had to be on our bill. It was an easy choice, I love those kids! 

Hippo Campus (TBI’s “Band of the Month” for July 2015) was a last minute decision. They’re on tour with JR JR and were going to be here the night before DRF in Atlanta so everything made sense. They have since released their second EP and it’s good stuff. Their young, all under 20, but their writing is solid and mature. They just might be the surprise highlight for the whole day.

Stokeswood has roots in Milledgeville. Their drummer still lives here and owns a business here. As a band, they’ve continued to do the work and tour all over the U.S. I recently saw them in Brooklyn, NY. I think their sound is unique and catchy, it’s a pleasure to have them back since last playing in 2010 with Delta Spirit. I recommend their new EP, 2075.

Regarding TJ & The Jazz Saints… I’ve been a fan of TJ Brown’s saxophone skills for the past decade. He’s played with numerous bands at Deep Roots and all around Milledgeville, but I wanted to see him take the reigns. I wanted to see his setlist. So, he’s put together some stellar veteran musicians, including Terry Bragg and Brad Weaver. It’s going to be exceptional.

What are three key tips you can share for improving a guest’s Deep Roots experience? 

The Union Recorder publishes our official festival guide and I recommend everyone get one. It shows all of the events going on during Deep Roots Festival. If you’re a car enthusiast or appreciate engineering, The Open Car Show has over 100 vehicles to marvel over. Do you love to eat BBQ? Then, get over to The People’s Choice award and be a judge.  There’s so much to do. Kids, family entertainment, live art demonstrations, and of course shopping! There are numerous vendors and local businesses happy to help you get a jump on Holiday Gifts!

Deep Roots is a full day, not just an evening of music, and guests might not realize that. What are some of the other activities that have developed under the festival umbrella over the last few years?

This is sort of answered above, but all of the events include exhibits from the Art Department at Georgia College, Live Interactive Mural Painitng, Commercial Corridor, a family focused Community Stage with live entertainment all day, the inflatable city at The Kidzone, Artist Market with over 50 unique vendors, The Open Car Show, the Georgia BBQ Association State Championship Cook-Off, The Music @ MainStage and not to mention all the Downtown Milledgeville businesses and their festivities.

What’s your role with producing Deep Roots and who are some of the other key players that you’d like to recognize?

I am in charge of Music, Marketing, and Merchandise. Honestly, there are so many people to name and I’m afraid I’d miss someone, so let me just say it’s a group effort from many people in Milledgeville. An event of this size requires acts of magic from numerous people and we’re grateful for everyone’s participation.

Ideally, how would you like to see the festival grow over the next few years?

Growth is something we discuss often. The two usual routes we discuss are making DRF a two day event or, and the idea we consider more often, is creating a spring festival with a similar approach, but with new ideas and attractions. I mean, I want a ferris wheel and fireworks downtown, but we haven’t quite figured that out.

JR JR – “Gone” Official Video

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