Fifty years ago the Newport Folk Festival founder George Wein set out to create a festival that embraced both commercial and noncommercial artists representing the totality of the folk world. In 1959, the festival showcased an open spectrum of performances—from the immensely popular five-time Number 1 record-releasing artists The Kingston Trio to an obscure singer songwriter named Joan Baez, who emerged as the event’s breakout talent. To celebrate the annual Rhode Island festival’s Golden Jubilee, organizers dubbed the event “Folk Festival 50”. This year, the festival commemorated its heritage with folk legends Baez, Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie and Judy Collin as well as the genre’s future with “newcomers” such as The Decembrists, Fleet Foxes, Iron & Wine and Ben Kweller.
Folk Festival 50 producer (and Editor-at-Large for Paste and the OurStage blog) Jay Sweet caught up with Kweller to discuss the weekend’s fest, the current state of the music industry and life as a do-it-yourselfer. View the video of the Q&A and hear Ben Kweller’s sage advice to indie artists.