Black Deer Artist Search

Launched in partnership with SupaJam, the Tunbridge Wells Forum and the Americana Music Association UK our mission was to discover five of the best emerging Americana and country music stars and provide them with a unique platform to showcase their talent to the world on – a stage slot at the inaugural Black Deer Festival from 22nd – 24th June 2018.
With over 150 amazing entries, our judges David Court and the students of SupaJam school, Jason Dormon and his team at the fantastic Tunbridge Wells Forum, Black Deer promotors Gill Tee and Debs Shilling and music booker Bev Burton, sifted through submissions to shortlist just 15, before a final 6 were chosen. That’s right, we added another stage slot to welcome a standout sixth act.
It’s time to reveal the winners of the competition and to let you know you will have your first chance to see them live (and for FREE) as we begin Black Deer Festival celebrations early in a one-night special preview to be held at the Tunbridge Wells Forum on 7th June 2018.

And the winners are…

The Paul Dunton Orchestra

Local Tunbridge Wells based singer-songwriter Paul Dunton leads his crossover orchestra to conjure an atmospheric fusion of folk, pop and country with a classical twist. Performing Paul’s own compositions plus a varied selection of unique arrangements from other artists the orchestra varies from a compact minimum 7-piece to a substantial 20 strong line up comprised of multiple violins and cellos, flute, bass, guitar and percussion.


Lt Leek

This Kent based three-piece with Matt Pound on lead vocals and guitar, Immie Mason on violin, mandolin and vocals, and Tom Jennings on guitar and banjo are an outstanding acoustic alternative country act. They impressed the judges recording tracks specifically for the competition and have a wonderful ability for bittersweet songwriting complimented with a unique blend of vocal harmonies.


The Lew Thomas Band

This 5-piece country-rock band from Derbyshire are set to electrify the stage with their brand of guitar-twang and honky-tonk. Check out the band’s latest release, a 4-track EP called ‘Laid Out On The Floor’ and you’ll want to be front row then they go live.


Mike Wilton

While on a short sabbatical from his band The Standard Lamps, who have toured with the likes of The Who and The Bluetones, Mike has put together and released his debut solo album via Pledge Music. Hailing from East Sussex, he’s quite the local hero so we have since discovered, and we’re super excited to hear his own blend of blues influences with hints of traditional country and some acoustic touches thrown in for good measure this June.


Kate Ellis

Born in Louisiana, raised in New York and now based in London, Kate’s southern country-folk roots come from her father’s side. Since the release of her debut album ‘Carve Me Out’ her genuine talent is audible, with emotionally truthful, intimate and heartfelt music set to add a wonderful dimension to the Black Deer festival experience.

“I’m thrilled to be playing at the Black Deer festival alongside some of the best Americana and country-folk artists around. Black Deer is a sign of how important Americana and Country is becoming to the UK music scene and it’s absolutely wonderful to be part of it.”
See them all play live at The Forum, Royal Tunbridge Wells
Date: Thursday 7th June 2018
Time: 6:30 PM
FREE Entry
Requirements: 16+

Laura Oakes

Inspiration from the likes of Dolly Parton, David Gates and the Dixie Chicks may have seemed a million miles away from Liverpool lass Laura but her path was primed. A visit to the iconic Grand Ole Opry in Nashville at the age of 18 proved to be a life-changing experience and her dream of writing and singing country music was realised. Laura is an accomplished performer and her name will be familiar to fans of the UK country scene. Since hearing Laura has been busy writing a host of new songs in Nashville earlier this year, we couldn’t resist showcasing them at Black Deer this summer…