When did you first know you wanted to become a musical artist? What was the first song you ever wrote?

I have loved music as far back as I can remember. My Dad is a banjo player and my grandmother sang and played. I began playing banjo around the age of 12 and actually learned from a stack of vinyl records my Dad had. The early years of my playing was consumed with Flatt & Scruggs, The Osborne Brothers, Jimmy Martin and J.D. Crowe. As far as writing I’ve really gotten more into that in recent years, I really enjoy melody and song structure. The first instrumental I wrote was actually released earlier this year entitled “Three Arrows”, I have another instrumental I penned that will be released with the upcoming project as well! 

Who are some of your top 5 musical influences?

Earl Scruggs, The Osborne Brothers, Jim and Jesse McReynolds, Dolly Parton and JD Crowe 

What’s on your playlist this week?

I’ve really been listening to a wide variety lately. Gene Watson, Elvis, Glen Campbell, Dolly Parton, Dailey & Vincent, Rod Stewart, Doyle Lawson, Paul Simon, Jason Carter, Ricky Skaggs, Paul Brewster, Trey Hensley and James Taylor. I just love music – and all kinds of it! 

What do you like most about playing live?

I love interacting with the band and the feel of playing live. I have recently done some fill in work with Grand Ole Opry stars Dailey & Vincent. They are a blast to play live with, both Jamie and Darrin are such great singers, musicians and professionals, it makes me play better! I really enjoy seeing how songs and lyrics can touch someone, you know, the emotional experience of a live show. I love hearing other folks story, what song they enjoyed and why. Seeing the smiles, it’s really encouraging. 

Your new single “Forever Young” features Dolly Parton and Paul Brewster. How did that come about?

I have thought about recording this song for a long time. It’s really something I wanted to record for my boys, Finn and Owen. I’ve always loved the lyrics and how they speak of embracing good times and good memories. I had the idea of Paul Brewster singing this song from the first time I thought of recording it. I have followed Paul’s singing since I first started playing music, we became friends through the years while we were both playing with bands at the Grand Ole Opry. My upcoming project being a “Heroes and Friends” theme, he was one of the first phone calls, he is both in my book! When I approached him about signing it, he was happy to give it a try and I’m so glad he did. He really captured the essence of the song. It was a few days after he cut his vocal, Paul called me with the idea of Dolly Parton being on the song. He really felt like she would be a perfect and would like the track. I laugh now, because when he told me that, my reply was “Paul, every song needs Dolly on it!” I’m so thankful that she agreed to guest, Paul and Dolly together is nothing short of amazing. Their kindness in agreeing to sing made a dream of mine become a reality. That kindness, sincerity and encouragement is what I hope conveys to the listener. I’m so proud of the musicians as well- they are some of the best of the best, and really knocked it out if the park translating this Rock classic to this acoustic Bluegrass version Andy Leftwich (mandolin), Trey Hensley (Guitar) Kent Blanton (Bass), Josh Swift (Resophonic Guitar/Percussion), Derek Deakins (Strings), Stephen Burwell (Fiddle) and I played banjo and added a harmony vocal. 

How has each of their music played a role in your sound?

I first heard of Paul Brewster when I began playing banjo through listening to the Osborne Brothers and his many years traveling and recording as part of the legendary Ricky Skaggs’ Kentucky Thunder. I have always felt he was one of the most versatile and naturally gifted high lead and tenor singers ever. We struck a common ground with our love for the music of the Osbornes which is a huge influence on me. As far as Dolly, I have been a fan as far back as I can remember. Not only do I love her distinct voice, I am a huge fan of her songwriting. However, what touches me most about Dolly is how she has used her success in music to constantly make a positive impact far beyond a single generation. Her work to improve her hometown of Sevierville, TN alone is just amazing and then look at the positive impact of the imagination library and how it reaches so many children promoting literacy. The list of her giving back can’t be measured. She is simply amazing! 

What do you like most about Bluegrass?

I love the instruments, the authentic vocals, the acoustics, and story songs. Bluegrass music is real. It’s the perfect combination of old bridging into new- ever evolving. There are hints of delta blues, Irish music merged with the strong Appalachia influence. The beautiful thing about bluegrass is the different styles and how the influence of Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs still rings true in the seasoned veterans and the newer contemporary artists. I also love how Bluegrass is passed down through generations. Del McCoury and his boys are a great example of that, I love what they do and how Del has influenced them and they are carrying it on in their own way. 

What’s the best concerts you’ve ever been to?

The concerts I first seen when I was a kid learning to play and on fire to learn were the best. They will always stand out. The first Osborne Brothers, Jim and Jesse and JD Crowe shows, I was amazed. As an adult, seeing Glen Campbell, Ronnie Milsap, George Jones, Marty Raybon and Merle Haggard are all favorite memories. Hearing those guys sing live, nothing like it.

If you could meet, play a gig, co-write a song, have dinner, have a drink with any band or artist (dead or alive) who would it be?

I would have loved to have seen Elvis during his years in the early 70s. I always felt He was at the top of his game and had one of the best live bands ever. Flatt & Scruggs early 60s would be another – goodness they were hitting on all cylinders! 

What are your goals for the future?

I had a huge bucket list goal reached earlier this year – thanks to Darrin Vincent and Jamie Dailey my boys finally saw me play at the Grand Ole Opry. It was a night I’ll never forget, the Opry is such a huge part of my life and why I wanted to play music, I am so thankful that finally happened. My friend Jim Britton made the trip to join us that night as well- he has been a friend and banjo mentor since I was young. It was a very special night and surreal moment for me. Moving on, I’m looking forward to getting the new “Heroes & Friends” project out. It’s been a blast recording this one and being in the producers seat. I’d like to continue recording, I really enjoy that side. There are folks I wanted to include on this project that already had new music releasing, I hope to possibly record another project with a few more guests. I’d like to continue writing and performing live as much as possible as well. More than anything I’d like to continue to use what success I have in music to encourage younger players who are coming up. I had specific people around when I was learning that did that for me, and that made all the difference. I have never forgotten it either. I’m blessed with some great memories and people in my life. I hope to continue making those memories and new music as the years progress.

End of Interview