THE SHORT VERSION
I'm a song writer raised in Music City, TN. I worked at Sugar Hill Records in Durham, North Carolina, after college before letting my wanderlust get the best of me and living to the Alps in Switzerland for a couple years. Now I reside in beautiful Asheville, North Carolina. The mountains are where I've settled and what feel like home to me, but all these places, experiences and sounds have formed me and my music, which I affectionately (or because I'm a dad and am full of dad jokes) call "Brewgrass."
THE LONGER ONE
My dad’s office when I was a kid was three doors down from the Bluebird Café but I never set foot in it, nor did I fully appreciate what Music City was all aboute. There are two Nashvilles. The one of musicians, art and poetry, and the one of ordinary life- bankers, truck drivers, real estate brokers. One's not better than the other, the latter feeds the former. But I straddled the fence- living in a normal neighborhood, swimming in the Harpeth River on hot August days, playing little league baseball.
At the same time, some of my closest friends’ dads wrote #1 hits. I took a 4th grade field trip to the County Music Hall of Fame (the dusky OLD one, not the shiny NEW one) and they let me sing an original song I’d written. It was as bad as you'd expect, but getting to do it stirred me up.
I loved English classes in school- read good books, wrote a lot, learned about poetic devices, iambic pentameter- the nuts and bolts of good song writing.
Most kid go punk; I went hillbilly. My senior year art teacher played Unleashed by the Nashville Bluegrass Band. Then came Sam Bush, David Grisman, and Robert Earl Keen. In college, I met Doc at a show in Lenoir, NC and went to my first Merlefest. That was the beginning and the end. I was lost to the world of Americana and would never look back.
After college, I worked at the seminal roots/bluegrass label Sugar Hill Records. I met Dolly, worked for industry legends like Barry Poss and Bev Paul, got a gold record (I didn't deserve) for Nickel Creek's first album.
I picked up a guitar in college but didn’t do much more than put my finger on the strings. Fifteen years later when my wife (who is an author), our daughter, and I were finishing an 18 month book tour driving through Wyoming near the Bighorns I blurted out, “when we get home I’m gonna try to write a song.” My wife says I blurt out a lot. But the voice came from my core, like I’d seen all this beauty we were driving through and thought “God, I want to create, too.” So I did.
I had no idea what I was doing, but I'm pretty high on the intuition scale and have a lot of music love to draw from. They say “write what you know” so I did. What came out was “Soul in the Wood,” a loosely autobiographical song about the decline of furniture plants in North Carolina. My granddad owned and ran a furniture factory in Nashville. It felt like the right thing to say and I was happy with how it turned out so I kept doing it.
Charles Humphrey (Songs from the Road Band, Steep Canyon Rangers) was a trail running friend at the time and one day I screwed up my nerve and asked if he'd help me make a record. Charles isn't one to shy away from adventure and said “sure, as long as we use my guys.” I was glad we did because he introduced me to a lot more talented people than I deserved to play with- guys and gals from bands like Punch Brothers, Steep Canyon Rangers, Songs from the Road, Peter Rowan and Maren Morris's bands, the list goes on. And not least was Charlie Chamberlain, one of the best producers and guitar players in Nashville today.
Charlie one time called “Americana” music “Amerikinda” because it’s all over the place, and I fully embrace that. My songs are bluegrass, country, gospel, folk, even pop. I call it all Brewgrass. I write what comes when it comes and don’t discriminate. I have a day job and young kids and my wife’s work makes a lot more than songwriting ever will, so unless I become the next Jackson Browne- which ain’t likely- I’m happy to write on the margins of my life. Sometimes that’s where the best ideas are anyway.
I don’t do drugs when I write, but I most certainly get a “writer’s high” when I finish a good one. The satisfaction lasts for days. It is a gift to get to call myself an artist, the same as John Prine, Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Patty Griffin, Mississippi John Hurt, Gillian Welch, Tim O’Brien, Todd Snider, Darrell Scott, Aoife O'Donovan, Scott Miller, Tyler Childers, Buddy Miller, Townes Van Zandt, the list goes on and on toward the sun. My musical heroes, the ones I emulate on purpose and by accident.
Art gets commoditized these days like everything else, but I really believe good music stands alone on its own accord and that’s true whether people listen or not. Maybe that’s what I tell myself because most of my songs aren’t out there yet and I just play breweries around Asheville and am still learning how to play guitar halfway decent. I’m just grateful to OWN a guitar and to have the time to play it- unlike so many around the world in Ukraine and Sudan and Fiji and everywhere else where life is tougher than it is here in the "goodle" US of A.
I think every time I play, the guitar notes and the noise from my vocal chords floats out there somewhere, little remnants of it hovering on for all eternity. That may sound pie in the sky but it’s true. Maybe one song's helping the leaves fall off the trees in the fall. Another blessing an old friend on her death bed, making her crossing over a little less painful. I've seen that in real time so I by into it.
Or maybe the songs are just helping me. If they’re doing any good I’m happy about it and grateful to be a part of the world in such a way.