What a weekend!

Whew…. That sigh of relief came Sunday evening when I finally arrived back in Johnson City. The packed, but quick weekend was over. Home Craft Days passed and was a grand success. The festival  always serves as more than a craft fair, more than funnel cakes, honey sticks, and chicken on a stick. The festival serves as a reunion, a homecoming of sorts for all people of the region, but especially those in the musical world. The festival brings together friends from the folk revival who were monumental in preserving our regional arts such as apple butter making, woodcarving, and of course, music. Home Craft Days also brings together those of younger generations, such as myself. It was wonderful to see and hear so many talented friends. Inside all of this homecoming celebration thought, was another celebration.

The festival served as the release celebration of my first official album, “Wise County Jail”. It arrived just in time Friday morning, only hours before the Friday night reception and concert that would kick off the weekend. Home Craft Days was the perfect release weekend! The festival is a staple in our community and it is known for bringing everyone together. The community has also been very supportive of my music since I first began singing and strumming the guitar. They stuck by me and encouraged me and watched me grow ( I guess I’m still growing too, considering I’m not even twenty yet…). It was the perfect moment to let everyone know that their encouragement has been well received and applied. So I take this moment to thank you, yes you. I want to thank all the communities I’m involved in, whether it be Big Stone Gap or the musical world, or whatever realm I might be in at the time. Everyone has shown me so much encouragement and I am grateful.

So to wrap things up, thanks y’all! Hope you’re loving your new cd and if you have yet to get one there is no need to worry. They should be appearing in local stores soon. And make sure to head up to Abingdon on Nov. 4th. I’ll be picking some tunes at Heartwood!

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It Is On The Way!

I am happy to announce that my new album titled “Wise County Jail” will be released on Friday, October 19, 2012! It will be released at the Friday night concert of Home Craft Days at Mountain Empire Community College. Todd Meade and I will be picking a couple of numbers of the new cd that night to give a preview of what is on it. So I invite you to come on up and pick up a copy for yourself, and maybe one for your friend too!

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How lucky am I?!

What a busy time of year! Just when I look forward to the hype of summer settling down into a routine, BAM!, the hype of fall arrives and takes off like a rocket. It is an excellent time of year though to travel the Appalachian region and hear an overload of Old Time music. One can find it at local Farmers’ Markets, festivals like Home Craft Days or the Tennessee Fall Homecoming, and its also all over your local college campus. College campus?? That’s right, college. East Tennessee State University is the world’s first university to offer a Bachelor’s Degree in Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music Studies. This unique program guides students through every aspect of our region’s music from the history and tunes to sound and recording. At least one class of mine per day deals with music, which recently made me realize that I am lucky. VERY LUCKY.

It is not everyday that your son or daughter will say, “Parents, I’m going to college, not to be a doctor or a teacher, but to play the banjo.” No, it isn’t everyday that it is said, but I am sure glad I uttered an interpretation of those words. The strange piece of this story though is not that I wanted to pursue a degree in Old Time music, but, that my parents willingly agreed that I should do it. I recently discovered that students pursuing degrees in a form of art are not looked too highly upon by other departments who are striving to create workers ready to earn $50k + a year. In fact, I can always win the bet that when a student of our department tells a Digital Media student, “I’m a Bluegrass major.”, it is always followed up with their question, “So, what do you with that?”. I reiterate that Bluegrass is actually a thriving genre that just like Pop or Rock needs sound and record producer, songwriters, managers, etc. Anyway…. back on topic, I don’t think we realize as students just how lucky we are. I am not only fortunate enough to be in such a wonderful program of study, but my parents have stood right beside me every step of the way. They, unlike some parents, encouraged me to pursue not only music, but Old Time music ( a world of music that is less than 25,000 people probably and that is exaggerated). So, to wrap things up, I am very grateful for the support my parents have shown me and not only that, but to be pursuing exactly what I love, every moment of every day.

Peace Friends, Tyler

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The best way to start your day? Pick banjo!

Evenin’ y’all! What a busy day!! As are most of my days anymore, it was filled with music. Just moments after waking up I received a call to busk around campus to raise some interest in the upcoming Contra Dance series at ETSU. Our first dance was held on Tuesday and was a great success. I had some reservations about playing for the dance. I won’t lie; I thought it might be a tad boring. I was very, very wrong however. I had just as much fun playing for that dance as I have playing anywhere else. I had thought that playing the same tune for several minutes would probably be very monotonous after a time or two, when actually it opened a creative door.

As each tune swirls around the room it begins to not only hypnotize the dancers as they weave in and out couples into long lines and such, it captures the mind of the musician. Take “Breaking Up Christmas” for instance, after a couple of rounds of playing the melody somethings snapped. It was as if the song had taken control and said, “Follow me, I’ll show you a road map of this banjo.” Before I knew it I was reaching all over the neck for notes. It was then that the fiddle’s variations began to inspire an even greater search for music. I guess what I’m trying to say is that playing a tune over three or four times opens a creative window. You have been given the chance to explore and discover the song in whole new areas, all across your instrument. It is a rare experience indeed, because performing these same tunes for audiences usually means they will only be three to four minutes long. That is enough time to concrete a melody and play it like you mean business. Playing for dances is completely different. These tunes can go on for eight to ten minutes. That is enough time to concrete the melody and then head on down the path looking for hundreds of variations. Enough rambling about the creative works of the banjo and old time dance tunes; I still need to publicize some things!!

First off, come to a Contra Dance sometime if you’re close to Johnson City, no experience or partner required. The next one is on September 11, 2012 in the DP Culp Center Ballroom on the campus of East Tennessee State University. I’d like to invite you to also head out to Broad Street in Kingsport, TN, this Friday (August 31) to see the ETSU Bluegrass Band perform. The event is also serving as the release party for the highly anticipated student album from ETSU’s Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music Studies. I was invited to record on this new album on a song written by the very talented, John Goad. I’ll be there tomorrow to perform this song with the band also. Finally, celebrate the long weekend by heading to Natural Tunnel State Park for the 10th annual Papa Joe Smiddy Festival. I’ll be there playing banjo and banjo uke with the ETSU Old Time Pride Band. Not to mention, the ETSU Bluegrass Pride Band and the super talented Barefoot Movement will there, and of course Papa Joe! Hope to see you around soon!


P.S. Don’t look too harshly upon the blog’s appearance. I’m still playing with all the settings and will have everything fixed up nice real soon! ~Tyler

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