It can be a little tough choosing an instrument to learn when you’re young. At least is was for me. The trumpet was my first attempt at an instrument but it didn’t speak to me and then later the guitar was sort of an interest to me but many of my friends in school were giving the guitar a go. I wanted to be different but also stay in the tradition of singing songs around the campfire with my family. That’s when I decided I would play the banjo.
Scruggs style picking was the form I learned and I thoroughly the tested my mother’s patience learning to play “Cripple Creek” which is about ninety seconds long and I would play it for over an hour. But thankfully she put up with it because about a year after getting my first banjo, I won the talent show at high school.
This win sounds more impressive than it actually was though since there were only 55 kids in my graduating class but still it meant a lot to me. Soon my little hometown had a new bluegrass band as I got together with a bunch of my friends with whatever instruments they had and so was formed Bluegrass Tuesday. We named ourselves this because we’d always meet on Tuesday and whoever wanted to come could and we would just jam. Sometimes it would just be me and my buddy Matt Strickland on guitar but other times we would have friends from orchestra and band come with their tubas, cellos, trumpets, violas and more. Then we’d play bluegrass songs for a few hours. It’s the way music should be enjoyed.
There were more talent shows and I won some and lost some and eventually there was a county talent show for all the high schools in the area. I was invited to come and I lost but I played one of my favorite songs “Earl’s Breakdown”. You can watch it above. It was a pretty good performance for a 16 year-old me.
Lots of people aren’t aware that I play the banjo because I’m always playing the guitar out live. The guitar is a great songwriting tool for me which is why I’ve been playing it so much for the past ten years. Ever since I started to write songs in college I haven’t been able to stop. Still the banjo has been there through it all and I still find time to pick away at a few bluegrass tunes.
For those of you wanting to hear a little more banjo from me, fear not! I have lots of recordings I’ve made that feature the banjo like the song “I don’t need no man” and some songs from Phantom Forsake, the first volume of my Home Tapes series.
Volume two of the Home Tapes is coming out this month and it’s all banjo. Not one lick of guitar appears on these new recordings. It’s called Lost Keys in Lounge Strange and I had my buddy Jake Boucher play on it with me. You may remember him from The Commandeer EP on the upright bass which he plucks away at on Lost Keys but he also helps me out with percussion and production of the songs.
So keep an eye out for that coming in this fine month of July. I’m gonna drop it like some hot banjo strings after a “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” jam session.