What was it that first got you interested in playing the guitar, mandolin or banjo?
I come from a large musical family (I’m the 2nd of 9 children). Both of my parents were professional symphony musicians even before I was born, playing violin and trumpet. My siblings and I were all taught the violin and piano when we were young. As we grew older, we wanted to branch out into other instruments too! We had seen another family that played bluegrass music, and that inspired us. Several of my family members got themselves guitars and I wanted to be like the rest of them, so I got one too - a half-sized, nylon-stringed toy found at a yard sale for $2!
How long have you been playing and what’s your motivation to play?
I got my first guitar when I was 10 - I’m 19 now, so 9 years. I taught myself basic chords out of method books for several years, until when I was 16, my family took a vacation to the mountains of North Carolina. We stepped into a little mountain gift shop and heard bluegrass music playing through the speakers. We were hooked on the sound and took home a CD from the gift shop- “Sunday Morning Bluegrass” by Mike Scott. Bryan Sutton was playing on the album. We listened to that CD over and over and over, and we all chose an instrument and started our own family bluegrass band. That’s when I knew I wanted to play not just guitar, but BLUEGRASS guitar! I’ve been focusing on the bluegrass style ever since, so 3 years! I started taking online lessons with Bryan Sutton and Jake Workman, which I’m still doing. They have been my BIGGEST motivation for sure! And of course, now I’ve got Banjo Ben as my amazing motivator too!
What’s your favorite lesson on Ben’s site and how has it helped you improve?
I love all the flatpicking lessons! It’s hard to pick a favorite. I also love all the fingerstyle gospel arrangements! I recently started learning fingerstyle, and Ben’s lessons are fantastic, especially because I really enjoy all the Christian hymns. The bends lesson with Zeb Snyder is great too! I’m still starting to dig into all the incredible content here so I haven’t explored nearly everything yet, but every lesson I’ve watched so far has helped me tremendously.
What’s your goal when playing?
My #1 goal in playing guitar, music, and everything I do is to honor the Lord! It’s because of what He’s done in my life that I want to make music and praise Him. I also want to bless other people with the joy that music brings. Another goal is to be the very best guitar player I can be for my family band, Headin’ Home Bluegrass. I want to keep improving as a flatpicker and a rhythm player so I can do my part to make our band sound great. We’re coming out with our first CD this year, which I’m very excited about!
Are there any other instruments or genres of music that you enjoy playing?
I still play piano and violin, although my main focus is guitar. Bluegrass is my favorite genre of course, but I also like four-part gospel singing and piano hymns. Fingerstyle guitar is another sound I enjoy.
Do you have a favorite technique? What is it?
Flatpicking in general! I love the sound of bluesy guitar licks, big strong G runs, and up-the-neck guitar picking at ridiculous speeds!
If you could play in anyone’s band, who would it be and why?
Well, I’m already playing in my first choice for a band! My family is so fun to play with, and I’m blessed to be able to make music with them! Although there are 11 of us in the family, the bluegrass band is only composed of the oldest 6: my dad Jon on upright bass, my mom Marina on fiddle, my 21-year-old brother Luke on dobro, my 18-year-old sister Lucy on mandolin, and my 15-year-old brother Timothy on banjo. They’re the best bandmates! If I were to play guitar in any other band though, I imagine it’d be fun to play with Appalachian Road Show - they have so much energy and drive, which are my favorite parts of bluegrass music.
What type of gear or accessories have you found that work best for you?
I love my two Martin guitars: a 1968 D-28 (Brazilian Rosewood) and a 2019 D-18 (Sinker Mahogany). I also really like my McKinney-Elliott capo, BlueChip TP60 picks, D’Addario EJ17 strings, and BAM dreadnought guitar case.
If money was no object, what would be your dream instrument(s)?
Since I love Martin guitars, it’d be amazing to own one of the super old ones from the 1930’s!
If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
Practice my guitar, for sure! There’s seldom enough time in the day to practice for as long as I’d like to. There’s just so much to learn!
Anything else you’d like to add?
Check out our family’s website, HeadinHomeBluegrass.com! Also, thanks so much to Banjo Ben for featuring me - this has been such a fun opportunity! Anyone thinking about joining his site, DO IT. You won’t regret it!
How did you find out about Banjo Ben?
One of my brothers surprised me and bought me a G run T-shirt from Banjo Ben’s General Store about a year ago. I loved the shirt, and so I got on Banjo Ben’s email list. I’ve been reading his emails for about a year before finding out about the Cabin Fever contest and eventually joining as a Gold Pick member.
Thanks for letting us feature you, @Flatpickin_Libby