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Radio Bristol Spotlight: The Willy Nillys

Radio Bristol is proud to offer a platform to local and regional artists who are often underrepresented on a national level yet deserving of that audience. In expanding upon Radio Bristol’s core mission, we are pleased to bring you our latest Radio Bristol Spotlight post. This blog series highlights top emerging artists in our region – through interviews and performance, we learn more about the musicians who help to make Central Appalachia one the richest, and most unique musical landscapes in the world.

Recently at the Radio Bristol studio, we hosted the newly re-formed duo The Willy Nillys, comprised of the easygoing road warrior couple, Christy Lynn Barrett and Ryan Schilling. Currently based in Asheville, North Carolina, the two have been hitting the highway on multiple DIY cross-country road trips for the better part of a decade, playing dive bars and open mics sprawled across sleepy countryside towns. Their long musical journey has incorporated multiple converted vans or other “assorted vintage vehicles,” nights spent everywhere from sketchy Walmart parking lots to majestic National Forests, self-recorded albums with hand-cut vinyl, and a menagerie of analog audio gear including the 1987 Ford Econoline known as the American Sound Truck, which houses a direct to vinyl recording studio.

A young couple stand in front of a big window with a building seen through it. They are both white and wearing light-colored denim short-sleeved shirts and dark blue denim jeans. The woman stands to the left; she has chin-length slighly wavy red hair and leans her head on the man's shoulder. The man stands to the right and has dark brown shoulder-length hair and a beard/moustache.

The Willy Nillys’ Christy Barrett and Ryan Schilling pose in unquestionably classy denim on denim attire. Photo Credit: Izzy Nelson

The dream-manifesting pair grew up in small dusty desert towns in Southern California, home to mystic cowboys such as Gram Parsons and creative origin for the legendary Laurel Canyon folk music scene of the 1960s and 1970s. Meeting by happenstance at a late night party, Barrett and Schilling quickly began writing music together, delving ever deeper into musical influences that lead them to the rich soils of Appalachia. Nowadays the couple own and run  American Vinyl Co., a one-stop shop for everything from custom lathe-cut vinyl records, record mastering/pressing, direct-to-lacquer recording, live musical performances, a record shop, and a well-curated collection of historical audio equipment – all located in a beautifully renovated 1940s warehouse on the South Slope near downtown Asheville. To fully grasp the breadth of everything that happens at American Vinyl Co., we highly suggest going there for a visit – you can order from their “menu,” which includes recording a single inside the sound truck, or you can check out a show where they host an impressive variety of emerging roots music and Americana acts. You can check out their event schedule here.

A converted warehouse-style studio space is seen in this photograph. Large multi-paned windows line the back wall; it is night-time outside and you can see the glow of greenish lights in the windows to the left. In the studio can be seen various vintage microphones, instruments on stands, and other music paraphernalia. A record-shaped sign for American Vinyl Co. is hanging in the windows to the right.

American Viny Co. Stage located just outside of downtown Asheville in the “Brewery District” of South Slope. 

This industrious duo also still finds time to crank out inspiring original music, amidst refurbishing retro musical equipment and pressing loads of vinyl records for independent artists. Their latest iteration as The Willy Nillys is the third progression of their musical brainchild. Past projects have included the Christy Lynn Band, which is heavily inspired by Barrett’s lifelong love of classic country, and Triumph of the Wild, which won the couple first place for best recording at the San Diego Music Awards and began their relentless pilgrimage to musical sites of inspiration throughout the rural south. In the Radio Bristol studio, we got to witness a few of their brand new songs and talk about new recording projects on the horizon.

Starting out they played a tune called “American Daydream,” a hopeful yet rugged romp accented by cinematic swells of harmonica and hair-raising vocal harmonies. The lyrics seem to recount their idyllic but at times dangerous and unglamorous experience as OG van lifers – living off of sink showers and hints of Ola Belle Reed melodie,; learning how to befriend locals, and staying out of trouble with local police. The chorus proclaims “Livin our life like we wanted to…In an American Daydream with you,” ending with the road-weary affirmation: “A couple beggars, a couple of crooks, A couple of nobodies you overlooked…There ain’t a risk we ain’t never took.” This band is definitely for lovers of Shovels and Rope, The Everly Brothers, and 1950s pop employing powerhouse vocals and swishing echo-like back beats.

They also shared a somber number, “It Ain’t Fair,” a tune with a lilting melody that felt reminiscent of classic country balladry. The song slowly gallops along with regretful lyrics that recount sacrifices made as traveling songwriters – missing their nephews grow up and their parents aging. The stoic beauty and honesty of this song will leave a lump in your throat and tears in your eyes, with the last verse admitting:

“To my two sisters, I’ve been meaning to call
It breaks my heart knowing, I don’t know you at all
So I’ll pack my suitcase and I’ll go back in time
Back before a song was always on my mind.”

This is a band that is definitely worth checking out – so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for a new EP coming from them this summer, one that is sure to be self-produced and released with hand-pressed vinyl from American Vinyl Co.

Check out The Willy Nillys playing “It Ain’t Fair” live in the Radio Bristol studio.

Ella Patrick is a Production Assistant at Radio Bristol. She also hosts Folk Yeah! on Radio Bristol and is a performing musician as Momma Molasses.

Radio Bristol Spotlight: Chance Lawson

Radio Bristol is proud to offer a platform to local and regional artists, artists who are often underrepresented on a national level yet deserving of that audience. As part of Radio Bristol’s core mission, we are pleased to share our latest Radio Bristol Spotlight post. Radio Bristol Spotlight is a series highlighting top emerging artists in our region. Through interviews and performance we will learn more about the musicians who help to make Central Appalachia one of the richest and most unique musical landscapes in the world.

Singer-Songwriter Chancellor (Chance) Lawson has been turning heads with his acoustic solo originals, recently winning the Tennessee Songwriters Week Competition for the Northeast Tennessee region. Local finalists performed at The Down Home in Johnson City, Tennessee, competing for a chance to play a showcase at Nashville’s acclaimed listening room, the Bluebird Cafe .The competition was hosted at six different historical venues throughout the state, and celebrates the “foundation of the craft for which Tennessee is known – music.”

A photograph of a white man standing in front of a vinyl banner for the Tennessee Songwriters Week Competition; you can see a stage area with instruments behind the banner and the man. The man is young, with wavy brown chin-length hair; he is wearing glasses, a white t-shirt, and jeans. He holds a guitar in one hand.

Chance Lawson at The Down Home in Johnson City, Tennessee, following his performance for Tennessee Songwriters Week Competition finals. Courtesy of Chance Lawson

Growing up in Kingsport, Tennessee, Lawson has been a staple at open mic nights and stages surrounding the Tri-Cities, performing with the collectively run indie-rock band Donnie and the Dry Heavers. This summer the musician also plans to open up a brand new venue in his hometown – the Market Street Social Club will be an inclusive space for pickers of all levels and performers of everything from music to stand-up comedy. The club will host multiple open mics weekly, as well as live performances by regional and touring artists. Recently we got to visit with Lawson in the Radio Bristol studio where he shared plans for the new space, plus some of his original tunes and off-the-cuff asides about his laid back approach to creating music.

Complete with Stetson and cowboy hat, Lawson confidently strolled into the studio and started things off with a bluegrassy original tune called “The Flood.” Fashioned together with idyllic imagery and fluid flatpicking, the song depicts a listless experience of existing – using water as a metaphor for the ebb and flow of emotion, proclaiming Lawson’s ability to remain stable and to keep “holding on” even while expressing an inner need for traveling that keeps his feet from “rooting.” Inspired by heralded Americana songwriters such as Jason Isbell and John Prine, Lawson is an astonishingly polished performer whose dues earned at countless local venues are paying off. His songs, embellished by effortless guitar playing and velvety smooth twang-tinged vocals, offer a bona fide look into the raw talent that comes from our region.

Playing on a brand new Taylor guitar that was part of the prize for winning the Tennessee Songwriters Week Competition, Lawson admitted that he was shocked when his name got called as the overall winner for the Northeast Tennessee region at The Down Home. Lawson’s flare for creating original music has been opening up major doors for the songwriter. He spoke highly about his experience playing at The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, saying that he felt like folks there were super supportive, and he was impressed by the other songwriters such as Tyson Leamon and Jacob Rice, who made it clear why they had won for their prospective regions.

A black-and-white photograph of a white male musician wearing a white Stetson-style hat and holding a guitar. He is standing in front of a radio booth.

Chance Lawson at the Radio Bristol studio. © Birthplace of Country Music

Raised playing gospel music at Cross Roads United Methodist Church and taught guitar by his mother, Lawson comes from a family with deep musical roots. His grandfather was celebrated country music star Red Kirk, who made appearances on historic radio programs such as WNOX’s MidDay Merry-Go-Round, WLS’s National Barn Dance, the Louisiana Hayride, and the Grand Ole Opry. With country music and traditions running through his veins one might find it surprising that one of Lawson’s earliest and most impactful influences was The Grateful Dead. He described first hearing “Friend of the Devil” during a hazy car ride and becoming completely hooked on the sound, which to him blended the traditional bluegrass scales he grew up on with a more meandering sideways-hippie-infused sound. Becoming a “Dead Head” seems to have sparked a creative ember for Lawson who then shared a song called “Jerry and Jesus.” The song reads as a thoughtful plea for reconciliation across musical and philosophical boundaries. Lyrics such as “Let’s get along, let’s throw a party tonight…now that’s worth praying for. Let’s make mistakes, that’s how we learn anyways…Who said you can’t love Jerry and Jesus?” offer a heartfelt perspective on merging Lawson’s Tennessee roots with a broader worldview. The seemingly paradoxical inclination to meld stylistic influences from traditional music along with subjective songwriting makes Lawson’s songs a provocative and compelling listen.

While playing in the Radio Bristol studio, Lawson also performed “Happy Man,” the tune that won him the Tennessee Songwriters Week Competition. Inspired by his girlfriend, the catchy song mixes pop sensibilities by blending country twang with rhythm-and-blues vibes…think Bill Withers meets Gary Stewart. The song is refined yet maintains its authenticity. To watch a live performance of the song watch the video below, and be sure to follow Lawson’s music online via his Facebook page.

Chance Lawson performing “Happy Man,” winner of the 2022 Tennessee Songwriters Week Competition.

Ella Patrick is a Production Assistant at Radio Bristol. She also hosts Folk Yeah! on Radio Bristol and is a performing musician as Momma Molasses.

Radio Bristol Spotlight: Erika Lewis

Radio Bristol is proud to offer a platform to local and regional artists who are often underrepresented on a national level yet deserving of that audience. In expanding upon Radio Bristol’s core mission, we are pleased to bring you Radio Bristol Spotlight, a blog series highlighting top emerging artists in our region. Through interviews and performances, we will learn more about the musicians who help to make Southern Appalachia one of the richest and most unique musical landscapes in the world.

Photograph of a young white woman with brown curly hair pulled back at the nape of her neck. She is wearing a sleeveless blue-patterned top and a delicate beaded necklace. She is in a field with flowers behind her.

Erika Lewis.

At the Radio Bristol studio this past month, we hosted an awe-inspiring vocalist whose earthy country-jazz dusted vocals have danced up and down Bourbon Street for years as a member of the New Orleans-based Tuba Skinny, a street band whose specialty lies in early jazz, ragtime, and blues. Recently relocated to the Asheville area, Erika Lewis paid us a visit to share a handful of original tunes, many of which will be featured on a new release due out this coming April.

Urged to put together a new collection of songs after facing a health scare that could have impaired her ability to sing, Lewis gathered a supportive group of old friends and astounding musicians – including Tuba Skinny’s instrumental maestro Shaye Cohn – to record a new album around the end of 2020. Sessions took place at The Bomb Shelter in Nashville, Tennessee, an acclaimed vintage-gear-clad studio. Guided by celebrated audio engineer Andrija Tokic (Hurray for The Riff Raff, Alabama Shakes, The Deslondes) and produced by multi-instrumentalist John James Tourville, the new album features a retrospective of Lewis’s songwriting and leans into a more heavily reverb coated 1960s sound. Lewis said that creating the new album became a practice of learning to actively “embrace herself” as she chose to start putting out music with her own name and departed from an earlier moniker, Lonesome Doves, under which Lewis released Waiting for Stars in 2016. To check out tracks on her earlier material, subscribe to Erika Lewis on Bandcamp.

The album cover has the artist's name and album title at the top. The image underneath shows a young white woman in a blue-patterned dress sitting in a field and playing a guitar. She has curly-ish brown hair, pulled back at the nape of her neck, and she is looking into the distance towards the mountains.

Asheville songwriter Erika Lewis is set to release A Walk Around the Sun in late April.

During the interview and on-air performance, Lewis shared the track “Bluebirds” from Waiting for Stars, a lilting minor key stomp with world-worn lyrics and weighty western vibes. Accompanied by John James on pedal steel and harmony vocals/acoustic guitar from Lillyanna Huggins, the song’s swaying beat was accented by Lewis’s distinct voice, which rang out across notes like a beautifully toned, tarnished brass bell.

Afterward, Lewis interpreted a few stories from her past and offered thoughts about musical influences that have inspired her to write songs. In New Orleans, a scene of young musicians cropped up after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, many of which had an interest in America’s musical past. Lewis made her way to town and began performing traditional Jazz tunes on the street with a collective of traveling musicians who later became known as Tuba Skinny, with whom she currently tours internationally. The group has also exploded virtually and currently has several videos online with millions of views. Growing up, Lewis said she always made up songs to pass the time and enjoyed listening to music from an early age. Her parents were both interested in music; her mother was a singer, and her father had a large collection of rhythm-and-blues records that Lewis remembers parsing through as a kid. In her early 20s, Lewis found herself working on a farm in upstate New York and became enamored by her roommate’s girlfriend, who happened to be acclaimed folk, country, and jazz-inspired songwriter Jolie Holland. Shortly after watching Holland perform, Lewis bought a guitar and began strumming along to her own songs.

While in our studio Lewis, James, and Huggins also performed a classic country-tinged waltz called “1,000 miles.” The swelling melody meandered around Lewis’s graceful singing, which bestowed starry-eyed lyrics about walking hand-in-hand with the one you love. Lewis said afterward that while she doesn’t know what the future holds because of the pandemic, she hopes to play out as much as possible in 2022 and is looking forward to getting her songwriting out into the world. While in the studio, Radio Bristol was bombarded by a slew of Canadian fans commenting online, all excited about Lewis’s appearance on the air.

We hope you will equally enjoy hearing her live performance of the single “Loser,” which will appear on her new album. The song displays descending scales of David Lynch-ian, reverb-laden guitar riffs in the space between wistful lyrics that plead “If I could only stop the pain of loving you.” The stand-out track swirls with bewitching 1960s pop-fused vocal harmonies and an atmospheric aura that draws the listener’s mind inside the tune.

Lewis’s album A Walk Around the Sun will be released on April 29 and can be purchased at https://erikalewismusic.bandcamp.com/.

Erika Lewis performing “Loser” in studio for On the Sunny Side in February 2022.

Ella Patrick is a Production Assistant at Radio Bristol. She also hosts Folk Yeah! on Radio Bristol and is a performing musician as Momma Molasses.

Radio Bristol Spotlight: Zach McNabb and The Tennessee Esquires

Radio Bristol is proud to offer a platform to local and regional artists who are often underrepresented on a national level yet deserving of that audience. In expanding upon Radio Bristol’s core mission, we are pleased to bring you our latest series – Radio Bristol Spotlight – highlighting top emerging artists in our region. Through interviews and performances, we will learn more about the musicians who help to make Southern Appalachia one of the richest and most unique musical landscapes in the world.

For today’s installment of Radio Bristol Spotlight we caught up with 19-year-old Zach McNabb, a musician who can turn out classic country covers with astounding precision. He joined us in-studio accompanied by his 17-year-old brother Caleb and Radio Bristol DJ Bailey George on guitar. Zach’s stunning gift for recreating the musical past has been gaining him fans both regionally, where he plays festivals and performs regularly at Gatlinburg’s Smoky Mountain Tunes & Tales, as well as internationally where he’s played on live streams for German Rock-a-Billy savant Randy Richter.

While at Radio Bristol, Zach and his band The Tennessee Esquires offered a handful of marvelous renditions of time-honored hits such as Johnny Cash’s popular tunes “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Get Rhythm,” and Don Gibson’s “Oh Lonesome Me.” Zach also gave insight into his passion for playing early country music, a trait rare in the growing Gen Z age of “digital natives” who are generally more familiar with putting their fingers to screens than to steel strings.

Black-and-white image shows a young dark-haired white man wearing a white shirt and dark pants. He is seated and playing a guitar, and there are various framed images on the wall behind him, along with a display of microphones, and a studio space with various pieces of equipment is seen through a doorway.

Zach McNabb shot in the Big Tone Records studio. Photo courtesy Travis Stevenson

The talented teen grew up just outside of Johnson City in Carter County, Tennessee, and began showing an interest in music at an early age. Picking up the guitar at eight years old, McNabb was introduced to Johnny Cash by his guitar teacher who recognized that he had a natural inclination towards country-sounding rhythm. Homeschooled in rural Tennessee with his four siblings and raised by a supportive family whose history is steeped in Southern gospel, it begins to make sense why the young musician gravitated towards country music. McNabb later offered asides about his musical family – both parents play at Sunday worship services, and his Baptist preacher Paw-Paw is infamous for carting around cardboard boxes in the trunk of his car, all full of self-released gospel CDs to hand out after prayer meetings.

With extra time on their hands due to learning at home, both Zach and his younger brother Caleb dedicated themselves to focusing on their musical technique. Zach absorbed full songs to play and sing, and Caleb studied the classical violin from the age of five and transcribed that knowledge to the stand-up bass he now plays to accompany his brother. The two began “playing out” at music venues around the area at just 15 and 13 years old. They also attended the Birthplace of Country Music Museum’s Pick Along Summer Camp, where Zach says the scope of his interest in early country music was greatly broadened. He also made connections with other musicians with similar interests, such as bandleader and performer on the Farm and Fun Time Noon Show Kody Norris, for whom Zach has manned merch tables at music festivals.

In 2019 McNabb released his first album from Big Tone Records, the Bristol-based, vintage-gear-focused studio. Complete with 1950s slapback echo, McNabb’s seamless vocal performance is remarkably unique, blending influences from classic country and bluegrass singers, reminiscent of singers like Jimmy Skinner and Hank Snow.

Zach McNabb and The Tennessee Esquires’ version of “Wreck of the Old 97,” recorded live to tape at Big Tone Records.

Looking towards the future, Zach currently attends college at Northeast State where he is studying entertainment technology with the hope of applying what he learns to live performances and expanding his breadth of recording techniques for future releases. McNabb shows a true dedication to his artistic vision and stated that one of the things that draws him most to country music is the “honesty and rawness of it.” He feels it’s a type of music that’s easy to connect to, with straightforward empathetic storytelling centered on real-life events. He also enjoys that performances connect families and friends, bringing people together to hear live music.

Before leaving the studio, we filmed Zach and his band’s rendition of “Sittin’ on Top of the World,” a tune that has become synonymous with American traditional music and has been recorded by countless artists. Zach revealed that his version is heavily influenced by Carl Perkin’s 1958 recording of the song, and we know you all will enjoy hearing it performed by this amazing artist on the rise!

Zach McNabb and The Tennessee Esquires performing “Sittin’ on Top of the World” at Radio Bristol.

Ella Patrick is a Production Assistant at Radio Bristol. She also hosts Folk Yeah! on Radio Bristol and is a performing musician as Momma Molasses.

Radio Bristol Spotlight: Ed Snodderly

Radio Bristol is proud to offer a platform to local and regional artists, artists who are often underrepresented on a national level yet deserving of that audience. In expanding upon Radio Bristol’s core mission, we are pleased to bring you our Radio Bristol Spotlight series. Radio Bristol Spotlight highlights the top emerging artists in our region. Through interviews and performance, we will learn more about the musicians who help to make Central Appalachia one of the richest and most unique musical landscapes in the world.

Not too long ago we were able to host a well-known local fixture of the Tri-Cities music scene for an interview and live performance: Ed Snodderly, singer-songwriter, professor, venue owner, and live music devotee.

Black-and-white photograph of Ed Snodderly. He is an older white man who wears glasses, a white button-down shirt, and a jean jacket. He is looking up and off to his right. His hair is quite messy and fluffy.
Ed Snodderly is country music outside the box.  Photo credit by Selena Harmon

Folks around the area most likely have heard about The Down Home, the long-running music venue Ed helped found with Joe “Tank” Leach in 1976. The wooden-walled, listening room-focused locale has become legendary for the quality of its musical acts and for the intimacy of the performance space. Famed for hosting major artists such as Old Crow Medicine Show, Townes Van Zandt, and Allison Krauss way before their music became a part of the growing Americana music canon, The Down Home has provided a communal space for experiencing music with a profound dedication to artistry.

Maybe you also recognize Ed’s face from his cameo performance as the “Hillbilly Fiddler” in the movie O Brother Where Art Thou. You may also have seen him running sound during an Open Hoot, or even performing in local community theatre.

If you hang around Johnson City, you may have also caught Ed walking across the ETSU campus, where he teaches songwriting. He is adept at encouraging first-time writers to hotwire their minds and put up their “antennas” to find where an attention-grabbing first line might be hiding in the everyday. This is how I first met Ed via a workshop hosted by the Birthplace of Country Music. His approach to making songs has really influenced me – a lot of his focus hones in on connecting experience to place and allowing the writer to explore “what they know” instead of relying on popular musical tropes.

Ed may wear many hats, but he is first and foremost an amazing songwriter. Indeed, his name is etched beside lyrics from his song “The Diamond Stream” on the walls of the Country Music Hall of Fame. He has released several albums as a solo musician and with his singing partner Eugene Wolf in their duo The Brother Boys, and and currently has new albums in the works in both of these roles, due out later this year and early spring of next year.

Inspired by the extra time during the pandemic, Ed talked to us about the considerable amount of new material he’s written recently, shared a few of his well-crafted songs, and also spoke about his musical journey. Donning a hip pair of rimmed glasses and a country boy swagger, Ed welcomed us into his musical landscape with an endearing East Tennessee drawl. He started off with a nostalgic tune, called “Kiss the Dream Girl,” which recounts a downtown that was once bustling. A steady rhythmic guitar line walks through the verses like someone strolling down an empty street; the “dream girl” acts as a metaphor for those still remembering in the lost spirit of a small town. This song was featured on the Brother Boys record Plow released by Sugar Hill Records in 2006, and you can listen to a recording of it here:

Growing up in the Morristown area near Knoxville, Tennessee, Ed was taught basic chords on an unbranded guitar bought by his father and uncle with money scrounged from farming tobacco. He was encouraged at an early age by his musical family – his grandfather was a fiddler, and his uncle played pedal steel professionally for big-time artists such as Loretta Lynn and Jerry Lee Lewis. With that background, Ed became fascinated with music. He also liked to learn songs by ear, slowing down 33 1/3 records while figuring out how to play the songs himself, and he reveled in the folk music revival that was gaining ground during his childhood. Ed says he’s drawn influence from a wide variety of artists, including Riley Puckett, Guy Clark, and The Beatles – from these, he has pieced together a guitar style that feels extremely unique and captivatingly organic. Part old-timey fingerpicking and part contemporary folk songwriter groove, his guitar licks seem to always be pushing songs rhythmically towards their destination. Ed’s style is both reverent to tradition, while also being totally unafraid to shift itself into another genre, all masterfully cobbled together to best serve the song at hand.

After his first number, Ed shared another original called, “Slow My Girl Around.” which felt like it could be inspired by an old fiddle tune, possibly “Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss.” Its lilting melody hops around his distinctive guitar playing, which guides each note towards the chorus. The lyrics again were tinged with nostalgia, but this time explored modernity’s dependence on technology. Lines like “Your eyes are addicted to the little box screen” and “Where all is quiet and there’s no hum, trying to get back to what we got away from” make it clear that the songwriter is searching for a more genuine existence, unfettered by the mechanics of contemporary life. When asked about his songwriting, Ed replied simply “I write about what I know; I always try to remember what the country smells like.” His dedication to straightforwardly writing about experiences while poetically uncovering personal truths leads to songs that are as thought-provoking as they are familiar and that use easy going off-the-cuff language to describe ego-splitting revelations.  

The third song Ed played during his on-air performance – “Love Song in a Low Key” – felt like an expressive anthem to the present moment. The song features driving guitar accompaniment paired with recollections of everyday experiences that effortlessly create joy: pocket watches, a good cup of coffee, the feel of a steering wheel, the sense of “being home and being here.” This song displays stylistic influences from pop and rock music of the 1960s, while still imparting folk-inspired wisdom, and pulls in the listener with a sing-song talking blues-like cadence. Similar to the first two songs, Ed used the subject of romance to talk about larger truths; his approach to utilizing love as a metaphor allows these songs to seem both personal and expansive.     

Ed Snodderly is many things to many people, but his interview made it clear that most of all he is an absolute devotee to live music, valuing the magic of performance, the art of songwriting, and holding reverence for person-to-person interaction. This passion is what led Ed to open The Down Home, and it is the subject of the last song he played for us. Also titled after the music venue, the song comes from 2017’s Record Shop and chronicles the rarity of a creative space like The Down Home, which according to the song is “enough to make you feel every kind of feeling.” Check out Ed’s inspiring live performance in the video below, and keep your eyes peeled for new music from Ed Snodderly and The Brother Boys.

Ella Patrick is a Production Assistant at Radio Bristol. She also hosts Folk Yeah! on Radio Bristol and is a performing musician as Momma Molasses.

Radio Bristol Spotlight: Anya Hinkle

Radio Bristol is proud to offer a platform to local and regional artists who are often underrepresented on a national level yet deserving of that audience. In expanding upon Radio Bristol’s core mission, we are pleased to bring you our latest series – Radio Bristol Spotlight – highlighting top emerging artists in our region. Through interview and performance we will learn more about the musicians who help to make Southern Appalachia one of the richest and most unique musical landscapes in the world.

Recently in the studio we hosted singer-songwriter Anya Hinkle, just a few days before her new album Eden and Her Border Lands was released on Organic Records. This newest collection of songs marks the Asheville, North Carolina-based artist’s first solo recording project, after a history of playing within different band formations. Tellico, the most recent band iteration, garnished quite a bit of success on the Folk DJ charts with a #1 single and #2 album rating from their 2018 release Woven Waters. It comes as no surprise that Hinkle’s newest solo project is currently making sizable waves within the Appalachian region and beyond. The title track recently landed a spot on Spotify’s Indigo and Emerging Americana playlists alongside alt-country giants such as Tyler Childers and Sturgill Simpson. During her on-air interview and performance at Radio Bristol, Hinkle shared thoughts about her musical background and played a few tunes from the album, joined by dobro virtuoso Billy Cardine.

This image is focused in on the back window of a shiny silver Airstream trailer. Anya Hinkle sits in the back window, looking out at the photographer -- she is a blonde white woman, with long hair and waring a red and pink patterned top. She is leaning her arms on a guitar.
Anya Hinkle’s debut Eden and Her Borderlands released on Organic records this August. 

Hinkle started things off with her single “That’s Why Women Need Wine” a lighthearted but strategic storytelling song that offers a bounty of reflective musings exploring the headaches women encounter in a male-centric world. Inspired by a bout of depression after losing another band, the song’s message acts as a declaration of self-reliance. With humor and skillfully crafted verse, Hinkle uncovers a glimpse of what it’s like to exist as a woman within the music industry and offers herself relaxing reassurance through, of course, a glass of wine: “After half a glass I feel divine.” During their performance, Cardine’s dobro offered a swelling reel across the steel strings that felt like a rush of Pinot Noir expertly poured by a seasoned sommelier. There was no doubt when listening to the two that they are both outstandingly polished musicians.

Hinkle grew up in Blacksburg, Virginia, the daughter of classically trained symphony musicians. Her mother was a cellist for the Roanoke Symphony and enrolled Hinkle at an early age in violin lessons. As a teenager she picked up acoustic guitar and began to branch out of the classical music umbrella. Inspired by the virtuosity of bluegrass instrumentalists such as Norman Blake and Tony Rice, she began her musical aspirations as solely a “heritage player” looking to emulate bluegrass greats. It was only after starting to perform out at local bars that she felt the itch to “have something to play” and began songwriting. That itch has since gained her awards and accolades; in 2019 Hinkle won the prestigious Merlefest Chris Austin Songwriting Competition and was a finalist for the Hazel Dickens Songwriting Competition. Her dedication to musicality and craft are on full display in her new album, which alongside her unique songwriting, offers a breadth of talented players and co-writers, such as Graham Sharpe of Steep Canyon Rangers, fiddler Julian Pinelli, sacred steel player DaShawn Hickman, Mary and Billy Cardine of Lover’s Leap, and Japanese songwriter Akira Satake.

Hinkle played another tune during her studio visit, an instrumental piece named “Meditation Beyond the Shores of Darkness.” The tune harkens back to Hinkle’s commitment to traditional Appalachian music, while unveiling the musician’s distinctive musicality. It flutters through a beautiful finger-picked theme reminiscent of folk melodies from the past, while exploring some unknown inner psychological and surreal musical space. Hinkle’s music is definitely built for lovers of bands like the Grateful Dead, who value roots in traditional music and effectively work within a bluegrass framework yet push against those boundaries with skill and ease. Aside from this tune, Hinkle’s writing and vocal styling drifts between familiarity, sometimes sounding like contemporaries Gillian Welch and Alison Krauss, while maintaining all the grit and honesty of legendary Appalachian singers like Hazel Dickens and Ola Belle Reed.

Lastly, Hinkle and Cardine performed a standout tune from the new record called “The Hills of Swannanoa,” co-written with songwriter Akira Satake. I personally was excited they chose this song because it instantly grabbed my attention for its lyrical strength and gave me goosebumps with its mysterious sounding, modal musical phrasing. To me this song sounds like an echo from established folk tunes such as “Swannanoa Tunnel/Asheville Junction” while delving into uncharted liquified Newgrass-Jam territory.

https://youtu.be/0hEx_I9-dUg

To check out Hinkle and Cardine’s performance live in our studio, click here. Also, to learn more about Anya Hinkle and find tour dates, or to purchase her music visit: www.anyahinkle.com.

Ella Patrick is a Production Assistant at Radio Bristol. She also hosts Folk Yeah! on Radio Bristol and is a performing musician as Momma Molasses.

Radio Bristol Spotlight: Shay Martin Lovette

Radio Bristol is proud to offer a platform to local and regional artists who are often underrepresented on a national level yet deserving of that audience. In expanding upon Radio Bristol’s core mission, we are pleased to bring you our latest series – Radio Bristol Spotlight – highlighting top emerging artists in our region. Through interviews and performances, we will learn more about the musicians who help to make Southern Appalachia one of the richest and most unique musical landscapes in the world.

This past month we met up with Boone, North Carolina-based songwriter Shay Martin Lovette, whose sophomore album Scatter & Gather has been garnering a lot of regional attention. Shay, an Appalachian native, grew up in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, home to MerleFest, currently one of the country’s largest music festivals. The festival, coined by its founder Doc Watson as “traditional plus,” brings in bands from all aspects of roots music genres, and Watson’s catchphrase certainly encompasses Shay’s writing. Greatly influenced by the music of the region, both from proximity and from his songwriter father, Shay holds to his musical background in bluegrass while taking divergent turns into a new landscape of metaphysical songwriting and experimental indie folk. During his on-air performance at Radio Bristol, Shay shared a few songs from the new record and talked about his recording process with producer Joseph Terrell, who hails from the acclaimed stringband quartet Mipso.

Black-and-white image of a man walking towards the camerain front of what looks to be a closed-down strip mall or old motel. The man has shoulder-length dark hair and a scruffy beard. He is wearing jeans, black shoes, and a jean jacket with numerous patches and badges on it.
Songwriter Shay Martin Lovette of Boone, North Carolina, wrote most of the tunes from his newest release, Scatter & Gather, in a cabin on Goshen Creek. Photo by Chris Frisina

To kick off the in-studio, Shay delved into a misty-eyed waltz with the new album’s song “Parkway Bound.” Accompanied by dobro player Aaron Ballance, Shay lyrically painted an expansive picture of beauty encapsulated by the Appalachian Mountains. The first line – “A pocket of clouds catch the Blue Ridge, the summits are quilted in ice” – lays the groundwork for the mystifying tune. Amidst its dynamic musical swells, which feel like echoes of a rolling landscape, Shay also offers something below the surface of his refined artistry. Shay’s appearance was deceivingly unassuming at first; amidst a thatch of neatly parted hair and a nervous but rather welcoming smile, a listener might not expect to experience the depth relayed within his songwriting. Further investigation unveils much: a detailed account of self-contained philosophy and reverence for the present moment – where Daoist meets Hillbilly – thoughts possibly formed at the rustic cabin on remote Goshen Creek where much of Scatter & Gather was written.

The album cover looks like a letter press style print and shows mountains with a river running from them through a green meadow. Above the mountains in geometric design is a sunburst made up of different colors and patterns.
Shay Martin Lovette’s Scatter & Gather was released May 2021.

A slew of nationally acclaimed musicians brought in by producer Joseph Terrell are included on Scatter & Gather. With mandolin from Watchhouse (formerly Mandolin Orange) artist Andrew Marlin, and accompaniment from band members of Mipso along with Mount Moriah, it is no wonder some of North Carolina’s biggest talent lined up to record with Shay at the Rubber Room in Chapel Hill. Simply put, the writing is dang good. Combining elements of live tracking with polished production, the album feels at once refined and organic. This release is great for fans of the late 1960s Laurel Canyon sound and feels like a dream where Nick Drake and James Taylor shook metaphorical hands with Jason Isbell. Stand-out tracks from the album include “Never Felt So New,” a transient folksy romp tinged with synthesizer, and “Sourwood Honey Rag,” an instrumental tune that nods towards Shay’s influence from Doc Watson and love of traditional Appalachian music.

Shay closed out our session with an acoustic rendition of one last song, “Something Wild (All the Way Through),” also from his new record. Like the ripples of a mountain stream, Aaron’s dobro glided alongside the song’s melody as Shay joined in with an emotive performance on harmonica. This song signals a proclamation for the rising songwriter to embrace that they “sang it for the sweet unknown” and are joyful for the “something wild” that’s got a hold of them. You can watch Shay and Aaron’s performance filmed live at Radio Bristol below. To hear more from Scatter & Gather or to order from the limited run of vinyl, visit Shay’s Bandcamp site.

Ella Patrick is a Production Assistant at Radio Bristol. She also hosts Folk Yeah! on Radio Bristol and is a performing musician as Momma Molasses.

Radio Bristol Spotlight: Adam Bolt

Radio Bristol is proud to offer a platform to local and regional artists who are often underrepresented on a national level yet deserving of that audience. In expanding upon Radio Bristol’s core mission, we are pleased to bring you our latest series – Radio Bristol Spotlight – highlighting top emerging artists in our region. Through interview and performance we will learn more about the musicians who help to make Southern Appalachia one of the richest and most unique musical landscapes in the world.

For our first installment of Radio Bristol Spotlight we caught up with prolific singer-songwriter Adam Bolt. Based in Abingdon, a beautiful historic town nestled in Southwest Virginia, Bolt has been a fixture in this region’s music scene for well over a decade. We were lucky enough to have Adam live in studio a few weeks back when he shared songs from his recent release And the Vines Grow Still. We talked over many things, including creativity during lockdown, his thoughts on the songwriting process, 1990s hip hop, and his forthcoming EP Animals in the News, Part 2, which came out in mid-June.

A white man with a brownish beard stands in front of an old pull-behind trailer. The trailer is white with an aqua stripe and two windows. The man is wearing a cowboy hat, a beige jacket with leather patches on the shoulder area, a patterned shirt and bolo tie, and jeans.

Prolific songwriter Adam Bolt of Abingdon, Virginia. Photograph by Moshin Kazmi

Arriving in a glowing turquoise windbreaker, straight from a 1991 episode of Saved By the Bell, and a t-shirt dawning a cluster of sun-ripened grapes, Bolt struck a chord as a relaxed-analytical, a country-tinged beatnik with laidback and relatable poetics. He’s a cool dude. He opened up his studio performance with the song “Trying Times,” an emotionally raw reflection of the songwriter’s experience during quarantine. Amidst the song’s straightforward sentimental lyrics, Bolt grieved the loss of his biggest musical influence, the legendary songwriter John Prine, while offering asides about Netflix subscriptions, online memes, political parties, chardonnay, and unemployment. The song pulses with an affirming tagline, “I’m feeling fine, hope you’re feeling fine,” which lifts the otherwise heavy message of the verses and offers an uncomplicated note of empathic wisdom. After the emotional performance, Bolt talked about how he was beyond distraught to hear about the passing of John Prine during the pandemic. Earlier on the day of Prine’s death, he had collected a batch of wild morel mushrooms, an Appalachian delicacy, and later cooked them up for dinner. Recalling that night, Bolt said: “The phone started buzzing [friends who knew he was a fan called with the news]…and I immediately got sick. I didn’t know at that point if it was the mushrooms…if it was total grief or COVID…I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. I got really, really sick that night, and kind of panicked.”

“Trying Times” is featured on Bolt’s latest release, And the Vines Grow Still, put out this past year. The EP title speaks to insights taken from nature, a metaphor for how grapevines must be tended after an unexpected frost kills a crop. Bolt stated: “I thought that was similar to our nation and our world, the pandemic is something we’re going to have to grow through.” Bolt joined up with Zack Edwards of Annabelle’s Curse in the studio, and together the two made a sparse, poignant recording which was live-tracked to tape on analog equipment at Bigtone Records located locally in Bristol, Virginia. Bigtone Records specializes in using vintage analog equipment and is known for making period accurate live recordings as heard on many recordings of the late 1940s and 1950s.


Bolt’s latest release And the Vine Grows Still was recorded at BigTone Records in 2020.

When not writing folk songs, Bolt grows grapes, working as a viticulturist for Abingdon Vineyards. He explained that melodies often gather in his mind while working at the vineyard and later develop into full songs. Similarly, his songwriting process is deeply linked to observations taken from the outdoors. “You’re out in nature watching little insects flying around, watching their world…and relating it to what we know as life.” Bolt shared that he prefers releasing shorter groupings of 4 or 5 songs as opposed to full-scale albums, an approach influenced by his early musical days as part of a hip hop group and an appreciation for dropping singles. Hip hop also fed an early fascination for rhyme schemes and provided fertile ground for putting together compelling verses. With ample time this past year to cultivate new songs, whether at the vineyard tending to the vines or at home brainstorming with his fiancée while lounging on the couch, Bolt has been productive amidst the grueling past year with the new EP recently released, and another one on the way.

In true Prine-ian fashion, Bolt took a 360-degree turn towards humor with the next number he performed during our on-air interview, jumping into a satirical, jaunty little ditty called “Lily Pad.” The song playfully recalls the singer’s refusal of a potential mate, relating them to a frog who “knows every swinging rope in this old swimming hole” and himself to a lily pad, a proverbial comment on relationship roles – the frog viewing him as a convenient place to land: “I’m on a bar stool, just like it was a toadstool…I won’t be your lily pad.” The imaginative tune marks Bolt’s leap into a new grouping of songs from his recent EP, which continues a theme from an earlier release, Animals in the News, put out in 2019. Bolt enlisted help from another local songwriter Logan Fritz, who acted as producer and provided his project Fritz and Co. as a backing band for the recording sessions staged at another Bristol-based studio, Classic Recording Studio.

Winding up his performance, Bolt sang “Coke for the Road,” a thoughtful ode to his grandmother who gave her family members the fizzy beverage as a sign of affection. Effortlessly authentic, the song relates a simple but provocative message about love’s relationship to action, and how a small gesture of kindness can relate to a big feeling of love. 


Adam Bolt singing “Coke for the Road” live in studio on On the Sunny Side at Radio Bristol, May 2020.

Remember, if you are a consumer of music, you should help in supporting the artists you’re consuming. In today’s unbalanced industry, musicians (and to be frank artists of all types) need your support more than ever. Whether by simply sharing their posts, helping spread their music by word of mouth, and most importantly by purchasing music directly from the artist, anything helps.

Hope you enjoyed our first Radio Bristol Spotlight! Next month we will feature North Carolinian songwriter Shay Martin Lovette.

Ella Patrick is a Production Assistant at Radio Bristol. She also hosts Folk Yeah! on Radio Bristol and is a performing musician as Momma Molasses.