Lately, on a tour through some cities in the south, Atlanta, Charleston (SC), Asheville, etc, as always, I was asked where I’m from. “West Virginia”, I say proudly. This usually results in an odd look or two, questions about Jesco White (do you know him?), or comments about how “my brother-in-law lives in Roanoke” (wrong state, dear!). A lot of conversations, (which I love having with people at our shows, by the way) end up with me explaining how I lived in Nashville for 8 years, worked at Gruhn Guitars for basically my entire tenure in Music City, moved from there to Omaha, Nebraska, from there lived in Baltimore, Maryland, which may very well have some of the best food I’ve ever eaten, and finally ended up back in West Virginia, living in a small rural town right in the middle of two out of three of the only notable cities in the state, Huntington and Charleston.
Why the hell would you move back there? Well,…it’s home. To be honest, I also consider Nashville home. I have so many friends there and some of the best times in my life were spent in that city. I lived in Nashville at a time when I was becoming the man that I was going to be for the rest of my life. But, come on, nowhere is ever as dear as the place where you grew up and no one as dear as the friends that you made at that time.
Being a musician in West Virginia can be,…I don’t want to say “difficult” because it’s not. There are great clubs, great bands, and plenty of people to patronize said venues. What is a little daunting is being a touring musician from West Virginia. Especially if you’re not a Bluegrass musician – though I do love to listen to and play some ‘grass. When supporting the “Dead Leaves” recording, I hadn’t set my roots down anywhere. I was wandering from city to city and promoted the band as being “from Nashville” as it was easier than trying to explain that I wasn’t really living anywhere specific, the bass player (Paul Valla) was from Omaha, and everyone else was from an equally far-away place from Nashville. So, music city, it was! Selling an unknown band to a club owner/booking agent as a Nashville band, let me tell you, is FAR easier than being an unknown from West Virginia. It’s a damn shame too. I see bands week in and week out from WV that are as good as Nashville’s best and bands from Nashville that are as bad as WV’s worst. That said, I’ve seen bands and musicians from Arkansas, Alabama, North Carolina, and Missouri that are as good or better than any of them. While styles can be regional, talent is not. Don’t believe me? Check out Tyler Childers, Sierra Ferrell, Sasha Colette, Farnsworth, Blistered Nifkin, Qiet, AC30, Bud Carroll, The Demon Beat, Prison Book Club, Sly Roosevelt…I could seriously go on and on and on.
While not glamorous or filled with a large metropolis’ idea of culture. I write my music surrounded by some of the most beautiful mountains, streams, trees, and rivers in the whole of our great country. Yes, Hazel Dickens (and Annie Neeley), I know what you meant when you sang “West Virginia, My Home”.