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Sierra Hull Takes Her Place In Bluegrass History, Talks Legacy & New Music At Wide Open Bluegrass

Sierra Hull

Photo: Shannon Kelly/Recording Academy

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Sierra Hull Takes Her Place In Bluegrass History, Talks Legacy & New Music At Wide Open Bluegrass

The mandolin phenom opens up about helping write the next chapter in the storied history of bluegrass, paying tribute to dobro great Mike Auldridge, new music and more

GRAMMYs/Sep 30, 2019 - 03:39 am

The International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) yearly convention and Wide Open Bluegrass Festival in Raleigh, NC, is a gathering of the biggest names in bluegrass, and one of the most impressive musicians in the genre is GRAMMY nominated phenom Sierra Hull

Hull first performed at an IBMA Convention back when she was just 10 years old, playing on the Little Pickers Stage in Louisville, KY. Soon after, she was discovered by artists such as Alison Krauss and her band Union Station, who brought Hull onto the stage of the Grand Ole Opry as a youngster.

However, Hull was always much more than a cute kid playing bluegrass. Now in her mid-20s, she has worked hard to master her instrument and to present her beautiful singing voice as well. Her unique combination of humbleness and confidence fuels her ability to play lead solos on the mandolin every bit as inventive and dynamic as any man or woman has ever done in bluegrass music.

Hull’s innate talent and solid work ethic combined with an open mind as to where the music can go has led to her breaking an important barrier in bluegrass music. In 2016, Hull became the first woman ever to win the IBMA Mandolin Player of the Year Award. She went on to win the award again in 2017 and 2018.

Those awards ensured Hull’s inclusion in the acclaimed group The First Ladies of Bluegrass, which includes other women who broke the glass ceiling by winning an IBMA Award with their respective instruments. Featuring Missy Raines on the bass (1998), Alison Brown on the banjo (1991), Becky Buller on the fiddle (2016), Molly Tuttle on guitar (2017) and Hull on the mandolin, the band headlined last year’s IBMA Wide Open Bluegrass show at the Red Hat Amphitheater.

At this year’s IBMA Convention, the First Ladies of Bluegrass made a surprise appearance with the Po’ Ramblin Boys band on Tuesday, September 24. Happening at the Pour House club in downtown Raleigh, the late night Bluegrass Ramble showcase was originally billed as “The Po’ Ramblin Boys with Special Guest Alison Brown.” But, Brown decided to bring all of her historic band mates to the show to join in an all out jam.

When the Recording Academy catches up with Hull, it is three days later. She has just finished a wonderful concert with her husband Justin Moses on the outdoor City Plaza Stage. The Wide Open Bluegrass Street Fest is officially underway and Hull has just played before tens of thousands of music fans on the blocked off streets of Raleigh.

Even though Hull is in her 20s, she is well-aware of the musical history that she is experiencing in her life. She has watched many first and second generation bluegrass artists pass away. In fact, the night before, Hull was asked to collaborate on a tribute to the late Mike Auldridge at the IBMA Awards Show. A master of the dobro and an original member of the ground-breaking group the Seldom Scene, Auldridge was being inducted into the IBMA Hall of Fame.

As a part of Auldridge’s induction celebration, four living IBMA Dobro Player of the Year award winners perform the Seldom Scene’s classic song, “Wait A Minute.” Those players included Jerry Douglas, Rob Ickes, Phil Leadbetter and Justin Moses. Hull was asked to join them onstage, creating a truly special moment, especially when all four played the melody of the song together at the end. It was emotional and sonically mesmerizing.

Photo: Shannon Kelly/Recording Academy

“I feel like I was at the tail end of the lives of a lot of first generation bluegrass musicians,” said Hull. “I never got to meet Bill Monroe as I was five years old when he passed away and did not start playing the mandolin until three years later. But, early in my career I met folks like Ricky Skaggs, who was a direct connection to Bill Monroe and he had many stories to share. A lot of my heroes have taken me under their wings along the way and I think that is the beauty of this style of music. I met Chris Thile (The Punch Brothers, Nickel Creek) when I was 10 years old and he took me backstage to meet my other hero Alison Krauss for the first time. Thanks to Alison later on, I did get to spend some time with Ralph Stanley as well.”

Mike Auldridge was known for his innovative talent on the dobro, his crisp and clean long sleeve shirts, his always creased pants and his ability to be kind to others. That is what made the tribute to him at the IBMA Awards show so special for Hull and the four dobro greats who performed in his memory.

“The cool thing about last night was that Jerry Douglas was playing Mike’s dobro,” said Hull. “Backstage, I was just thrilled that Jerry asked me to sing ‘Wait A Minute’ with Shawn Camp and play mandolin. I never got to meet Mike Auldridge, but I have heard the sound of his dobro for years on the Seldom Scene recordings. It is also special to be married to Justin and see his him onstage with the rest of those guys.”

The awards show collaboration turned out to be one of a string of events that proved emotional for Hull and her husband that day.

“Justin and I laughed because we had just been watching the Ken Burns ‘Country Music’ documentary, and Justin has also been a Cincinnati Reds fan since he was a kid and their long-time radio broadcaster Marty Brennaman [46 years on radio] was retiring and broadcasting his last game ever yesterday,” said Hull. “We were at the hotel and Justin was like, ‘We have to hear some of his last broadcast.’ So, we are getting choked up listening to Marty and this is happening after getting choked up while watching Ken Burns’ documentary. Then we go over to the rehearsal and Jerry Douglas is running through what he is going to say about Mike Auldridge for the Hall of Fame induction and that was moving as well.”

Douglas and Ickes made a final album with Auldridge in 2012 called Three Bells, and those sessions unfortunately included a final goodbye to Auldridge as he died from prostate cancer before the album was released.

“As Jerry practiced his lines, he was talking about when Mike walked over to Jerry’s campsite at the Berryville Festival when Jerry was just a teenager and how nice Mike was to him even back then,” said Hull. “He talked about Uncle Josh Graves being ‘Book One’ of the history of bluegrass dobro and Mike Auldridge being ‘Book Two,’ and that led to Jerry playing, which is why Justin is playing the instrument now. And once again, we get choked up. We just said, ‘Man, we have been hit with a lot of emotional things in regard to the history of the music lately,’ and it is a beautiful thing. I heard all four of them play the melody of ‘Wait A Minute” together in the dressing room while they were warning up, and they were passing around Mike’s dobro as well and Justin said later that even the instrument itself was just beautiful.”

On the following Saturday night, Hull is scheduled to participate in a special performance at the IBMA Wide Open Bluegrass Street Festival. She is on the bill as a part of “Delebration – Celebrating Del McCoury’s 80th Birthday.” The jam is happening at the 5,000 seat Red Hat Amphitheater and will include the Del McCoury Band, Country star Dierks Bentley, Jon Fishman from Phish, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush and Sierra Hull.

As for Hull, she has a brand new album in the works that will be released at a later date. With each new Hull recording, music fans are able to hear the forward progress and direction that her musical muse is taking her.

“The older you get, the more that you learn about yourself,” said Hull. “Not that I have ever been uncomfortable in my own skin, but there is something about getting older where you become internally ok with where you are going. You say to yourself, ‘I am going to continue to grow and I am going to continue to work on things; but this is who I am as an artist in this moment and I’m going to try and give as much as I can of myself as an artist in the most genuine way. That will change as I grow older and my influences and surroundings change. And, I hope it all does change as I don’t want my music to be the exact same thing for the next 50 years.”

Photo Gallery: IBMA's Wide Open Bluegrass 2019 Takes Over Raleigh, N.C.

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GRAMMY SoundChecks With Gavin DeGraw

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

On Aug. 28 Nashville Chapter GRAMMY U members took part in GRAMMY SoundChecks with Gavin DeGraw. Approximately 30 students gathered at music venue City Hall and watched DeGraw play through some of the singles from earlier in his career along with "Cheated On Me" from his latest self-titled album.

In between songs, DeGraw conducted a question-and-answer session and inquired about the talents and goals of the students in attendance. He gave inside tips to the musicians present on how to make it in the industry and made sure that every question was answered before moving onto the next song.

 

Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year

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Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year

Annual star-studded gala slated for Nov. 4 in Las Vegas during 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Week celebration

GRAMMYs/May 15, 2017 - 01:36 pm

 GRAMMY.com

 Internationally renowned singer/songwriter/performer Juan Gabriel will be celebrated as the 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year, it was announced today by The Latin Recording Academy. Juan Gabriel, chosen for his professional accomplishments as well as his commitment to philanthropic efforts, will be recognized at a star-studded concert and black tie dinner on Nov. 4 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nev. 

The "Celebration with Juan Gabriel" gala will be one of the most prestigious events held during Latin GRAMMY week, a celebration that culminates with the 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards ceremony. The milestone telecast will be held at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas on Nov. 5 and will be broadcast live on the Univision Television Network at 8 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Central. 

"As we celebrate this momentous decade of the Latin GRAMMYs, The Latin Recording Academy and its Board of Trustees take great pride in recognizing Juan Gabriel as an extraordinary entertainer who never has forgotten his roots, while at the same time having a global impact," said Latin Recording Academy President Gabriel Abaroa. "His influence on the music and culture of our era has been tremendous, and we welcome this opportunity to pay a fitting tribute to a voice that strongly resonates within our community.

Over the course of his 30-year career, Juan Gabriel has sold more than 100 million albums and has performed to sold-out audiences throughout the world. He has produced more than 100 albums for more than 50 artists including Paul Anka, Lola Beltran, Rocío Dúrcal, and Lucha Villa among many others. Additionally, Juan Gabriel has written more than 1,500 songs, which have been covered by such artists as Marc Anthony, Raúl Di Blasio, Ana Gabriel, Angelica María, Lucia Mendez, Estela Nuñez, and Son Del Son. In 1986, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley declared Oct. 5 "The Day of Juan Gabriel." The '90s saw his induction into Billboard's Latin Music Hall of Fame and he joined La Opinion's Tributo Nacional Lifetime Achievement Award recipients list. 

At the age of 13, Juan Gabriel was already writing his own songs and in 1971 recorded his first hit, "No Tengo Dinero," which landed him a recording contract with RCA. Over the next 14 years, he established himself as Mexico's leading singer/songwriter, composing in diverse styles such as rancheras, ballads, pop, disco, and mariachi, which resulted in an incredible list of hits ("Hasta Que Te Conocí," "Siempre En Mi Mente," "Querida," "Inocente Pobre Amigo," "Abrázame Muy Fuerte," "Amor Eterno," "El Noa Noa," and "Insensible") not only for himself  but for many leading Latin artists. In 1990, Juan Gabriel became the only non-classical singer/songwriter to perform at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and the album release of that concert, Juan Gabriel En Vivo Desde El Palacio De Bellas Artes, broke sales records and established his iconic status. 

After a hiatus from recording, Juan Gabriel released such albums as Gracias Por Esperar, Juntos Otra Vez, Abrázame Muy Fuerte, Los Gabriel…Para Ti, Juan Gabriel Con La Banda…El Recodo, and El Mexico Que Se Nos Fue, which were all certified gold and/or platinum by the RIAA. In 1996, to commemorate his 25th anniversary in the music industry, BMG released a retrospective set of CDs entitled 25 Aniversario, Solos, Duetos, y Versiones Especiales, comprised appropriately of 25 discs.   

In addition to his numerous accolades and career successes, Juan Gabriel has been a compassionate and generous philanthropist. He has donated all proceeds from approximately 10 performances a year to his favorite children's foster homes, and proceeds from fan photo-ops go to support Mexican orphans. In 1987, he founded Semjase, an orphanage for approximately 120 children, which also serves as a music school with music, recreation and video game rooms. Today, he continues to personally fund the school he opened more than 22 years ago.   

Juan Gabriel will have the distinction of becoming the 10th Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year honoree, and joins a list of artists such as Gloria Estefan, Gilberto Gil, Juan Luis Guerra, Julio Iglesias, Ricky Martin, and Carlos Santana among others who have been recognized. 

For information on purchasing tickets or tables to The Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year tribute to Juan Gabriel, please contact The Latin Recording Academy ticketing office at 310.314.8281 or ticketing@grammy.com.

Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013
Grizzled Mighty perform at Bumbershoot on Sept. 1

Photo: The Recording Academy

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Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.

By Alexa Zaske
Seattle

This past Labor Day weekend meant one thing for many folks in Seattle: Bumbershoot, a three-decade-old music and arts event that consumed the area surrounding the Space Needle from Aug. 31–Sept. 2. Amid attendees wandering around dressed as zombies and participating in festival-planned flash mobs to Michael Jackson's "Thriller," this year the focus was on music from the Pacific Northwest region — from the soulful sounds of Allen Stone and legendary female rockers Heart, to the highly-awaited return of Death Cab For Cutie performing their 2003 hit album Transatlanticism in its entirety.

The festival started off on day one with performances by synth-pop group the Flavr Blue, hip-hop artist Grynch, rapper Nacho Picasso, psychedelic pop group Beat Connection, lively rapper/writer George Watsky, hip-hop group the Physics, and (my personal favorite), punk/dance band !!! (Chk Chk Chk). Also performing on day one was Seattle folk singer/songwriter Kris Orlowski, who was accompanied by the Passenger String Quartet. As always, Orlowski's songs were catchy and endearing yet brilliant and honest.

Day one came to a scorching finale with a full set from GRAMMY-nominated rock group Heart. Kicking off with their Top 20 hit "Barracuda," the set spanned three decades of songs, including "Heartless," "Magic Man" and "What About Love?" It became a gathering of Seattle rock greats when, during Heart's final song, Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready joined for 1976's "Crazy On You."

Day two got off to an early start with performances from eccentric Seattle group Kithkin and Seattle ladies Mary Lambert and Shelby Earl, who were accompanied by the band Le Wrens. My highlight of the day was the Grizzled Mighty — a duo with a bigger sound than most family sized bands. Drummer Whitney Petty, whose stage presence and skills make for an exciting performance, was balanced out by the easy listening of guitarist and lead singer Ryan Granger.

Then the long-awaited moment finally fell upon Seattle when, after wrapping a long-awaited tour with the Postal Service, singer/songwriter Ben Gibbard returned to Seattle to represent another great success of the Pacific Northwest — Death Cab For Cutie. The band celebrated the 10-year anniversary of their album Transatlanticism by performing it from front to back. While a majority of attendees opted to watch the set from an air-conditioned arena, some of us recognized the uniqueness of this experience and enjoyed the entire set lying in the grass where the entire performance was streamed. 

Monday was the day for soul and folk. Local blues/R&B group Hot Bodies In Motion have been making their way through the Seattle scene with songs such as "Old Habits," "That Darkness" and "The Pulse." Their set was lively and enticing to people who have seen them multiple times or never at all.

My other highlights of the festival included the Maldives, who delivered a fun performance with the perfect amount of satirical humor and folk. They represent the increasing number of Pacific Northwest bands who consist of many members playing different sounds while still managing to stay cohesive and simple. I embraced the return of folk/pop duo Ivan & Alyosha with open arms and later closed my festival experience with local favorite Stone.

For music fans in Seattle and beyond, the annual Bumbershoot festival is a must-attend.

(Alexa Zaske is the Chapter Assistant for The Recording Academy Pacific Northwest Chapter. She's a music enthusiast and obsessed with the local Seattle scene.)

Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs

Neil Portnow and Jimmy Jam

Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images

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Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs

Jimmy Jam helps celebrate the outgoing President/CEO of the Recording Academy on the 61st GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Feb 11, 2019 - 10:58 am

As Neil Portnow's tenure as Recording Academy President/CEO draws to its end, five-time GRAMMY winner Jimmy Jam paid tribute to his friend and walked us through a brief overview of some of the Academy's major recent achievements, including the invaluable work of MusiCares, the GRAMMY Museum, Advocacy and more.

Portnow delivered a brief speech, acknowledging the need to continue to focus on issues of diversity and inclusion in the music industry. He also seized the golden opportunity to say the words he's always wanted to say on the GRAMMY stage, saying, "I'd like to thank the Academy," showing his gratitude and respect for the staff, elected leaders and music community he's worked with during his career at the Recording Academy. "We can be so proud of what we’ve all accomplished together," Portnow added.

"As I finish out my term leading this great organization, my heart and soul are filled with gratitude, pride, for the opportunity and unequal experience," he continued. "Please know that my commitment to all the good that we do will carry on as we turn the page on the next chapter of the storied history of this phenomenal institution."

Full Winners List: 61st GRAMMY Awards