Wearing a multitude of hats as songwriter, singer, fiddle player, bandleader, mom and wife, Becky Buller is definitely an overachiever.
“I just do what I can and definitely probably try to do too much,” she says, juggling between the interview with Bluegrass Today and keeping a watchful eye on her daughter, Romy Haley, at a park near their Manchester, TN home.
“I love what I do. I don’t know what else I’d do if I wasn’t doing music.”
Her passion has turned out award-winning results with peers selecting her as both the IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year and the first ever female Fiddle Player of the Year in 2016.
“I’m floored that they didn’t award it to a woman before now with Alison Krauss, Laurie Lewis, Deanie Richardson and so many fantastic fiddlers out there. I think folks were ready to put a gal in there, but I think they’re also ready for some new blood in the awards. I’m honored and humbled. I’m trying to live up to it.”
Buller continues to give it her all with her latest CD, Crepe Paper Heart (Dark Shadow Recording), which features an all-star cast of musicians— Rhonda Vincent, Claire Lynch, Frank Solivan, Rob Ickes, Sam Bush (“her husband’s favorite fiddle player”), and the Fairfield Four—along with past and present members of her road band—Ned Luberecki (banjo), “Professor” Dan Boner (mandolin), Daniel “The Hulk” Harden, who “smashes the bass when he gets hold of it.”
“I’m really tickled with it, and I hope folks enjoy it as much as I have in putting it together,” Buller says.
She’s joined with harmony vocals from Rhonda Vincent on the CD’s second single Calamity Jane, an upbeat outlaw song she wrote with Tim Stafford of Blue Highway.
“You know he can’t stand you/ He cussed and he damned you / Yet you claimed to be his wife
I gotta premonition / You’ll spend perdition/ Resting side by side.”
She tackles the topics of loss, remembrance and recovery in songs like Heart of the House that she co-wrote with Sarah Majors.
“I was thinking of my father-in-law [Sterling Haley],” Buller explains. “I didn’t get to meet my mother-in-law, Lora, because she had passed away before my husband and I met. He’s over there at the house by himself. We try to get him out as much as we can. I was trying to channel how lonely he must be over there.”
As a songwriter, Buller continues to explore her gift of story songs like the vivid imagery of the fictional The Rebel and The Rose and the non-fiction character, John D. Champion.
“John D. was a real guy from around Raleigh, NC. He was a test pilot in World War II. He was a farm boy. After the war, he went back to farming. He had enough of all that, which I find interesting, because so many of those guys became commercial pilots. When you hear a story like that, it’s like this wonderful little gift-wrapped present.”
An IBMA Songwriter of the Year winner, Buller had a hand in writing most of the songs on the project. She first started writing songs in middle school while she was mowing her yard.
“I was singing to myself, but nobody could hear me, so that was good,” she says with a self-deprecating laugh. “It dawned on me a few years later that I had totally ripped off the melody to Rock Salt And Nails.”
“I found it [songwriting] was something I had to do. It was just in me. To this day, if there’s a season I’m going through where I don’t have time to write because one of my many other hats is taking priority, then I get twitchy. I’ve got to be writing. It’s like my therapy.”
While Buller enjoys penning tunes on her own, she likes the discipline of writing with a partner.
“Co-writing really helps me because I set that appointment, and they come to me or I go to them or we get on the computer together and we write. I have that dedicated time to write and that gets me in the right head space. Usually, after a writing appointment with somebody else, I will start writing on my own in addition to that. It’s hard for me to set aside the time.”
“I wish I could get more disciplined with it, and say ‘Okay, I’m not going to look at those rooms that need to be cleaned. I’m going to spend four hours writing,” she says, laughing. “That never happens especially now that I’m a band leader too. That has its own set of demands. Mostly, the guys are pretty easy on me. They make it fun.”
The fun comes with a packed schedule, though, for the multi-tasker. But there’s one thing that keeps her sane through it all.
“Chocolate, lots of chocolate!”