Six Questions with Steeldrivers’ Kelvin Damrell

When Kentucky born musician Kelvin Damrell was hired by the Steeldrivers in late January 2018, the farthest the 24-year-old guitarist had gone to perform had been four hours outside his hometown of Berea in Eastern Kentucky. In fact, it wasn’t until recently that Damrell even ventured east or west of his home state. 

But sit down and talk to Damrell for a few minutes and the musician exudes a quiet confidence that belies his inexperience. 

Just before Damrell hit the stage for his first official show with the Steeldrivers on February 2 at the Buckhead Theatre in Atlanta, I got a chance to sit down and chat with him. He later put on one heck of a show for an enthusiastic Georgia crowd that went wild for his powerful vocals. 

DC: So, first official show as a member of the Steeldrivers. How are you feeling?

KD: I’m happy to be a part of the band and equally as nervous. I hope everybody likes me and thinks I’m a good fit.

DC: I heard the band found you on YouTube doing Chris Stapleton covers?  

KD: Well, I was putting our some covers out on YouTube and apparently these guys were going through a search. They came across one of my videos and Brent Truitt contacted me through Facebook. That’s pretty much how it happened. Brent asked me to come and hang out for a while and we ended up liking each other pretty good.

DC: Did you grow up listening to a lot of bluegrass? 

KD: No, actually I had some bluegrass Gospel pickers on my mom’s side of the family but I never got into it that much. I was more of a rock guy. I actually discovered bluegrass, or my love for it anyway through Chris Stapleton and the Steeldrivers. 

DC: You follow two huge talents in Chris Stapleton and Gary Nichols. Does it feel like you have big shoes to fill? 

KD: Absolutely. I’ve got a lot of work to do from now until whenever but I’m trying my best and these guys have been real graceful to me. I’m still trying to stuff a bunch of song lyrics into my head. Coming on board in January was grueling because I had a newborn baby at the time and a three-year-old stepson. It was pretty hard to do but we got it done.

DC: You said you come from more of a rock background. What parts of that did you bring into this group?

KD: Dynamic vocals, working on instrument dynamics. Chopping is a bluegrass thing and that wasn’t ever a thing in rock. It’s a different world. 

DC: Is the first large scale tour you’ve ever been a part of? 

KD: Before this, the farthest I ever traveled was four hours away with my rock band. Before the Steeldrivers, I’d never been east or west of Kentucky. The farthest west I’ve ever been now is Texas and the farthest east is Charleston. 

You can follow the band’s travel schedule online.

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About the Author

David Russell Cohen

David Russell Cohen is a bluegrass musician and writer based in Atlanta, GA. He got hooked on the music of Monroe, Watson, Rice and Thile while a student at the University of Tennessee Knoxville. Aside from participating in local jams and picking up the odd gig, David is the Associate Editor of the Atlanta Jewish Times.