Do you remember the short story of Rip Van Winkle, the mythical character who over-imbibed and “fell asleep” for 20 years? What a shock when Ol’ Rip finally woke up! The entire world had changed . . . a lot!
Imagine if Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass music, awoke from his eternal rest and listened to today’s bluegrassers. One of Mr. Monroe’s greatest surprises would be 14-year-old Wyatt Ellis. Wyatt is a once-in-a-generation talent who has electrified the bluegrass world on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and at The Station Inn, MerleFest, and the Opry, attracting many new listeners to bluegrass.
I will let you read Wyatt’s biography on his website, but will share that Wyatt began playing mandolin at age nine, and got serious about his craft during the pandemic while taking Zoom lessons with one of the most gifted mandolin players in history, Sierra Hull. In addition to his upcoming album’s players, Wyatt has picked with or played in front of many of the greats, including childhood prodigies Marty Stuart, Ricky Skaggs, Billy Strings, Molly Tuttle, as well as Del McCoury, Ronnie McCoury, Peter Rowan, Sam Bush, Alan Bibey, Dan Tyminski, Chris Henry, C.J. Lewandowski, Alex Leach, and the late Bobby Osborne. Basically, the Who’s Who of Bluegrass.
In 2021, at age twelve, Wyatt penned twelve original songs. During the misery of the COVID pandemic, he learned every song that Bill Monroe recorded, note for note. Wyatt’s first cut to be released, Grassy Cove, is like all the songs on his forthcoming Knee High Record album, a mandolin duo. Fitting that for his first release, Wyatt chose to play a song he co-wrote with Sierra Hull.
Grassy Cove is an inspiring, original played by Wyatt and Sierra, which is darn near flawless, and has a haunting melody. The joyful interplay between Sierra and her young apprentice is fun to watch. Wyatt has a dream band on this project made up of Wyatt (mandolin 1), Sierra (mandolin 2), Deanie Richardson (fiddle), Cory Walker (banjo), Justin Moses (guitar), and Mr. Metronome, Mike Bub (bass). One evening, coming home from his grandpa’s, Wyatt was riding through the picturesque East Tennessee community of Grassy Cove. Seeing lightning bugs illuminate the grassy field at dusk, Wyatt heard a simple melody in his head, which he crafted into rough form and finished with guidance from Sierra.
While the studio track was released July 9, today we get to watch the professionally produced music video for Grassy Cove, shot at The Station Inn. The video is aesthetically beautiful and inviting. It’s hard not to keep watching it over and over. If you wonder if Sierra is playing lead and young Wyatt is simply playing a few backing chords, WRONGO!
Watch the video. Behold the young man! Wyatt has the fluidity, feel, timing, and “ancient tones” that make seasoned pros scratch their head in wonder. How does he do that? How did he get so good at such a young age? Aside from a fierce work ethic and the best tutoring, the young man has been given an extraordinary gift.
Wyatt is as confident as he is humble. Once, I jokingly asked if he was tired of having folks say, “You are going to be the next Billy Strings!” Wyatt didn’t miss a beat and said, “I don’t want to be the next Billy Strings – I want to be Wyatt Ellis.” Honest, humble, and a winsome boyish grin.
Whether you see Wyatt live, in this video, or on social media, what will be immediately obvious is that this young man is not just an amazing talent, but he is also having a ball of fun, and he is happy for us to join him for the ride.
Grassy Cove is available now from popular download and streaming services online.