Jeremiah Gilmer – One man band

With the digital age, music, including bluegrass, is being presented in a lot of different types and formats. Jeremiah Gilmer, a young southern Virginia-based graphic designer, works a day job and plays music in his spare time from his home, but reaches a wide audience through YouTube, Facebook, and TikTok videos. What makes it even more intriguing is that he plays all the instruments, and does all the vocals, so he is literally a virtual one-man band!

Gilmer, an only child, shared his background. “I started learning the mandolin first at age nine. My dad played in a band. The mandolin player quit so I thought I could do it.”

The self-taught musician learned to play other instruments: guitar, bass, banjo, and finally, fiddle. He started winning awards such as the Junior Entertainer of the Year from the Virginia Folk Music Association in 2013, and Mandolin and Guitar Player of the Year in 2015 and 2016. Those that have influenced his music include the Dan Tyminski Band, Lonesome River Band, Tony Rice, and Kenny & Amanda Smith.

“I listen to a ton of bluegrass,” Gilmer declared.

In 2013, he began making YouTube music videos.

“I started with just audio. I have no siblings so I recorded all the music by myself.”

With his musicianship and his knowledge of modern day technology, Gilmer easily merged the two. He loves sharing his music, but doesn’t want the life of a traveling musician, so here was his solution. A couple of years ago, the Jeremiah started creating one-man videos: playing all the instruments, recording and editing the audio and video, and posting it on social media.

“It was a way for me to practice and express myself. It is a hobby,” he explained.

Gilmer never expected the attention his videos have received. 

“I released Facebook videos. I was getting good responses so I started doing more videos, and added them to TikTok.” The multi-instrumentalist was amazed at the interest he generated. “I started getting thousands of views. I did this to get better on different instruments and study the original compositions of the music.”

An art director by trade with a degree in graphic design, the technical portion of the visual recordings came easily. “I took classes in video editing. For the music, I lay out the tracks. I start with a click track and the guitar, and then I add bass, mandolin, banjo, vocal, and violin.”

The entire process takes 4-5 hours: 1 ½ hours to record the music, 2 hours of mixing, and 1 hour exporting.

On one of his one man band videos, he plays along with Tony Rice on his iconic recording of Church Street Blues. “(This is) the closest I’ll ever get to playing with Tony. What a huge inspiration to so many of us. I followed the same process, but started with his track rather than a click track.”

His most popular release has been Pikeville Flood with 5000 views on TikTok.

Gilmer has a couple of self-released albums on YouTube. He posted the first in 2017, and then during COVID shutdown, released a second. The musical prodigy has a gospel album coming out this spring. 

“I wrote ten of the thirteen songs,” he confessed.

The project is not just Gilmer’s one-man band.

“I’m co-producing this project with Denver Smith, another young Virginia award-winning bluegrass multi-instrumentalist.”

It includes some impressive musicians. 

“I play 70% of the music on it, but I have lots of guest artists.”

Those special guests include Ron Stewart, Adam Miller, and Grayson Lane (Shawn Lane’s son).

Gilmer’s hobby has taken off, bringing him unexpected attention, and joy.

“I just enjoy putting a smile on people’s faces. I hope that I can shine a light on bluegrass music. Bluegrass musicians are some of the most talented people in the music industry: knowing compositions, playing different instruments, and layering harmonies.”

The talented musician/singer/songwriter is content with his method of entertainment. He enjoys his day job, has no desire for life on the road as a traveling musician, and likes the creative process and expressing himself through his one-man videos. 

Always learning, Gilmer concluded, “I’m currently working full-time and pursuing my Masters of Fine Arts in Design Thinking from Radford University.”

Check out Jeremiah Gilmer’s music on YouTube, TikTok, and Facebook. You can learn more about his profession and his music by visiting his personal website.

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About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.