Joe Newberry Shifts Gears

Joe NewberryYou might not know Joe Newberry, but you know his work.

You’ve heard his picking and singing as a regular on Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion. And you’ve heard his award-winning songs – Singing As We Rise, The Darker the Night the Better I See and others – on the radio, performed by The Gibson Brothers.

Now, if all goes according to plan, you’ll be hearing a lot more from the North Carolinian. He’s stepping away from the day job that many bluegrass and roots musicians need to pay the bills and will be focusing on music full time.

“I’ve got enough stuff going where I thought I could make this work,” he told me the other day. When he finished listing that “stuff,” I wondered how he had found any time at all for a pesky day job.

He’ll be rehearsing and performing as part of the TransAtlantic Sessions, touring as a duo with Mike Compton, playing as a band with Craver, Hicks, Watson and Newberry and the Jumpsteady Boys and setting aside more time for writing. Plus, later this week, he and Jon Shain will release a bluesy CD.

He likens his new role to being a missionary. “There are a whole lot of people out in the world who don’t know they love hillbilly music,” Joe said.

Walking away from a steady paycheck wasn’t easy – “you can always use more and more, but I’m at a place where I’ve got what I need.” He made the leap with the backing of his wife, Susan, and a pointed nudge from a friend who told him, “You should do it now because you’ve got a great future behind you.”

So the banjo player-songwriter-performer who calls himself “the luckiest cat you ever met” is off to do it. “I’m going to make hay while the sun shines, even if it is getting down toward the trees.”

By my count, Joe is still on the sunny side of 60. Here’s hoping there’s a lot of hay making, or at least music making, in his future.

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About the Author

David Morris

David Morris is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist, songwriter and upright bass player. He has spent much of his career as a wire service political reporter, including nearly 14 years with The Associated Press and a stint as chief White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, and has recently retired as senior editor for Kiplinger Washington Editors.