Nefesh Mountain debuts on the Grand Ole Opry (12/14/21) – photo by Chris Hollo for the Opry
It was back in December of last year, the 14th to be precise, when Nefesh Mountain made their Grand Ole Opry debut. What with the holidays and the new year, we have only just gotten a chance to talk with husband-and-wife vocalists and bandleaders Doni Zasloff and Eric Lindberg about their big night.
We have been fans of their music since we first met them at World of Bluegrass in Raleigh several years ago. Between Doni’s lovely voice and infectious stage prescience, Eric’s multi-instrumental mastery and singing, and the band vibe of sharing original bluegrass and mountain music from a Jewish perspective, we were hooked hard.
Now after four successful studio albums and a live concert release, Nefesh Mountain is riding high. They had a big Hanukkah tour scheduled for last fall, with an open date in Nashville just before the final show, perfect for the Tuesday Opry.
Eric said that Opry management reached out to them and the date was set.
“Bill Filipiak with the Opry told us that the board really want to have a diverse group of artists on stage, and it says so much to us that they want to accept and include what we do.”
So Doni and Eric, with their newborn daughter, Willow, in tow, and their full band – Alan Grubner on fiddle, David Goldenberg on mandolin, and Max Johnson on bass – headed for the Opry House unsure what to expect. But as any bluegrass fan could have told them, they were sure to go over big.
Lindberg says that it was a bit overwhelming at first.
“We were pretty much just excited to be a part of this massive historic thing. With our New York bluegrass that is Jewish, we were proud to be there, and to be asked to do it. The country music word wasn’t always open to Jewish artists, but we were so proud to be in this place to sing a little bit in Hebrew and play some good bluegrass, which was the point of it, after all.”
And Doni said they felt the love as soon as they started playing the first of their three songs.
“We felt such a warm hug from the audience and all the Opry people. The audience couldn’t have been more welcoming. It felt like everyone was so happy to see us! It was a lot of love we felt. Plus the Opry staff take such care to make anyone having their debut feel special. They gave us our debut parking sign to take home.”
Bill Cody brought them on, after having met the band earlier that day when they played on his WSM radio program.
The Opry audience was very enthusiastic about Nefesh Mountain’s performance, and Zasloff said that their fans around the country were so pleased to see them on that stage.
“We got so much positive encouragement from our fans. They were so happy and excited for us. When we started, people always told us we should play the Opry… and it finally happened!”
Doni and Eric were sorry that their two older children were not able to be there to see the debut. But Doni did have some family on hand.
“They couldn’t come, as they were still in school. But my sister came to babysit Willow, and so she got to see us play there. It meant a whole lot to us. The legend lives on!”
Many congratulations to Nefesh Mountain for achieving this milestone.
Here is a video that was shot that day, capturing the scene both backstage and when the lights came up.