Young Uns in bluegrass go back as far as Earl Scruggs pictured with his banjo-playing older brother Junie. Since then, there has been a young Sonny Osborne playing banjo with Bill Monroe, a teen-aged J.D. Crowe with Mac Wiseman, and a seven year old Ricky Skaggs singing Ruby on the Flatt & Scruggs TV Show. Precociousness personified.
More recently (can it really be 20 years ago since their debut appearance at WoB?), the Bluegrass Youth All-Stars – Michael Cleveland, Josh Williams, Chris Thile, Cody Kilby and Brady Stogdill – and Alison Krauss and Sierra Hull were both in high school when their debut albums were released.
Also, Ron Stewart toured with his family band as a youngster, as did Darrin and Rhonda Vincent.
All have brought great pleasure to all who have witnessed their prodigious talents. But, that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
There are learning facilities for kids at some bluegrass festivals and the IBMM has a very nice programme that provides both instruments and instruction at the museum, offered to young pickers at little or no cost. The Bluegrass Heritage Foundation has a similar program called Play It Forward, which is now being replicated by other groups.
Paige Anderson and the Fearless Kin
I became aware of Paige Anderson and the Fearless Kin when they were listed as the youngest band appearing at this year’s San Francisco Bluegrass & Old-Time Festival (February 7th – 17th).
The Fearless Kin is a teenage trio of Paige (18 years) a bluegrass flatpicking prodigy and promising young songwriter [she also plays bass and clawhammer banjo], with siblings Aimee (17 years, who plays fiddle), and Ethan Anderson (14 years, who plays mandolin and bass as his main instruments, helps little sister Daisy on Dobro® sometimes, and plays the banjo a little).
Keeping them in order is mum Christy Anderson, who plays bass.
Starting as the Anderson Family Bluegrass they have been traveling around the US, playing at various well known festivals and venues since 2004.
Their first album, a six-track EP, Wild Rabbit, (released in December 2012) reveals that they write powerful original songs with arrangements beyond the formative age of the players. Allied to that are strong, sibling harmonies with vocal stylings resembling that from the Appalachian mountains.
I talked to Paige, asking ………
How did you get into music?
My Dad started playing the banjo back in 2004, and he wanted someone to play music with. He had an old nylon string guitar (it was his from high school) in the closet, handed it to me, and showed me a few chords. It all started there!
I started taking guitar lessons from local Grass Valley/Nevada City musician Barry Angell for a couple of years, and after that I started learning on my own and having help every so often with Kathy Barwick (musician and guitar player extraordinaire from Sacramento, CA). Kathy has been such a great mentor and female role model for me throughout the years.
My sister Aimee and brother Ethan started the same time as me (2004) on the fiddle and mandolin. My mom Christy later then picked up the bass, youngest sibling Daisy started on the little fiddle, and our musical adventure with Anderson Family Bluegrass started.
When we started out, my Mom was home schooling us, then after school all us kids would go upstairs and practice either together or individually, with Mom helping. Dad would come back home and we’d all practice the set with the family. Our parents have always taught us a good work ethic when it comes to music, working, and life.
We live on 5 acres here in the hills of Grass Valley, cut our own wood for the winter, maintain the property, have an organic garden, and so on. It’s not that they “push” us kids with the music, they’ve just taught us that anything takes hard work, whether it be music or life. I really appreciate that we’ve been raised that way. I think there was a good balance between free time and work for us. It helps, too, that all of us kids love music dearly and have fun with it.
Who are your main influences?
I’m influenced by all kinds of different music. My flat picking heroes are Clarence White, Doc Watson, Kathy Barwick, Jim Hurst, and many others. Aside from bluegrass, I also listen to a lot of old Appalachian music, blues, folk, old country, and Americana music.
How did each of you pick the instrument that you play?
When my Dad handed me his old guitar, I loved it and didn’t ever think of switching instruments. As a family, we went to CBA’s (California Bluegrass Associations) Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival and watched the “Kids on Bluegrass” program (2004). Aimee saw someone playing fiddle and decided then that it was going to be her instrument, and Ethan saw the mandolin and thought the same thing. Mom later picked up the bass, and Daisy the little fiddle. In 2009 Daisy decided she wanted to play a different instrument than Aimee, so Daisy picked up the Dobro. She’s been playing it since then and loves it!
Tell me a bit more about your siblings; when did each become interested in music and what are their hopes as far as their music is concerned?
Aimee (currently 17, plays fiddle) and Ethan (currently 14, plays mandolin and bass) became interested in music the same time I did (2004), and Daisy (going to be 12 pretty soon) became interested in music a few months after that and picked up the little fiddle, later the Dobro®.
All of us kids have passions aside from music, for Aimee it’s photography, for Ethan it’s computer stuff, and for Daisy it’s painting, but they all want to incorporate this musical journey into their lives and see where it goes. Aimee wants to combine traveling, music, and her photography, which I think is awesome because music gives you that opportunity to travel and see the world.
Who has influenced you and them most?
Some of our main influences are Stanley Brothers, Hazel Dickens, Flatt & Scruggs, The Carter Family, and Vern Williams.
Paige, from where does your inspiration come for writing songs?
I think I get a lot of inspiration for my songs from hardships, true stories, history, death, scenery, and life in general.
I co-wrote my very first song with Chuck Ragan back in 2009, and ever since then writing has been a huge part of my life. Chuck and I wrote a song about a true story, a woman from Arizona who was abducted by Indians in the 1800’s, was forced to walk along the treacherous Santa Rita Mountains in Southern Arizona, managed to escape, and survive. My grandpa (whom we call Papa and lives South of Tucson, AZ) told me the story and it really sparked the idea for that song. Chuck Ragan co-wrote it with me, and I honestly think if it weren’t for him and his encouraging words of wisdom about songwriting, I wouldn’t be writing like I am today.
Chuck is a folk/punk rock artist paving a path for folks who are along the similar genre. You can check out his music at http://chuckraganmusic.com to get a better idea of what his sound is.
Does one of your songs have a really interesting back story? If so, which?
Each one of my songs has a special meaning to me, but one that particularly stands out is called Where Did You Go. My family and I have been playing music together since 2004, and during that time we’ve met so many people whom have become close family friends and then passed away. I’ve experienced a lot of death, feelings of loss, and watching the grief of others. My Dad, sister Aimee and I have even seen someone die of a heart attack right in front of us at a festival.
I think the comfort in letting go and realizing life begins, and life ends at some point, has really been an interesting topic for me to think about. Where Did You Go is a song about that. It’s touched a lot of people that have heard that song, and that makes me feel good that I can pass along an emotion like that in one of my songs.
What are your hopes for 2013?
Well, right now I’m going to Sierra College (Grass Valley) and taking business to get a little more knowledge under my belt (music business classes start in the Fall), and I’m planning on booking more gigs and touring with my band, Paige Anderson & The Fearless Kin.
Anderson Family Bluegrass is still going strong and playing festivals and events (next event being the Benson Arizona Bluegrass Festival, April 27th & 28th). I graduated from high school last year, and I want to pursue music as my career. I know that music isn’t the easiest path, but I love it. It’s something that I’m so passionate about and couldn’t imagine life without it. I honestly couldn’t have an office job, not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just not me as a person. I want to travel and share our music with as many people as we can.
So my hopes for 2013 are to write more tunes, play more music, travel, and do what we all love!