Lilly Drumeva reports from Nashville November 2013
LILLY DRUMEVA'S DIARY AS A FULBRIGHT SCHOLAR
Since August 2013 I have been working in the US as a
Fulbright scholar, researching the history and industry of country and
bluegrass music. I have read a number of books and conducted around 50
interviews with music professionals, asking questions such as: Why do
you like country/bluegrass music? What is so special/exciting about it?
What are the songs about? How did you get involved? What is the future
of these genres in a digital world? When I return to Bulgaria I am going
to write a book on the subject in Bulgarian language. A summary of it
and a survey in English will be published in several European magazines
and internet blogs.
August: I spent it
mainly in Bowling Green, KY at Western Kentucky
University (WKU), where I researched the history of bluegrass music.
I worked closely with Prof. Erika Brady,
at the Department of Folk Studies. I
studied many books from the extensive library collection and had informal
conversations with faculty professors and fellow students.
My research also involved traveling to Owensboro, KY,
visiting the International Bluegrass Museum
and of course the birthplace of Bill Monroe.
I had memorable meetings with Gabrielle Gray
(museum director) and RaShe Jennings
(curator of collections). Gabrielle offered me an amazing hospitality
and we discussed future collaborations.
I attended a small bluegrass festival in the town of
Annetta, near Leitchfield as well as several jam sessions around Bowling
Green. I was humbled by the attention I received by the local press and
media including Radio TV and Newspaper. Here are some links to the interviews:
Live on WKU radio, hosted by Kevin
Article at the "Messenger Inquirer":
Article in the WKU Herald:
September and October
were two busy months for me, spent mostly in Nashville!, TN It included
many interesting meetings, conferences, music festivals and concerts while
absorbing interesting material from books and magazines to further my
research. I visited two States where I had not been before: North Carolina
Early September I moved from Bowling Green, KY to Nashville,
TN where I established contact with my host institution, the International
Bluegrass Music Association. At my hotel, the "Scarritt Bennett
Center" I attended part of Darrell Scott's
songwriting seminar. Later in the same month, I watched his show together
with Tim O'Brian at "3rd and Lindsley",
a renowned Nashville live music venue. I enjoyed an Italian lunch with
my friend, singer/songwriter and teacher at Belmont University, Kathy
I attended two interesting jam sessions, at Andy
Wyatt's house (bluegrass) and Brian
Christiansen's "Fiddle house" shop (old time). I interviewed
legendary fiddle player Buddy Speicher,
who performed with some of the major country music stars in the 60s/70s.
I attended also the "Grandmasters fiddle championship", held
at the Country Music Hall of Fame, where I spoke to the event manager
Twice I watched shows at the Grand Old Opry, featuring
Thompson Square, Craig Morgan, Love and Theft,
Little Jimmy Dickens, Jim Lauderdale, The Whites and others. I
had an interesting conversation/interview with Sharon, Sheryl and Buck
White backstage, which was made possible through my friend Mike
My interview program continued with feedback from Don
Cusic (professor at "Mike Curb College of Music", writer
of many country music books), Bart Herbison
(Nashville Songwriter's Association), Craig
Havighurst (radio DJ "Music city roots" and IBMA board
member), Jeff Walker (music industry
professional, head of "Aristomedia", CMA board member).
A real highlight in my career was when I was called
to perform on stage with the Time Jumpers, a fantastic western-swing band,
that featured Kenny Sears (fiddle), Paul Franklin
(pedal steel guitar), Vince Gill (electric guitar and vocals) and
other top notch musicians.
My live performances continued with a slot on the Viva
Nash Vegas show, hosted by George Hamilton
V at Handy Hardware Store in Franklin, TN.
Middle of September I attended the Americana
Music Conference, which was held at the Sheraton hotel, Nashville
with gigs in the famous music venues downtown. I was at the Ryman during
the Americana awards ceremony and enjoyed performances by
Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, Duane Eddy, John Fulbright, Holly
Williams, Liza Marie Presley and others. I made friends with Texas
singer/songwriter Kim Townsend and "Music
row", "Nashville Sports and Entertainment" journalist Steve
Morley. I discovered a very talented singer/songwriter named Nora
Jane Struthers, whose acoustic music really impressed me. Her voice
reminds me of Natalie Mains' of the Dixie Chicks.
Right after "Americana" I flew to Raleigh,
North Carolina in order to attend the International Bluegrass Music Awards.
I performed my original song "Turn away", which was selected
for the songwriters' showcase; I teamed up with Japanese mandolin virtuoso
Akira Otzuka for couple of showcases
in the pubs. A memorable event was to meet the mayor of Raleigh, Nancy
McFarlane. I conducted also several interviews with leading bluegrass
music professionals: Ken Irwin (Rounder
records), Fred Bartenstein (award winning
author), Tom Gray (bass player of legendary
band "Seldom scene"), Chris Jones
(musician, songwriter and radio presenter) and many others.
I returned to Nashville early October and continued
to meet and interview interesting people. Among them were: Paul
Kingsbury (writer of the "Country Music Encyclopedia",
Country Music Hall of Fame), John Lomax III
(music writer and music distributer, grandson of America's first musicologist.
John Lomax I), Don Light (legendary
music agent, worked with Keith Whitley, Jimmy Buffett, Dailey & Vincent).
I had interesting conversations with John Pannell (musician, writer, author
of Alison Krauss' early hits), and Russ Barenberg
(acoustic guitarist and composer, part of the "Transatlantic sessions").
I thoroughly enjoyed the concert of Irish singer Maura
O'Connell at the Franklin Theatre, Franklin, TN in the company
of my friend, Dobro player Al Goll.
We attended also the famous "Music city roots show" at the Loveless
barn, hosted by Jim Lauderdale, who
also contributed to my research.
My work continued in Fort Collins, Colorado, where I
stayed with my friends Carl Hammerdorfer and
Kathy Lynch, who lead international programs at the Fort Collins
State University. I focused on reading during the days. In the evenings
I played music and enjoyed the company of local singers and musicians
such as Barbara Clark (singer/songwriter)
and Chat Fisher (mandolin). One of the
musical evenings was dedicated to John Denver, one of Colorado's most
significant artists, writer of "Take me home country roads".
I performed live on the radio with Colorado bluegrass band "Lineage",
a program hosted by Vincent Burkhart.
I had a glimpse of the nightlife in Fort Collins, visiting
the "Swing house" and watching local band "Bluegrama".
A highlight of my time in Colorado was the concert of Boston singer/songwriter
Katie Curtis at Avo's, Fort Collins.
Exhausted, but happy I returned to Nashville where I
resumed my meetings and interviews. It was a real honor to meet Robert
K. Oermann, a renowned music journalist ("Country Music Journal"),
author of several books and documentaries. At lunch I talked to Kari
Estin, an artist manager and consultant, who worked for many years
with Tony Rice. I had an informative conversation with Mike
Drudge, one of the leading bluegrass music agents, who shared some
interesting inside stories. At dinner with IBMA's director
Nancy Cardwell I learned everything about the organization and
preoperational work for its annual conference. A memorable day was my
visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and the meeting with
its chief historian John Rumble. I interviewed Douglas Green ("Ranger
Doug", of the legendary western band "Riders in the sky"),
who is also a renouned writer and scholar, lovely singer/songwriter Irene
Kelly, who had a brand new album out.
I was invited back to perform on the Viva Nash Vegas
show in Franklin, TN, where I interviewed George
Hamilton IV (legendary country singer from the 60s/70s) and Kayton
Roberts (steel player of country legend Hank Snow)
The Bulgarian community around Nashville organized a
party in my honor on which I performed a mix of Bulgarian folk songs.
Stella Antony, a moving spirit among
the Bulgarian group, had prepared a delicious Bulgarian dinner. The night
before, Stella treated me to a wonderful performance of Oscar Wilde's
"The importance of being Ernest" at the Johnson Theater and
to a memorable visit of President Andrew Jackson's residence at the Hermitage.
I spent also wonderful evenings with my friends Emmanuel
& Suzan Lozanov and Alex & Susannah
Petrunov who live around Nashville.
At the end of October I had lunch with Nashville musicians/songwriters
Barry and Holly Tashian (The Remains,
Emmylou Harris) and Nashville cat Scott Newbert
(Hal Ketchum, Trace Adkins). I interviewed also Jeremy
Garrett (top fiddle player and founder of the "Stringdusters"),
Becky Buller (top fiddle player, singer
In November I had
interesting meetings with award winning sound engineer Bill
VornDick, renowned music journalists David
Ross (Music Row), Peter Cooper (The Tennessean), IBMA board member
Jon Weissberger, well known bluegrass
festival MC Sam Jackson (Bean Blossom),
editor of CMA's trade magazine "Close up" Bob
Dorschuk, legendary country music TV host and writer Hazel
Smith and many others. I had the opportunity to visit legendary
recording studios such as RCA Studio B (Elvis, Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton),
Ocean Ways (Faith Hill, Tim McGraw), Studio 19 (Tony Rice) as well as
world famous music venues: The Ryman, The Station In, Robert's, Tootsie's
and many others.
I watched the Country Music
Association Awards live on ABC television in the company of my
friend Maya Campbell. I attended also
the CMA Christmas party, live at Bridgestone Arena, featuring top country
music acts. Before the show I could network at the CMA International reception,
meeting music country music professionals from around the world. I was
delighted to talk to Bobbi Boyce (CMA's
international director), Bob Harris
(BBC Radio 2), George Lang (RTL, France).
A Fulbright alumni
meeting took place in Nashville as well, thanks to the efforts of Fulbright
alumni Molly Chatterjee and Kathryn
Skinner. I met interesting scholars from Finland, Germany, China,
India and Bangladesh.
The second week in November I spent in Baltimore, Maryland
where I continued with my research and worked closely with music promoters
and close friends of mine: Archie & Priscilla
Warnock (Delaware Valley Bluegrass Music Festival). I met and interviewed
also award winning journalist Stephanie Ledgin
and banjo player of the year Mike Munford.
All in all, a most memorable time. More on www.lillydrumeva.net