At a classical music concert the musicians gather on stage, often wearing black clothing, playing stringed instruments that have been around for hundreds of years. The black and white sheet music has been practiced countless times and the cohesive sound resonates through a hall where listeners sit in dimmed lighting.
Bluegrass music is seen as a get-together, a family affair where musicians can wear jeans, be relaxed and ‘jam out’ to music they may have just picked up. Their instruments include guitars, spoons, jugs and anything else they can get their hands on.
One thing is for certain — bluegrass musicians feel the music when they play.
This is especially true for bluegrass musician Steve Gulley, a Claiborne County native who was raised around music from a very young age. His father was a broadcaster and radio station director for 40 years and played several times at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Gulley’s mother was a singer and continues to sing in area churches.
“It was almost osmosis. I was crawling around on the floor while it was going on, but it was never forced on me,” said Gulley.
He first sang at age five and learned to play bass guitar, string bass and guitar around the age of 12.
Now, Gulley plays solo acts as well as with the band New Pinnacle. Locally, he is known for playing with Dale Ann Bradley at the Cumberland Mountain Music Show in Cumberland Gap. His years of experience have won him several national and international awards for his music, but was most recently awarded an honorary doctorate in music from Lincoln Memorial University.
No matter how many noteworthy musicians he has played with, thousands of people he has played for or countries Gulley has played in, he aims to stay true to his roots.
“It’s not about selling music like Levi’s or Coke. It’s about building something lasting that’ll stick around, something that people love and want to put on repeat,” said Gulley.
He has a music studio — The Curve — named after his family’s homeplace in Claiborne County, where he has recorded several nationally-acclaimed records.
In his spare time Gulley enjoys fishing, being outdoors and spending time with his family. He has been married to his wife Debbie for 23 years, who is a traditional country music singer. They have five children and nine grandchildren.
Reach Kelsey Gerhardt at 606-302-9093 or on Twitter @kgerhardtmbdn.