The genre of bluegrass is one of the most diverse in the world. Rock, country, pop and even hip-hop have been influenced by this genre. This article explores five artists who grew up listening to bluegrass music and how it has influenced their music today.
1) Keith Urban: Born in New Zealand, Keith was exposed to a variety of genres including rock and roll, soul, R&B and gospel before he discovered his love for bluegrass at age 14 when he heard Ricky Skaggs on the radio singing “Country Boy.” He went on to cofound The Ranch Band with fellow Aussie musicians Troy Cassar Daley and Shane Nicholson while they were still teenagers. The band toured Australia playing mostly covers from bands like The Eagles and Led Zeppelin. Urban’s smooth voice make him a country star today, but the rich harmonies in bluegrass influenced his sound.
2) Zac Brown: Born in Ohio, Zac was introduced to bluegrass at a young age by his dad who pushed the band around their town playing shows outside of schools and libraries. In 1998, Zac won a contest to open up for the legendary Del McCoury Band. He met his future band members in high school and formed a bluegrass band called The Packers, which later became known as “Zac Brown Band.” One of the most successful country bands today, ZBB plays a diverse mix of country that incorporates elements from rock, reggae and bluegrass.
3) Jason Isbell: Born in Northern Alabama, Jason’s dad was a career musician who introduced his son to many genres including jazz, doo-wop and folk. While attending college at the University of South Alabama, he learned about bluegrass from friends that were members of school groups such as The Jasons and The Back 40. After graduating, he moved to Nashville hoping to pursue a career in music and recording. In 2001, he married fellow musician Amanda Shires who played upright bass with bluegrass band The Dustbowl Revival. With her help, Isbell was introduced to storied singer-songwriter Ryan Adams who encouraged him to play solo before the mic instead of behind the guitar.
4) Sturgill Simpson: Although Sturgill calls Kentucky home, he grew up in a household with two parents who loved to listen to straight-up country music. However, his dad’s love for Johnny Cash sparked Sturgill’s interest in outlaws like Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard. When he was 18 years old, Sturgill and his dad moved to Jackson, Tennessee and then later on to New York where he worked as a professional musician. In 2003, his father passed away from cancer and Sturgill took a break from music for nearly seven years. After getting married in 2010 to fellow musician and songwriter Simpson Amburn, he formed his band “The Metamodern Sounds in Country Music” after the name of a Cash song.
5) Trampled By Turtles: From their start in 2003, Trampled by Turtles (TBD) has created its own unique style of bluegrass that incorporates influences from old-time music and folk. Their name is based on the “trampled under foot” lyric from a Willie Nelson song called “Whiskey River.” In 2004, TBD released a self-titled album that was recorded in a barn using a tape machine. Their newest album “Wild Animals” combines elements of bossa nova and reggae into their bluegrass sound.
Bluegrass is one of the most diverse genres in music today. This article explores five artists who grew up listening to bluegrass and how it influenced their sound. Whether you’re into country, rock or hip-hop, there’s a link between your favorite artist and this genre that will continue influencing modern day songs for years to come. If you’re interested in learning more about the history of bluegrass as well as its influence on popular musicians today, be sure to read our other blog posts!