Famous Mandolin Player Brings Progressive Bluegrass To Strings This Weekend
Sierra Hull, 2021 International Bluegrass Music Association Mandolin Player of the Year, will take the stage at the Strings Music Pavilion on Saturday. The two-time Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter made her Grand Ole Opry debut at age 10, performed at Carnegie Hall at age 12, and landed a contract with Rounder Records a year later.
His fourth record, “25 Trips”, was released in 2020, and Hull is finally able to perform these tunes on stages across the country. At the end of her last tour, she will make her Strings debut with special guest Dead Horses. Explore Steamboat caught up with Hull ahead of this weekend’s show.
Explore the steamboat: To get started, tell us a bit about your background. How did you get into the mandolin?
Sierra Hull: I grew up around music – from hearing it in church to my parents who both loved music. My mother had a beautiful singing voice and my father was very fond of bluegrass. I had a great-uncle who lived next door to us, and he was self-taught on mandolin and violin, so I remember hearing these instruments at a young age. My dad got interested in learning to play the mandolin, and I started wanting to learn to play something too. One Christmas I got a violin, but it was too big for me and I couldn’t finish it. The mandolin and the violin are tuned the same, so my dad showed me how to play a few mandolin tricks to save me the disappointment of not being about to start my new violin right away. I fell in love with it and immediately knew it was what I wanted to do with my life.
ES: You were successful from an early age, what do you attribute that to?
SH: A big part is being completely blessed to be in the right place at the right time. There are so many talented young children and I was in the right circle. You know, you go to a jam session and someone sees you and invites you somewhere else, and that word of mouth gave me the opportunity very early on to find myself in situations where I have met a lot of my heroes at a fairly young age.
ES: From your debut at the Grand Ole Opry at the age of 10 to being a Grammy nominated artist, how have you found that your musical style has changed over the past two decades?
SH: At first I was so rooted in the traditional form of bluegrass music. It’s a beautiful thing because you have the chance to create a sense of community and to have roots somewhere. But over the years, my curiosity has evolved through music and my desire to explore. I have been influenced by other genres over time. I think that is reflected in the music I make now – it’s inspired by the roots and foundations of bluegrass along with a lot of other influences as well.
ES: You released “Weighted Mind” in 2016, then moved on to “25 Trips” five years later… tell me a bit about that period.
SH: I was constantly touring in the wake of “Weighted Mind” and exploring different formations on the road. I had different versions of a trio, some with piano, saxophone, electric guitar… It was really a few years of exploratory tours, fun in a collaborative sense. I had the opportunity to hear different sounds in my music. It was also the time to take a break and really take the time to start a new project. And then when I did that, the world stopped.
ES: Yes, but now it looks like you’re back on the road and have a busy touring schedule. What are you waiting for the most?
SH: It was so great to finally feel like I could go out and play a lot of this music that I couldn’t play because my album release tour was basically canceled in 2020. It’s like a full circle to come back and share some of this music live and in person with people. There was something special about being away, and it was the longest break I’ve ever had on the road, but I think the gratitude for having the opportunity to go out and play for people is very much increased at the moment.
ES: What can audiences expect from your show at Steamboat this weekend?
SH: I have some great musicians on tour with me right now, and we have a bunch of different instruments. I’m doing a mix of my new album but I’m also going back to my first songs. I feel like I’ve had the opportunity to go back and embrace some of my bluegrass roots in a gradual way.
Sophie Dingle is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. She can be contacted via the editor.