A Trip to Visit Appalachian Musicians
inIntern Storyon October 29, 2015
While we were driving to western Virginia to meet Spencer Branch, new next Next Generation Artists, members of the band, Martha Spencer and Kelley Breiding, were texting us pictures of possible locations to record a video. Each photograph was more breath-taking then the next: scenes of rolling hills blanketed with autumn foliage, a red barn nestled between patches of farmland, weathered stone walls in an expansive park.
When we pulled in to their driveway I was in awe; gawking at the gorgeous Appalachian scenery all around. Martha, Kelley, and Kilby Spencer emerged to greet us. Immediately, we started getting set up for filming and photographs, while the band warmed up. My initial awe of the landscape was quickly eclipsed when Martha, Kelley, and Kilby began playing. I had listened to their album (to be released after the new year) a handful of times before, but hearing Kelley and Martha’s harmonies, their intricate guitar and banjo playing, and Kilby’s fiddling in person was nothing short of spectacular.
Spencer Branch bridges gaps between genres, generations, and traditions in all of their work. Their music lands somewhere between bluegrass and Americana as they draw inspiration from country bluegrass icons, and even more so from older musicians in the Appalachian community in Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. They often spend weekends visiting elderly friends and mentors, listening to their stories and music, and, of course, jamming. This range of influences gives both their original songs and their covers a completely unique flair.
After our first long day of recording, we got a chance to get to know the band and relax over Mexican food at one of their favorite restaurants. The next night we stopped at a benefit concert and dance on our way out of town. While Kilby was getting ready to play, Kelley taught me a few flat foot style mountain dancing moves. These glimpses into their community were not purely entertainment, though the experiences were a ton of fun! They were also indicators of what is to come as we plan to move forward in both working with Spencer Branch and the older artists in their community.
As a whole, the trip was very successful. We had a wonderful visit with the artists, recorded some incredible material, and took some beautiful photographs. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to learn more about video, meet more Music Maker artists, visit Appalachia for the first time, and do my favorite thing in the world: record audio that I love and find inspiring.
– Abigail Nover