Since the show began almost two years ago, A Change of Tune has highlighted some of the best up-and-coming artists out of these West Virginia hills with podcast-y chats ranging from The Sea The Sea to Coyotes in Boxes, Qiet to Bud Carroll and beyond.
But those interviews have been a bit infrequent, and since West Virginia Day is coming up (not to mention A Change of Tune’s second birthday), we thought we’d do something special: 30 days, 30 brand new #WVmusic interviews that range from Morgantown alt-rockers and Parkersburg singer-songwriters to West Virginia music venues and regional artist management and beyond, all of which contribute to this state’s wild and wonderful music scene.
And today, we are chatting with White Sulfur Springs musician Chandler Beavers, who became a fan of jam bands and bluegrass music at an early age. Since then, Chandler has gone on to make his own music, not to mention collaborate with regional artists like Beckley's The Kind Thieves and Hiawatha's Steamliner Bluegrass Band. Which begs the question...
How exactly did you start playing music (when, where, why, etc.)?
I started playing the mandolin in 2001, back when I was 10 and living in Princeton, West Virginia. I discovered my landlord was in a bluegrass band. I had never really listened to much bluegrass before then, but after hearing his popular band Black Diamond play, I was hooked. I haven't looked back since.
How has your sound changed over time (if at all)?
I've progressed more and more towards the "jam" scene after starting with very traditional bluegrass music. When I first started playing bluegrass, I was fascinated with The Del McCoury Band. Over time, acts like Yonder Mountain String Band, Tim O'Brien, Leftover Salmon, Dave Matthews Band, and The Infamous Stringdusters made a huge impact on my music.
Where do you play in and around West Virginia (venues, festivals, etc.)?
I travel and play with a few groups at the moment. We play anything from small venues and festivals to the streets of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, during the summertime.
What’s been the highlight of your musical journey?
Man… the highlight for me so far has been meeting all the people associated with the genre. You won't find a better crowd of folks anywhere in the world than the ones you find at a bluegrass gathering.
What’s it like making music in West Virginia?
Making music in West Virginia is amazing. The scenery and the people around you make for great inspiration.
But do you feel held back by being in West Virginia? Or does it feel like a musically-supportive place?
Honestly? Yes, I do feel held back to a certain degree. When it comes to support, the people of West Virginia give you all the support you need, but the problem I’m becoming aware of is the small amount of bluegrass pickers in the area (especially young bluegrass pickers), not to mention the problem with venues. It's hard to find a venue that will host bluegrass (or any genre for the matter) and be able to pay the act a decent wage for being there.
What I will say is that festival promoters have done a fantastic job lately in bringing top-notch acts to West Virginia. There are some new/newer festivals in West Virginia that are incredible experiences, and Mountain Stage continues to do a wonderful job keeping music alive.
What, in your opinion, needs to happen in the West Virginia music scene for it to move forward?
It's growing and getting better. Like I said, there are new events popping up all the time, and that’s encouraging. I do believe West Virginia could use some more legitimate venues and maybe encourage more folks to get more involved with the music scene. It amazes me how many friends I have that love music but never make it out to support live music and support the bands. If we don't support the artists, it's hard for music to grow.
What advice would you give anyone starting out in music?
If your starting to make music and want to be somewhat serious about it, my advice would be to come up with some original material and follow your heart. Play the music that makes you happy. Music is supposed to be fun. Don't play material or join up with bands if it makes you unhappy about music.
Chandler Beavers’ solo project Different will be released later this year. Keep an eye on his social media for music updates and tour schedules. To hear more #WVmusic, tune in to A Change of Tune, airing Saturday nights at 10 on West Virginia Public Broadcasting. And for more #WVmusic chats, make sure to go to wvpublic.org/wvmusic.