By Lisa Morgan
“Bluegrass is difficult music to play that’s what draws us to it. It’s just you and your hands and your voice theres no homogenization of it. The sounds that come off your fingers and out of your mouth are pretty much what you’re going to get.” – Tim Surrett, Balsam Range
Any and all of you musicians wandering between shows at this year’s Stagecoach Country Music Festival will want to catch these five guys go to work. These expert, award winning and grammy nominated musicians have individually as well as collectively gathered an impressive collection of awards and honors, and have graced prestigious stages like the Ryman and Grand Ole Opry, to name a few. They have toured with, played with and recorded with the best in their genre and are highly respected individuals in the industry. But together, they create a powerhouse that has launched them into a heavy touring schedule and even more accolades.
Balsam Range just released its first single to country radio this monthly with a beautiful rendition of Dan Seals’ Country hit “Everything That Glitters”. The song showcases Buddy Melton’s award-winning voice and that distinctive Balsam Range harmony. The band was recently honored as the 2014 International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Entertainer of the Year and Vocal Group of the Year, while singer/fiddler Buddy Melton received Male Vocalist of the Year.
Balsam Range’s fifth album, FIVE, released in June 2014 and debuted at #4 on the Billboard Bluegrass album charts. The album has produced several charting singles including top ten debuts with: “Moon Over Memphis”and “Stacking Up Rocks”.
Founded in 2007, Balsam Range consists of five friends: Tim Surrett, Buddy Melton, Darren Nicholson, Marc Pruett and Caleb Smith creatively blend Bluegrass, Folk, Gospel and Jazz into a compelling new acoustic music experience. The band was honored with seven nominations in the 2013 IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) annual awards honoring excellence in the genre and took home top honors for Album of the Year for Papertown, and was honored with the 2011 IBMA Song of the Year Award for “Trains I Missed.”
CV Weekly was fortunate to have a few moments to talk to them while they were on the road, to talk about their upcoming performance at Stagecoach and their rare closeness as friends.
CV Weekly: How is it you all can spend so much time together and still like each other after 8 years?
Tim Surrett: (Laughs) We all live in the same county, just west of Asheville, NC, within 15-20 minutes of each other. It’s like a family – we know what to do and what not to do to stay out of each other’s way, but there is a genuine sense of respect, love and family.
Buddy Melton: The sense of love and family has grown over time. We’ve all been in other situations before that have made us appreciate what we have now. We see the value of having such a great core.
CVW: Have you felt the popularity of Bluegrass grow or ebb over the years?
Tim Surrett: Last year was huge year for us as far as Bluegrass goes, and you hope to build off of that, like getting to come out there for festivals like Stagecoach. There’s always a fear that you’re peaking. The surprise of it is, here I am, in my early 50s, and who would have thought we’d be in this position. I would have laughed at you if you’d have tried to tell me we’d still be doing this 10 years ago.
I think there’s a roots music take off due to the market being flooded with over processed music. The upswing in Americana and Bluegrass seems to be reflecting that. There’s a hunger for more organic music.
CVW: You guys have released a single to country music radio, “All That Glitters”, originally written and released by Dan Seals. What led up to that?
Buddy Melton: I have always wanted to record that song, and would sing it when we’d be sitting around jamming together. We recorded it for our fan group, Balsam Nation. It was a free song for our fans to download. We weren’t looking at it as a major release, but people loved it, so we decided to do more with it. A great song is always a great song…it’s timeless.
Balsam Range is comprised of five gifted highly praised artists. Tim Surrett delivers entertaining MC work as well as seasoned lead and harmony singing, bass and resonator. A stellar fiddler, Buddy Melton is also one of the most gifted tenor voices in Bluegrass and Americana today. His range and tone give Balsam Range its identifying sound. With his envied guitar style, Caleb Smith has been called “one of the top young guns of guitar.” Darren Nicholson is a gifted mandolin player and harmony singer with tremendous enthusiasm for American heritage music. Grammy Award winner, Dr. Marc Pruett brings more than 40 years of entertainment experience to the group. He brilliantly complements the ensemble with the intuitive, traditional three finger style that has made him one of music’s most admired banjo players.