Turns out Boulet was born and raised in Jackson County, the Town of Webster to be exact. Turns out they ran around in similar music circles, too. The duo quickly connected, with Boulet coming up to Haywood from Atlanta seemingly every weekend to collaborate with Soldierâ€™s Heart and their extended family of Appalachian musical cohorts.
Boulet also fronts the band Owner of the Sun. A blend of folk, bluegrass and backwoods stompinâ€™, the sextet has been making their rounds in Western North Carolina to raucous crowds. And itâ€™s the admiration from both sides of the microphone that justifies the melodic passion shared in this area, one that has recently provoked Waldrop to return to his hometown.
Smoky Mountain News: How did you get started playing music?
Brad Boulet: My family, mainly my dad, made music a huge part of my life from such an early age I couldnâ€™t say where it started. Dad routinely used lyrics to convey messages about life to me as a kid. A method he went on to use for years as a school counselor. I played harmonica in the band, but the most vivid memory I have is of playing Fiddlerâ€™s Grove. Our upright bass player was sick and couldnâ€™t make the trip. It was determined bass was more integral to the performance than harmonica, so I learned the bass part for our song in a station wagon on the way to the festival. I recall that experience evoking extreme terror.
SMN: Whatâ€™s the philosophy of Owner of the Sun?
BB: I think we all believe thereâ€™s a place for folk instruments and sounds in songs theyâ€™re not supposed to go with. You could walk into a show at one point and call us a bluegrass band, then walk back in 10 minutes later and swear youâ€™re listening to a country band, then come back 10 minutes later and get unmistakably rocked.
SMN: Youâ€™re a Jackson County native. What does it mean to you to be able to perpetuate Appalachian music and its ever-evolving history?
BB: I guess I grew up thinking every kid got to go listen to Harry Cagle play the fiddle on his porch. It ainâ€™t so. Mountain music is unique and known the world over. When I tell people in Atlanta I grew up in WNC, itâ€™s very common for them to bring up the music of the region. I like how Appalachian music is evolving. No longer is it mandatory to stand stoically and play a banjo the way itâ€™s â€śsupposedâ€ť to be played in order to represent and pay homage to mountain music.
SMN: What do you want folks to feel leaving your show?
BB: That we just gave them everything we had. I think too much comparison happens in music. There are certainly varying levels of musical talent which can be recognized, but weâ€™re all guilty of saying whatâ€™s â€śbetter.â€ť I think people appreciate passion and energy as much as musicianship â€” sometimes more. If folks leave our show feeling like we were honest, then weâ€™re doing it right.
1: The Darren Nicholson Band will perform at 7:45 p.m. March 27 at The Strand at 38 Main in Waynesville.
2: The Liarâ€™s Bench will hit the stage at 7 p.m. March 20 in the Mountain Heritage Center at Western Carolina University.
3: Americana/roots group Owner of the Sun will perform at 9 p.m. March 22 at the Waterâ€™n Hole Bar and Grill in Waynesville.
4: The film â€śBreakfast at Tiffanyâ€™sâ€ť will be screened on March 21-22 at The Strand at 38 Main in Waynesville.
5: Country act The Zac Brown Band will hit the stage at 7:30 p.m. March 29 at Harrahâ€™s Cherokee.