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Don’t know where I’m going, all I know is where I’ve gone: Isaac Gibson of 49 Winchester

49 Winchester. 49 Winchester.

Hailing from the Southern Appalachian backwoods of Castlewood, Virginia (population: 2,045), 49 Winchester is a rapidly rising alt-country/rock act. 

For the better part of the last decade, the band has been relentlessly working its way through the Southeastern music industry — playing every stage and festival that’ll have ‘em — where now the raucous group is whispered in the same breath (of raw talent and sincere passion) as the Drive-By Truckers, Tyler Childers and Sturgill Simpson, to name a few.

The tone is gritty, but soothing, a sense of warmth in a sometimes cold, cruel world. For every heartache, broken bottle and shattered dream, there’s an honest and tangible feeling of triumph and redemption — pushing through any obstacle when the going gets tough and others may doubt the path you’re currently on.

Fronted by lead singer/guitarist Isaac Gibson, the quintet is a true band of brothers. The lineup includes childhood friends of Gibson, either from around the corner or across the county line. Onstage, 49 Winchester is a well-oiled and fiery machine of melody and purpose — something that lends itself to a seamless evolution of sound, ultimately creating a long-term vision for bountiful creativity and awe-inspiring performance. 

Smoky Mountain News: Did you find that the shutdown not only justified, but maybe brought more purpose to what it is that you love doing with music?

Isaac Gibson: Yeah. It’s definitely given me perspective on just how much playing music for new faces every night really meant to me — not having that in my life anymore has been sort of a shock factor. It’s given me a new perspective on what it means to be in a touring band, what it means to get out and gig, what it means to make people boogie, dance and enjoy your music. 

SMN: Being from Southwestern Virginia, what is it about those people and that landscape that really influences the music?

IG: There’s nowhere on the planet that is at all culturally similar to Central Appalachia. There are other places that can say the same thing, but it’s not for the same reasons. This place is completely and totally independent of everything around it — we’re on our own little island here in the mountains. 

There’s such a deep sense of community where we come from. There’s a rich musical history that just kind of sprung out of its own [here]. Country music and bluegrass had their genesis here — the “Big Bang,” so to speak. It came out of the hills and [it was] in full force. 

SMN: When you think about how the band started, what was the initial vision? Was it just getting together and hanging out, and then it evolved? Or did you have an initial plan? 

IG: I think I had a plan from the start. Maybe not from the start of my musicianship, but the start of getting together, branching out and playing with other musicians. I’ve been playing music since I was a kid and I’d been singing since I was a kid, but nobody ever heard me except the walls in my bedroom [for] a lot of years. 

But, as soon as I started getting serious enough about it, to play around with other musicians, to toss ideas off of each other and bounce stuff around, I knew I wanted to start a band. 

And I want to start a band [where I didn’t] want to just go out and find hired guns. I wanted to start a band with friends. I want to start a band with people that I knew. And, you know, there [were] a couple of dudes that play guitar in the neighborhood and [a] guy that played drums — we got together and here we are now.

SMN: Well, it’s that thing, too, where you know each other on this very cerebral and kind of cosmic level. And you can’t replace that…

IG: Yeah, that’s true. A hundred percent. The thing that really makes us what we are is the fact that we’re brothers, man. We really are. This whole deal is driven [by that]. It’s a deep connection with each other and a great love that we have for each other, and respect for each other, that I think has really allowed us to sort of mesh — not just onstage, but in the studio and offstage when we’re just at home writing new songs or just hanging out. There’s definitely an element of brotherhood. 

SMN: Do you think that parlays itself into not getting stressed out about things, the idea that, “We’re all doing this together and we’re having fun. It’ll be a slow burn, but we’ll do it at our own pace”?

IG: Absolutely. That’s the one thing that has kept us hanging on this long. We’re no spring chickens anymore. We’ve been doing this since we were 18 and I’m 26 now. We’ve been cranking away at this for quite a while. That has kept us tight knit. We’re going to rock and roll with this thing, with this idea, with this set of values — wherever that takes us, we’re satisfied with. 


Want to watch?

The next installment of the “No Contact Concert Series” will feature 49 Winchester at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 11. You can watch the performance by going to and click on the “Upcoming Shows” tab. 

Shows are streamed through YouTube and Facebook Live. Broadcasted live from the Codex Sound warehouse in Hickory, NCCS was designed as a solution to the limits that traditional at-home live streams present: low audio/video quality, and caps on band size. 

Each show is fully equipped with a professional grade stage and lighting rig, audio inputs, and 12 camera angles, with the only people onsite being crew and band members (who perform on pre-sanitized backline equipment). 

The series will continue with Tall Tall Trees (July 18), The Fritz (July 24), Cicada Rhythm (Aug. 1), Fireside Collective (Aug. 8), Chatham County Line (Aug. 14) and Amythyst Kiah (Aug. 22). 

For more information on 49 Winchester, visit

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