Musicians and bands across the country immediately stopped touring and performing, their lives in the bright lights and on the road coming to an abrupt halt: physically, sonically and financially. And while many acts didn’t know what to do and, perhaps, where to go, Seth Taylor and Shaun Richardson buckled down and tapped into their bountiful creative waters.
Born and raised in Bryson City (and calling Nashville home in recent years), Taylor is the renowned guitarist for beloved bluegrass/jam group Mountain Heart. Like Taylor, Richardson is an in-demand studio session guitarist and producer, with his current gig being a member of legendary bluegrass ensemble Dailey & Vincent.
As young and talented pickers in the Nashville scene, Taylor and Richardson eventually gravitated toward each other, which, just before and during the shutdown this spring, has parlayed itself into an off-and-running solo project for the budding duo.
A blend of whirlwind acoustic guitar instrumentals and intricate songwriting, their soon-to-be released debut album is a melodic stamp in time and place for two six-string aces with long-term artistic visions and an unrelenting urge to keep digging deep: onstage and in the studio.
Smoky Mountain News: How did the quarantine treat you, not only as a creative person, but also in general?
Seth Taylor: I’ve been doing good. It’s been kind of weird not being able to travel [and be on tour]. But, other than that, [Shaun and I] have been working on music, which has been good. At first, it felt weird to even try and work on anything, I think everybody [in the music industry] was just trying to figure out what to do next. Once I got used to [being home], it became easier to work on [music].
Shaun Richardson: At first, it was a kind of traumatic time to regroup. And then we eased into working on stuff to try and make up for lost time or utilize our time better.
SMN: What have you been working on? Is it more songwriting or more toward instrumentals?
ST: We started working on a little guitar project last year about this time. We cut all of the tracks last year and this past February. We didn’t really have a plan for the recordings, but we did think it would be cool to have something ready for a [solo project] at some point. Now, we’ve had the time to kind of wrap this [album] up and we’ve been trying to book little shows and play studios sessions wherever we can. But, it’s been really hard to do because there aren’t very many shows happening.
SMN: What is the dynamic? I mean, it’s two guitar players, but is there a singing component? What can people expect to hear?
SR: I’d say a majority of the music is instrumental guitar music we’ve collaborated on together. It’s about finding that balance between playing off each other — being a counterpoint to one another. There are songs that I’ve written that feature lyrics and some covers, too. It’s a nice mix of both. So, by the time [the audience] gets tired of hearing the instrumental stuff, we’ll switch to the vocals and vice versa. [Laughs].
SMN: Seth, you’ve been able to play a couple shows during this pandemic. What’s that been like for you as a performer, being part of this “new normal” for live music?
ST: Man, Mountain Heart played two shows a couple of weeks ago in Virginia. That was the first time I’ve played live since our last Mountain Heart show on Feb. 28. It was strange getting back onstage. We did The Harvester [Performance Center] in Rocky, Mount. They had little pods for the people, you had to wear a mask and get your temperature taken. It actually went really well. Everyone followed the rules and stayed in their area and we [as musicians] didn’t have to be around people at all.
SMN: Both of you are in popular, nationally-touring bands. Why is this solo project an important outlet?
SR: It’s nice for us, because oftentimes we’re behind the scenes helping other people’s artistry come to life. With this, we have a creative outlet where we’re playing the songs we’ve written and playing songs that we really care about — that means a lot to us.
For ourselves, we can have that personal artistry through this project. I’ve always enjoyed playing guitar, so this project is a long time coming. Seth and I really enjoy playing with each other. Now, we have something we can call our own and try to push it out into the world the best we can.
Want to go?
Guitar duo Shaun Richardson & Seth Taylor will be performing an outdoor patio show at 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 9, at The Grey Eagle Music Hall in Asheville.
The concert is all ages. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 day of show. The performance will be limited capacity with social distancing guidelines in place. Advance ticket purchases are encouraged.