Bluegrass is like breathing to me…
Interview with Becky Buller, fiddle player and songwriter.
© Lilly Drumeva-O’Reilly.
In November 2013, I had lunch with Becky Buller in Nashville. She is a talented and stylish young lady, a great songwriter and musician. Becky was dressed in elegant brown, which matched her red hair. She wore turquoise earrings and necklace. While we chatted I left the recorder running. Here is part of the conversation.
Hi Becky, you are a renowned songwriter, fiddle player and what else?
Mom, radio DJ…
Tell me more about the radio show?
When my husband and I started dating, he invited me on his radio show on WMSR in Manchester, Tennessee. He has been doing it since 1999. He co-hosted it with two other guys. It is an hour long program, on Saturday morning. It is called “The bluegrass crossroad show”. So, he invited me to co-host one day and I liked it. I have been doing it now for 7 years.
What’s the name of your husband?
Jeff Haley and he is a musician. He plays in our church, guitar, banjo and bass. We met through Valerie Smith, with whom I used to play. Her husband Craig works actually with my husband.
Tell me about your daughter?
Her name is Romy, she is 8 months old. I named her after the movie “Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion”.
How did you start playing music?
My parents started to play bluegrass when I was really young. My dad got interested in the mandolin. He took lessons from Dick Kimmel, who came up to Minnesota. Mom and dad met in college, both playing guitar. Later they formed a band called “Prairie grass”. I was about 5 years old then and started to play the piano. When I turned 10, I decided that I’d like to play fiddle. I wanted to sing also. They said “In a bluegrass band, you can’t just sing, you have to play an instrument”. I said “Ok, you guys don’t have a fiddle in your band. I’ll try to learn it”. I took violin lessons for 8 years and played in an orchestra. After I finished high school I moved to Tennessee and started to play bluegrass. I enrolled for the Bluegrass program in East Tennessee State University.
Can you play vibrato?
Oh yes. I feel that I’m still working on it… I use vibrato also in folk music.
Why do you like bluegrass music?
I don’t know. I feel like it chose me. I’ve done it for so long, it is like breathing to me. It is very organic and accessible. You don’t need electricity, you just open your case and play it. It is simple, but it is also very complex. You have to be very good to improvise and you have to be fast.
What is your vision? Is bluegrass music going to grow or disappear?
I think it’s very alive, thriving, and vibrant. There are purists who feel that all bluegrass music should sound exactly like Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs played it. We have to remember that these guys were rebels in their time. They made musical magic; that’s why we have a bluegrass genre today! But their style doesn’t speak to the masses as it did back in the late 1940s and ’50s. If music isn’t growing, it’s dying. I welcome the new bands like Yonder Mountain, the Punch Brothers, and the Infamous Stringdusters. They’re taking their brand of bluegrass-flavored music to audiences that might not have otherwise given it a second listen. Folks who really get into what they’re doing will eventually travel the bluegrass space-time continuum all the way back to Bill Monroe.
How did you become a songwriter?
I have been writing songs as long as I can remember. It started with piano compositions. Ideas come from everything and anything.
Name some of the artists who have covered your songs?
Ricky Skaggs, Kenny & Amanda Smith, Rhonda Vincent, Doyle Lawson, Valerie Smith, Third Time Out, Special Consensus…
Thanks Becky, lovely to meet you!