Growing up in a suburb of Nashville, acoustic sounds of country and bluegrass music were part of Ty Gilpin’s surroundings. Legendary bluegrass musician Bill Monroe lived nearby and would play gigs just a couple miles from Ty’s house. His next-door neighbors were in a bluegrass band.
Ty began playing mandolin at about 15 years old. He loved the visceral drive of bluegrass music. He liked punk rock music, too, for the same reason—the high-energy drive. But with the abundance of acoustic music in his area, he ultimately leaned toward those familiar sounds. He says that the mandolin is like the drums of a bluegrass band. It’s the constant force pushing the music forward. And it’s a lot easier to carry than drums, he says with a laugh.
The journey from Middle Tennessee to Asheville first offered a stop in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where Ty started school at Western Kentucky University. He then transferred to Warren Wilson College in 1995. “One thing led to another and I just never left,” Ty says of his decision to remain in Asheville.
Having been an occasional mandolin picker for a few years, Ty was inspired by The Greasy Beans, a bluegrass band founded at Warren Wilson College. He got serious about his playing and formed his own band, Second String, while at Wilson. “I was going to college in the woods and hanging out and playing bluegrass,” Ty says. “How can you go wrong?”
Ty continued to become immersed in the Asheville music scene, meeting more musicians and after graduation taking a job at Crossroads/Mountain Home, the record label in South Asheville. He began in sales and radio promotions and eventually was promoted to director of marketing, leading a bluegrass roster that contains the likes of Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, The Grascals, The Boxcars, Darin and Brook Aldridge, and Balsam Range.
With his day job secured in the realm of music, Ty continued honing his skills as a singer, songwriter, and mandolin player. He started another band, High Windy, which still plays a few public gigs today as well as some private shows.
“Music is the one thing that kept me here,” Ty says. “I’ve seen the magic of the area. It attracts a higher quality of creative types. And I’ve been blessed to meet lots of great people. The music scene here is special. If it was crappy, I would have left. But the people here are so talented, I love being part of this.
Ty says that over the years he’s been fortunate to watch the city grow. “I’ve watched its arts and crafts side grow,” he says. “I’ve watched the ‘buy local’ business grow. And all of that has grown side by side with the music here. It makes for a great community in general and a great music community.”
Ty says that music as community is a spiritual experience. “Something about growing up in ensemble-type music, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I think jazz music shares that with bluegrass. When you’re in the midst of playing off another player, it’s indescribable. When you’re in that environment and everyone is supporting each other and striving to make the best music possible it’s more than the average experience.”
When planning his new album, Crooked Hollows, Ty wanted to tap into the music community that he has come to know in Asheville and Western North Carolina. “I had material that I had written that I wanted to get recorded,” Ty says. “I knew it was going to be a bit of a variety album because the music ranged from Irish to bluegrass to folk. What was important to me was finding other musicians to really nail those songs.”
And that, he did. An all-star roster of performers appeared on Crooked Hollows: Rick Cooper, Tony Creaseman, Jen Duke, Tim Gardner, Robert Greer, Josh Haddix, Charles Humphrey III, Cody Kilby, Taylor Martin, Buddy Melton, Lance Mills, Darren Nicholson, Amanda Platt, Sav Sankaran, Matt Smith, Jessica Smith, Steve Sutton, and Duncan Wickel. One song, “Queen of the Crows,” was even remixed by Danny Peck, a.k.a. dep, and appears as the final song on the disc.
Overall, the album has eight tracks, including the aforementioned remix of “Queen of the Crows,” for which Ty handles the lead vocals himself. Be it the traditional country sound of “Smiling for the Camera,” a bluegrass number such as “Light Just One Candle,” or the Irish-tinged “Going to the West,” Ty has put together an album of great interest for fans of acoustic music.
“With all the different types of songs the CD has, I felt like each one called for different vocalists.” Ty says. “I wanted each track to have it’s own identity and include my talented friends to give the songs a special feel but also to make the recording a community event that celebrated what I believe to be some of the best artists here or anywhere.”
For fans who may want to see the music performed live, they may be a bit disappointed. While Ty says he will most likely play a song or two in live performances, the schedules of all the musicians involved make it impossible to do any sort of real touring to promote the album.
“Everyone who plays on the record is a touring musician,” Ty says, “so getting everyone together to play live just can’t happen logistically. This was a pet project of mine. I needed to bring these songs to life and everyone who played helped to make that happen. The CD is a statement unto its own.”
With Crooked Hollows now available on iTunes and Amazon as well as CD Baby, Ty isn’t sitting around enjoying his accomplishment. He still has his day job with Crossroads/Mountain Home. He still plays with High Windy on occasion. And he’s joined the Cherryville-based bluegrass group Unspoken Tradition, which is working on a CD that it hopes to release in spring of 2013. In addition, Ty occasionally sits in with other performers or simply tries to squeeze in some practice time at home.
Ty Gilpin was raised around the sounds of acoustic music and that’s where he feels a sense of community and spirituality. And in Asheville he feels right at home.
For more information about Ty or the Crooked Hollows album visit his website: tygilpin.com.