Tucked deep in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, the town of Galax seems like a long way from everywhere.
To get there, one must court long, winding country roads that pass over and around some of the most beautiful mountains in all of the Appalachians.
For generations, settlers of hearty stock have called these highlands that once represented the western frontier home. And it was in towns like Galax, where the Scotch, Irish, and German pioneers settled along the trail ever westward, that traditional old time music was born.
24 year old Dori Freeman lives in Galax and comes from a long line of musicians, which isn’t unusual in the Galax area, as for 81 years the town has been home to the Old Fiddlers’ Convention, arguably the longest running gathering of old time musicians in the world.
Blessed with a striking voice, Freeman cannot be pigeonholed by the traditional sounds of her upbringing. Sure, old country and old time form the wellspring of her sound, but Freeman’s music is also laced with influences from contemporary songwriters.
Freeman is celebrating the release of her debut record, one that has already caught the attention of writers from both NPR and the New York Times. Big things are most certainly on the horizon for this small town girl.
I recently caught up with Dori to chat about the new record, small towns, and that beautiful Wayne Henderson guitar she plays.
BRO – You hail from the Galax area. Is it true that everyone there can play the fiddle?
DF – Hah! Yes, it is. Every newborn is sent with a fiddle upon leaving hospital. No, not everyone here enjoys or plays traditional music, but a good number of us proudly do.
BRO – To “make it” in the music world, there is always the temptation to head to a big city like Nashville. You are perfectly content to remain in Galax and branch out from there. Why is that?
DF – I like to do things differently, and while a lot of people successfully take the big city route, that isn’t for me. I’m so influenced by my roots here and want to draw more attention to this part of the country. I may move one day, but not likely to a big city. I grew up in a small, rural town, and I would like my daughter to have a similar experience. Plus, I love the mountains so much and always miss them when I’m away.
BRO – What’s your earliest musical memory?
DF – Listening to my dad play at fiddler’s conventions and art festivals as a toddler.
BRO – We are featuring “Ain’t Nobody,” a wonderful a cappella piece, on this month’s Trail Mix. What do you think it is about an a cappella song that people find so compelling?
DF – Well, we’re so used to hearing a voice accompanied by instruments, so hearing an a cappella song where the voice is the instrument can be really striking. I think we forget the voice’s strength and power as an instrument.
BRO – Suffice it to say that I am green with envy over your Henderson guitar. Could you put in a good word with Wayne for me? Maybe get me to the top of the list?
DF – Hah! I will be sure to pass the word along. It’d help if you could bring a couple lemon meringue pies and a rare shotgun by the guitar shop.
Dori – and her beautiful Henderson guitar – will be celebrating the release of her new record on Friday at the Rex Theater in Galax. After that, she heads out to Missouri for the Folk Alliance conference before hitting some more local dates in Roanoke, Floyd, and Knoxville in March and April.
For more information on Dori Freeman, her new record, and when she might take to a stage near you, point your browser here.