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Andy Leftwich: A Prolific Powerhouse

"The American Fiddler" Reaches Pinnacle at Opry

Four-time Grammy Award-winning musician Andy Leftwich said he was competitive as a kid; he grew up on the competition circuit. While that killer instinct may be channeled differently now, this prolific musician is always a powerhouse, seeking career highs one after the other.

He's fiddled for everyone from Ricky Skaggs, to Dailey & Vincent, to Taylor Swift. His Grammy street cred as an accompanying instrumentalist is more than any musician could ask for in a lifetime. And now, he's recently snagged yet another brag-worthy accomplishment: appearing as a solo artist at the Grand Ole Opry.

The set billed as all his, this so-called "competitive" performer couldn't help but add to the special evening by spreading the attention out, sharing it with those he has played with and learned from over the years. He brought along some notable friends for his big night in one of America's most esteemed venues.

Leftwich said of his New Year's Eve performance:

"As many times as I have played the Opry with some of my favorite artists and friends, I finally got the opportunity to play the Opry as a solo artist. It was a huge honor and an incredible experience. Ricky Skaggs and Sierra Hull joined me as guests for two of my three songs I got to play."

The song he did with Skaggs and the number with Hull came from his album released this past fall, The American Fiddler.

"I was overwhelmed when I looked up after the performance was over and saw the entire audience on their feet for a standing ovation," he said. "I had a quick interview with the Opry announcer Mike Terry afterward and just couldn't ask for a better Opry debut!"

While the Opry is beloved by most musicians and fans, for Leftwich, it's a place with extra-personal meaning.

"I met my wife, Rachel, just to the side of the stage when I played there with Ricky [Skaggs] for the first time," he explained, "and have developed friendships that have carried through all these years later."

Skaggs is among the musicians he has been friends with and jammed with for a number of years. He toured for years as a fiddler for Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder starting in 2001.

"Ricky was a huge influence on me growing up, and obviously, as a boss," Leftwich explained.

He credits the famous performer with introducing him to different styles, including folk, Appalachian, and everything in between. He says that while he loves quite a bit of classical and other violin forms, he considers himself a "fiddler" first and foremost and not a "violinist."

"It's kinda like a language," he said. "We all speak English, but there are different dialects."

With "The American Fiddler," he aimed to showcase some of those various dialects. One example is a fiddle "accent" that hails from across the pond.

"Bluegrass is a direct descendent of Irish music," Leftwich explained. "A lot of the licks you'd play are like Irish music, only a little different."

Leftwich has been fascinated with music since he was a child in Tennessee. His father played banjo and guitar and loved bluegrass. A friend of his father's put a fiddle in young Leftwich's hands when he was only six years old.

"I learned it that night," Leftwich reminisced. "I remember the feeling of playing and hearing my dad's guitar accompanying that." He was hooked.

Before long, the musician, who described himself as "extremely competitive," was winning contests and, by age 15, was already playing professionally. By 19, he had met Skaggs. Since then, he has stood on many stages and traveled to many countries while doing what he loves.

Leftwich said his faith is essential to his career.

Leftwich said his faith is essential to his career.

"I'm nothing without my faith in Christ," he said. "The word of God… I'm nothing without that and my faith." He hopes his performances relay that spirituality. "I want to make sure that the music I play inspires the soul," he said. "I'm constantly praying and asking the Lord for wisdom."

There's no telling where that wisdom might take Leftwich in the future. While he won't give specifics, hinting he has an idea for a project he'd like to release at some point. He describes it as "a collaboration with different artists" and said it might include "some mainstream names people would know…some very popular names." Now that he's reached a kind of pinnacle–playing the Grand Ole Opry as a solo act–what does Leftwich still have on his bucket list? Where does he think his ambitious nature might take him going forward? He distills his answer down into…more questions.

"Who have I not played with?" he said, listing the things he does, and always will ask himself. "What have I not yet explored?"
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