Patti Casey is a musical pioneer. Inspired by her love of bluegrass and other traditional genres, Patti has created her unique signature sound that combines her love of storytelling, folk music, and bluegrass into a familiar yet delightfully original genre. Perhaps her unique sound comes from the rural area where Patti was raised. Vergennes, located in western Vermont, was once known as the smallest city in the United States. It had a population of 1,365 in the 2020 census. Like that little city founded in October 1761, Patti is an old soul.
“I had a musical upbringing,” she says. “I am one of four kids, and every one of us played an instrument. That was important in our family. If a kid showed an interest in an instrument, my parents supported that one hundred percent.” Patti’s dad was a World War II veteran who played the trumpet in a swing band. “They toured New England, so I was exposed to music through him.”
Patti started playing the flute at age eleven. “I loved it, and I got good at it fast.” She played all through high school and college. “I played classical music, and I played every chance I got. I practiced a lot and worked hard at playing well.” Patti was on her own by the time she was in her early twenties. “I loved the female songwriters of the day.” She got a guitar and took lessons, which changed her musical direction. “When I started playing guitar, I started singing. I was really drawn to bluegrass. The Northeast has so many good bluegrass players. I made my parents take me to shows.” While attending Vermont College, Patti took a course on bluegrass history. “I began playing with others early on. I was a founding member of the Bluegrass Gospel Project, and we toured the Northeast.” Patti was a songwriter and signature lead singer for the all-star band.
She played with a couple of other bands, Redwing and North Union, and toured throughout Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York. “My contribution was that I brought the bluegrass.” She also did a stint with Colin McCaffrey and the Wicked Fine Players. One of her favorite gigs each year is the Summit School of Traditional Music and Culture’s Spice on Snow Music Festival in Montpelier, where Patti now lives.
While music is her passion, like many musicians, Patti had to rely on her education in science to provide health insurance for her son. She studied wildlife biology in college but ended up with a writing degree.
“I have been a scientist for a long time,” she says. “I work for the Agency of Agriculture in Vermont, where I run an environmental surveillance operation. I am lucky that I enjoy what I do.”
Patti says it was not unusual to play in national and international halls for three weeks on the road when doing music full-time. She toured nationally with The Woods Tea Company, a folk band from Vermont. “Now I do small weekend tours, Friday through Monday. I think my busiest summer was in 2021. Everyone was so starved for music after the pandemic. I played a lot of outdoor gigs.” The pandemic was a good time for Patti in terms of the time she spent songwriting. “I was able to get together with others and write, which was great.”
Two songs that came out of that time were “Dandelion” and “What You Think You Know,” released as singles.
A young woman, Sidney, the same age as Patti’s son, inspired “Dandelion.” Sidney was homeschooled and lived on the side of a mountain. During the Covid pandemic, she was pretty isolated. When it was time for her to graduate, her mom and dad organized a virtual event in their yard.
“It was so beautiful. Her mom asked if I’d perform a song, and I wanted to write one for the event. I asked what her favorite flower was, and she said it was a dandelion. I love dandelions, too!”
“What You Think You Know” is a love song for those who haven’t had a Disney-style romance. “I write music for Vermont Stage Company’s annual holiday event in Burlington called Winter Tales,” says Patti. The event features local actors who read funny and heartfelt stories to bring some light into the dark days of winter. Patti writes and performs songs to complement the readings. “What You Think You Know” was written for that event.
While her performance and musicianship are magical, Patti has also been recognized time and time again for her songwriting skills, winning several awards in songwriting competitions in Minnesota, Texas, North Carolina, Florida, and Colorado. She released her first album in 1993 and four more since then. Heart of a Waiting Boy was named Best Album of 2010 by the Times Argus/Rutland Herald and was the fourth most-played album in the worldwide folk circuit on FolkDJ Radio. Patti has written soundtracks for award-winning independent films.