Amelia Brown: Bluegrass From Head to Toe
From a very early age, Amelia Brown loved the experience of playing bluegrass music. At six years old, she picked up her first stringed instrument—the guitar. Today at age 14, she plays guitar, piano, dobro, and bass fiddle.
According to Brown, her journey with music didn't start with the guitar, though. At only four years old, she clogged in competitions with her sister Reagan and started piano lessons, picking up the guitar soon after.
"My sister and I started clogging together and going to bluegrass competitions to compete," Brown said. "That's how my sister talked me into learning to play the guitar, by being at these competitions for clogging. Once I learned to play, we were able to compete for music also."
By 2020, Brown was trying her hand at learning the dobro, and later that year, she learned to play the bass fiddle for her band.
"I love to play anything with strings," Brown said. "I was really drawn to bluegrass music because it sounds so authentic."
Brown's connection with the music she plays is something that she associates with her relationship with her grandfather, who loved to play old country music and bluegrass musicians like Dailey & Vincent.
"My granddad would take me and my sister places to see bluegrass music, and I feel like I have a deeper connection with bluegrass music because of my granddad. I feel more in tune with my music and feel really connected."
However, Brown's grandfather wasn't the only bluegrass influence in her career as a young musician. A significant influence on her as a young artist has been Springfield Guitar Company, where she has been taking guitar lessons since the second grade. Brown has been taking lessons there several days a week alongside her sister Cara Brown, Frannie Bryson, and Gary Adams.
Springfield Guitar Company began hosting old-time music jam sessions each Monday night in 2020, and it was at these sessions Brown and her sister met the artists that would become their first bandmates.
Today, Brown is a member of three different bluegrass bands: the TriState Ramblers, made up of three sets of siblings from Kentucky, Alabama, and Tennessee; a duo with her sister aptly named She's My Sister, and Can't Drive Yet, a group of young musicians all 14 years old and under.
As a part of her bands, Brown has performed at countless bluegrass festivals, churches, schools, and events over the last few years, and placed in competitions for her bluegrass bands and guitar, dobro, square dance, and clogging.
"Performing with my sister in our duo makes things fun and gives us new experiences. It has taught me to learn to do things differently and how to speak onstage. My sister doesn't like to speak onstage, so it's given me a new perspective," Brown said.
Brown has been on WoodSong Old Time Radio twice—once as the WoodSong kid and once with her sister for the pilot of WoodSongsKids. This year, Brown started stacking up accomplishments in music and received the Houston Caldwell scholarship to attend Rob Ickes' Reso-Summit in November 2022.
"While I was at the Reso-Summit, I got the opportunity to meet a lot of new dobro players who piqued my interest in many areas. I also got to see and learn from many musicians who have influenced me, like Rob Ickes and Jerry Douglas. This event made me look at things differently and taught me not to always look at just the basic melody in my music," Brown said.
The Tennessee Arts Commission Folk Life Program awarded Brown one of twelve 2022-23 grants for a mentorship with Tim Graves for Graves-Style dobro playing.
"This opportunity is absolutely extraordinary!" Brown said. "Tim Graves is Josh Graves' nephew, and he has become such a hero to me in my music. Every Tuesday beginning in December, he will teach us Josh Graves' style of playing dobro. Once the program is over, I also get to perform onstage with him and his band."
Among her musical influences, Brown says some favorites are Trey Hensley and Jamie Dailey of Dailey & Vincent on guitar, Tim Graves, Rob Ickes, Josh Graves on dobro, and Mike Bub on bass.
"The Osbourne Brothers have also had a big influence on how I sing my music and perceive the music I am playing," Brown said.
When asked about a potential music career, Brown said she would love the opportunity to record her original music one day, but she isn't ready for that quite yet.
"Recording music is definitely something that has interested me, but doing so would disqualify me from some of the music competitions I enter with my bands. So for now, I am going to keep competing with my bands, but that is a possibility for later on," Brown said.
Her love of bluegrass, engrained in her from a young age, led her to the bluegrass community.
Brown and her sister joined Tomorrow's Bluegrass Stars, whose mission is to preserve bluegrass music one youngster at a time through encouragement and music promotion.
"The TBS leaders have been so nice and encouraging, reminding us always to try," Brown said. "They've really been so kind, generous, and patient in their time with us."
Today, Brown hopes to see her bands prosper and bless people with their music. She would love to major in bluegrass music when she gets to college to help her in her goal of playing dobro like her heroes.
"I've learned not to try to be like everyone else, to find my style and have fun with it. You have to take things from people here and there that you admire and create your own sound," Brown said. "Bluegrass music gives me a different view of the world. It makes people see things in a different way, and I would love to eventually be as influential on dobro as some of my musical heroes."