Interview by Scott Preston
With a cult following reaching far beyond their south-western Virginia stomping grounds, and a debut album voted one of the Reviewer’s Top Five Picks by Bluegrass Now, PINECASTLE RECORDS recording artists THE DIXIE BEE-LINERS are creating quite a buzz. Known for their high-octane harmonies and stunningly beautiful original songs, the band has appeared live on BBC Radio Scotland, NPR, the Food Network, and radio playlists across the country and world-wide, including regular rotation on Sirius and XM satellite radio. Their self-titled CD debuted on the Roots Music Report bluegrass chart at no. 14, going on to spend 56 weeks on the chart, with 9 of those weeks in the Top 10. In 2007, the band’s music was featured on the soundtrack of the Civil War film FREEDOM.
RIPE, THE DIXIE BEE-LINERS highly anticipated sophomore CD, produced by legendary Grammy-winner Bil VornDick (Alison Krauss, Ralph Stanley, Bob Dylan, Jim Lauderdale, James Taylor), was released on PINECASTLE in April 2008, and has already topped several bluegrass charts, including Bluegrass Now readers’ poll, Bluegrass Music Profiles Top 20, and the Roots Music Report bluegrass chart (9 weeks at no. 1).
Cincy Groove: How did the group get together?
Brandi Hart: Buddy and I met in New York City in 2001, about a month after 9/11. We were both hired to work a Loretta Lynn tribute show. He was the musical director, and I was in the house band.
Buddy Woodward: I heard her sing one song, and I knew we had to form a band.
Brandi Hart: After trying out a few band names, we became The Dixie Bee-Liners.
Buddy Woodward: But in my heart, we’ll always be “Giant Chicken.”
Cincy Groove: What inspired the band name?
Brandi Hart: Kentucky Highway 41, The Dixie Bee-Line Highway.
Cincy Groove: How would you explain the success of your debut cd?
Buddy Woodward: Blood, sweat, and tears. Literally.
Brandi Hart: And luck.
Buddy Woodward: And stubbornness.
Brandi Hart: We recorded our debut cd in our living room in Manhattan, which was three stories above a bus stop. We had to stop recording every 7 minutes or so when the bus would “kneel” outside our window, spewing pressurized air and beeping very loudly.
Buddy Woodward: I think it was the buses, and the lack of air conditioning, that really put us over the edge. You have no idea how vindictive or driven you can be until you’ve tried to record in New York City with your windows closed in July.
Brandi Hart: We just kept telling ourselves that one day, our cd would take us far away from the City.
Buddy Woodward: And eventually, it did.
Cincy Groove: What ended up bringing you to Pinecastle Records?
Buddy Woodward: A writer in Knoxville put Brandi in touch with the A&R rep at Pinecastle.
Brandi Hart: I called up Pinecastle Records, and I told them that we intended to take over America, one small town at a time. We talked about the next few albums that The Dixie Bee-Liners wanted to do, and they told me they wanted to sign us.
Buddy Woodward: We moved to Virginia, and Brandi and I both met with the label separately. Eventually, they offered us a contract, and the deed was done.
Cincy Groove: How/where did you get your start in music?
Buddy Woodward: My mother taught me guitar when I was about 5, I’ve been performing ever since.
Brandi Hart: I began singing in church choirs at age 2. By age 5 or 6, I was composing little songs — often in my own “languages.” Later on, in public school, I got involved with orchestra, playing violin. Eventually, I explored percussion instruments, as well as songwriting and poetry. In college, I had a pop band with some friends in Lexington, KY. That experience gave me the confidence to keep writing, to keep trying to write music that was meaningful to me.
Cincy Groove: What was the writing/recording process like for Ripe compared to your debut cd?
Brandi Hart: The writing process was very similar for both projects. With the exception of a couple of co-writes which happened in Nashville and in Abingdon, VA, most of the songs for RIPE were written while we were still living in New York.
Buddy Woodward: But the recording process was very different. RIPE was recorded in Bil VornDick’s studio in Nashville, which used to be the local Moose Lodge. Everybody from Patsy Cline to the Oak Ridge Boys hung out there. Patsy’s “throne” was still preserved in the women’s bathroom, which had been turned into a drum and banjo room.
Cincy Groove: What was it like to be named the RMA Bluegrass artist of the year in 2008?
Brandi Hart: Wow. That was really exciting. There were several huge artists up for the award in that category, including Merle Haggard, who is one of our heroes. All I can say is that we are very honored, and very humbled.
Cincy Groove: How did it feel to perform at the 2008 IBMA’s?
Buddy Woodward: It was exhilarating. Performing at IBMA World of Bluegrass was a goal we had had for several years. To finally get there and be an Official Showcase Artist was a dream-come-true.
Brandi Hart: And it led to some great opportunities which you’ll see on our tour schedule later this year!
Cincy Groove: What have been some highlights for the band over the past year?
Brandi Hart: We had our first cover this year: Kenny and Amanda Smith cut our song “Changin’,” which we co-wrote with Tim Stafford of Blue Highway.
Buddy Woodward: Yeah, hearing what they did with our music was amazing. They came to our house to play the song for us, and we were literally speechless. Not only did they make it the first track on the cd, but it also became the title track.
Brandi Hart: Yes, the last line of the chorus is “I think I’m gonna live and learn,” which inspired the title of the cd.
Cincy Groove: Have you had a chance to perform with any of your idols?
Brandi Hart: We have been very lucky to perform with several of our idols. We recently taped a Christmas special with Jesse McReynolds for Song of the Mountains, which will air on PBS in December 2009.
Buddy Woodward: We have also performed on the same stages as Ralph Stanley, Blue Highway, Ricky Skaggs, John Jorgenson, and the list goes on. We look at every show as a learning experience, and that goes double if we are working with our heroes.
Cincy Groove: Are you excited about any of your upcoming gigs?
Brandi Hart: We’re very excited about Merlefest 2009, and later this year, we’re participating in a nationwide tour called “American Revival: The New Stars of American Roots Music.” Keep your eye on our website for more information about that! We are also very excited about our show tonight (1/29)at The Southgate House!
The Dixie Bee Liners:
Brandi Hart – Vocals, rhythm guitar, Nashville guitar, dulcimer, fiddle, Zorch
Buddy Woodward – Vocals, mandolin, guitar, Nashville guitar, banjo, bass, drums, dulcimer, Ape Calls
Tachel Renee Johnson – Fiddle, vocals, Kibble Kobble
Jonathan Maness – Lead guitar, mandolin, vocals, Noon Balloon to Rangoon
Sam Morrow – Banjo, Chinese Chicken
Jeremy Darrow – Upright bass, vocals, Stone Age Woo
The Dixie Bee Liners “Down On The Crooked Road”
Upcoming Dixie Bee Liners tour dates:
for show details visit www.myspace.com/thedixiebeeliners
Jan 29 2009 Southgate House Newport, Kentucky
Jan 31 2009 Kent Stage Kent, Ohio
Apr 23 2009 Merlefest Wilkesboro, North Carolina
Apr 24 2009 Merlefest Wilkesboro, North Carolina
Apr 25 2009 Merlefest Wilkesboro, North Carolina
Apr 26 2009 Merlefest Wilkesboro, North Carolina
Jun 6 2009 Wellington Bluegrass Celebration Fields on Westlake, Ontario
Jun 13 2009 Palisade Roots Music Festival Palisade, Colorado
Jun 14 2009 Palisade Roots Music Festival Palisade, Colorado
Jun 20 2009 Bill Monroe Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival Morgantown, Indiana
Jun 27 2009 IBMM River of Music Party (aka ROMP) Owensboro, Kentucky
Jul 17 2009 Master Musicians Festival Somerset, Kentucky
Sep 12 2009 Pickin’ In the Panhandle Hedgesville, West Virginia
Sep 25 2009 3rd Annual FarmPark Bluegrass Festival Denton, North Carolina
Sep 28 2009 IBMA World of Bluegrass Nashville, Tennessee
Sep 29 2009 IBMA World of Bluegrass Nashville, Tennessee
Sep 30 2009 IBMA World of Bluegrass Nasvhille, Tennessee
Oct 1 2009 IBMA World of Bluegrass Nashville, Tennessee
Oct 2 2009 IBMA World of Bluegrass Nashville, Tennessee
Oct 2 2009 IBMA World of Bluegrass Nashville, Tennessee
Oct 3 2009 IBMA World of Bluegrass Nashville
Oct 4 2009 IBMA World of Bluegrass Nashville