“It’s simple, yes, but there are amazing things here, like ‘The Trail of the Lonesome Pine.’ It’s not just small town off in the middle of nowhere, you know. There are some great opportunities here.”
Allison Broyles, Age 13; Big Stone Gap, Virginia:
“I live in Big Stone Gap. I used to live in Knoxville, Tennessee. . My dad’s family lived here, and we just needed a change. [We’ve lived here] about six or seven years. Well, it’s a lot simpler. It’s a nice town. There are a lot of good people here and I’ve made a lot of new friends. I haven’t really done any sport. I draw sometimes, and that’s about it. I like to play four instruments. I’ve been playing fiddle for four years, and I play piano, ‘doghouse bass,’ and guitar. My dad sings, and my grandmother plays piano.
My dad has always been the one working. He works as a mechanic at Carter Machinery, and he works on really big machines. My dad is a hardworking man. He is loving, and I’m glad he’s my dad, and not someone else’s. (Laughs) He encourages sports, and he also encourages music. He wants you to do what you want to do.
My mom used to work at a police department, but she had to quit whenever she had my little brother and my little sister. My mom, she works hard, too, at home. She’s, hmm, I think she’s mean at times. (Laughs) But you know, she gets everything done, and she makes sure we’ve got everything that we need. I have one sister and two brothers. My little brother is learning to play guitar. My older brother, he used to play guitar, but he quit.
[My grandparents] are old-fashioned, you know. They have cornbread and beans for dinner a lot. They have a simpler lifestyle than some people. It’s good. My grandmother taught me to cook, and she helps me with piano sometimes.
My teacher really encouraged [my music] whenever Wise Jams came about. When I told my parents about it, they really pushed me to do it because they thought I would really like it, and I really do. Jams is a good program. That’s where I started out. There’s a lot of great opportunities, a lot of great people you meet. It’s after school. You ride a bus from your school to wherever you practice. They start out with teaching you the strings and how to hold everything. Then, they start out with simple chords and teach you songs, and you advance from there. I thought guitar was just too simple, and banjo seemed really hard, so fiddle was the last option, and I really enjoyed it.
I prefer alternative [music] whenever I listen to it. For playing, it doesn’t matter, as long as I’m playing something that I like. There’s a lot of things that make mountain music different from other types of music; the voices, and how it’s played. You can actually hear individual instruments and there are instrumental breaks. It’s just not what you would normally hear on the radio. I don’t really have a favorite. It’s just whatever comes up at the time.
This band is full of great people. I think we have a lot of variety of songs, but they’re all good songs, and I mean, it’s just a great band to be in. We play at festivals, home craft days, we go recruiting for schools, stuff like that. I like the schools because it’s people of our age, but festivals there are a lot of different people at the festivals, and different bands playing.
(Are you a hillbilly?) Yes, and no. My dad will take me hunting, and he’ll teach me how to grow food. You know, just stuff like that, that hillbillies usually do. But then I don’t have that sense of style, I guess, and I don’t act that way, but whenever I’m around my family, I am.
I would prefer to move, New York, probably. I just like the faster life. I would like to move to a city, but this would be a nice town to stay in, if I really needed to.
I want to be a singer. I mean, it’s just my dream job. I like playing the guitar alongside of me singing because it just relaxes me a lot. My favorite song to sing is Hallelujah, by Jeff Buckley. I don’t know, I’ve just always loved that song. It’s so much fun to play.
I think that [outsiders] don’t really understand what this area is about. They just haven’t been here and they haven’t experienced everything. They haven’t met the people that live here. They don’t really understand everything about it, people get the wrong idea sometimes.
It’s simple, yes, but there are amazing things here, like ‘The Trail of the Lonesome Pine.’ It’s not just small town off in the middle of nowhere, you know. There are some great opportunities here. I would tell them that it is a safer place. There are a lot of great people. Everybody knows everybody, and it’s just a good place to live, whether it looks like it would be boring or not.”