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A decade in, Balsam Range stands atop WNC music

A decade in, Balsam Range stands atop WNC music

I’ve lived in Haywood County 1,931 days. It’s also the exact number of days I’ve known Balsam Range.

Within the first hour of my first day in these mountains, I befriended the members of this Western North Carolina bluegrass act. The engine of my truck was still hot due to a nonstop 16-hour/1,000-mile overnight drive from my native Upstate New York to my new gig as the arts and entertainment editor of The Smoky Mountain News in Waynesville.

That first day — Aug. 10, 2012 — the back of my pickup remained jam-packed with my belongings as I ventured into the Colonial Theater in Canton for the band’s “Papertown” album release party. I didn’t even have an apartment yet: I slept under my desk in the newsroom that first week of work. But, what I did have was a deep thirst for great stories and unforgettable people.

And I immediately felt welcomed by Balsam Range, which is something I think any (and all) of us can attest to when asked about the sincere character and pure nature of the quintet, onstage and off.

There’s something so timeless and familiar — yet so innovative and singular — about Balsam Range. The sound and tone within their music harkens to the physical and spiritual heart of the ancient Great Smoky and Blue Ridge mountain ranges, pushing ever upward, ultimately falling on jovial ears across the country and around the world.

The acclaimed act is currently celebrating 10 years together, and we here at The Smoky Mountain News would like to share excerpts and photographs from the numerous articles, features and cover stories we’ve published about the band over the last five years.

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I’ve spent countless hours and days following this legendary bluegrass group around Southern Appalachia. And in that time, I’ve witnessed one of the great stories in the history of bluegrass music, one filled with as many awards won as humble acknowledgments by Balsam Range to the fine folks of Western North Carolina that have had the band’s back since day one.

Congratulations on 10 years, fellas. Tip of the cap to the next 10.

— Garret K. Woodward, arts and entertainment editor


And the award goes to…

In the first 10 years together, Balsam Range has gone from an up-and-coming band to perennial favorites at the International Bluegrass Music Association awards, the highest honors in the genre. Balsam Range has won the following IBMA accolades:

• 2017: Album of the Year (“Mountain Voodoo”)

• 2015: Vocal Group of the Year, Song of the Year (“Moon Over Memphis”), Bass Player of the Year (Tim Surrett)

• 2014: Entertainer of the Year, Vocal Group of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year (Buddy Melton), Mentor of the Year (Tim Surrett)

• 2013: Album of the Year (“Papertown”)

• 2011: Song of the Year (“Trains I Missed”)


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An evening with Balsam Range: Pulling the strings of bluegrass, brotherhood and backwoods tradition

Aug. 15, 2012

The strings of tradition and progress echoed from the back alley.

Upon further inspection (and a lone door cracked open), the harmonic tone was radiating from the mandolin of Darren Nicholson.

Readying himself for a performance that evening at the Colonial Theater in downtown Canton, Nicholson is part of renowned bluegrass ensemble Balsam Range.

As tall as a grizzly bear, with a persona that is the epitome of southern hospitality, he walked across the stage and extended a handshake the size of baseball glove.

“Welcome,” he smiled.

On the heels of its latest release, “Papertown,” Balsam Range held court at the historic theater last Friday night, Aug. 10. The sold-out album-release party attracted around 250 patrons. The concert was a celebration of not only a new record, but also a homecoming and “thank you” to all in Haywood County — all of those who are a part of “Balsam Nation”— for their continued support of a band that is realizing more and more each day that the sky’s the limit with its potential.

“I grew up in the mountains and music was part of our heritage. My dad played and about everybody in my family played. We’d play every evening, especially on Friday nights when other musicians would come by and sit on the porch,” Nicholson said. “As long as people have been living here, music has been here. Music and dance are a big part of mountain culture. It’s just a way of life. Sitting down with your family after dinner and playing. It’s been like that around here for hundreds of years.”

Recorded at Crossroads Studios in Arden this spring, the album contains original cuts amid a plethora of material from songwriter Milan Miller (a Waynesville native now residing in Nashville) and The Allman Brothers Band (“One Way Out”), among others.

“It’s got a good blend of stuff and represents us well with a variety of sounds,” said fiddler Buddy Melton. “We mulled over a bunch of songs, picking around 30 or so to choose from, then narrowed it down to 13 for the album. It’s the same process for us with each album. The title cut ‘Papertown’ talks about Canton, where we’re from and the paper mill. It’s a very positive outlook on this great community we live in.”

“To me, the word ‘Papertown’ is a positive thing. Maybe if I lived in Eastern Tennessee it might not be seen that way,” guitarist Caleb Smith chuckled. “Both my grandfathers worked in the mill. I had uncles and cousins work there and I have reaped the benefits of that by living here. There would be no town without it.”

Entering their fifth year together, the group came to fruition in a roundabout way of old friends and new, sitting down and pickin’ for the sake of pickin’.

“Originally, we just got together to jam. A couple of the guys had put out solo records and some of us played on those records,” said bassist/dobroist Tim Surrett. “We had so much fun and ended up picking together. By the second time or so we picked, we got asked to play a show and then we just had to look for a name.”

Sitting down for a barbecue dinner, the musicians line the tables, always sharing stories, always taking a moment to say hello to whatever relative, friend or fan stops by to wish them luck or tell them “how much they enjoy ‘Papertown.’” A handful of children scatter around the room. Family is the name of the game for Balsam Range and it should be, taking into account the tradition and values of bluegrass music.

“I grew up in Canton. This is where I was raised and this is where my family is and the pull of that is very strong,” Surrett said. “I lived in Tennessee for a number of years, but here is my home and coming back here musically is the best thing I’ve ever been involved in. I came back to this community and I found myself seeing the same people I saw as a kid. The music scene was so vibrant. This has turned into a real big thing for us.”

With the final moments before going onstage slipping away, Balsam Range lines up and shakes out the last nervous thoughts they may have. Laughter and smiles fill the air. Even before they face the audience to share their musical stories, they’re telling tall tales and matter-of-fact statements that ricochet endlessly between the group. It’s a brotherhood, forged by the well-earned sweat and honor of being a bluegrass musician.

“You’ve got to give back to the community. You can’t lose sight of that,” Nicholson said. “When you’re not in a mainstream genre of music, you become very accessible and close to other bluegrass musicians. With more people at a bluegrass show, it’s just a bigger porch.”

Stepping up to the microphone, Surrett saluted the crowd amid raucous cheers and applause. Outside, the tall steam stacks of the paper mill signal that there’s a lot more work left to do and tomorrow is a new day.

“We grew up here and we played ball here,” he said. “We live here and we think it smells just fine here.”


art rangedriskell

All friends were strangers at one time: Balsam Range teams up with Zac Brown Band co-founder

Jan. 16, 2013

John Driskell Hopkins was driving in his truck when it struck him.

It was a song. Radiating from his satellite radio, it sounded like a fond memory he once knew. The voices and melody were familiar, but he hadn’t ever heard it before, and had no idea who wrote it. He looked at the radio. A band name appeared in the digital display: Balsam Range.

“It was the song ‘Blue Mountain’,” he said. “It was really fabulous and beautiful. I noticed right away something was different about them.”

Hopkins was immediately impressed with the intricate harmonies and musicianship broadcast from the renowned Haywood County bluegrass ensemble.

“They don’t have a cookie-cutter sound, not like typical sound in most bluegrass setups,” he said. “They have a lot of musical influences from all over. It was different, and I was really attracted to that.”

No stranger to the music industry himself, Hopkins is a founding member and bassist for the Zac Brown Band, a renowned multi-platinum country group who has garnered numerous awards and sold-out arenas around the world. In his downtime between tours, Hopkins is a jack-of-all-trades musician, one who will pick up and learn any instrument he comes across.

Besides his specialized bass playing, he also is an accomplished singer-songwriter. When Hopkins recently found himself with several melodies of his own sitting on the shelf, he decided it was time to go into the recording studio and he knew exactly what group he wanted to back him.

He called the fiddler with Balsam Range, Buddy Melton.

“I asked them if they wanted to listen to some songs and put together a record. So, I came up here to Canton, played some gigs with them, then scheduled some recording time,” Hopkins said.

Most of the album, “Daylight,” was recorded last February at Crossroads Studio in Arden, where Balsam Range records regularly. Vocals were captured at The Crow’s Next in Atlanta (Hopkins home studio), while final mixing was done at Southern Ground Studios in Nashville — a facility owned by Zac Brown. The final product, coming to fruition this past September, also included appearances by Zac Brown, Levi Lowrey, Joey + Rory, Jerry Douglas and Tony Trischka.

Not only was it high profile, Balsam Range grew musically from the experience as well.

“Everyone in this band had their head opened up about different ways of recording things,” said Balsam Range mandolinist Darren Nicholson. “John does a lot of big production recording and had a lot of crazy ideas that worked wonderfully, ideas that we would have probably never thought to try or had the nerve to.”

The musical cross-pollination between Balsam Range and Hopkins was embraced by the audiences of a recent sold-out performance at the Colonial Theatre in Canton this month.

Backstage at the theatre, the group ran through a couple of selections, fine-tuning an already stellar live act. There are hearty laughs around the room. Conversation is lively. The crowd in the building is jubilant. Loud cheers echo down the hallway. It’s show time.

“We don’t ever want to stop collaborating or being around John. He’s like a brother or a sixth man after spending so much time recording, touring and being in his home,” Nicholson said. “This friendship and these windows to collaborate will probably go on for years to come.”


All for one, one for all: Behind the curtain of Balsam Range

June 25, 2014

Marc Pruett has won a Grammy and played the Grand Ole Opry stage, but his biggest concern on this day is sinkholes.

“Where is it? Canton?,” he asked a coworker.

Director of erosion control for Haywood County, Pruett sits at his desk, which is covered in paper, maps and books. After a heavy midday rain, two sinkholes have emerged in downtown Canton. Pruett puts a plan into motion, workers head for the door.

“Sinkholes, mud, sediment and landslides,” he lists off his specialties. “This position keeps me grounded, no pun intended. I enjoy what I do for Haywood County. I enjoy environmental protection, and I think I’m on the frontlines of protecting the resources our community offers.”

This is a far cry from Pruett’s other occupation — banjoist for nationally acclaimed bluegrass group Balsam Range. On the heels of winning the International Bluegrass Music Association award for “Album of the Year” for their record “Papertown” last year (the biggest honor in the industry), the quintet just released the follow-up, “Five.”

“When you’re doing what I have to do at the level I have to do it, you have to be on point,” Pruett said. “If I get to the stage, dressed well, do my performance well, banjo in tune, good songs, and if all the pieces fit together correctly, that’s where I get the satisfaction. It’s not just fun for me, but it must be fun for the crowd, where we leave them with a warm, Appalachian smile.”

Alongside Pruett in Balsam Range are Buddy Melton (fiddle/vocals), Darren Nicholson (mandolin/vocals), Tim Surrett (bass/dobro/vocals) and Caleb Smith (guitar/vocals). Since their inception in 2007, the group has rapidly risen into the stratosphere of 21st century bluegrass. Amid their numerous number-one singles, accolades and Grand Ole Opry appearances, they also won the 2011 IBMA “Song of the Year” award for “Trains I Missed.”

And though Balsam Range continues to flourish and push further out into the world, the boys always have one foot firmly planted in Western North Carolina, firmly in the ancient mountains of their forefathers, where nothing replaces hard work and nobody is too good for their hometown. It’s those traits deeply instilled in the band being radiated from the stage and making a connection with people on the other side of the microphone.

“Music is a very powerful thing, it speaks to people, it’s the universal language, and there’s a responsibility with that when you get to the level we’re at,” Melton said. “People connect to your music and they tell you their life story, and it brings awareness to what we’re doing. We’re impacting people’s lives and they’re impacting ours — that’s a pretty special thing.”

Heading into the Crossroads Studios in Arden this past winter, Balsam Range aimed to top the quality and precision of “Papertown.” While some groups would enter the recording studio apprehensive about how to follow up such a successful album, Balsam Range looked at it as just another day on the job in their musical careers, where the goal is to better yourselves as musicians and not worry about critics, label expectations and their own voices in their heads.

“[With winning ‘Album of the Year’] nothing really changed, though we did sit with this record a little longer than in the past,” Surrett said. “We’ve always done just the best we can and do the best songs possible. We’ve had some high-profile reviews on it already, and so far it has been very positive. Now we just have to sit back and see what happens.”

The album, “Five,” is the group’s fifth record in almost eight years together. Five albums completed, five members in the band or five strings on a banjo, however you interpret it, the record name seems to fit wherever its placed. Whatever the case, the 13-song album (with original selections and others from songwriters like Milan Miller, Mark Bumgarner and Mark Winchester) is filled with bluegrass, gospel and folk melodies. There’s barn-burning pickin’ and four-part vocal harmonies (as well as an a cappella number), poignant hard-working lyrics and tear-jerking ballads. It’s the sights and sounds of Southern Appalachia, its history and its people — it’s the epitome of Balsam Range.

“Each one of these guys is a top-tier vocalist and musician. They have diverse musical tastes and backgrounds and aren’t afraid to step out of the box a bit,” said Scott Barnett, recording engineer at Crossroads. “I believe it’s their ability to tastefully and intuitively blend gospel, jazz, country and other genres with traditional bluegrass that makes them such a powerful group.”


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Hometown heroes: Balsam Range wins big in Raleigh

Oct. 8, 2014

Caleb Smith had no idea.

“I didn’t hear them announce it,” he chuckled. “I was backstage talking to Del McCoury about a guitar and he says to me, ‘Son, I think they just called your name.’”

“They” as in the International Bluegrass Music Association, and what was called turned out to be Balsam Range winning “Entertainer of the Year” at the annual award show Oct. 2 in Raleigh. For Smith, the guitarist in the Haywood County group, taking home the biggest honor in the bluegrass industry was both shocking and very humbling.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” he said at the band’s celebratory after-party. “It’s humbling to even be nominated for this award by your peers and your heroes, and to win it and take it home, well, it was a milestone moment we’ll never forget — we hit the top of the mountain.”

Alongside Smith, Buddy Melton (fiddle), Darren Nicholson (mandolin), Tim Surrett (bass/dobro) and Marc Pruett (banjo) took the grand stage at the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium to accept the award. It was the band’s third win in an evening that also garnered them “Vocal Group of the Year” and “Male Vocalist of the Year,” which was bestowed upon Melton.

“My mind was just racing. There were a lot of nominees in that category who were people that are the reason I got into singing in the first place,” Melton said. “To be included with that caliber of performers is amazing, and to win it just put it over the top.”

Surrett also won the “Momentum Award for Mentor” the previous night.

“I’ve had a lot of fun over the last few years producing other people’s records and being able to help bring up a lot of these younger players,” he said. “And for Balsam Range, it means so much to us that folks really do like what we’re trying to do.”

Since their inception in 2007, Balsam Range has rapidly risen into the stratosphere of 21st century bluegrass. Amid their numerous number-one singles, accolades and Grand Ole Opry appearances, they also won the 2011 IBMA “Song of the Year” award for “Trains I Missed.”

And on the heels of winning “Album of the Year” in 2013 for “Papertown,” the quintet released the follow-up “Five” in June. The new record and its singles have spent most of this past summer burning up the bluegrass charts — a convincing sign that the group will most likely be nominated for “Album of the Year” in 2015 and perhaps for “Song of the Year” for “Moon Over Memphis.”

“It’s exciting. It’s hard to believe looking back at where we started and to see it materialize in the way it has,” Melton said in June. “‘Papertown’ was a benchmark as to where we’re at. We’re really proud of this new album and what the future holds.”

Coming into 2014, Balsam Range was nominated by the IBMAs for “Entertainer of the Year,” “Vocal Group of the Year,” “Instrumental Group of the Year,” “Male Vocalist of the Year,” and “Momentum Award for Mentor.” It was a huge honor to the band to be named as contenders in so many prestigious categories. It’s also a testament to the mere fact it’s the same lineup of musicians pushing ahead and reaching for their dreams together.

“It’s amazing to look at our band and see that it’s still the same five guys it has been since day one. It makes people believe in you and in what you’re doing,” Smith said this summer. “Last year, when we’re nominated at the IBMA’s for ‘Album of the Year,’ ‘Entertainer of the Year’ and ‘Song of the Year,’ it was surreal to be nominated and surrounded by your heroes. It’s crazy to think how far we’ve come. I mean, when we first played a show together we didn’t even have a name.”

But, besides all the accolades and critical acclaim, what matters most to Balsam Range is simple — family, friends and a keen sense of community. For every time they’ve played The Grand Ole Opry or headlined a national festival, they’ve also played off-the-beaten-path fundraisers for the Balsam-Willet Volunteer Fire Department or an intimate back porch set at the Fines Creek Bluegrass Jam. For every IBMA win or hit single, there are days (too many to count) where they still get up on Monday morning and head to work for the county, the state, at the record studio, in the workshop building guitars or playing in other groups on days off to supplement income. It’s about hard work and pride in what you do, not getting too big for your britches, always remembering where you came from, the people that know you the best and love you the most.

Simply put, Balsam Range has earned a reputation as hometown heroes and cultural ambassadors of Western North Carolina and Southern Appalachia.

“Music is a very powerful thing, it speaks to people, it’s the universal language, and there’s a responsibility with that when you get to the level we’re at,” Melton said. “People connect to your music and they tell you their life story, and it brings awareness to what we’re doing. We’re impacting people’s lives and they’re impacting ours — that’s a pretty special thing.”

As nominees for “Entertainer of the Year,” Balsam Range was seated in the front row of the enormous auditorium. Before they even had a chance to get their seats warm, they had won the first award of the night — “Vocal Group of the Year.” That excitement only snowballed when the award envelope was ripped open and Melton was announced as “Male Vocalist of the Year.” During his acceptance speech, Melton was overcome with emotion, reflecting on his long road of recovery from his near-death farming accident two years ago, to now holding in his hand the biggest individual honor in bluegrass.

“You surround yourself with good people, great things will happen,” he said afterwards. “Life is so funny, you just never know what’s coming. Sometimes it’s challenging, sometimes it’s rewarding. It just shows you to push forward and keep believing that good things are going to happen.”

Before the final award for “Entertainer of the Year” was presented, Balsam Range took the stage to play their hit song “Moon Over Memphis.” The melody took the roof off the building, as the audience roared in applause following its completion. The band had yet to return to their front row seats when it was announced they had won “Entertainer of the Year.” The auditorium shook with cheers and a standing ovation when they emerged from backstage to receive their trophy. The group waved to the crowd, only to look down with smiles from ear-to-ear at their ecstatic wives clapping from the front row.

It was a moment they’d never forget, a moment of pride that will go down as one of the finest in the long and storied musical history of Western North Carolina.

Tucked away in the warehouse district of downtown Raleigh, Balsam Range arrived at their after-party within the cozy Five Star Restaurant. It was filled with their closest friends, family members and business partners, all there to celebrate the well-earned achievements made by the group.

Standing to the side of the excitement, Surrett took a moment to collect himself. He seemed in a sort of dreamlike state, in awe of what had just happened, where being told he and his band just won the award for “Entertainer of the Year” was something he made up in his mind — a long held wish now turned reality.

“I haven’t felt this proud since Pisgah High School won the state football championship in 1976,” he chuckled. “I mean, just to be in that room tonight with all our peers and heroes was just incredible. We’re named in the same breath as someone like Del McCoury, and that seems just crazy to us.”

Surrett’s gaze scans across the after-party, almost as if to truly never forget this moment.

“We’ve not done anything differently since we started playing together,” he said. “We just keep doing what we’re doing, and it just seems to get out there to more people — we keep pushing forward.”


Lines in the Sand: Balsam Range looks ahead

Nov. 29, 2016

The eternal struggle of bluegrass is being able to balance evolution with tradition.

How does one adhere to the pickin’ and grinnin’ ways of the old days, but also be able to stretch the boundaries into new and innovative realms? That dilemma currently lies at the feet on the bluegrass world. And yet, as that question remains, so does the internal drive by all of the genre’s musicians to ensure the preservation and perpetuation of this melodic force at the foundation of this country.

For Haywood County’s own Balsam Range, the bluegrass quintet has spent the better part of the last decade riding this fine line between tending to their roots, but also finding the freedom to take flight when the feeling is right. What Marc Pruett (banjo), Tim Surrett (bass/dobro), Caleb Smith (guitar), Buddy Melton (fiddle) and Darren Nicholson (mandolin) have created is an entity that holds tight to its heritage, but aims to address their true potential as an award-winning act that has found cross-over success after years of hitting the road and getting up onstage every night.

In their latest album, “Mountain Voodoo,” the ensemble seemingly puts aside supposed expectations that come with being the International Bluegrass Music Association “Entertainer of the Year” (2014), and instead put forth a record as flexible as it is personal statement of just where the group is. They’re at the forefront of the modern bluegrass movement, one that champions its history, and also harnesses a curiosity only found in those ready to pioneer and not follow the well-worn paths of the past.

Smoky Mountain News: And now the band is entering their 10th year, which is wild for a bluegrass act to have that much success, over that length of time, and yet all still be the same members…

Darren Nicholson: Yeah, for bluegrass, for five guys to still be together after 10 years, that’s pretty unheard of. It’s one of those things you’re constantly working on, those relationships onstage and off. And yet, there’s a comfort that comes with playing and singing with the same folks for that many years.

SMN: The band was a second career for everyone involved. With all the obligations and accolades, where to now?

DN: It does put a certain amount of pressure. We’re all from the Haywood County and we want to represent Western North Carolina the best we can. There’s a lot more pressure on the business and travel side of things. I think we’re finally more comfortable onstage, we’re hitting this stride. The challenge at this point is keeping it going, to find that place of true comfort. When it comes to the stage, we all still have that fire and excitement in our bellies to entertain people.


Top of the Mountain: Balsam Range celebrates 10 years

Nov. 15, 2017

Sipping a cup of coffee at Panacea in the Frog Level District of Waynesville one recent morning, Buddy Melton takes a moment to reflect on the last decade.

“It’s been an incredible 10 years. I don’t think any of us in Balsam Range would have said the first year we played, that all five would still be together after 10 years — because that just doesn’t happen in bands, particularly in bluegrass,” the lead singer/fiddler said.

“You can look historically at any genre of music and 10 years in the business is a huge feat, much more with the same five members,” added guitarist/vocalist Caleb Smith. “It's a testament of dedication and reward. Balsam Range has accomplished more than I would've ever imagined possible due to dedication — dedication to presenting the greatest music we can create to the world.”

For the beloved Haywood County quintet, Melton points to family and friends when asked about the wide-ranging successes of the band.

“We all had similar needs, wants, and desires. All of us had young families, kids in school. And behind the scenes, the individual families are just as important in a band as the band itself,” he said. “All of our families have been incredibly supportive of it. The kids have grown up together. We saw several of them born in this 10-year period. It has just really been a family thing.”

Seemingly winning every accolade handed out at the International Bluegrass Music Association award show over the last few years, Balsam Range has never taken for granted their talents, and also admiration from musical peers and fans alike.

“It's a great honor to be nominated year-after-year. It says to me that we continue to do something right,” Smith said. “We strive to find great lyrics to set our music apart in the genre in that when someone hears our music on the air waves there is no doubt that they know it's Balsam Range.”

“It’s funny to sit there [at IBMAs], particularly to walk up on the stage,” Melton reminisced. “I can remember going to the IBMA awards before I could even play music, just thinking, ‘Man, could you imagine being up on that stage?’ It tells me anything is possible.”

And though bluegrass remains at the core of Balsam Range, the band sees itself as more of a moving target, one where the genre lines get blurred the further they push into the numerous realms of string music.

“We will continue to strive to create great music and reach new ears at any level possible,” Smith said. “All music evolves and grows with each new generation. It keeps the tradition healthy. There needs to be more awards geared toward the newer generation of bluegrass — newgrass, jamband, jazzgrass. I know a lot of traditional minded bluegrass fans would never adhere to it, but I believe it would strengthen the genre and make it more healthy and solid.”

“Music in general is supposed to always grow. No matter what genre it is, it’s always changing. If it’s not, it gets sterile,” Melton added. “Every year there is some new thing that comes out and excites people. And that’s part of our responsibility [as bluegrass musicians] is to help it grow.”

Melton noted that the key to Balsam Range’s past 10 years of positive growth is due to the fact the group is always moving, always seeking out the next step in whatever it is they ultimately want to do, whether it be collaborations, bigger venues or simply to make sure everyone in their camp is taken care of.

“Every year brings new challenges. As it does grow, we tend to be going farther and farther away. We have to make wise decisions in what we do. I’m a firm believer in surrounding yourself with great people. A lot of that is having great management and people that look out for your best interest,” Melton said. “To achieve goals you’ve got to first have goals. We always try to sit down every year and say what do we want to achieve this year? Let’s do something different. Let’s win over some new fans. Let’s meet some new people.”

With their first decade down, Melton and his bandmates feel like they’re just getting started as the second decade of this bountiful endeavor kicks off.

“There’s always something else out there. When you think you’ve reached the top, you’re only half-way there,” he smiled. “There’s always something greater to do — that in itself is the motivating factor.”



Want to go?

The Balsam Range “Art of Music Festival” will be held Dec. 1-2 at the Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center.

The weekend celebration will include two days of live music, onstage collaborations and master level musician workshops. Stage acts include two nights of Balsam Range, Flatt Lonesome, Bryan Sutton, Darrell Scott, and many more.

For a full schedule of events, ticket and lodging information, click on

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