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Tale of two bands: J.J. Hipps, Gold Rose to play Apple Jam

Gold Rose. Gold Rose.

Amid the rich, vibrant musical tapestry of bluegrass, Americana, blues and folk at the core of Western North Carolina’s storied music scene, there are a handful of rising stage acts taking those roots influences and putting a more contemporary spin on it. 

Asheville-based alt-country quartet Gold Rose and Lenoir’s power-rock trio J.J. Hipps & The Hideaway are two of those rollicking good-time ensembles bringing forth a sturdy foundation of early American music with a thick layer of electrified six-string sorrow and tear-in-your-beer solidarity for any within earshot. 

 

Gold Rose

Smoky Mountain News: You often talk about the idea of “sad songs.” What does that term mean to you, more so nowadays as a seasoned performer and ever-evolving human being? 

Kevin Fuller (singer/guitarist): Sad songs are all I’ve ever known how to write. I’m realizing, after all these years of doing this, that music is therapy. I never really set out to write a song. I just have something to say. 

So, when I sit down with a pen and a piece of paper, I tell people how I feel. And there’s something so liberating getting up in front of people and telling them what’s on your heart. It’s definitely uplifting for me. 

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SMN: Why the guitar? What is it about that instrument that you can express yourself and communicate with others?

KF: I mean, we all dreamt of being rock stars as a kid and ain’t no internment that would get us there faster than a guitar. My father was actually a drummer growing up and we always had a drum set in our living room. I was terrible at drums. 

He also had a guitar, and I wasn’t much better at that. But, I kept trying. It took me years to be good enough to sing songs with it. It took me years after that to be able to let an electric guitar ring out. There’s nothing better than listening to a Les Paul scream through a Fender amp. 

SMN: There’s a lot of the real deal, nitty gritty country music in your playing. “Three chords and the truth,” as they say. What have you learned about that country attitude and presence?

KF: We talked about sad songs. Ain’t nothing sadder than country music. I grew up around country music. My grandmother was a bartender at a little honky-tonk in the middle of nowhere in Upstate New York. Some of the most honky-tonk people I’ve ever known are up in New York. 

Country music speaks to me. It’s more of a way of life than it is a music genre. The stuff I do ain’t straight country by any means. But, there’s a sadness in it all that brings me back to people like Hank Williams and Waylon Jennings — it’s in my blood. 

 

art jjhipps

J.J. Hipps & The Hideaway.

 

J.J. Hipps & The Hideaway

Smoky Mountain News: Your band is a power-rock trio. What is it about that iconic stage setup that really appeals to you? 

J.J. Hipps (singer/guitar): When I started playing, both of my biggest influences were in three-piece bands. Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan were everything to me. I wanted to do what they did. 

And you begin to learn how difficult it is to make a three-piece band sound full, but how thrilling it is to have so much freedom to explore where you can take the music. Solo performances are still absolutely terrifying to me. I have a ton of respect for anyone who can get on a stage alone and perform. But, for me, that was just never an option. 

SMN: Why the guitar? What is it about that instrument that you can express yourself and communicate with others?

JH: I started on the drums. My dad is a drummer. When I started getting interested in playing music around the age of 15, I told my dad I wanted him to teach me how to play drums. I took to it well. But it wasn’t fulfilling whatever idea I had in my head as to how music was supposed to make me feel. 

One night when he was showing me a few things, I said, “Dad, I think I am supposed to play guitar.” The next day, he went and bought me one. 

I’ve never had a desire to play any other instrument. The way the neck of a guitar feels in my hand, strapped over my shoulder? There’s nothing better. I had an immediate connection. All I can say to explain it — it just felt right.

SMN: There’s a thick thread of the blues in your playing. With the blues, “it can take a day to learn, a lifetime to master.” That said, what have you learned about playing the blues?

JH: I first started learning everything I could from Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin. And I started realizing that all of my favorite songs of theirs were covers of old blues songs. 

I think the first blues song I heard was “Death Letter Blues” by Son House. It was dark, gritty, and desperate. I immediately fell in love with the genre and started discovering all of the major blues artists. Freddie King’s playing stuck with me more than any other, though. 

It has been said many times, but that’s because it’s true — the blues is a feeling. People understand it, or they don’t. I felt it immediately. The blues is a tradition. 

I’m finding that going backwards and trying to recreate that older sound and feel, is what’s going to become the new thing. The blues can’t be overproduced. It shouldn’t be pretty — it’s raw and uncontrolled. 

 

Want to go?

The inaugural Apple Jam will take place from 4 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, in The Smoky Mountain News parking lot at 144 Montgomery Street in Waynesville.

Hitting the stage will be beloved local singer-songwriter Chris Minick (4 p.m.), regional blues/rock guitar wizard J.J. Hipps (5:30 p.m.) and Asheville alt-country/indie sensation Gold Rose (7:30 p.m.).

The show is free (with a suggested donation of $15). Craft beer and the Fuego food truck will also be onsite. Lawn chairs are allowed.

For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Presented by Adamas Entertainment.

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