When it comes to making a living, there’s a saying in the music business: Rent is reason enough. So it is that Tellico, a rising Americana-leaning bluegrass band from Asheville, plays weddings. Lots and lots of them, to the point that weddings account for at least one-third of their gigs.
“We’re fortunate to play in a style suited for such things,” said bassist and co-founder Stig Stiglets. “Unlike, say, polka. Nobody wants a polka band at their wedding. Well … maybe if you’re the best polka band in the world.”
As he spoke, Stiglets and his bandmates were hanging out on the veranda of Asheville’s plush Grove Park Inn, where they were about to play yet another wedding – and remembering some of the past song requests they’ve had over the years, everything from Townes Van Zandt songs to “Hava Nagila.”
“We wind up doing ‘Hava Nagila’ a lot,” Stiglets said. “We once did ‘Family Tradition’ as the bride-father dance, too. The first wedding where we played ‘Hava Nagila,’ there was rain and I think we had to break down and set up the sound system four times that day. ‘Hava Nagila’ was the funnest part of the whole thing, actually.”
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Stiglets and co-founder Anya Hinkle have been playing and writing songs together for close to a decade, originally as Dehlia Low. Recent years found them reconfiguring as Tellico, playing a style that Stiglets dubbed “Appalachiacana.”
I’m a professional writer, so of course Stig and Anya write all the songs and I’m just an instrumentalist in this band. It’s a separate part of the brain, but it’s fun.
Aaron Ballance, member of Tellico who also teaches writing at Appalachian State University
Tellico’s lineup includes two featured instrumental soloists, Dobroist Aaron Ballance and former Town Mountain mandolinist Jed Willis (one of Stiglets’ longtime jamming partners over the years). There’s a bit of irony to that breakdown of roles.
“I’m a professional writer, so of course Stig and Anya write all the songs and I’m just an instrumentalist in this band,” said Ballance, who teaches writing at Appalachian State University. “It’s a separate part of the brain, but it’s fun.”
As to who is in charge and calls most of the shots, Tellico’s other three members are usually happy to defer to Hinkle, who used to work as a biologist before deciding to pursue music full-time. Her dusky voice is a signature of the group.
“It’s been interesting and satisfying for me to learn about running the business part of it,” Hinkle said. “Speaking as someone who’s been in academia as a biologist, this takes a different kind of dedication. Being in a band can be tough. There’s a lot of hard work together, sitting in vans together. And everybody has to be willing to be patient with each other.”
When: 7:35 p.m. Tuesday at the Raleigh Convention Center’s Masters Workshop Stage and 9 p.m. Wednesday at Vintage Church as part of Bluegrass Ramble. Also, 1:30 p.m. Friday at Capitol Stage as part of the free Wide Open Bluegrass StreetFest
Also: Tellico will return to Raleigh to play the N.C. State Fair, Oct. 14 at the Heritage Circle. See ncstatefair.org for details.