Jessie Lang, 16, will play for the third year in a row at the Wide Open Bluegrass festival in Raleigh this month. The festival, part of the International Bluegrass Music Association, is expected to once again draw thousands of visitors downtown Sept. 28-29.
Lang is one of the only Triangle youth accepted this year into the festival’s Kids on Bluegrass ensemble. Here, she talks about why she loves bluegrass.
Q: What instrument do you play?
A: I play guitar and mandolin, but my primary focus is guitar. I also sing. I got into bluegrass because my parents were always taking me to festivals and listening to Alison Krauss and other bluegrass music, and I asked my dad (if I could) start playing guitar.
Q: What’s made you stick with the genre?
A: For guitar, what interested me was the complicated flat picking. And I really just love the community of this kind of music; it’s really close-knit and everyone’s so kind and welcoming. I feel like it’s more of a community-based and accessible genre than pop and electronic music.
Q: This is Raleigh’s fifth year hosting the festival. Since you’re playing with people from all over the country, how do you prepare?
A: You rehearse all of your songs hardcore for about two days and then you get out and play at the Streetfest (free to the public) on Friday and Saturday. This year, the show I’m in (with the kids’ ensemble) is on Friday at 2 p.m. on the Youth stage by the Convention Center.
Q: You have your own bluegrass group, the Carolina PineCones. Where do you perform?
A: We perform a lot of festivals and concerts throughout North Carolina — IBMA, Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival, The Pour House, The Raleigh Times Beer and Banjo Series and Motorco Music Hall.
Q: Which artists are you most excited to see perform next weekend at Wide Open Bluegrass?
A: The Kruger Brothers, Fireside Collective, Sierra Hull, Molly Tuttle, Bryan Sutton and The Becky Buller Band.
Q: This month Carolina Country magazine published an essay you wrote and also featured a song off your CD. Does that feel surreal?
A: It’s kind of insane, honestly. I love it though. It (the essay) talks a lot about growing up in the Junior Appalachian Musicians program and how it was such a big part of my summer. We would drive every week to Chatham County, and they had a summer camp. I wanted to write about what that program did for me.
Q: How are you “paying forward” the guidance you have received?
A: I want to be able to help kids get to experience the joy of music. I help direct the Wake Forest Children’s Choir with my former middle school choir teacher Kasie Brooks, and she’s wonderful. I love music so much, and it’s given me so much joy and really changed my life.
Q: What does it mean to you that IBMA granted Raleigh an additional three years hosting the festival?
A: What I love about it is that it’s attracted a lot of new people who didn’t know about traditional folk and bluegrass music. Getting to meet so many great musicians and people from all over the country and internationally is really inspiring. Through the Kids in Bluegrass program, I’m also able to attend a business conference which goes on Monday through Thursday, and I get to meet a lot of songwriters and music industry professionals. It’s just my favorite week of the year.
Jessie Lang — Tar Heel of the Week
Born: Jan. 30, 2002, in Raleigh
Residence: Wake Forest
School: 11th-grader at Franklin Academy
Band: Carolina PineCones
Performance dates at IBMA: Sept. 27 and Sept. 29
Fun fact: She is an endorsing artist for Preston Thompson Guitars.