Best known for his deft touch on the banjo, Chandler Holt performs worldwide with the highly acclaimed Americana quartet Chatham County Line. Fans of the NC based outfit are well aware of Chandler's contributions as a lead vocalist and songwriter. Wielding his rich baritone vocal Chandler crafts songs with both depth and warmth. Whether behind guitar or banjo, Chandler presents a unique lyrical and sonic approach to his song craft.
Leaving his native North Carolina, Chandler and his family made their new home in Colorado in 2016. "Moving to Colorado was a huge step into the unknown in my life both personally and musically. There are so many great players out here and it stirred something in me to stick my neck out and see what contribution I could make." Starting in 2018 Chandler began performing solo and in other incarnations. He is working on his first solo project featuring original songs and hopes to have it out by year's end.
Chandler is also a very adept instructor of the 5 string banjo. He loves teaching both new and seasoned students to help them find the joy in playing music and performing.
Bio source “Chandler Holt - About” chandlerholtmusic.com/about/. Accessed October 2, 2018.
MORE ABOUT THIS ARTIST FEATURED ARTIST - MARCH 2019
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ARTIST INTERVIEW The Banjo Reserve interviewed Chandler Holt, here's what he had to say.
Q. At 19 you decided to play banjo, what was your method of learning? What did you find most challenging, and what was your approach to overcome these challenges?What specific challenge(s) are you working on today?
A. I took a few lessons. My path was pretty slow and complicated due to having basically zero informed instruction in before picking up a banjo. I used the Hatfield method books and other forms of tab. I’ve become a skeptic of tab for beginners due to my 20 years of playing and teaching experience. Ear training is much more beneficial for a new student as well as a seasoned player. I was in a band immediately upon getting a banjo which was incredibly interesting. I wouldn’t necessarily choose this path if I had it to do again. Nowadays I really like to hone in on things that are moveable from one chord or key to another.. So much of basic Scruggs and melodic playing is only geared towards the key of G. That stuff is a must know but past that there is a lot of very interesting and moveable stuff that allows you to break away from that G based mindset.
Q. Over the past 10 years the banjo has seen a resurgence across multiple genres. Where do you see banjo music going and what is your role in that?
A. I’m not really sure. These days I’m simply focused on sounding good and playing my best. I’m not really seeking to make what I do fit a genre per se. I like how open the world is to banjo music and am happy to be another cog in the machine of spreading the word. The instrument is way more adaptable than anyone thought 30 years ago. When you say this most people would think of Béla Fleck and the many other players that have embraced jazz. Béla certainly opened up the playbook beyond what anyone could imagine but there is so much room for variety outside of even this. I think the instrument works really well in more of a rock setting as well as country music. I find myself leaning on a lot of material in 4/4 time as I play and perform as a solo artist. For me, 4/4 time opens up the idea that the banjo needs to be a lot more focused on sustain and less about speed..
Q. Are there any Banjo Artists from the past or present that have a significant influence on your interest in banjo music and/or technique?
A. Charlie Cushman has been an endless source of inspiration. His ability to adapt so much of what Don Reno did and expand on that is the coolest thing. He basically flipped my world upside-down years ago and I finally felt like I found a direction without feeling the need to fully imitate his licks. That’s an important realization for any musician. I heard Ron Block mention that once. He knows lots of J.D. Crowe’s solos by heart but it’s not what he would play on stage or at a jam. It simply informs him of what is possible. You take things from it and you make sure you keep following your heart instead of just doing what someone else did. Charlie sort of lit that fire for me. At the same time, I would kill to play breaks exactly like Charlie, Earl and J.D. Someday??
Q. You grew up in North Carolina, where you ultimately became a founding member of CCL. In 2016 you moved your family to Colorado. You mention that your move to Colorado has had an impact on your life both personally and professionally. Can you elaborate on how this has affected you and your music?
A. It’s simply a whole different world out here in Colorado. There’s tons of great players, singers and songwriters. The scene is incredibly vibrant and every week there is cool stuff happening. I’m busy enough with CCL that I haven’t totally immersed myself in it but I’ve had lots of great experiences jamming with folks and working gigs with my buddy Eric Wiggs. It’s sort of like I have this whole other musical family now. My wife is playing in a new duo called Sugar Moon and wrote a book about a fictitious female bluegrass band. We recorded a soundtrack with some great Colorado players in a killer studio and are hoping to unveil that to the world sooner than later. Shopping agents to get a book deal has proven to be a hugely monumental task that makes the music business seem like a piece of cake. Yikes!
Q. Chatham County Line released their eighth studio album "Sharing The Covers" on March 8th, 2019. This album so brilliantly applies the band's vocals and instrumental talents to cover songs by legendary Artists without losing the CCL style. Describe how your role on this album might feel or differs from past CCL projects.
A. It was a really fun and relaxed project. The songs were already written and are time tested so there was no worry of whether the material was good. Our only job was to not screw ‘em up. There was no issue with losing our style as you mention. We have a style and we simply applied it to these songs. I think it’s a really fun record that will give seasoned fans further insight into what we’re about and hopefully bring some new faces out to shows.
Q. Some of your solo music can be heard on Reverbnation, this leads us to very exciting news for music and banjo enthusiasts alike, you are working on a new solo project! Can you share more about this project? When can your fans expect its release?
A. I am, it’s all recorded and ready to go. Robust Records out of Chapel Hill, NC is going to release it which is very exciting. We’re putting the art and packaging together as I type. The record is now slated to come out in November. I’ll be doing a lot of release shows on the Colorado Front Range around that time.
Q. You have collaborated with numerous Artists and performed all over the world. What venue or festival, that you have not yet played, would you like to perform at? Are there any Artists you would love to have on that stage with you?
A. We have been really fortunate to work with so many great names. We just did some shows with Steve Martin and that’s kind of hard to top. He’s such an amazing artist in every sense of the word. Now that he’s off the list I’m really not sure. I’ve had a recurring dream over the years of playing banjo with John Mellencamp on huge stages. Those songs of his are so iconic and there’s something really cool about the idea of being on the same stage with him playing banjo. That would be really cool. Performing with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings would be pretty special. I’d love to try and back up any great songwriter and see if I could really make the banjo work with their sound. Fogerty, Petty, Neil Young are some other names that could be really cool to throw my banjo in the ring with.
Q. Many banjo players like yourself offer private lessons, aside from enjoying supplemental income, does providing music instruction contribute to your creativity or professional dexterity in any way?
A. Absolutely, I love teaching. It offers the teacher so many great rewards. Seeing a student ‘get it’ is very special. I’ve definitely learned a lot about myself by teaching others and come to understand why certain likes or phrases work. I really try to inspire people to believe in themselves and use that as fuel to practice. I’ve seen it work over and over again. There is never a time that is too late to learn something new. My 5 year old son is starting to be interested in music and I’m incredibly excited to watch as he learns.
Q. You provide Banjo Setup and Repair services, and on your website you provide a variety of informative YouTube setup videos of various banjos that you own. Which of all the banjos that you own is your favorite and why?
A. My favorite banjo is an early ‘30s tb-2 conversion I bought from Jim Mills years ago. It was the pick of his litter at the time. Everybody that plays it loves it because It has so much character. I’ve watched Noam pick it a few times and he really digs it. His playing is always a great reminder of how much work is still to be done. I have another killer banjo that Don Bryant put together for me. These two are my main stage banjos. Don is a great builder who is up there with the best.
Q. At this point in your banjo playing career, what work, project or event is most memorable to you and why?
A. I lost a very dear friend years back that shook me up pretty good. My electric band, The Letter Jackets, put on a fundraiser show in my old hometown of Salisbury. It was sort of a healing process for the whole town. We got some of my closest friends up to sing some songs and it was really special. I don’t think there’s anything more healing or therapeutic than music.
Q. Tell us something about yourself that you think our enthusiasts might enjoy?
A. There’s a wacky group of fiction writers that write novels that sort of lampoon Florida. Tim Dorsey and Carl Hiassen are the best. I’m not sure why, but I can’t get enough of these books. Hurricane Punch by Tim Dorsey is maybe the funniest thing ever written.