Tales From A Bluegrass Girlfriend

Tales From A Bluegrass Girlfriend

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Some of you may know me by now, but if you don’t, then hey! I’m Kjerstin, I’m Marcel’s girlfriend. I’ve been around for a handful of years, and I’m an accidental bluegrass fan. This is Bluegrass Anonymous, right?

But seriously, calling me a fan is probably an inaccurate description. I often call myself a “wrangler”. Partly, because I think I’m funny but in actuality I’ve been more of a band manager. Band Wrangler? Is that cool? I don’t know anymore. I’m not cool. Because of this though (not the cool thing), I have a pretty specific relationship with music. And even more specifically, with bluegrass music.

When we lived in Washington, I had my grubby little hands in on booking the shows (approximately 150 performances a year) and helping to keep the business organized. After we moved to North Carolina, I wiped my hands clean of the help that I was doing. Now, I’m more of a bluegrass fan who has more opinions about bluegrass than I ever expected to have. I didn’t grow up on this shit. My family still thinks that Oh, Brother Where Art Thou? is chalk full of bluegrass music (fight me if you think it’s bluegrass, I dare you). It’s not a genre I was smitten with before dating a bluegrass musician. I grew up in Washington state, far from Jerusalem Ridge (which is not where Bill Monroe’s family home was) and the fields of Tony Rice, which are somewhere in California as far as I know? I’m as new to this as you can possibly be. So, read onward to hear more about my experience as a bluegrass gal-pal extraordinaire.

Groupies

Groupies fighting over front row at one of Marcel's shows.

Ugh. Don’t get me started on all the groupies. It’s put a huge strain on my relationship. Just kidding. Honestly, there is no problem with this. The biggest fans I run into are typically other guitar players or other people who grew up in the bluegrass community. And without stereotyping too heavily, they are more often than not men from the ages 24-69. A small demographic, of course. *rolls eyes at bad joke* So, despite the notorious jokes about musicians being sweaty dudes with lots of young ladies hanging around backstage, that’s not really a concern with bluegrass musicians. Plus, like 85% of the time, there isn’t even a “backstage”, so another problem avoided. While being a musician sounds like it could be this wild ride, it actually consists of lots of technical conversations and talk about “that one break in the B part of that one tune where you capo’d down”. I know that doesn’t make sense, that’s the joke.

Perks

I don’t drink alcohol these days, but back when I was booking shows, the best part of shows was using the band bar tab. And by “using”, I obviously mean “abusing”. You better believe I took full advantage of the free beer access. (Especially in the Northwest where the fresh-hop IPA’s run colder and faster than the Columbia itself). Of course I also got food discounts and great seats at shows. Additionally, when a musician gigs a lot, there’s a great opportunity to create lasting relationships with bookers, venues and bouncers. I can’t count the times I’ve got into shows for free or been allowed to go meet other high-profile performers in various green rooms because we had good relationships with businesses in our area. Because of those positive experiences, whenever Marcel travels back to the Northwest we have a really easy time booking extra gigs with our close friends! Might as well play and pay the flight off, right?

Late Nights

Late nights happen more frequently than I’d like them to. And the late nights aren’t for me specifically. Hell no. I’m in bed by 11pm every night after a wild night of face masks, reading, getting a headache then sweating myself to sleep after poppin’ a melatonin. But, what I’ve learned over the years is that nearly all of my musician friends, including Marcel, are obsessive. I can’t stress this point enough. When you care about something, you become fully involved. Knee deep, trudging through material, practicing into the wee hours, throwing yourself into projects to keep your near addiction alive. One of the things I get the most annoyed about is Marcel’s work and sleep schedule. That boy will stay up all night. In his defense though, almost every full-time musical personality is like this. They often stay up all night talking to each other, too. It’s not a “problem” so much as an inconvenience on the weekends, when I can’t get Marcel out of bed early to go to the Farmer’s Market.

Friends

These definitely aren't our friends.

I’m one of those people that prefers my alone time. I am a writer for a living, so I get swept up in my own projects and have an awful habit of “isolating” myself and working until I suffer from eye fatigue. And believe it or not, being social is a big part of not feeling lonely, go figure. Dating a musician has been one of the healthiest things for me personally because it forces me to be social. Being in the bluegrass community has allowed me (and Marcel) to meet some of my favorite people and best friends. The folks from home I miss the most are my musician friends. Or rather, friends that I met through music. (Shoutout to Zack, Lil Kev and A-A Ron). For this, I’m forever grateful to Marcel, the bluegrass community and music in general.

Encouragement To Play

At the risk of sounding like a total jerk, one of my least favorite things about dating a musician is the assumption, question or suggestion that I learn to play music, too. Look, I love music, I love bluegrass and I love the idea of playing an instrument. BUT, what you have to realize is that a huge portion of my life is already stuffed full of music. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s simply that I need my own space. My own hobbies. If I took up playing, we would literally never do anything besides argue over who was more influential in Doyle Lawson’s Quicksilver, Russell Moore or Jamie Dailey? Then sit down to arrange a tenor part rather than watch a movie.

Obviously, there is a ton of horrible things about dating Marcel, but fortunately the bluegrass scene is one of many things that’s helped us to bond and create a loving home together. Now go take lessons already or something. You won’t see me (except in an occasional vlog) but you will likely meet my cat, Sushi. Who is a huge jerk. (P.S. leave a comment below if you want Sushi Cat merch….I’m still waiting).

Kj also writes for Milktoast Magazine. Find it online and follow on Instagram.

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1 thought on “Tales From A Bluegrass Girlfriend”

  1. Dear Marcel,
    My name is Charlie I am from Dublin in Ireland. I just wanted to write a short note to you thanking you for all you do for guitar players around the world. I am probably your biggest fan. Unfortunately I was shot two years ago and I am still recovering so I am not in a financial position to become an elite member because I am stuck on disability allowance. But I will be hopefully in the near future be able to. You are a true master of the guitar and I enjoy every video on YouTube.

    I hope someday to meet you in person if I ever make it over that side of the world and as for Ireland if you do ever make it over her please feel free to contact me and I will do what I can to get you some gigs and accomadation will not be a problem for you. Again thank you for what you do the gift you give to others you will never understand.

    Thank You.

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