In a world where a handful of musicians are finding fame through social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok, some are sticking to their roots and relying solely on music to grow their fanbase. Such is the case for Boy Named Banjo, an Americana/country band with a strong foundation in bluegrass music.
Made up of five lifelong friends and Nashville natives — Barton Davies, Ford Garrard, Sam McCullough, Willard Logan, and William Reames — the band has consistently grown its fan base through energetic live performances. “We’ve always been a band that relies less on social media or digital content,” says William, one of the band’s founding members. “I love it … because we thrive in a live show environment.”
As the three founding members, William, Willard, and Barton have known one another since kindergarten. It wasn’t until junior high, however, that two of them started to collaborate musically. “We’ve all kind of known each other a long, long time,” recalls William. “Willard and I originally started playing together [during] bagel break at our middle school, [where] we played in a rock band.”
After William and Willard started high school, they began playing with Barton. They officially started Boy Named Banjo as an acoustic trio, often practicing in their high school parking lot. Sam and Ford entered the band just a few years later. Despite this growth and the addition of new members, the dynamic between the friends remains the same, where each member influences the music in a unique way.
“When you join a band like I did, you don’t really want to step on anybody’s toes,” says Sam of his integration into the band. “You kind of want to do your thing but not be too assertive. I think slowly, over time, you gain your voice … We’re all seamlessly, five-way integrated now, which is really nice.”
Most recently, the band released a brand-new single titled “What Keeps Me Going.” Written by Barton, William, and singer/songwriter Pat McLaughlin, the song answers the question, “What’s most important to me?” “‘What Keeps Me Going’ is about [what] we look forward to doing … and why we want to live on this earth,” explains William. “It’s like [asking yourself], What keeps me going? What keeps me pushing through difficult times? What do we want to live for?”
When it comes to songwriting in general, both William and Barton agree that they find inspiration from everyday life and its surroundings. “For me, it’s really about keeping my antenna up and trying to stay in that mode where I can be inspired,” explains Barton. “I’m not just going through life not noticing things that could inspire me on a daily basis. When I’m really in the thick of things and feel most creative, is when I’m paying attention to nature, the things around me, and music that inspires me.”
When it comes time to bring these songs to life and the stage, you can almost always expect a top-notch performance — whether you’re seeing the band headline a local music venue or play a music festival. Longtime fans will appreciate the headlining shows, as the band takes them on a journey through a curated setlist, while festival goers will enjoy the high energy of a festival performance.
“In our club shows, we take listeners on a ride in the sense that we’ll come out with high energy, then we’ll get all the way to a point where we unplug our instruments and gather around one microphone,” says William. “Then we end the show back with high energy. We can be a little more dynamic in these club shows.”
This unexpected energy from the band often surprises people. “A lot of people are often surprised at how high-energy the show is because our earlier records are very bluegrass and acoustic,” says Ford. “A lot of times when we load [equipment into a venue], the people working [there say things like], ‘I didn’t expect there to be this much sound coming from you guys.’”
As for the future of Boy Named Banjo, the band hopes to continue to keep their focus on their music and live shows. In 2023, you can expect to see them at major Southern festivals like Bourbon & Beyond (Louisville, KY) and Pilgrimage Music Festival (Franklin, TN). “[In the next few years], I hope we’re just continuing to build our fan base and playing to live crowds,” says William of the band’s future.
To learn more about Boy Named Banjo and listen to their music, visit boynamedbanjo.com.
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