Vaught’s note: As I noted when this blog became my own operation, it sometimes will have more than just UK basketball and football. This is one of those days. I am in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., for the annual Saddle Up. I think you’ll enjoy reading and learning more about 15-year-old Brigid Reedy, who is unique for a lot of reasons.
By LARRY VAUGHT
PIGEON FORGE, TENN. — Brigid Reedy is not your typical 15-year-old.
She’s a musician, yodeler and reciter who has grown up on ranches in Colorado and Montana while being home-schooled by her mother. This weekend she’s one of the featured performers at the 16th annual Saddle Up in Pigeon Forge.
Never heard of Saddle Up? It’s a five-day event in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., that features cowboy and cowgirl entertainers, a chuck wagon cook off, workshops and seminars, a cowboy dance, cowboy church and many other free events.
Saddle Up started Wednesday and Friday Reedy was one of the featured performers. She was part of a 60-minute performance in a band with other performers she had never played with until an hour before the show started. They blended their music and songs together in an impressive fashion and also got to share their career stories during Stories & Strings.
She was the youngest on stage by far — and loved every minute of it.
“It is a blast and so fun. It is what I have always wanted to do as a musician. Age is meaningless to music. I want to be at level to sit in with these amazing musicians and just soak in the sound that comes out of these masters,” she said. “It’s an honor and fun to play with them.
The feeling of being in a band …I don’t play in bands a lot and it is such a unique feeling and there is such energy and drive from all those people playing together.”
She learned to yodel at the age 2 and began playing the fiddle a few years later. Her sounds range from the most traditional cowboy tunes to new songs by contemporary singer-songwriters.
Her father, John, is now her partner and often performs with her.
“He is wonderful. He is a senior song writer, poet, plays guitar and is a photographer. He was my musical influence from the beginning. He sang to me before I was born. We were always playing together, singing together,” Reedy, who first entertained crowds at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 2003 by yodeling, said. “We co-write songs. I write music and poetry and fiddle tunes.”
Being home schooled allows her to spend time at events like Saddle Up. She jokes she is an “accelerated program” already.
“That is the beauty of the way we do it. It gives me flexibility and reason I am able to have the wonderful experiences I do. We don’t have summer breaks. We just throw school in there wherever it fits and I don’t fall behind,” Reedy laughed and said. “My mom works really hard and is a gifted teacher and makes everything fresh and interesting all the time.”
Her mom cannot always travel with her, but she normally wears her mom’s black hat and did again her.
“It has her name in it. It is the most dressed up hat I have access to. I feel like I am the sharpest with it and she lets me wear it and it kind of feels like she is with me when she can’t come. I have it on own my album cover. This is my music hat,” she said.
Reedy can’t remember a time she did not want to have a musical career. She said her father never forced her to practice or learn how to do anything.
“Music is such a part of me I don’t know if I could be separated from it. I am a very social person. I love to connect to people and music is one of the best ways to do that. It cuts through everything. It is one of the quickest things to the soul,” she said. “You can really reach lots and lots of people and share part of yourself. It keeps you alive longer. It keeps you moving and going.”
She admits she likes to talk a lot with people.
“I don’t do any social media besides email. I don’t own a (cell) phone. I am the only 15 year old I know that doesn’t own a phone. I don’t need it. It is just fluff. Just filler. I would rather go into town and actually talk to somebody than get a sentence (on a text message) that is half hearted and doesn’t get much across,” she said.
“It’s so distracting. Technology is almost like a drug. I will text occasionally with a friend because I do have an iPad. There is this need for instant gratification and that sets up strange pressures. I can’t do that. I have stuff I want to do. I want to be outside. I want to play music. Write music.Paint and draw and do art. I don’t need that.
“In the middle of Montana my dearest, best friend is an hour and a half away. Technology I use as a tool. I don’t want to be a slave to anything. I write on my iPad. I write emails but I keep it balanced.”
She says she’s always felt strongly about “who I am” and has never had a problem figuring out who she is while many others her age have had that problem.
“I have never wanted to try and be someone else. I have always been myself and I can thank dad for that. He always thought that was very important, and he was right,” she said.
She also thinks everything she had heard about Saddle Up was right, too.
“This is my first year but I have had a lovely time. Everyone is so sweet. There is so much thought and care put into this. It is all so nicely done. It’s tight,” she said. “There is nothing they missed. The mountains are beautiful. It is my first time to Tennessee. I come from mountains but these mountains are different and I love that. It’s cool to be in a different environment. It inspires creativity.”
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Friday night’s Saddle Up concert had a large crowd and Dave Stamey was nothing short of terrific with his singing and same for the story telling by Chris Isaacs.
Saturday likely will offer my favorite part — the Chuck Wagon Cookoff and Lunch. Nine chuck wagon teams will compete for cash prizes and when the dinner bell rings, lunch will be served. Teams are here from Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia, Missouri and North Carolina. Plus, organizer Kent Rollins, who has been on the Food Network and NBC because of his cooking, will also have food available.
There will be six hours of cowboy-themed activities at the cookoff site along with live entertainment and an open mic — no, I don’t think I will try that.
Saturday night there is another concert followed by a cowboy dance.