Mandolinist Sierra Hull is returning to Charleston this week for an intimate full-band performance at the Pour House. Though she now calls Nashville home, Hull came of age in Byrdstown, Tennessee.
“It’s a beautiful part of the world with [a population of] less than 1,000 people. Everyone knows everyone,” she said.
It was in this idyllic setting that Hull was exposed to old hymns in church and to the bluegrass sounds her father was trying to teach himself to play around the house. Soon enough, she would take on a similar musical quest of her own.
“By the time I was 8, I was given my first mandolin and instantly fell in love,” Hull told the City Paper. “I knew it was what I wanted to do with my life. My early education in music was as organic as it comes: going to jam sessions and local festivals every weekend,” she said. “Musicians would sit in a circle in the back of an old community center or under a tree’s shade and play for hours. They always welcomed me into the fold even when I barely knew how to play a few chords. I’m so grateful for that.”
She received lots of on-the-job training early in life — she played the Carnegie Hall in New York at 12; signed with a Nashville label Rounder Records at 13; played the Kennedy Center at 16 and the White House at 20 in Washington, D.C. She attended Berklee College of Music in Boston and was part of the first class to graduate under the Artist Diploma Program in 2011 on a presidential scholarship.
Hull’s approach to music-making has benefited from collaborating with well known musicians such as Alison Krauss, Rhiannon Giddens and Béla Fleck.
“In addition to leading my own band and learning from those experiences, working with heroes like Béla Fleck along the way, particularly around the time of making my  album Weighted Mind, which he produced, pushed me to discover who I really am as an individual artist,” Hull said. “Of course, that’s an on-going, ever evolving process, but there’s something about allowing yourself to be free in that discovery that I learned from making that album.”
Having recently reached her 30s and with a handful of solid records behind her, there’s a lot of territory left for Hull to explore both in the studio and on the stage.
“I think everything changes a bit with age. As I grow older, it feels a bit easier to just enjoy the ride and not be quite so hard on myself,” she said. “I will always strive to be the best that I can be, but learning to trust and believe in myself is also important. There’s always something more to learn and always another dream to chase.”
Sierra Hull plays Charleston Pour House 8:30 p.m. Oct. 2. $25 tickets available at charlestonpourhouse.com.
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