The World’s a Stage: Abigail Washburn at Telluride Bluegrass

The World’s a Stage: Abigail Washburn at Telluride Bluegrass

[click “Play” to hear Emily Shoff’s conversation with Abigail Washburn]


Abby_002 I first met Abigail Washburn in a basement studio in Packard Hall at Colorado College. We were hosting tryouts for our female a cappella group, Ellement. She showed up and needless to say, tryouts were done for the day. Her voice was so beautiful that we actually started rehearsing with her that same afternoon. We’d found the final member of our group.

Since college, Washburn’s career has taken off. She returns to the Bluegrass Stage for her 7th time at the 38th annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival, June 16-June 19th 2011. With her powerful juxtaposition of Appalachian folk songs and far-flung sounds, Washburn inspires and invigorates her audiences.

Washburn has traveled all over the globe—to China, to Tibet and has called both Vermont and Nashville home. Each one of her journeys has added a new dimension to her music. Because of this, her soulful songs have unique twists. Sometimes, she’ll sing in Mandarin. Sometimes, you’ll hear a few notes from the guzheng, a Chinese-style zither. After listening to her for a while, you’ll feel like you, too, have traveled.

Indeed, the desire to share music with other cultures is the very reason that Washburn started making music. After returning from her first trip to China, she heard Doc Watson play and thought, “that’s it, that’s the sound of America,” and set out to learn how to play the banjo. She realized that she could share her love for her country through music.

A decade later, Washburn’s latest album, City of Refuge, beautifully melds the sounds of China with traditional bluegrass. The very first songs open with the sound of children’s voices on the schoolyard. From that point on, we are on that dusty playground, playing alongside the children. We are singing alongside her. That’s the true power of Abigail Washburn’s music: in her songs, the world’s disparate voices all find footing.

To hear more about why Abigail Washburn plays music and how she balances her creativity with the business of making music, click on this podcast.


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