Rebecca Frazier

It's no secret that artists sometimes create their truest, most authentic works in moments of despair. While intentions to repair their own broken hearts can supersede their desire to communicate with the public, the rawness of their experiences often create a bridge to the hearts and minds of others. It is such an experience as this that brought guitarist, singer and writer Rebecca Frazier to her newest work.


For bluegrass artist Rebecca Frazier, the guitar has always been a means of transporting her, whether to a different state of mind, to a campfire bluegrass circle, or onto the stage of one of the hundred-plus festivals at which she has performed. But she didn’t have to walk far from her front door to record When We Fall, her new bluegrass and Americana album to be released June 2013 by Compass Records. “I’ve been writing this record for seven years, as I’ve been traveling from state to state playing bluegrass, and eventually settling in Nashville,” says Frazier. “Wouldn’t you know I’d team up with Brent Truitt in East Nashville and start recording a few blocks away.”

Rebecca has played guitar since she received a Yamaha dreadnought for Christmas at age 12. She had no idea that this gift would lead her to be the first-ever woman on the cover of Flatpicking Guitar Magazine (September 2006) or to become the recipient of International Bluegrass Music Association’s ‘Recorded Event of the Year’ Award (2009). “I was spending my summers in the Shenandoah Mountains at a girls’ camp,” says the Virginia native. “I was song leader when I was thirteen, so I was required to write songs and teach melodies to fellow campers. We’d sing threepart harmonies as we washed our hair in the ice-cold Cowpasture River.”

Rebecca’s path in music has led her to carry forward those magical moments of her Virginia childhood. In college, Rebecca immersed herself in the local bluegrass scene and was soon balancing late night bar gigs with early morning exams. She won the Hopwood Award for her thesis at the University of Michigan about guitarist, Emily Remler, earned her degree in Music and Literature, and then studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston. “The professors there said, ‘You’ll learn more by getting out there and doing it.’”

During her eight-year stay in Colorado, Rebecca co-founded Hit & Run Bluegrass, an awardwinning, Boulder-based outfit, which made history by becoming the first band to win both prestigious band competitions at Rockygrass (2002) and Telluride Bluegrass Festival (2003). Soon Hit & Run was bringing their “authentic yet modern” bluegrass to concert stages in almost every state in the U.S. as well as in Canada, including the esteemed Grey Fox, Telluride, High Sierra, and Rockygrass Festivals.

Driven by Rebecca’s leadership, Hit & Run became one of Colorado’s most electrifying acoustic touring acts. According to Denver’s Westword, “Something’s got to be up when one bluegrass band suddenly surpasses all the others. Here in Colorado, that band is Hit & Run.” In 2005, the band won first place at the highly competitive SPBGMA Band Championship in Nashville and was invited to showcase at International Bluegrass Music Association’s annual conference. The band’s two studio albums, “Beauty Fades,” produced by Tim Austin (Lonesome River Band) and “Without Maps or Charts,” produced by Kenny Smith, were so popular that the band sold ten thousand independently—a feat for a group of 20-somethings on their own.

By 2007, Rebecca (née Hoggan) had married and relocated to Nashville, where Hit & Run took advantage of a more centralized touring base. Months later, her husband John was offered a position in the John Cowan Band. The timing was right. “I was daydreaming about starting a family,” says Rebecca. “I knew I couldn’t make the leap into motherhood while I was practically living on the interstate and at festivals.” A baby boy was born and Hit & Run continued to tour, albeit not full-time; Rebecca continued her studio work (she’s a featured performer on Curb Records’ 2012 release, The Last Ride, the soundtrack for the 20th Century Fox movie); she used her spare time to write.

Oddly enough, it never occurred to Rebecca that she might record a collection of her own songs until she unexpectedly lost her second son in November 2010. “I knew I could rely on creativity and hope in order to heal,” Rebecca relates. In the spring of 2011, she continued the process of writing new material and, with John’s help, refining songs she’d written since moving to Nashville. “While the project itself may have been inspired by loss, its creation has brought joy to the forefront,” she says. In more ways than one, that is—the new album converged with the birth of a baby girl.

Her collaborator and co-producer, Brent Truitt (Dixie Chicks, Alison Krauss, Dolly Parton), brought his Grammy-winning integrity and attention to acoustic detail to When We Fall. And accompanying Rebecca are a host of world-class acoustic artists: her musical partner John Frazier on mandolin & vocals (Steve Martin, Jim Lauderdale, John Cowan), bass vibe-master Barry Bales (Alison Krauss), banjo genre-bender Scott Vestal (Sam Bush), Dobro genius Andy Hall (Infamous Stringdusters), fiddle virtuoso Shad Cobb (John Cowan), banjo innovator Ron Block (Alison Krauss), and, on backing vocals, her longtime Western compatriot, Shelby Means (Della Mae).

When We Fall is something different for Frazier: a collection of self-penned bluegrass and Americana songs, presented in a classic, listenable way. “I wanted to create a timeless-sounding work, because I’m so inspired by music from the 1970’s,” she says. “I rarely listen to ‘new’ music. Bonnie Raitt’s first record; old-school Tony Rice and Dave Grisman Quintet; Neil Young: all of this music was recorded before I was born, yet it’s free of datedness.” And but for the one Neil Young cover on the album, Frazier has bravely divulged a lot of herself with her ten original songs, while still showcasing her shredding guitar skills. In songs like “Love Go Away From This House” and “Darken Your Doorway,” she offers painful perspectives from failed love, and, as she puts it, “all the bad that comes with the good.” Yet there are hopeful notes about long-term romance in “Walk This Road” and “Morning & Night.” There’s an old-time feel to “Better Than Staying,” in which each character’s restlessness to keep moving culminates in the calm peace of a dying mother. The song, “When We Fall,” Rebecca says, “asks a question about losing our innocence. Can we fall down and lose self-respect, but get back up and look ourselves in the eye?” The album ends with “Babe In Arms,” a lilting string-band lullaby for her son.

It’s unusual for a touring musician to move to Nashville with the intention of having children soon after, but motherhood has seasoned and enhanced Frazier’s music. Guitar virtuoso Bryan Sutton hails When We Fall as “an incredibly strong record. These are great songs combining smart and inventive guitar playing with deep, emotional bluegrass singing.” While the album showcases Rebecca’s longstanding passion for acoustic guitar with several barn-burning originals, listeners will also hear the pure, pining—and at times exposed—soprano tones of a woman who has matured through seasons of heartbreak, loss, and love. In Flatpicking Guitar Magazine, Dan Miller writes, “Rebecca has worked incredibly hard…to get where she is today. And although she has achieved great success, she continues to be very passionate about her music and her guitar playing. I predict that many will point to Rebecca as a role model, inspiration, and guitar hero. Her journey is one that should serve to inspire any guitar player, singer or songwriter.”

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