IF YOU GO
■ What: FrazierBand in concert.
■ When: 8 p.m. Friday, April 18.
■ Where: Barking Legs Theater, 1307 Dodds Ave.
■ Admission: $10 in advance, $12 at the door.
■ Phone: 423-624-5347.
■ Website: www.barkinglegs.org.
It's hard to stump John Frazier when it comes to discussing music.
He's quick to respond, with an easy laugh, to questions about the ways his Nashville-based outfit, FrazierBand, melds bluegrass with rock, jazz, R&B and other genres. Ask about his bandmates, and he'll tout their versatility and his trust in them.
But Frazier's train of thought sputters to a halt when asked about what he learned from sharing the stage with the likes of Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Tony Rice and other bluegrass luminaries.
"Can we come back to that later?" he asks during a phone interview advancing his band's appearance at Barking Legs Theater on Friday evening, April 18.
Born in Philadelphia, Frazier moved West with his family when he was a teenager. He first was introduced to bluegrass through his father, a career military man from Birmingham, Ala., who frequently played Flatt & Scruggs around the house.
When he hit high school, Frazier, 33, listened to progressive artists such as David Grisman and The Flecktones as well as bluegrass traditionalists such as Tony Rice and Bill Monroe. At 18, he took up the mandolin, his third instrument after studying violin as a child and picking up the guitar earlier in his teens.
In late 2006, Frazier moved to Nashville, where his instrumental and vocal skills made him a hot commodity in bluegrass circles. This reputation led to many partnerships, including a stint with former Newgrass Revival vocalist John Cowan, who described him as "one of the most positive, thoughtful, intelligent and gifted men I have had the pleasure to create with."
He might be hazy at first about the role his other collaborations had on his development, but Frazier says with certainty that Cowan was one of the greatest influences on FrazierBand and its fearless blend of deep bluegrass roots with other genres.
"I had been in a rock band in high school, and Cowan had, if not the same experience, then enough of the same experience that we could connect on that level," he says. "He was super influential on me, musically speaking. Working with him helped me to embrace putting those things together in a natural way."
Although he continues to play with Hit & Run -- now called Rebecca Frazier and Hit & Run -- Frazier struck out on his own in 2010 to form FrazierBand. The new-found position of leadership, he says, has given him the creative freedom to experiment and let the music find a natural equilibrium.
And that thought seems to help him settle on an answer to the one question that confounded him earlier
"The biggest impact [those artists had] on me was believing in crazy ideas and being an original artist," he says, sounding relieved. "And to do it with vigor and aplomb."
Contact Casey Phillips at email@example.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...