Grand Ole Opry At 19

Growing up in the mountains of Western North Carolina, Darren Nicholson grew up with music as a staple of life. “They taught music in the schools as a regular part of the curriculum,” he recalled. “Music and dance was just part of the culture here. Just about everybody in my family played bluegrass and country music; and this was long before it was referred to as Americana. It was all under the country umbrella.”

“We would have music at our house on Friday and Saturday nights, and it was nothing to have 30 people there. There weren’t any labels, it was just country people getting together playing music and entertaining ourselves.”

Darren started playing music for money in his early teens with different bands in the area where he grew up – weddings, parties, and barbecues were the normal fair. In 2004, at 19, he went to work for Alecia Nugent. “I was playing the Grand Ole Opry at 19, and I’ve never looked back,” he quipped.

In 2006, Darren and singer Buddy Melton were each working on solo projects. A few other area musicians, Tim Surrett and Mark Pruitt, both helped with those projects – Those four guys would become the nucleus of what would become known as Balsam Range – one of the premier bluegrass acts on the road today. Balsam Range has gone on to receive 11 IBMA awards including Entertainers of the Year twice.

When not in the studio or on the road with the Range, Darren fronts his side project, the Darren Nicholson Band, that has created three full length CD projects. His 2019 release, Fret A Spell, grabbed quite a bit of attention on XM Radio’s Bluegrass Junction. And the track “Any Highway,” from his forthcoming EP, is already gaining radio attention.

At 36, Darren is the youngest member of Balsam Range, and knows there will be a day when his musical career will likely take a different path. “Regardless, I plan to play music the rest of my life,” he said.

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