Virginia native Rebecca Frazier is perhaps best known for her work with her bluegrass band, Hit & Run, which made history as the only band to win competitions at Rockygrass (2002), Telluride Bluegrass Festival (2003), and the SPBGMA Band Championship in Nashville (2005). Yet her story is not your typical mountain or mountain valley upbringing with late night jams and weekend music parties that are common stories among bluegrass entertainers.
Rebecca’s childhood was more suburbia. “I was just like every other kid,” she said. “I did a ton of sports. I did art. My mom was an artist and an oil painting professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. She had an art studio, and I even thought I might like to be an artist one day. I was doing that a lot, and writing a lot. I was really into writing in my diary, writing short stories, writing fiction. I even won some awards for fiction and nonfiction in college at the University of Michigan. So there was a time I thought I might pursue that.”
The Trail Of Music
There was something about music that was a constant staple in her life, even when she seemed disinterested. “There’s a part of music where it’s kind of formalized in you as a child. Your parents put you through lessons, or maybe you do choir in school. My mom put me in piano when I was five. But I wasn’t the best student. I remember gazing out the window … so rude to my teacher, now that I think about it. And now that I’m a piano teacher, teaching little kids, I realize how hard it is to teach a kid who’s not trying hard to learn, you know? Still it’s a base. It sticks with you. And I did eventually take to the piano. I got way into it around the fourth grade and played every single after day school after school. Lessons are like math homework; you just have to do it.”
Rebecca spent a lot of time singing too. “I went to a Christian Episcopal school and we had a lot of choirs. I was also lucky enough to go to this six week camp in the Blue Ridge Mountains called Camp Shenandoah. There was a ton of music there, and a lot of singing. I think camp is such a great experience for a little kid. The music took on a new meaning there for me. We were learning more of the folk tradition type songs. And I was also elected songwriter, which really boosted my confidence. I didn’t ask to be, I was nominated, and elected. Part of the job of song leader was to write lyrics. So I was thrown into this without really knowing that I even wanted to.”
“I remember my dad had a bunch of old records around the house that we always listened to,” she said. “So, not only was I listening to Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Madonna’s Like a Virgin, we were also listening to Simon and Garfunkel, and the Who, and Carole King – all of the stuff from his generation. We would sing along doing all the harmony. It was just another component for me. I didn’t know that it was anything special to sing a harmony, we were just having fun.”
Bringing It All Together
With that as the backdrop for her childhood, she went off to college major in Literature, but also with a double majoring in music. “As school progressed, I was really feeling the music more,” she said. “And here’s probably where the spark occurred, where I got to have a little clarity on the path, because I was interested in so many different things, I had a hard time prioritizing. I knew I wanted to be in some sort of band or group, but I didn’t know how to find one. I had always felt more like a dabbler on guitar. I would learn the specific songs; but only the songs that I could play. I wasn’t way into the guitar like it was my only thing. I had taken lessons on and off throughout high school. I even led a singing group in high school, and I would accompany them with the guitar; However it didn’t occur to me that I could improvise, or pick solos.”
“In college though, I stumbled into this group that was heavily influenced by Bob Dylan, and the Grateful Dead, and Neil Young; all music that I’d grown up with and just loved. And these guys were all literature majors, or working on an art major, but also played music. And we just clicked, and we started playing gigs. I even dabbled a little bit on banjo playing with them, and we did a lot of harmony. That was about when it clicked for me, that this is how I wanted to spend my focused energy. I loved how it was non static, how there was such a communicative aspect to it. It just clicked.”
Rebecca eventually found her way to Colorado and formed the band, Hit and Run, with her then husband, John. They recorded two albums, and graced stages of prestigious festivals and venues in 42 states and Canada, winning awards and making a lasting impression everywhere they went. She also gained notoriety as the first woman ever to appear on the cover of Flatpicking Guitar Magazine.
They migrated to Nashville in 2007, and soon after, John got invited to join the John Cowan Band, and as Rebecca recalls, “The timing was right. I was daydreaming about starting a family. I knew I couldn’t make the leap into motherhood while living on the interstate and at festivals.”
The Music Continues
Hit & Run continued to tour part time, and Rebecca continued her studio work, including as a featured performer on Curb Records’ 2012 release, The Last Ride, the soundtrack for the 20th Century Fox movie.
Rebecca continued to play and write in her spare time and in 2013 released her engaging and transparent CD, When We Fall. Dan Miller, publisher of Flatpicking Guitar wrote, “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.” Bluegrass Situation called her CD the Best Bluegrass Album of 2013.
In 2017, Nashville Scene called her, ”a genuine triple threat as singer, songwriter, and flatpicking guitarist.” Paste Magazine included Rebecca in their piece titled, “7 Women Smashing the Bluegrass Glass Ceiling.” She was the first woman to be nominated for Guitar Player of the Year by the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPBGMA) in 2018, and was nominated again in 2019.
She is currently in the studio putting the finishing touches on her next solo project. With no specific date yet for the debut, it’s a safe bet that whenever it drops, it’s going to make a huge splash from day one. Rebecca’s attention to detail and desire to only share something with her fans that she’s proud of, makes us that much more excited to hear the final product.