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In Lowrey’s universe, music and a sense of community are inseparable. He recalls his grandparents taking him to jam sessions every Friday night at the “Chicken House” on Gid Tanner’s farm. It was just that—a converted chicken house—in which local musicians gathered for joy, relief and companionship.
“That was the beginning of music,” he says. “Before you had records being sold and the commercialization of music, it was primarily a get-together. That was the reason for it. It always belonged in a community. I feel we’ve lost sight of that. Now it’s about record sales and touring and concerts and things of that nature. I don’t get quite as much fulfillment from that as I do sitting around on the front porch playing with a bunch of guys.”
In the sixth grade, Lowrey began taking classical violin lessons and soon moved on to playing fiddle music, taking in and assimilating all the instrumental techniques and flourishes he saw on display at the Chicken House.
His next move was to join Sonia Leigh’s band as a fiddler. “All the while I was writing my own stuff,” he recalls, “coming up with my own voice and kind of figuring out what I had to say. About two years after I went with Sonia, I started playing out on my own and doing my own thing a lot more. I eventually decided to make music my full time profession. I was working construction at the time as a framer. So I quit my job and played just as much as I possibly could. I think one year—between my gigs and hers—we did over 285 shows. It was the only way we could make any money. You just kind of went up there and busted your ass, maybe for $25 bucks, especially in Athens. In some joints you got paid your bar tab.”
After touring with Leigh for years, Lowrey found himself playing on the same bill with Zac Brown at the Dixie Tavern in Marietta, Georgia. “Zac’s star was rising and he ended up forming a record label,” Lowrey says. “Sonia and I both signed to it on the same day. About then, Sonia and I went our separate ways. With my obligations as a recording artist, I couldn’t play with her fulltime. I hit the road with Zac and toured with him for several years. And I wrote a bunch of good songs with him. When the label folded, I went completely independent and put out My Crazy Head in 2015. Roots and Branches is my second independent release.”
It was while touring with Brown that Lowrey realized it was time to choose what he wanted to achieve with his music. He and Brown were sitting on the bus before a show “either in Greenville, South Carolina or Greensboro, North Carolina” when Brown asked the crucial question. “Zac said, ‘Do you want to be me—to follow this path that I’m on [to stardom]—or do you want to be Darrell Scott?’ Darrell Scott’s my heroin that he found something to say and a voice to say it with and the determination to control what he will and won’t do. And I chose then and still choose to this day ‘to be’ Darrell Scott.”