Guitar prodigy Trey Hensley embraces his country roots
At a mere 18 years of age, Historic Holmes Theatre Thursday headliner Trey Hensley has already had some success as a musician.
In the world of bluegrass music, he is considered to be a prodigy: At the ripe old age of 11, Hensley was asked to perform at the legendary Grand Ole Opry --having picked up a guitar for the first time barely a year earlier.
But as he enters into adulthood, Hensley has taken on a new challenge -- which is really, as he sees it, going back to his musical roots.
"I was doing old country songs, playing with bluegrass instruments," he says. "What I do now is same -- the instrumentation has just changed a bit."
Hensley lists traditional artists like Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, George Jones, Johnny Paycheck and Marty Stuart as his musical influences.
"That's how I learned how to play...sitting down in front of the record player and listening," Hensley says. "I still play by ear -- I've never been able to read music. I don't know if that's a blessing or a curse.
"I took lessons off a guy for about six months, and probably about three of them he spent teaching me the chords of a guitar, the techniques -- then the last three months I started teaching myself."
From that time on, Hensley's weekly guitar lessons turned into jam sessions with his mentor.
Learning through watching others play has also played a big part in Hensley's musical education.
"I've always enjoyed sitting down and learning different people's styles of playing," he says. "I can't really remember a time in my life where I didn't have music there. It's always been a big part of my life.
"I can't think of a time when it's not been what I wanted to do."
Since he crossed over from bluegrass to country music three years ago, Hensley has released two CDs, earning acclaim both from music critics and his artistic peers.
In fact, a quintet of country legends joined Hensley in recording tracks for his latest release, "It Is What It Is" (July 2009). The special guests on the album include Janie Fricke, Steve Wariner and Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall and Richard Sterban of the Oak Ridge Boys.
"It was unbelievable to me that some of my heroes would actually come in and record with me," Hensley said of that experience.
Though he wrote or co-wrote six of the tracks on his debut release, "Looking At My Future," Hensley said none of his own tunes made the cut for his sophomore CD.
"It Is What It Is" includes covers of songs by a wide variety of artists such as Elton John, Conway Twitty, Jimmy Dickens and the Gaither Vocal Band, as well as original tunes written by Wariner, the great Johnny Russell and Chuck Allan Floyd.
"I'm still writing quite a bit," Hensley says. "I enjoy doing that as much as I enjoy doing anything. It's always fun singing your own stuff."
Fans will have the opportunity to hear Hensley perform songs from both of his previous albums when he appears at Detroit Lakes' Historic Holmes Theatre this Thursday, Oct. 8 at 7:30 p.m.
Hensley's show will be the kickoff of "The Edge" concert series for 2009-10, sponsored by SJE Rhombus and WE Fest. This series, which is in its second year at the Holmes, focuses on some of the region's hottest up-and-coming stars.
There will be a pre-party for Hensley's concert from 6 p.m. until show time in the Holmes Ballroom (across the hall from the main theater). The event will feature beer and barbecue, with a cash bar furnished by Bleachers and the meal by Country Kitchen.
If you don't have a season ticket for The Edge series, individual show tickets are available for $22 adults, $11 students. For more info, call 218-844-SHOW (7469) or visit www.dlccc.org.