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Be specific: Amber Collins of No Speed Limit on the future of young bluegrass

No Speed LimitAmber Collins and No Speed Limit are breathing new life into bluegrass. (Photo courtesy of the artist)

By Chris Richards

Bluegrass ain't dead. Not according to No Speed Limit, a young progressive bluegrass troupe from Southwest Virginia. A majority of the band's members are in their 20s -- singer Amber Collins is all of 21-years-old.

With the group performing on the Music from the Crooked Road tour (visiting Center Stage in Reston Thursday and Lisner Auditorium in Washington on Friday), Click Track spoke with Collins about the future of the genre.

Washington used to be considered a hotbed for bluegrass music but now there's a perception that the music is dying. Have you picked up on this?

Actually, whenever we've come to Northern Virginia or the D.C. area or Maryland it always seems to be a little more popular up here than it is down where we're at. I think it's just that people up here aren't as spoiled with music as we are at home. At home, everyone makes their own music so they don't always come out to watch someone else make it.

(Bluegrass on Facebook, plus video after the jump.)

What drew you to bluegrass as a teen instead of pop, rock or even country music?

Well, we're in a rural area. Everyone is into some kind of acoustic music. And of course we all grew up trying to play and sing. And of course we want to do something that's kind of true to what you grew up Something that's true and genuine. There are certain personalities that fit the music. Ours do.

Were your parents into bluegrass?

Mine weren't. I actually didn't get into bluegrass until i was 14. And the only reason I did was because of a boy. [laughs]

Have you noticed a generation gap in your fanbase? Do you guys have fans your age?

We do! It's kind of spread out, though... The younger crowd is typically not from our area. We catch people up here and we've got some people in Philadelphia. The guys that are our age are usually not from Southwest Virginia.

What's the ratio of younger fans to older?

We play some progressive 'grass. So I'd say it's about fifty-fifty.

Do you think bluegrass can thrive in the digital age? And if so, how?

I think a lot of the musicians are going to have to realize that there's nothing wrong with getting on stage and plugging your instruments in. It's a matter of putting your songs on iTunes and approving MP3 downloads. It's about getting on MySpace and Facebook and pushing your music yourself, to a certain extent.

And bluegrass musicians are resistant to that? How come?

Because it's relatively new. This genre of music hasn't had to use [the internet] before. This genre of music kind of travels itself. Most bands are kind of spread out and you just start playing jams and your name spreads by word of mouth... But now we're all in this huge competition because we're all on Facebook and everyone wants more fans than each other. You actually have to get on there. You have to show yourself to people. You can't just lay back and play what you've always known and wait for someone to come to you.

How are you doing in this competition?

Well, our fan page has only been up for about two weeks so we're kind of behind in the game! [laughs]

By Chris Richards  |  April 15, 2010; 1:15 PM ET
Categories:  Be specific  | Tags: Amber Collins, No Speed Limit  
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