Sierra Hull Makes Virtuosic Playing Look Easy — But Even She Has ‘Tough Sets’ Sometimes
Sierra Hull is the kind of player who is so technically proficient that you hardly need to be a fan of her music to enjoy her show. She transfixes concertgoers, bluegrass fans or not, with her effortless, easy solos, her improbable, shimmering mandolin runs and the way she holds her instrument as naturally as if it were a limb.
Hull has lots of practice onstage, and she has played some impressive venues: At 10 years old, she made her Grand Ole Opry debut; two years later, she gave her first performance on the stage of New York City's Carnegie Hall. Since then, she has played all over the world, hitting venues of all sizes and types -- including the White House.
Like any performer, though, Hull still has off days. "Uh, yeah! Yeah, definitely!" Hull tells The Boot, laughing uproariously, when asked if she ever feels less than at ease onstage. "I mean, if I'm being completely transparent, last night, even," she adds, referring to a showcase during AmericanaFest 2019 that had a lot of artists packed onto the bill, and a lot of crew members working together to keep the show running on schedule.
"We had a soundcheck that went really well. Everything sounded great. And then we got onstage, it was a quick turnover, and the mandolin wasn't on for the first song," Hull recalls. "Most times I travel with my own guys, so that rarely happens. In this situation, where you have multiple crew people responsible for different things, like, somebody had the job of doing that, and it didn't happen.
"Understandably!" she points out. "Because there's a lot going on in a show like that. But yeah, it was really tough. It was a tough set."
Even a seasoned performer will find herself in the midst of a tough show from time to time, and Hull says the only way to get through it is to let muscle memory and instincts kick in. "You just have to power through and do the best job you can, and try not to get frustrated," she relates. "It's frustrating! But try not to get frustrated."
These days, Hull still gets stage jitters now and again. In a lot of ways, though, her onstage ease benefits from the fact that she started performing when she was so young.
"It's funny, as a kid, I never used to get [nervous]. As a little kid, you have no reason to feel that way. As you get older, you start letting your own self-doubt creep in. I have it like anybody else does," she reflects. "But I also really love it. The more you do something -- I wanna say the easier it gets, but that's part of the beauty of playing music from night to night: It's always different. You never know when you're gonna have an experience like I did last night ...
"There's a lot of moments like that, with doing this for a living, where you sort of have to rise to the occasion. That's part of what makes it exciting, too," Hull adds. "We all make mistakes. I mean, we're human."
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