The Transylvania Times
Apr 20, 2022 By Ann Sharpsteen
You could say Woody Platt is the proverbial “hometown boy who made good.”
Today, a world-renowned Grammy award-winning bluegrass musician, he grew up in downtown Brevard across the street from Silvermont where he heard his first licks of bluegrass music at the neighborhood square dance. Now, as member of the acclaimed Steep Canyon Rangers, he shares his music with fans across the country and is proud of his role in founding the Mountain Song Festival, which has raised $1 million for The Cindy Platt Boys & Girls Club of Transylvania County. He recently took time to reminisce about his career and growing up in Brevard before heading back out on the road on tour.
Was there one single moment when you finally realized, “I’ve made it!” in music?
Platt: We’ve had lots of little moments along the way. When we got our first record deal, that was a pretty great feeling. We felt like, “man, we’ve made it.” Then we got accepted by the International Bluegrass Music Association and we won “Emerging Artist of the Year” in 2006. And that felt like “Aw, we’ve made it!” And then, we won the Grammy in 2012. And, we definitely felt like we’d made it.
How did you celebrate that Grammy win?
Platt: We went to all the Grammy after-parties. We were all in L.A. and had all the wives and the band, and it was a wonderful evening.
Is there one stage in the world that you haven’t played on that you want to?
Platt: I can’t think of one that we haven’t played. We’ve played all the late night shows, Carnegie Hall, the Ryman, Grand Ole Opry. We’ve played the White House. I don’t feel like there’s an unchecked box.
How old were you when you showed talent for music?
Platt: Assuming that I ever did, I was probably 21.
Do have a “most memorable moment” in your career so far?
Platt: One of the great things is being able to share the stage with a lot of our musical heroes like Jerry Douglas, Bela Fleck, Sam Bush. We’ve shared a stage with Paul Simon. We’ve shared a stage with James Taylor. We’ve shared a stage with Steve Martin (a lot). Those are always great moments.
Are there any songs or projects you’re not proud of and wish, “Geez, I wish I hadn’t done that”?
Platt: Yeah, (laughing) most of the really early stuff. I think I sound like a 12 year old. They did well, though. Some of them were top of the bluegrass charts. It’s hard for me to listen to, though. But, it’s a snapshot in time.
Did you have a family nickname growing up?
Platt: Woody is my nickname. My older brother Parker was fascinated with woodchucks when he was 5 years old. My parents asked him what he wanted to name his little brother and he said, “Woodchuck.” So, eventually, that evolved into Woody and stuck like glue. Other nicknames: Chunker and Doodle Bug. I love nicknames. If you are around me for too long you could end up with one.
Did your family encourage you to be an architect?
Platt: My family just let me be me. I never showed interest in joining the family business.
What’s been the most challenging time of your life?
Platt: When my mom died. She was incredible.
Tell me about being a dad?
Platt: Being a dad is absolutely incredible. My son Rivers is 6 and a half years old. He’s just brought such a new pace of life and a joy. Everybody always told me that being a father was going to be the greatest thing you’ll ever do, but until you hold that little baby in your arms you don’t realize it. But it is. I really enjoy watching him pick up on some of things I love, like learning to fly fish.
Has he shown an inclination toward music?
Platt: Yeah, he’s taking violin. And he likes to play on a mandolin. He likes to play a drum kit. I walked downstairs the other day and he was trying to play the banjo. He definitely seems interested in music.
Is there anything you’re secretly hoping to receive for Father’s Day?
Platt: A great Father’s Day for me would be taking my family out on the trout streams.
How old were you when you started to play music?
Platt: I played violin as a young child, and then piano. Then in middle school I played the trumpet and the baritone. I was also in the Brevard Boys Choir, and I sang in the Methodist church choir. Those were my early attempts at singing. And then no music all through high school, but then in college I started getting into guitar.
Tell me about a favorite memory in your life?
Platt: I’ll never forget the incredible feeling of playing music with friends for the first time when I was in Chapel Hill at UNC. Those same friends became the Steep Canyon Rangers.
When did you write your first song?
Platt: I do write, but I don’t really consider myself a songwriter. My wife is a great songwriter. I kind of consider myself an editor, though, because I’ve worked with her on songs and I’ve worked in a creative songwriting process a lot in the case of the Steep Canyon Rangers. But over the years we’ve probably only recorded two or three of the songs that I’ve written.
What do you think your wife would say is your best quality?
Platt: Shannon says I’m a good dad to Rivers.
What would your family say is your most annoying habit?
Platt: I’m quite impatient. (laughing) My family calls me “Mr. Gotta Go.”
Do you have any pets?
Platt: Dolly and June are our dogs. Sinatra is our kitty cat. Shannon likes to name our animals after her favorite singers.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
Platt: It may come as a surprise that I love - I mean absolutely love - reggae music.
Do you cook?
Platt: I do enjoying cooking. Grilling is probably my best cooking skill. I like to cook on cedar planks.
What is the one place you can go to no matter what, and always feel relaxed?
Platt: The river bank.
Have you ever been really bad at something?
Platt: Yes - golf and spelling.
What’s your favorite indulgence?
Platt: Good bourbon.
What’s the worst advice you’ve ever gotten?
Platt: Just jump.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Platt: Talking too much and too loud on the trout stream.
Have you ever considered moving from Brevard?
Platt: Never. Never once. Nope.
Does Mountain Song Festival have special meaning for you?
Platt: Oh, it has a ton of special meaning to me. It’s the most important gig of the year. My mom called me 17 years ago, and said, “You should start a music festival at Brevard Music Center and raise money for the Boys and Girls Club.” So, I called John Felty and we made it happen. It’s a great weekend for Brevard to get together as a community and celebrate music, and celebrate young people, and celebrate fundraising for the Boy & Girls Club. And it’s a homecoming for the Rangers. So, yeah, Mountain Song’s not just another gig. It’s the gig.
What do you miss most about your mom?
Platt: Oh gosh, she was just incredible. I guess what I feel I’m missing the most is her being a grandmother to my son. He would have loved her.
When you see her again someday, what will be your first words to her?
Platt: “Did we do okay? How’d we do?”