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Skaggs gearing up for Jonesborough

Country music legend Ricky Skaggs has been playing music for the last 53 years, but he has never been more excited about it than right now.
“I feel like I am making great music again,” Skaggs said during a phone interview with the Herald & Tribune on June 14. “I’m more excited than I have ever been. My life is so busy right now.”
Skaggs will bring his busy life, and likely some of his new music, to Jonesborough on Saturday, June 30, when he takes the stage with his band Kentucky Thunder to perform at the Jonesborough Days and Nights Festival.
“We’re really excited about coming up,” Skaggs said. “It’s going to be a great day. The whole weekend is going to be great.”
Skaggs, who makes his home just outside of Nashville, will perform behind the Washington County courthouse in downtown Jonesborough for a crowd no larger than 3,500 people.
“The intimacy of 3,500 is a whole lot better than 10,000,” Skaggs said. “I like the simplicity. The music really fits a smaller crowd.”
Skaggs, a 30-year member of the Grand Ole Opry, is known for popular songs, including “Honey (Open that Door)” and “Uncle Pen.” He can play various instruments, including the banjo, guitar and fiddle, but is best known for his masterful skill on the mandolin.
Skaggs’ career is heavily rooted in bluegrass music, but has taken him through several musical genres along the way. In the late 1970s, his focus moved to the more mainstream country music genre.
He made a name for himself in the country world by infusing his bluegrass and traditional country roots into the contemporary Nashville sound.
He has since returned to his bluegrass ways, working with Kentucky Thunder to lead a roots revival in music.
The 14-time Grammy Award winner visited Jonesborough for the first time in March to take part in a fundraiser for the Jonesborough Area Ministerial Association Food Pantry.
He returned on June 9 to photograph Tennessee’s oldest town and the surrounding area as part of a planned photo exhibit that will be on display during the festival.
“I got some really great shots of the whole area, not just downtown stuff,” Skaggs said.
From mountain scenes and riverbanks along the Nolichuckey River to old log structures and brick buildings, Skaggs found plenty of fodder around town to feed his photography hobby.
Skaggs started taking pictures at age 18 when he was given a 35-millimeter camera. Of late, he has turned to a relatively new style of photography known as High Dynamic Range photography.
“It’s almost like what heaven is going to look like. You see in a realm that our eyes have never seen before,” Skaggs said of the photography style that involves taking multiple shots at different exposures to get a more contrasted image. “I think the town was great for that, especially all the colors.”
While he has thoroughly enjoyed his time in Jonesborough throughout the last several months, don’t expect to see Skaggs moving in next door – at least, not any time soon.
“When I was up there (earlier this month), I thought, ‘I could live here.’ These mountains are so beautiful and the valleys are so pretty,” he said. “But unless I changed my vocation, which I will never do, I can’t see it happening. It would be great to have a summer home there, but that ship hasn’t sailed yet.”
Learning of the Town of Jonesborough’s quest to come up with a logo that helps draw tourists, Skaggs chimed in on what he believes are the best assets to the area.
“Certainly the mountains, certainly the history, the river – and the people,” Skaggs said. “It’s just a friendly place to be. I just love being around country folks, mountain folks.”
He also appreciates the change of pace Jonesborough has to offer.
“There’s just a lot of peace up there. I don’t sense the hustle and bustle,” he said. “It’s in first gear whereas Nashville is in fifth gear.”
Skaggs will drop it down a few gears and return to Jonesborough on Friday, June 29. He’ll spend the entire festival weekend in town, stopping by his photo exhibit frequently to answer questions from visitors and taking the stage on Saturday, June 30. On Sunday, July 1, gospel group The Whites – which includes Skaggs’ wife Sharon White – will perform a free concert in Jonesborough.