How was your September? Pretty good? Well it was a pretty damn good one for guitar player and songwriter Molly Tuttle, that’s for sure. It started out with Molly being named the Americana Music Associations Instrumentalist of the Year on September 12th in Nashville. It was only the second time a woman has won the honor since the awards started 17 years ago. Then on September 27th, Molly won the International Bluegrass Music Award for Guitar Player of the Year for the second year straight. In 2017, Tuttle was the first female to win the award ever.
And not that you’re paying attention to such things, but it happens to be that September is also National Alopecia Awareness Month. What is Alopecia? Well now you know why it needs an awareness month. It’s an autoimmune disorder that causes your hair to fall out, though no other significant side effects, and it’s a condition that Molly Tuttle unfortunately suffers from. Earlier this month Tuttle stunned some when she took off her wig during a live video, and then she stunned even more when she proceeded to showcase her world-class guitar-playing talent like she’s been doing for crowds now for over 10 years.
If you’re wondering where bluegrass is headed in 2018, and where it could go in a world where music is constantly being tasked to evolve and engage with younger people, following the career track of folks like Billy Strings, the IBMA’s Emerging Artist of the Year The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys, and California native Molly Tuttle is a good place to start. Where we believed previously that with such incredible talent throughout the history of the subgenre, all the possibilities of bluegrass had been fleshed out, Molly Tuttle is helping to reshape that mindset, and is helping to instill a shot of youth and energy into the music.
The story of Molly Tuttle isn’t just one of a hot shot guitar playing maestro, trained at the Berklee School of Music in Boston like so many of the emerging instrumentalists in bluegrass these days. Being a jaw dropping musician is not enough to make you remarkable in 2018. There’s too many of them—too many kids picking up acoustic instruments at an early age, too many fast fingers first forged in the fire of Guitar Hero video games to simply have instrumentation be the foundation for a sustainable music career aside from side players.
But Molly Tuttle is a multi-tool performer. Along with her proficiency with banjo as well, she’s a well-decorated songwriter, and a gorgeous singer. Earlier in 2018 at Folk Alliance International held in Kansas City, Molly won the award for Song of the Year for her tune “You Didn’t Call My Name.” Along with her trophies from Americana and the IBMAs, this puts Molly Tuttle in rare company for scoring a trifecta of awards from roots music’s three leading grassroots organizations. Molly earned her first national recognition not just as a guitar player, but when she won the prestigious Chris Austin Songwriting Competition at the Merlefest Music Festival in 2012. This was also the year she was awarded multiple scholarships to attend the Berklee College of Music.
In short, Molly Tuttle is an emerging roots music superstar. Raised in the San Francisco Bay area, she started playing guitar at age 8, and started playing on the stage by 11. The daughter of multi-instrumentalist and bluegrass instructor Jack Tuttle, her family formed a band when she was 15 called The Tuttles. Molly is also part of the First Ladies of Bluegrass supergroup with Alison Brown, Missy Raines, Sierra Hull, and Becky Buller. She’s currently signed to Compass Records, and released a 2017 EP called Rise.
But beyond all of the accolades, Molly Tuttle just has an intangible cool factor that makes you want to root for her. She unique and vibrant, and not just technically proficient, but touched with that gift for making compelling music—an attribute often referred to as “soul.” If someone printed up a mess of “Molly Effin’ Tuttle” T-shirts, I’d buy two. And along with artists like Billy Strings, Sierra Hull, Trey Hensley, and Sarah Jarosz, they’re making it essential to stay in tune with what bluegrass has going on today.
Sure Del McCoury and The Earls of Leicester are still out there dazzling audiences and doing their thing. But artists like like Molly Tuttle are keeping things fresh and progressing forward, and most importantly, she is getting recognized for it.