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I grew up at the base of a mountain in Virginia, so my comfort zone is that Appalachian area, where all the dudes wear Carhartt and all the women can put on a beautiful sweater with a snowman applique and nobody raises an eyebrow.
If you go out on the Appalachian Trail, you have to bring so much more equipment - a tent, sleeping bag - but if you go hiking in England, or Europe, generally, towns and villages are near enough together at the end of the day you can always go to a nice little inn and have a hot bath and something to drink.
We don't intend to always keep this necessarily African oriented. Originally I had hoped to have African American Indian of this area, and the Appalachian of this area, but at the same time, just as we have the Haitian room, we will always have room for another exhibit.
Some people want to call me an Appalachian writer, even though I know some people use regional labels to belittle.
J. Edgar Hoover very famously denied the existence of organized crime up until the Appalachian Meeting, I think, in 1957. It was interesting to me that he clearly had to know that there was such a thing as organized crime and organized criminals as far back as the '20s.
I think, being from east Tennessee, you're kinda born with a little lonesome in your soul, in your blood. You know you've got that Appalachian soul.
While writing 'Cold Mountain,' I held maps of two geographies, two worlds, in my mind as I wrote. One was an early map of North Carolina. Overlaying it, though, was an imagined map of the landscape Jack travels in the southern Appalachian folktales. He's much the same Jack who climbs the beanstalk, vulnerable and clever and opportunistic.
I've never set out consciously to write American music. I don't know what that would be unless the obvious Appalachian folk references.
When Merle and I started out we called our music 'traditional plus,' meaning the traditional music of the Appalachian region plus whatever other styles we were in the mood to play.
I've spent hours and hours doing research into Appalachian folk music. My grandfather was a fiddler. There is something very immediate, very simple and emotional, about that music.
Born Virginia Marshall but nicknamed Gig, my mother was a home economics teacher who had come all the way across the whole state of Virginia, from her home on the Eastern Shore to our little Appalachian coal town to marry my daddy, Ernest Smith, whose family had lived in these mountains for generations.
Those old Appalachian singers use a falsetto sometimes. They can change their voices to sound high or low or really scratchy. When you're singing, usually you're trying to express some kind of pain or joy. I think that voice allows me to do a lot more of that.
I've been doing long-distance backpacking since 2002 when I hiked the Appalachian Trail. You start to calm down and relax and get into the slower rhythm of nature.
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