If you're in the market for a banjo-playing hypnotist, Andy Eversole is your man. Have banjo, will travel is his mantra, pursuing an avocation that has taken him to China, India and Mexico — so far.
Hypnotism is his day job. “Yeah, you don't see a lot of banjo players that are hypnotists,” Eversole said last week from Cancún where he was visiting his Brazilian girlfriend. “A lot of people don't want their hypnotist playing a banjo on the side, I guess. Sounds a little scary to me, too. But I do hypnotherapy. I help people quit smoking, lose weight and all kinds of good things to make their life better, hopefully.”
The Greensboro native started his musical career listening to Earl Scruggs and Bela Fleck, getting his first banjo at the age of 16. The Grateful Dead also helped steer him towards bluegrass.
“I got a banjo for Christmas, started taking lessons and started playing shows about three years after that, when I learned how to make some decent sounds. Been doing that ever since. 1998 was my first concert.”
You could call some of Eversole's output Appalachian rock. A banjo lead on songs in his band Banjo Earth's setlist such as the Rolling Stones' “ Paint It Black,” the Beatles' “Hard Day's Night,” Stevie Wonder's “Boogie on Reggae Woman,” and Bob Marley's “Soul Rebel.” But the majority of his output is truly world music. It makes for a pretty eclectic soundscape, an instrument of African origin translating Chinese, Indian and Brazilian folk music influences with an Appalachian accent.
“I actually went to China in 2001 when I was in college for a study abroad semester at Guilford College,” Eversole says. “And that kind of opened my eyes to all the different folk music around the world.”
About five years ago, he started Banjo Earth, a project that has him visiting different countries, then traveling around in the country in search of local traditional musicians. “Then we collaborate, make an album, and I shoot a documentary film in each country. China was my first one I did in 2015, then I went to India a couple of years ago, then I just went to Brazil this past year.”
Eversole often takes a simplistic approach when he rummages around in these countries, frequently approaching buskers on the street and saying, 'Hey, what are you doing?'”
“That's kind of how it started, it's a multitude of ways,” the banjoist/hypnotist says. “I do that thing, where I just kind of go around with my banjo finding people, and then I approach venues and network with them and ask what bands and musicians play there and try to get in touch that way. I also have had contacts in almost every country I've been to that kind of get me in touch with people. Then I use the internet. I use Instagram. I even search music in a certain city with hashtags. Then I find artists on there and send them a message. Some are willing to collaborate, some aren't, so I just go with the yeses and go from there.”
Currently, the Banjo Earth band is Eversole on banjo and guitar, Sanders Davis on bass, Tim Wray on drums and Sandy Blocker on percussion.
“If we can, we add another musician like Julian Sizemore from the Mantras, an amazing keyboard player who plays with us a lot, he's playing with us this Dec. 5 show,” Eversole says.
The show at the Carolina Theatre is a concession to the pandemic, which has instituted its own rules on society. The venue is only selling 25 tickets in a venue that can hold about 1,100 people in normal times. The theater cautions that the event is not a public performance, so there will not be any walk-up sales. And even though it's a general admission show with 700 available seats in the downstairs area, the venue asks ticketed guests to leave two empty rows and at least three empty seats between parties. The event will be videotaped for a later broadcast as well.
Eversole says the show will be a mixed bag from the Banjo Earth catalog. “Mainly a lot of our Brazilian music from the new album, 'Banjo Earth Brazil' that just came out in October. We do several songs from that all mixed in. What we usually do is Indian stuff. Some 'Boogie on Reggae Woman,' a little bluegrass, just try our best to entertain the folks.”
It's a family affair. The opener is Pecos Bill, a duo made up of Eversole's brother, fiddler Jesse Ryan Eversole partnered with mandolinist Mark Schimick from the Songs From the Road band. Schmick is a veteran of Larry Keel's band as well.
Thanks to COVID19, Eversole's globe-trotting proclivities have been sharply curtailed. The Mexico trip was a rare venture to the outside world.
“I'm only traveling to Mexico right now to see my girlfriend really, because she's Brazilian, and it's the only place we can meet,” Eversole says. “She can't come to America, and I can't get into any countries right now that I'm aware of other than Mexico and Costa Rica.”
Although he says he and his girlfriend tried to seek out some local music while in Mexico, Eversole hasn't done any official Banjo Earth travels this year.
“I don't know how that's gonna turn out," he says. "I'm going to have to see how the world opens up. I think I'm going to stick mainly to North Carolina next year, and do a Banjo Earth North Carolina type.”
Contact Grant Britt at email@example.com.