Steep Canyon Rangers started as a group of friends at UNC with a common interest in music. They never knew they would one day be nominated for three Grammys.
The Asheville-based bluegrass band has won one of those Grammy Awards. The band has a mix of instrumental talents, including a banjoist, mandolinist, guitarist, fiddler, drummer and bassist. The six members, Woody Platt, Graham Sharp, Mike Guggino, Nicky Sanders, Mike Ashworth and Barrett Smith, are all vocalists as well.
Most recently, the band produced three albums in 2020. One of these, “North Carolina Songbook," was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album.
Sharp said the formation of the band happened organically.
“We were basically just trying to figure out how to put a bluegrass band together. We had a few of the different instruments and a little bit of knowledge and a little bit of experience, but not a whole lot," Sharp said. "So it was very much a process of group learning as far as that goes. We never really decided we were going to be a band. We always just kind of were.”
UNC alumna Andrea Hall went to school alongside the Rangers in the mid-to-late '90s and got to know them while they grew as a band.
“My boyfriend at the time and I rented a house together on Isley Street," Hall said. "On one side lived Ben Folds, and on the other lived a student named Graham Sharp. The first time I saw Graham, he was sitting outside on a rickety lawn chair, teaching himself how to play banjo.”
Hall emphasized how genuine the band is and how obvious it was to her from the beginning that it was truly dedicated to its music and audience.
A memory that stuck with Hall was when the Steep Canyon Rangers performed at her friend Tony Peacock’s book release party at the Forest Theatre.