By Brad Hicks
Troy Boone enjoys spending time at home with his family, but his circumstances have recently changed.
Life on the road now awaits Boone, and the 22-year-old Unicoi County native couldn’t be more excited.
The bluegrass band Sideline recently announced that it has hired Boone to be its new mandolin player. For Boone, the group’s decision to bring him onboard is the achievement of a goal he has maintained since childhood.
“It’s a dream come true, honestly,” Boone said. “I’ve always wanted to perform music, and growing up into anything from rock to country to blues to heavy metal, and it kind of just all came back to bluegrass. I just had the most fun playing bluegrass, and it’s who I was and I finally decided to stop running from it and just tackle it and, evidently, it paid off to do that.”
Boone has been playing music since the age of 7 when he received a banjo. He admits he didn’t take to the instrument as quickly as he would have liked, but Boone received a guitar the following year. His interest in music was piqued, and that interest has only strengthened over the years.
While a student there, Boone helped establish the Bluegrass program at Unicoi County High School. He said jamming with classmates further sparked his interest.
“I’ve been around bluegrass most of my life and, once I got out of high school, I realized that I wanted to play bluegrass or do something in that genre as a career,” Boone said.
Upon his graduation from UCHS, Boone began attending East Tennessee State University to seek a Bachelor of Arts in Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music. The ETSU senior has also been performing with the university’s Bluegrass Pride Band.
Being in the right place at the right time helped Boone land his new job. Sideline performed at the Down Home in Johnson City this past fall and, during that performance, made a live announcement that the band would be looking for a new mandolin player. Boone, who was in attendance that evening, said he “jumped” at the chance to express his interest in filling the spot.
Boone contacted Sideline banjo player Steve Dilling via Facebook to see if the band would grant him an audition. This audition was arranged, and Boone received the opportunity to pick with Sideline at a festival held in North Carolina. An impressed Dilling subsequently contacted Boone to ask if he would pick with the band during a benefit show held in Pigeon Forge in early December.
Boone aced his second audition.
“Steve said he would let me know the next day if I had gotten it or if they had gone with someone else,” Boone said. “About 10 minutes later he gave me a phone call and told me to come back to his room. I walked in and he said that they decided that they would just go ahead and get me if I wanted the job. I was very, very ecstatic and excited and just really couldn’t believe it at first, to be honest. It was cool how it happened.”
Boone’s first gig with Sideline is rapidly approaching, as he is set to perform with the band in Columbia, S.C., on Jan. 6. And there will be plenty of travel for Boone throughout 2017, as Sideline has more than 85 dates scheduled this year both in the states and internationally. This year, the band is set to perform in Canada, California, Nevada, Arizona, Massachusetts, and a host of other locales.
“It’s definitely going to be different being on the road, I think, but I feel like I’m going to enjoy it,” Boone said. “It’s going to be a good experience. All the guys in the band are very easy to get along with so far, and I think it’s just going to turn into an awesome time.”
There are also a couple of local dates on the horizon for Sideline. The band is set to perform at the Capitol Theatre in Greeneville on Feb. 4 and the Down Home on March 4.
Bone said he will be unable to attend the Boone Family Reunion Bluegrass Festival, organized by members of his family and set to be held in late May, as he will be on the road with Sideline. His father, David Boone, said joining a professional bluegrass band is something Troy has been preparing for his entire life.
“My advice to him was opportunity, when it knocks sometimes, it has to be grasped at that time, and that’s what he’s doing,” David said. “We’re just ecstatic. All the reactions we’ve gotten on Facebook from our friends and family here in Unicoi County have just been immeasurable. Everybody’s rooting for him, wanting him to do well, and we’re just extremely pleased.”
Troy said he has already spoken with Daniel Boner, director of ETSU’s Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music Studies program. Boone said Boner and his peers have offered their encouragement in his new job.
“It’s unfortunate that I have to leave the Pride Band, but they’re all very happy for me and I’m tickled to death that I get to try this new experience and be a part of a touring band,” Troy said. “It’s going to be different, but I think it’s going to be fun.”
Troy said he intends to take online courses and classes at the university as his schedule permits to continue the pursuit of his degree.
And Troy said he has plenty of homework to do before he joins his Sideline bandmates on stage as he will continue to learn the group’s setlist and hone his style.
“The preparation work is my focus right now, and that won’t even stop this year, probably,” Troy said. “I’ll still be preparing. Every show will be a preparation for the next show until I get comfortable with being in this awesome position.”
David Boone commended UCHS Drama teacher Lori Ann Wright for her continued work with the high school’s Bluegrass Program. Boone represents another success story for the 4-year-old program. Recently, it was announced that UCHS senior Jacob Shelton had been chosen as the newest member of the Darrell Webb Band.
“She’s got a pretty good record,” David Boone said of Wright. “She’s doing a pretty good job up there with that. It’s a good thing. She’s got something going.”
For more information on Sideline and to view the band’s 2017 schedule, visit the band’s website at sidelinebg.com.