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Leaving Home with a Fiddle

From Austin, Texas, to Eugene to Bear Valley, Calif., Phoebe Hunt is on her way to camp. Not some Salute Your Shorts summer getaway, but The Big Sur Fiddle Camp. Hunt is going to rule that camp, as she’s been playing the fiddle for over 22 years, starting with a Suzuki violin, and hearing her soulful Southern voice, you would think the singer-songwriter would have been singing for decades too.

“I always wanted to be a singer but I didn’t start singing until I was 20 years old,” Hunt tells EW. Hunt says it was all about confidence. “At first, I pushed it way too hard. I didn’t realize my voice was an instrument. The power of the voice as an instrument is really beautiful.” 

Hunt came up through the Austin music community, which she describes as “folky,” playing with bands like The Hudsons and the Belleville Outfit. “There’s not a huge bluegrass and fiddle music scene in Austin,” she says. So she headed East to find one, ending up at North Carolina’s MerleFest (named in honor of Doc Watson’s son, Eddy Merle Watson, not country musician Merle Haggard).

 “It opened my eyes to a whole different world of music,” she says, especially Appalachian fiddle tunes. She eventually settled in Nashville, where lived until returning to Austin this January. Hunt now mixes a more traditional bluegrass style with roots, jazz, big-band swing and hints of Ray Charles and Townes Van Zandt. Her self-titled 2012 EP, however, ranges from snappy on the honky-tonk “Sugar” to the more subdued, with songs like “Leaving Home” layering her earthy, sultry vocals over melancholic piano and violin. 

She points out that the violin is the instrument that most closely resembles the human voice, and Hunt can make both howl, jump and weep.

Phoebe Hunt plays with pianist Connor Forsyth 7:30 pm Wednesday, April 10, at 755 River Rd., Eugene; $10-$15 door (cash only).  Contact Mike Meyer at mmeyer@efn.org for details.