Andy Eversole: Have Banjo, will travel
Stop right there. Andy Eversole ’02 has been playing banjo for 25 years. If you do the math, that’s… 25 years of banjo jokes. So chances are he’s heard them all.
Like the one about banjo players spend half their lives tuning and the other half playing out of tune.
Or what do you call a good musician at a banjo contest? A visitor.
“Heard them all,” he says with a strained laugh. “I mean, some of them are funny, but to me they’re funny because they’re so far from the truth.”
These days Andy is getting the last laugh. An accomplished banjo player since he was a freshman at Guilford, Andy juggles his days as a licensed consulting hypnotist and professional banjo player.
He plays in and around Greensboro, but he also takes his act on the road. And by road, we mean China, India, Brazil, Peru and, earlier this year, Mexico.
The backstory: As a student at Guilford, Andy took part in the College’s Study Abroad program, spending a semester in China. “That really opened my eyes to the world and other cultures. I wanted to go back,” he says.
He did in 2016, the first stop on his own Banjo Earth tour. The idea behind Banjo Earth is to bring together local musicians to collaborate with Andy on recordings. An album is created in every country he visits. Five countries later, Banjo Earth is only growing in popularity, as Andy and his crew document different cultures and music. “It’s a lot like Anthony Bourdain,” he says, “but instead of food there’s a banjo.”
The first time he heard a live banjo was when he was 13 and walking down a street in Boone, N.C., when he came across a man in a floppy hat playing. “I’d never heard anything like it in my life,” he says.
When he turned 16, Andy got a banjo for Christmas. He took formal lessons, but mostly learned on his own at Guilford, where he played for the Quakers’ golf team. When he wasn’t on a golf course he was playing weekend festivals like Merlefest in Wilkesboro, N.C., one of the largest annual folk festivals in the South.
“I would just go, camp out, stay the weekend and play around campfires,” he says. “More than anything else that’s how I learned to play.”
Andy says his Philosophy degree helped him learn how to think. “But let’s face it,” he says, “you’re not going to go into a high-ranking position as a professional philosopher so the music really helped me out with bills.”
In recent years, Andy and others have reclaimed the banjo’s rich heritage. It’s lately enjoying an upsurge in pop culture, where it exudes a positive heartland vibe. (Banjo) still isn’t for everyone, but I love playing,” he says.
“And to make something of a living at it? All the better.”