Boone & Foster: Remembering Aaron Frosty Foster
by Emerald Butler
It is with much sadness that we in the bluegrass world lost another precious soul, Aaron “Frosty” Foster.
We loved you as much as you loved us and bluegrass music. You are so missed and we want you to know that no matter what, when, where or why, you gave your all to the bluegrass community …every time we needed you. We honor you. We love you. You are dearly missed. Keith Barnacastle, Publisher
The last interview with Aaron “Frosty” Foster:
A note from the managing editor:
When editing features for The Bluegrass Standard, long quotes from an artist’s interview are often transposed and transformed into descriptive, informative sentences with added research and writer notes. This piece is the exception. We wanted Aaron to tell his story, in his own words, without interruption. Aaron Foster …RIP…
Boone and Foster met at ETSU in 2013. Troy Boone had missed the auditions for the ETSU Pride band because he wrote down the wrong date. Dan Boner, however, hooked Troy up with another band at ETSU called Spruce Pine. It was the second day of classes when Aaron was walking down the hall and saw Troy dressed up in what Aaron called a “skater boy outfit”.
“I didn’t know who he was at the time,” Aaron said, laughing, “but now you can’t wash the country off him.”
At the time, Troy was playing more punk rock music, but wanting to stay near his hometown, he discovered the bluegrass program at ETSU and fell in love with it.
“I just completely fell in love with the whole camaraderie that bluegrass has,” Troy said. “Frosty was the first person at ETSU that I even spoke to, and we probably hit up a Taco Bell after that.”
“Meeting with that group of pickers and being submerged at ETSU really made a difference because I don’t think without that I could progress at all,” Troy said.
“I showed up to ETSU and knew most of my chords, not all of my minor chords, and I had what I thought was a pretty sweet break to Nine Pound Hammer,” Aaron began. “That’s about all I had. Then you kind of dig deep and get inspired by some of the students. It gives you that moment of ‘I’m either quitting it and never touching it again, or I’m going to give it my all just to keep up with these guys. Thankfully, I think with both of us we both took the route of ‘I want to be able to jam with these guys and have something to say; not just jam with these guys and just pick to be there but actually contribute to the sound. We wanted to catch up to that level and I feel like we’re always chasing the next level,” said Aaron.
“That’s the important part I guess. I spent seven and a half years at ETSU. I wasn’t ready to leave, honestly. I changed my major a bunch of times to try to figure out how to stay. I finally got my career to a point where I felt like it was ok to not depend on gigs with the pride band. Then I finished it up, graduated, and got the degree. I had the band Dreamcatcher that I started with Troy and toured several seasons with Troy. Then he got the job with Sideline, and I took it over. Then I got the job offer from Amanda (Cook). It was too good of a situation for me not to consider at the highest level. That’s why I ultimately decided to go on the road with the band and we could still do Boone and Foster which was the whole beginning of Dreamcatcher. We could do that as a side project. We played a lot at the old Smoky Moonshine Distillery.”
It was the perfect setup.
“The thing about Dreamcatcher was basically that it was me and whoever I could get signed up for a festival season. It turned out to be more of a full-time year job once I graduated and had a couple of years to book it throughout all the months. When Troy was in the band, we wanted to tour over the summertime, so I booked a heavy schedule over the summer and we were done by the time August rolled around and we were back in school and didn’t play much.”
Aaron explained that Boone and Foster is not really a band. “We are a group of guys that all admire what each other do. That is Troy on Mandolin, myself on guitar, Brady Wallen on the banjo, Daniel Greeson on the Fiddle, and Aaron Ramsey playing bass. For us, it is a side project that is quickly turning into a good recording band like the Mashville Brigade. We kind of like to have the freedom to play anything we want and also learn Amanda’s stuff and support her the best we can.”
While Boone and Foster weren’t touring with Amanda Cook or Sideline, they had a pretty good hometown gig at the Smoky Mountain Moonshine Distillery in Gatlinburg, TN.
“We have a lot of people that come to the distillery,” Aaron said. “It’s been a stable job for touring musicians to do during the week and they can tour on the weekends. We are a lot of the tourists first ever experience with Bluegrass and everyone wants to hear Rocky Top because of the area and the song was written in the Gatlinburg Inn. We decided to do this, but we figured that we were going to do this in a way that pays honor to the original artist. So, we don’t stray very far away from the traditional side of things, but we also play like we do. We aren’t trying to play like the Osborne Brothers. We play like us, but we use those tunes and do not get crazy with the arrangements. We wouldn’t be playing music if it wasn’t for those songs. We released “County Fool” which is a tribute to Alan Bibey’s cut with Del McCoury singing it. If we are going to be people’s first introduction to bluegrass, we want them to hear bluegrass,” Aaron continued. “We don’t play many slow songs out there. We like the hard-driving bluegrass. I feel for me at that gig it’s our responsibility to define people’s definition of what Bluegrass is. Bluegrass is all so different. It goes from old time all the way to Yonder Mountain String Band. It encompasses a lot. To me, the bass sound is that era where it’s like Stanley Brothers and Flatt & Scruggs. It’s just one of those deals where if we are going to be responsible for defining what bluegrass is, I’m not going to play ‘Gin and Juice.’ I’m not going to play a popular top 40 country song. We should. Some of these people who walk by might hook onto it, but we’ve been pretty successful being true to what we want to do. To me, that is more than just something that we want to do. I feel like it is a responsibility as a young person in this music to prove that we know our roots and where the music came from. Then if we step a little bit outside of the box and do something different, we find that people are more open to the idea as long as we respect the tradition of this music.”
A NOTE FROM THE WRITER: I have to be honest and confess that it has been a challenge to write this. I didn’t personally know Aaron, but he was nothing but kind and fun-loving during our conversations before and after this interview. We talked the Tuesday evening before the news of his passing, and I’m sure like for many, the news was a shock. As I have listened through the recording of our conversation, what stood out to me the most about Aaron was his passion for the preservation and tradition of Bluegrass music, and the way he uplifted his friends and bandmates. He had so much praise for so many people that I unfortunately was unable to completely capture in this piece. At the end of our conversation, he did want to publicly thank Amanda Cook for all of the support she has given to Boone and Foster as a recording team and as individual friends. Aaron shared a lot of excitement for the music that they created and recorded with Amanda. He also shared a lot of gratitude for his position at ETSU and the friends and colleagues he made there. I feel as though my words cannot do justice to the legacy that this man has left, but I hope that it might help contribute in some way. My thoughts and prayers are with Aaron’s family, friends, and bandmates.