From Car Seat to Bluegrass: William Lawson
By Shelby Campbell Berry
Child stars are known for their long histories in bluegrass music. Artists like Rhonda Vincent, Ricky Skaggs, and Alison Krauss were all turning heads with their singing and picking before they could drive a car. Bluegrass music has enjoyed countless young musicians working their way to the top, like William Lawson, who was a baby the first time he heard a bluegrass song.
“We were on a road trip,” said William. “I was fussy, and my parents tried every radio station they could. The only one that settled me down was the bluegrass station. When we drove out of service for that station, my dad stopped at a truck stop and bought a bluegrass cd to finish our trip. I still have that cd, and it is very special to me. Fast forward to years later when I was four years old, I was listening to that very same cd. I asked my dad what instrument was playing because I wanted to play it. He told me that it was a mandolin, and I’ve been hooked ever since!”
At age 12, William plays the mandolin like a professional and was recently chosen as the winner of the Mandolin Scholarship Competition at the Monroe Mandolin Camp. As part of the Camp, William also played at the Station Inn in Nashville, Tennessee with Ricky Skaggs.
“It really was so awesome! And it is one of my most memorable moments playing music,” said William.
He was not born into a bluegrass family with decades of musicians, but his parents, Brad and Denea Lawson, who don’t play music, produced a family of musicians with big dreams.
William’s bluegrass influences include Bobby Osborne, Doc & Merle Watson, Jesse McReynolds and Eddie Adcock. (He does, however, occasionally jam to the music of The Grateful Dead!) For his tenth birthday, William played with one of his heroes, Bobby Osborne, at the Osborne Brothers Festival in Hyden, Kentucky.
“I really treasure the friendship I’ve created with Bobby since playing with him. It’s so special to be friends with your hero,” said William. Although he looks up to his heroes, William takes pride in creating a personal sound. “My sound is different from other artists my age because many kids try to play like someone else,” said William. “I don’t do that. I like to learn from them and study their music, but I always try to be myself.”
Mom Denea says William would love to play in a band, but there aren’t many other kids in bluegrass in their hometown. So, when Larry Smith approached William about joining Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars (TBS), it was a blessing.
“I decided to join TBS when Mr. Larry asked because it gave me a way to be a part of a community of other musicians. The TBS group has been so supportive of my accomplishments, and I look forward to continuing to interact and encouraging other TBS musicians,” said William. Jamming with his peers as a part of TBS allows William to learn new licks, make friends, and get fresh ideas.
“We travel the country to give our kids the opportunity to play with other kids as often as possible,” said Denea.
“Everyone in bluegrass is always so nice and willing to help each other out,” said William. “It’s like a big family.”
In today’s uncertainty, we love to share good news like William recording his first album this year. He dreams of one day playing the Grand Ole Opry and we have no doubt the iconic circle will welcome him with open arms.