Saddlin' Up With The Farmer and Adele
by Susan Marquez
Grace Adele is part of the duo The Farmer and Adele, a western swing band that, according to Grace, straddles bluegrass music.
“I’ve always loved classic country music,” she says, “but I started going to bluegrass jams and I met a great community of musicians through bluegrass.”
Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Grace moved to Nashville as a songwriter and met Ranger Doug, who plays with both Time Jumpers, a 10-piece swing band, and Riders in the Sky, a four-piece cowboy band. “Ranger plays rhythm guitar, kind of country-jazz, in a way that mimics the mandolin, which of course, is an instrument used frequently in bluegrass music.” Grace and Ranger have written over twenty songs with Farmer Keenan Wade, who is now Grace’s musical partner in The Farmer and Adele.
“I’ve always looked up to the musicians who lived in the 1940s and 50s, such as Homer Haynes and Mother Maybelle Carter. I love country music, jazz, and bluegrass, and what we do is a mix-up of all those genres.”
Grace says she goes back to Ohio to tour and play. While touring in her home state, Grace says she learned that in the 1950s, there were a lot of bluegrass clubs in Columbus, Ohio. ‘Dayton, Ohio was also a hotbed for bluegrass,” she says. “Jerry Douglas, a great dobro guitar player and producer is from that area.” On one tour, The Farmer and Adele discovered a neat little town called Portsmouth, Ohio. “It’s the home of Roy Rogers, which is just perfect for us! We started doing a Christmas show there each year.”
While she did not come from a musical family, Grace’s mom says she started singing when she was young. “While I loved to sing, I grew up as a dancer. For a while, I was on track to audition for the Rockettes.” When she was just out of high school, Grace was a background singer in a band. I picked up the guitar as something to do when I wasn’t singing. About that time, I started to enjoy roots music.” Grace says that Farmer had a stronger musical background. “He plays mandolin really, really well. But for me, there is just something special about the acoustic guitar.”
Grace became serious about music early on and recorded records before she ever moved to Nashville. But it was in Nashville that she became serious about her music.
She loved going to The Station Inn in Nashville, a live music venue in the heart of the city in an area referred to as the Gulch.
“People have been going to The Station for over 40 years to listen to live music,” explains Grace. “It is known for its great bluegrass, roots and Americana music.”
COVID-19 has put a bit of a damper on the touring schedule for The Farmer and Adele. “Most of our dates were canceled this year. We were supposed to be in Germany in December, and that was canceled as well. But overall, we are thankful. We play at The Station once a month, and that has kept our band together, and it’s given us hope. It’s been a great thing to keep up our morale.” Most of the shows are broadcast online. “We have a small, but loyal, audience,” laughs Grace. They were able to do a Christmas show at The Station Inn. “I incorporated my dance background into the show this year, and we did a western swing style of the Nutcracker Suite. That was a lot of fun!”
For a long time, a great friend of Farmer Keenan and Grace talked about putting together a children’s show. “What we do is very family-friendly, and kids seem to really like us,” she explains. Their friend put a video studio in their kitchen and now Saddle Up with The Farmer and Adele is broadcast via YouTube. “We are helping children to learn about music, and about where their food comes from.” Metro Arts Nashville helped sponsor the show, which features the Country Music Garden Pals, eight puppets including characters such as Elvis Parsley, Patsy Vine, Juniper Carter, Johnny Cash Crop, and Tater Swift. “The TV show started as a passion project, but we have had a lot of fun with it,” says Grace.
The Sing-Me-A-Story Organization has also connected with The Farmer and Adele, which is something she is extremely excited about. “The idea is for children who are ill or at risk to write stories, then have artists write a song based on the story. We have been doing that and we love singing in hospitals.”
And while making children’s programming has been fun, Grace is still focused on the serious side of her music.
“I applied for and received a grant to study the Chet Atkins fingerstyle on the guitar,” she says. “One of my favorite musicians is Oscar Peterson, a jazz piano player who continued to take classes well into his 80s. He said that he would never be too old to learn. I have that same philosophy.”