What Lies Within Those Snaky Woods
by Shelby C. Berry
“For me, playing bluegrass is about being a part of something bigger than yourself,” said Steven Sauls, a member of bluegrass family band Snaky Woods. “Whether you are in a small jam or a huge group, you feel like a community. And you feel that whether you are with two people or 500. It’s just very welcoming.”
This sentiment is felt by every member of Snaky Woods, a bluegrass band named after a favorite childhood cartoon, Mr. Spider’s Sunny Patch Friends.
Reigning from the small town of Hahira in southern Georgia, Snaky Woods is the creative outlet of the Sauls family – with Steven on bass, rhythm guitar, and vocals; Nathan on guitar, dobro, and banjo; Kaiah on banjo and vocals; Kayte on lead vocals; Jadyn on guitar; David on guitar and mandolin; and, lastly, Aly Grace on fiddle, mandolin, and vocals.
Blending southern gospel and traditional mountain bluegrass, Snaky Woods rounds out their signature family-band sound with harmonies from triplets Kaiah, Kayte, and Jadyn.
Musical instruments entered the Sauls household back in 2013 when the eldest sibling Steven picked up a guitar. Nathan later began playing the guitar in 2015 before the family added other instruments. Two years later, Snaky Woods was officially a band.
“Back in 2013, I was really into rock and roll music, and I wanted to be on stage playing loud music,” said Steven. “I got a guitar and decided that I liked playing bluegrass music better. I saw some bluegrass bands locally and loved it.”
The Sauls kids hit the stage together for the first time at church with their aunt. Her band played music before their church service, and they were open to having others join and play along.
“Nathan and I learned to play music by ear because of that. Then we were able to jam more places and got our foot into bluegrass music,” said Steven.
As they made their way into the bluegrass music scene, Snaky Woods found themselves hugely influenced by local bluegrass band Lost Dogs Found and older musicians from jams at White Springs, Florida that they frequented regularly.
“We are also influenced by well-known artists like Tony Rice, Ricky Skaggs, Sideline, Blue Highway, Jerry Douglas, Alison Krauss and Union Station, Special Consensus, and a lot more,” said Steven.
The Blue Highway influence sprung to life when Nathan received the Houston Caldwell
Scholarship and he attended the dobro camp to learn under Blue Highway’s Rob Ickes.
“The ministry aspect of our music is really what made us pursue music,” said Steven. “We want to spread the gospel and be a light to others. We had seen this happen and wanted to be a part of that.”
“Music is so powerful and can be an excellent ministry tool,” said Laurie, the mother and manager of the Snaky Woods kids.
As they grew in the quality of their talent and instrument collection, Snaky Woods is finally preparing to record their first album, a project they have been planning for a while. Looking to record their debut project in a local Georgia recording studio, the band hopes to release the album within the next year.
While COVID-19 forced a lot of people into their homes for an extended period, Snaky Woods enjoyed the opportunity to spend extra time together and practice. Then, the unexpected happened.
While the kids were stuck at home, Laurie saw a Facebook post by the Buggay family of The Band Jubilee about an online music festival showcase by the young musician group, Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars.
The next thing they know, The Band Jubilee invited Snaky Woods to be members of the prestigious young musician group and to perform at the festival.
“I would tell any young bluegrass musician to definitely apply to be a part of TBS!” said Steven. “TBS isn’t there for you to just contribute. It’s there to foster upcoming talent. You sign up into a family, not just an organization.”
“We just appreciate the community that Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars has; and community is a huge part of the music for us,” said Steven. “I’ve talked with John Colburn and Larry Smith a lot, and we know a lot of the members personally. The online festival put us out there!”
Steven went on to become an officer with Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars in 2020 and helps to manage the website, working closely with TBS President Larry Smith.
Snaky Woods continues their blossoming career, but their goal is to exist as a ministry.
“We should hope that as we mature that we keep spreading the gospel and bring a light to people’s lives,” said Steven.