Pictured: Artist Ketch Secor. Photo courtesy of Rolling Stone.
By Mary Katherine Saye
A typical morning for our visiting Artist-in-Residence, Ketch Secor— better known as the front man for Old Crow Medicine Show— is one with which students and community members will be very familiar: waking up to rain, the sight of deer, and the infamous, rather off-putting fog. Yet, Mr. Secor is not a stranger to Sewanee’s unique setting.
Since 1996, he has visited the Domain frequently and has fond memories of hiking at Fiery Gizzard and casually smoking a cigarette or two at Jump Off Road. He shares that Sewanee’s unique environment has given him a “place of solitude,” in which he has been able to write his songs and stories.
As an active Artist-in-Residence, Secor has led songwriting workshops for English and music students. Though never attended college, he finds himself right at home with Sewanee students who have a passion for making music. He claims his biggest inspiration has been the students and music faculty. Secor emphasized the importance of “listening critically” to all music forms, and shares he has learned a great deal about classical music from Professors Stephen Miller and Jason Rosenberg.
Secor encourages aspiring musicians at Sewanee to listen to as much music as possible. He believes that the most important listening one can do is in their twenties, and encourages Sewanee musicians to continue their education in Nashville.
As previously mentioned, Secor serves as the front man for Old Crow Medicine Show, which has produced songs such as “Wagon Wheel” and “Flicker and Shine.” Secor’s love for Tennessee has influenced his songs and the way he communicates his passion for music. Though having only spoken through the phone, I could hear the excitement in his voice when he mentioned the William Ralston Listening Library on campus and the importance of having such a space as a musician. It was very clear that he never misses an opportunity to be inspired by the environment or opportunities around him.
The idea behind inviting a guest artist is that students will learn new skills and receive a fresh artistic perspective. While this is certainly true from Secor’s visit, it seems that he has welcomed his stay in Sewanee as a time to learn new things himself. Rather than solely focusing on what he taught, Secor also discussed what he has learned, hopefully easing the minds of developing artists at Sewanee who need the reassurance that inspiration is never lacking to open minds.