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Darren Nicholson is a bluegrass and Americana musician based in Haywood County, in the mountains of western North Carolina. A Grammy nominee and a recipient of multiple International Bluegrass Music Association Awards, Darren has appeared countless times on WSM's Grand Ole Opry, at the Ryman Auditorium, CMT, GAC, and many of the world's most famous venues and networks. Currently, he records and tours as a full-time, founding member of Balsam Range, with all sorts of collaborative efforts each year. Darren is also renowned as a solo artist, session musician, and songwriter.

Darren Nicholson is a man on a mission — and if you think, based on his membership in award-winning bluegrass quintet Balsam Range, that you know what it is, his new EP is going to come as a mighty big surprise.

The aptly titled Man On A Mission — now available for pre-order, add and saveahead of its November 26 release — shows the singer, songwriter and mandolin player in a brand new light, and the revelation comes less than a minute into the searing opener, “Love Is War,” when the sounds of old-time mountain banjo and fiddle give way to a flourish of drums and a muscular country-rock rendition of a lover’s plea to “call a truce — I can’t take it anymore.” From there, with expectations readjusted, the concise, six-song set offers a portrait of Nicholson as a musician as comfortable behind an electric mandolin as a vintage acoustic version, writing songs tailor-made for country-flavored Americana settings.

Working mostly with fellow Western North Carolinians, from songwriting partners like Charles Humphrey III (Songs From The Road Band) to the A-team session players and producer/keyboardist Jeff Collins, Nicholson boldly fulfills his redefinitional mission, serving up a variety of rootsy material — from the lonesome country ballad, “All Night Long” through the tongue-in-cheek boogie-woogie of “Them Hateful Woman Blues” to the gritty R&B of the closing title track (complete with wailing harmonies from local soul singer Leeda Lyric Jones) — without a moment’s hesitation or a single false note. To be sure, there are echoes of predecessors and heroes like Marty Stuart and Darrell Scott, but in the end, this is music that reflects a lifelong musician’s deepest creativity.

“This album is a journey into the human condition, with relationships and feelings turned into an Appalachian Americana roots tapestry,” says Nicholson, who uses a songwriter’s vivid imagery to convey the album’s breadth. “It’s a Saturday night raucous party with dancing, electric guitars and fiddles twangin’ feeding your energy. It’s rockabilly attitude, and it’s tongue-in-cheek. It’s the heartbreak of things not working out and having to return home to regroup. It’s triumph, hope, and positivity set to mountain soul. It’s breaking deals with yourself, and it’s also learning from your mistakes and looking for the bright spot. It’s a lonely Sunday morning, saying goodbye to an old friend. Saying hello to new ones! It’s up, it’s down. It’s a wide mix of music and emotion with the common thread of truth and honesty. It’s from the heart.

“I write about life and the human condition,” he concludes. “I write about things I’ve lived, and I just try to perform them as best I can.”

  • Entertainer of the Year - 2014, 2018 (Balsam Range)

  • Vocal Group of the Year - 2014, 2015 (Balsam Range)

  • Album of the Year - 2013, 2017 (Balsam Range)

  • Song of the Year - 2011, 2015 (Balsam Range)

  • Album of the Year - 2006 (Alecia Nugent)

  • Balsam Range's latest album Aeonic debuted at #1 on the Billboard Bluegrass chart

  • Played on 37 #1 songs

  • Awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine in 2015 as a member of Balsam Range

  • Grammy Nomination (2006)

  • Performed multiple times on the Grand Ole Opry

  • Performed on countless national TV events: GAC, CMT, ESPN, Charlie Chase Show, Nashville Now, Song of the Mountains, & more

  • Performed on dozens of national #1 songs and albums

  • Given “keys to the city” in Canton, NC where Balsam Range was honored with an official declaration of “Balsam Range Day” in their home county for positive contributions to our community.

  • Voted Best Old-Time/Bluegrass Band of 2012 in Asheville’s Mountain Xpress (with Balsam Range)

  • Performed for entire living cast of The Andy Griffith Show at Grand Ole Opry 2004

  • Inducted into the NC Folklife Institute in 2008

  • First band to ever perform at the NASCAR Hall of Fame (with Balsam Range)

  • Toured as part of the Zac Brown Band’s Southern Ground Music Tour

  • Toured with Merle Haggard

IBMA AWARDS

ACHIEVEMENTS

DISCOGRAPHY

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  • 2002 Gibson F5-G

  • 2018 Duff A5 

  • 2009 Metcalfe F5

  • 2010 Doug Clark A5

  • 2016 Sorenson “Big Dog” Octave Mandolin 

  • 2010 Jbovier Electric Mandolin 

  • 1995 D-35 Martin

  • 1995 Fender Telecaster (American)

  • Fender Princeton Amplifiers

  • GHS Strings 

  • Blue Chip Picks

  • Strains of Music (Waynesville NC)

Special thanks to Jeff Smith for Darren's photos.

ENDORSEMENTS

INSTRUMENTS & GEAR