American folk musician Rhiannon Giddens tells stories of life and history with her banjo and strong vocals. Giddens, and her former band, the Carolina Chocolate Drop, won a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album for Genuine Negro Jig in 2011. She is nominated for two Grammys for the 59th Grammy Awards for “Best Roots Album” for Factory Girl and for “Best American Roots Performance” for “Factory Girl.”
Giddens' album Freedom Highway is due out on Feb. 24, 2017. The album will include nine original songs and three covers, per American Songwriter. She also has a recurring acting role as part of the cast of CMT’s “Nashville,” playing a "social worker with the voice of an angel."
Following are five things you didn't know about Rhiannon Giddens:
1. Giddens has a multi-ethnic background
Her background is multi-ethnic. She has a black mother and white father. Her husband is from Ireland. Her husband and two children tour with her as often as they possibly can, per an interview on Sound Check Magazine.
2. Giddens started singing at an early age.
When she was just an infant in a crib, she would stand on the side of the crib and sing. Her mom and dad have been divorced for a long time, according to Our State Magazine, but they remember the same scene without prompting: Rhiannon is 2 or 3, sitting in her tiny rocking chair, making up songs. “She would just sing whatever she was thinking about,” said her dad, David Giddens. “She was always singing or humming,” said her mom, Deborah Jamieson. “She had a wonderful voice really early on.”
3. Giddens studied opera
She studied opera at Oberlin Conservatory before relocating back home in North Carolina to concentrate of folk music. Opera is a great base to have, Giddens said in an interview with Sound Check Magazine, but she was happy to return to her folk music sensibilities. She performs early African-American styles of music, including blues, country Caribbean, and hot string jazz.
4. Giddens brought diversity to the Steve Martin Prize
Giddens was awarded the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass in 2016, becoming the first woman and the first person of color to win the award, per the New York Times. Previously, the award was presented to six white men.
5. Giddens was the only female writer on Bob Dylan’s New Basement Tapes
Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes were a treasure trove of handwritten lyrics written by Dylan in 1967. They were discovered and a team of musicians collaborated to write music for the lyrics. The collaborators were Giddens, Elvis Costello, Taylor goldsmith, Jim James, and Marcus Mumford. The resulting album was Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes.