This Thursday I head off for a six-month adventure in the American South. I've been in love with bluegrass music ever since I first joined a band a few years ago (that's us, above.) Now I'm heading to the Appalachian mountains to fulfil my dream of becoming a true bluegrass fiddler – or at worst, a damn good faker.
I was a pretty decent musician in my youth, classically trained at Guildhall School of Music, but I hadn't picked up my violin in 10 years when a couple of my friends – a banjo player and a guitarist – asked me to help fill out their sound. I'd never listened to country music before. I honestly couldn't even have named you a Johnny Cash song. But the moment they introduced me to bluegrass, I was hooked. Violin – sorry, fiddle – had never sounded so thrilling to me before: it was clever, virtuosic, rhythmic swagger combined with soulful keening. I wanted to sound like that too.
I've given it a go, over here in London where I live. But if you want to learn a language properly, there's nothing better than immersion. And I want to get fluent in bluegrass. So on Thursday, I'm flying to Dulles airport, hiring a car, and heading for the hills of Virginia and North Carolina. I'll be sharing my stories here, and gathering more for my next book. So if there's anywhere you think I should go, bands I must hear, events I mustn't miss – please, let me know. I'll need all the help I can get.