The young acoustic string band, The Wildmans come from the hills of Floyd, Virginia, in the heart of the Appalachian mountain music tradition. From campsite jamming at festivals and fiddler's conventions and classical music education comes the foundation for musical exploration that sets this group apart, taking the audience on a musical journey that reflects the growth and passion of these talented young musicians. Featuring siblings Eli and Aila Wildman, winners of the 2018 Galax Old Fiddler's 1st in Mandolin and 1st in Old Time Fiddle and Best All Around Performer awards respectively, along with award winning (1st in Galax 2015&16) young clawhammer banjo player Victor Furtado, the group is backed up by mom Deb Wildman on bass. Highly skilled instrumentals and soulful vocals applied to traditional tunes with a smattering of old time, bluegrass, blues, and jazz combine to create a fresh new sound - old tunes fueled by young spirit. Their set combines fiddle tunes, ballads and folk songs of the Appalachian tradition with twentieth century classics, as well as original instrumental compositions by band members Eli and Victor. The group has appeared on stages large and small, performing in festivals such as Red Wing Roots, Chantilly Farm's Bluegrass and BBQ festival, RoosterWalk, Floyd Fest, and The Steep Canyon Rangers’ Mountain Song Festival. They also regularly represent young talent along the Crooked Road in regional fiddler’s conventions. Having shared the stage with talents such as Danny Knicely, Sammy Shelor, Sierra Hull, Billy Strings, Darol Anger and Joe K. Walsh, these young musicians are making their way in the American stringband scene. The Wildmans have gained attention and support from Virginia’s Blue Ridge Music Festival, who is providing scholarships for some of the top music camps in the country. Eli and Aila are also participating in an apprenticeship with Master Artist Nate Leath that is sponsored by The Virginia Folklife Program and is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Cites a wide range of influences – from Debussy to Neil Young, D’angelo to Lou Reed, their unique sound blends folk, soul, bluegrass, blues, and classical. On stage, the energy between Ross and Ruiz-Lopez is fiery, intimate and intuitive. Since forming in March 2016, Violet Bell has played over 230 shows, earning fans from FL to VT with long stretches on the road.
Live performance is the heart of Violet Bell’s work in the studio. On their 2017 debut Dream the Wheel Ross sings and plays guitar, as Ruiz-Lopez adds violin, viola, cello, keys, guitar and vocal harmonies. The result is alchemical; emotionally evocative music that at times “sounds like a beautiful dream turned sudden nightmare.” (IndyWeekly). The album’s title track, “Dream the Wheel,” speaks to a fearlessly inclusive view of life’s cyclical polarities. “Sing, sing, everything/ Comes and goes and comes again/ Let it out and let it in/ Let it be your medicine.” The album cover, a medicine wheel that Ruiz-Lopez and Ross crafted from local NC flora, speaks to the origins of the music. Violet Bell is rooted in the natural world and the community from which they’ve grown. Violet Bell’s outreach efforts include teaching workshops to to community and youth orchestras in NC and beyond, and collaborating with youth and community musicians whenever possible. The September 15, 2017 release show for Dream the Wheel featured three students of the Durham nonprofit Kidznotes All-Star string ensemble, whom Ruiz-Lopez has helped to teach since 2011. Violet Bell is currently recording their full-length debut, Honey in my Heart, with percussionist Austin McCall (Kaira Ba) and co-producer Jason Richmond. Honey in my Heart is shaping up to be a colorful expansion of Violet Bell's widening palette of rhythm, melody and emotion. Prior to forming Violet Bell, Ruiz-Lopez toured with Jonathan Byrd, Crystal Bright, Steph Stewart, and Chocolate Suede, and composed several original pieces for the Durham Symphony Orchestra. Ross has been a two-time Kerrville New Folk finalist and won Floydfest’s On the Rise contest, a Carolina Music Award, and an Emerging Artist Grant from the Durham Arts Council.