Danbury, North Carolina, population: 183, functions as the county seat of Stokes County and maintains the feel of an old-time mountain town, nestled within the heart of the Sauratown Mountain Region. Danbury does not contain a single national or regional franchise – only local shops and small locally-owned restaurants, and the Dan river weaves through the hilly terrain completing the beautiful landscape that served as the backdrop for Mason Via as he grew up – as well as the backbone of his musical origins.
Being from neighboring Rockingham County, I have had the pleasure of knowing many of the great Stokes County musicians and I can honestly say that Via has truly carved out a reputation for himself amongst some of the best in the area, which is fully demonstrated in the inaugural episode of the new web series 24 Frames that profiled Via and premiered on YouTube on February 1, 2020. It is truly unmistakable that Via is a product of his raising. The land of his upbringing has undoubtedly molded his personal narrative and solidified in him the music that he creates.
“Growing up, in what I broadly term as ‘Appalachia’, has filled my ears through the years with traditional music from the region,” Via says. “The lyrics and melodies of old-time, bluegrass, folk, blues, and other mountain music styles sit deep within my heart. If you take notice of the poetry and lyricism of common traditional folk songs or the titles of standard traditional fiddle tunes, it is clear and evident that the natural surrounding environment has also had a huge impact on musicians throughout the years. Nature is a corresponding theme throughout this roots music.”
At the age of ten, Via was given his very first guitar and learned his first chord shapes. Over the next couple of years, he would pick up the bass and the mandolin, but would eventually return back to the guitar upon the realization that the instrument served as a great tool to explore a more intimate creative outlet: songwriting. Via wrote his very first song at the age of twelve which instilled in him a passion that would eventually lead him away from the familiarity of his hometown and to the big city of Nashville, Tennessee.
Born into bluegrass music, Via has never been one to shy away from the stage. He started performing in children’s theatre at the age of eight and played his first music gig at the age of eleven, backing up his father on bass at a country club in Greensboro, North Carolina. His very first solo music gig came at the age of thirteen when he performed at the Stokes Stomp Festival in his hometown of Danbury. He first competed in the guitar category at the Galax Fiddlers Convention at age fourteen.
After many years of performing bluegrass, as well as other types of music, Via has decided to deeply explore his knack for songwriting – which has ultimately propelled him to move to Nashville. The 24 Frames episode, created by James Bernabe, features Via discussing and performing two of his original compositions, “Poverty Line”, which he wrote with Grammy-award winner, Charles Humphrey III, and “Bound for Victory”, a song of encouragement and motivation. The episode also features appearances from some of Via’s teachers and collaborators including Humphrey, Lakota John Locklear, Ralph McGee, Rex McGee, Casey Noel, and Mark Shimmick who all offer insight and adoration for Via and his musical journey.
Via is currently working on two musical projects – one with Beehive Records out of Johnson City, Tennessee, produced by Jamie Garskof Constantopoulos. The other project is a record produced by Charles Humphrey III and Charlie Chamberlain, currently being recorded at the Forty-One Fifteen Studio in East Nashville. Via also maintains an extensive performing schedule with his band Hot Trail Mix and is set to perform at the upcoming Floydfest Festival in Floyd, Virginia, where he was the On-the-Rise Runner up last year.
You can check out the premiere episode of 24 Frames featuring Mason Via below.
Photo by Olivia Jewell Photography