• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Guitarist, songwriter lets his music speak for him

WILL PADGETT has been playing guitar since third grade. No matter where life may take him in the coming years, he'll keep playing music. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

Writing songs and telling stories with his music have grown into a life's passion for Will Padgett. As he matures as a guitarist, this 24-year-old musician has learned to release his emotions and his feelings in the music. "What I like to do with a song, is, I like to paint a picture or tell a story ... with words or without words...," he says. The Woodford County High School grad recently recorded his first CD, "Mason Jar Blues." The name was inspired by his great-grandmother who'd given some Ball mason jars - made of blue glass - to his mom, Lisa Padgett, a teacher at Southside Elementary School. "I just thought that was ... a cool name (for my CD)," says Will Padgett, "...because it kind of has an older feel to it." By including "Blues" in the title of his debut CD, he also signaled a widening of his musical stylings. "I love Bluegrass and folk music. That's what I primarily play, but with my CD I've tried to broaden my musical horizon a little bit," he says. "I've actually tried to make each song (on the CD) a different style. So I have Bluegrass songs and did some folk songs, but I also have a jazz song that I wrote - a composition I arranged..." During this yearlong instrumental recording project, Padgett also included traditional music and acoustic "'70s-sounding" rock. "It's all (me on) guitar," says the Versailles songwriter and musician, "except for two tracks, which have mandolin. And one track has upright bass on it." He played those string instruments, too. Padgett, who plays Bluegrass, folk and country with Cherry River String Band, says he loved being creative in a studio environment. He describes being able to play both lead and rhythm guitar on a song as an interesting experience. "All the songs are originals that I've written ... Everything here (on this recording) is me," he says. The CD project began during his senior year at Morehead State University's Kentucky Center for Traditional Music, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in traditional music studies in December 2016. His recording professor was instrumental in helping Padgett turn a college project into a professionally produced CD of his music. He describes writing original songs for his CD as a process that began with "just me, and my guitar." His tune "Battle of Company B" tells the story - based on military records - of an ancestor who fought with the Kentucky mounted cavalry in the American Civil War. With no words, Padgett describes the traditional-sounding song as "something they might've listened to back then." He wouldn't add lyrics to that song and others he has written "because I like them as they are." He wants people listening to his songs without words to envision a story in their mind's eye. So while Padgett does write some songs with lyrics, he knows with other tunes, "no words are needed. I just kind of let the melody speak to the listener." Volunteering to play his guitar on "Family Night" at Daisy Hill Senior Living Community allowed Padgett to create music for people who "enjoy what you're doing." And talking to a Daisy Hill resident, who no longer plays guitar because of arthritis, reminded this young musician: "Every day's a gift. And you just have to take it day by day, and enjoy the little things." A Food Pantry for Woodford County benefit concert in October of 2014 gave Padgett and fiddle player/singer Samantha Cunningham an opportunity to open for country music legend and Woodford County native John Conlee. "That was actually the first big show I've ever played at," says Padgett. Was he nervous? "A little bit, but it was real fun. That was a fun show because ... all the funds from that show went to benefit the new food pantry," by paying construction costs for its new home. Padgett grew up and went to school with Miles Miller, now a drummer with Sturgill Simpson's band, who he describes as "a super-talented guy." He and Miller often got together for jam sessions when they returned home to Versailles during a break in college. "He'd bring his guitar. I'd bring my guitar. And we'd just pick and sing for a couple hours," remembers Padgett, who earned an associate's degree from the Kentucky School for Bluegrass and Traditional Music at Hazard Community and Technical College before continuing his musical education at Morehead State University. Padgett, who started playing guitar in third grade, describes music as "an escape for me." Writing a song offers a similar release. "Whatever stuff you're going through," he says, "it's a good way to express yourself." He credits his parents, Lisa and Rocky, for being "the biggest factor in my musical upbringing because they kind of gave me all of this stuff to listen to." Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, James Taylor, Jim Croce and other "amazing singers and players helped mold me into how I would play," he says. Yet he also knows, "There's always something new to learn. There's always something you can improve upon." That's why Padgett practices playing music every day. For him, it's an ongoing journey of self-exploration through his music. Besides writing songs and playing with Cherry River String Band, Padgett often plays as a duo with Cunningham and other musicians. Many of them became his closest friends because they shared his love for music. Padgett says he'll keep playing no matter where life takes him. "My goal is to just continue to play music because that's what I enjoy, he says. "... I have a lot of people I enjoy playing (music) with, and for me that's the biggest thing is just being able to play and enjoy the music."

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