Wyatt Ellis, composer

Hometown: Maryville, Tennessee

Meet Wyatt

Wyatt performs on Show 448.

Wyatt Ellis (mandolin/composer), 14, lives in Maryville, Tennessee and started planing mandolin at the age of 10. His connection to the bluegrass music community began in the darkest, most isolated days of the pandemic. When access to regional musicians at local jams and lessons vanished, he turned to online lessons from professional musicians who were also stuck at home. During the first year of the quarantine, Wyatt’s fascination with the eight-stringed instrument grew exponentially. He went from playing mandolin a few hours a week to playing mandolin a few hours a day. By the second year, Wyatt was writing and co-writing tunes that, while respecting the traditions of mountain music, began to evoke a sense of excitement and discovery in everyone around him.

In the fall of 2020, Wyatt was chosen by his hero Sierra Hull, herself a former mandolin prodigy, for a Tennessee Folklife apprenticeship. In October 2022, Wyatt performed alongside former Bluegrass Boy Peter Rowan and Grammy winner Molly Tuttle at Rowan’s induction into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame. Wyatt was invited by his ultimate mandolin hero, Marty Stuart, to help kick off the Grand-Reopening of the Ellis Theater in Philadelphia, Mississippi. In February 2023, at 13 years old, he made his Grand Ole Opry debut appearance with bluegrass duo Dailey & Vincent. Moments after his debut appearance he was jamming backstage with acoustic icons Vince Gill and Mark O’Connor. In March 2023, Wyatt joined the genre’s newest superstar, Billy Strings, to honor Doc Watson at his 100th birthday celebration. The now fourteen-year-old was recently invited to play the iconic Merlefest event Mandolin Mania with five of his mandolin heroes.

As a young musician just starting out on his musical journey, Wyatt has found that the bluegrass community is full of supporters, kind words, and encouragement. He has accrued more than 100,000 followers on combined social media before ever releasing a single.

Happy Valley is a collection of twelve original instrumentals written when Wyatt was twelve-years-old. The album, named for a quaint holler near his home in East Tennessee, showcases Wyatt playing alongside his mandolin heroes, backed by an all-star bluegrass band. Produced by Justin Moses, the project was serendipitously recorded on Happy Valley Road, a homestead once owned by Grand Ole Opry member Grandpa Jones and his wife Ramona outside of Nashville, in an out-building turned state-of-the-art studio now known as The Tractor Shed. Although purely coincidental, the picturesque title reflects not only a love of Tennessee’s natural beauty but also the rich musical legacy of the musicians who were here before him. Rooted in tradition but adventurous in spirit, Happy Valley illustrates Wyatt’s reverence for the genre’s pioneers, as well as a respect for its trailblazers.

Listen to Wyatt

Show 448
The Winds of Rowan County by Wyatt Ellis (b. 2009) and Whites Creek by Wyatt Ellis (b. 2009) (3:08) with Victor Wooten, bass, and Peter Dugan, piano