Nathan Stuart was born in Asheville, but he has lived in Mitchell County all of his musical life. Nathan first remembers hearing bluegrass music on a trip with his grandparents when he was ten years old. “My grandparents took me to see Bill Monroe,” Nathan says. “From then on I wanted to play, so I sold my four-wheeler for a mandolin.” And Nathan has been playing since he was eleven years old, starting with mandolin and moving to guitar, bass, clawhammer banjo, and then fiddle.
Nathan started taking mandolin lessons from local musician, Rhonda Gouge, when he was eleven, and he also played a lot with local fiddler Red Wilson, a North Carolina Folk Heritage Award recipient. “Red Wilson was the first man to put me on stage,” remembers Nathan, who mentions Red as one of his top four musical influences along with Bill Monroe, Jim and Jesse McReynolds, and Rhonda Gouge. “I was playing mandolin then, but I watched other people playing their instruments, and I picked them up by watching and listening.”
When Nathan was about fifteen years old, he got to know Bill Monroe, and he even played on stage with him a few times. Monroe took Nathan on trips with the band. “He was real good to me,” says Nathan. “I would ride on the bus with him and got to know him real well.” Nathan likes to remember those trips, and he keeps a scrapbook of pictures from his adventures with Monroe as well as a video of them playing together on stage. When asked why he likes bluegrass music, Nathan says, “I just love the music and the people who play the music, the mountain style. Bluegrass people are just good people.”
Nathan has played with a number of local musicians in different bands he has put together over the years. He now has a young child and a day job running a dairy farm and has less time to perform. He is interested in performing, however, and he continues to play gigs with Rhonda Gouge. The two are both multi-instrumentalists, so they can hire a guitar and bass player and perform with a variety of combinations. “Me and her can swap out instruments and do a good show,” says Nathan. With the help of Dolly Parton’s sister, Stella, Nathan and Rhonda have also completed a recording together with the two of them playing every instrument.
Nathan is available for limited performances with Rhonda Gouge.