MerleFest Adds Brandy Carlile, Tim O’Brien, Sam Bush Band, Jim Lauderdale to Line-Up

Published Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 2:19 pm

MerleFest, presented by Window World and slated for April 28-May 1, 2016, is proud to announce four more additions to the 2016 lineup: Brandi Carlile,Tim O’Brien, Sam Bush Band and Jim Lauderdale. These artists join over 100 other artists already announced, including John Prine, Old Crow Medicine Show, Dave Rawlings Machine, The Wood Brothers, Alison Brown, Peter Rowan, Doug Seegers, Steep Canyon Rangers and more!


The four-day event, the largest roots and Americana music festival in the nation, takes place on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, in the heart of Appalachia. MerleFest continues the legacy of Doc Watson and is a benefit for the college. This homecoming of roots music artists and fans draws nearly 80,000 participants every year.

Brandi Carlile

MerleFest/Brandy Carlile

Brandi Carlile

She may come from tiny Ravensdale, Washington, but 2015 has shown that singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile is one of the biggest stars of Americana today. Her new album, “The Firewatcher’s Daughter,” was a hit on radio, ranking No. 3 on the Americana Music Association’s Top 10 albums of the year by airplay. The album was a critical hit as well, picking up Carlile’s first Grammy award nomination.

Carlile toured hard in 2015, selling out shows at historic venues like Red Rocks and Radio City Music Hall and performing on one of David Letterman’s last shows with The Avett Brothers. For Letterman, she sang the Carter Family’s “Keep on the Sunny Side,” and in her many interviews she has spoken to the influence that early country music and Patsy Cline had on her. An Americana star that stays true to her roots, this will be Brandi Carlile’s first appearance at MerleFest.

Tim O’Brien

MerleFest/Tim O'Brien

Tim O’Brien

It has been four years since bluegrass and Americana icon Tim O’Brien’s last solo recording. Between collaborations with Darrell Scott, Hot Rize and recent Grammy winners The Earls of Leicester, he has barely had time for a shower. Still, somewhere in O’Brien’s vivid imagination, the seeds of his new album “Pompadour” began to sprout. “Pompadour” swirls together bits of bluegrass, deep-roots Appalachian music, field hollers, old-school rock ‘n’ roll and even James Brownian funk. MerleFest is proud to welcome back longtime MerleFest performer Tim O’Brien.

Sam Bush Band

MerleFest/Sam Bush

Sam Bush

Grammy Award-winning multi-instrumentalist Sam Bush does not seem old enough to be a musical legend. And he is not. But he is. He has been honored by the Americana Music Association and the International Bluegrass Music Association. “It’s overwhelming and humbling,” Bush says of his lifetime achievement award from the AMA. “I love to play and the older I get the more I love it. And I love new things.” Bush has helped to expand the horizons of bluegrass music, fusing it with jazz, rock, blues, funk and other styles. A MerleFest fan favorite, Sam Bush will return to the festival in 2016.

Jim Lauderdale

MerleFest/Jim Lauderdale

Jim Lauderdale

A two-time Grammy Award-winning musician, Jim Lauderdale is one of the most respected artists in the bluegrass, country and Americana music communities. He is considered one of Nashville’s “A” list of songwriters, with songs recorded by artists like Patty Loveless, Shelby Lynne, The Dixie Chicks and George Strait.  Lauderdale has always stayed true to his North Carolina roots and has helped pave the way for the current Americana movement, writing and recording songs that cross genres at will. Jim Lauderdale is a key part of the MerleFest experience.

MerleFest News

As well as additions to the lineup, MerleFest is proud to announce that acclaimed Americana singerNicki Bluhm will join The Waybacks as lead singer for the Hillside Album Hour performance at MerleFest 2016. Each year, roots rockers The Waybacks choose a seminal album to cover in full at the Hillside Album Hour, inviting a special guest to the be the “voice” of the album. Three years of new experiences and nearly non-stop roadwork has had a powerful effect on Nicki Bluhm, spurring creative growth and personal reflection. With her new album, “Loved Wild Lost,” Bluhm affirms her place in the long winding continuum of the California sound, born of folk, rock, country, psychedelia, blues and pop, as ageless, adventurous and ever-adaptive as the Golden State itself.

MerleFest has announced over 100 artists so far, and there are additional performers to be announced in the coming months. The 2016 lineup so far is available online

Tickets may be purchased at or by calling 1-800-343-7857. A three-tiered pricing structure is offered for MerleFest 2016. The Early Bird Tier 1 ticket discount is available through February 15, 2016. An Early Bird Tier 2 ticket discount will run from February 16, 2016, through April 27, 2016. The third price tier will be gate pricing.

 MerleFest was founded in 1988 in memory of the son of the late American music legend Doc Watson, renowned guitarist Eddy Merle Watson. MerleFest is a celebration of “traditional plus” music, a unique mix of music based on the traditional, roots-oriented sounds of the Appalachian region, including bluegrass and old-time music, and expanded to include Americana, country, blues, rock and many other styles. The festival hosts a diverse mix of artists on its 13 stages during the course of the four-day event. The annual event has become the primary fundraiser for the WCC Endowment Corporation, funding scholarships, capital projects and other educational needs.

“We keep Doc Watson’s ‘traditional plus’ spirit alive each year at MerleFest by inviting artists who will showcase a wide variety of music from multiple genres,” said Steve Johnson, MerleFest artist relations manager. “As in years past, the lineup will continue to develop in the coming months. MerleFest fans have grown accustomed to the special ‘moments’ that organizers plan each year. And the possibility for ‘spontaneous special moments’ is highly likely given the combination of artists that are known to pull together onstage jams at MerleFest.”

“As MerleFest fans have learned, we release up-to-the-minute lineup additions and other festival news through our social media platforms; so staying in touch with us via our electronic newsletter, website (, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter is crucial,” Johnson adds.

 “We take pride in always presenting a lineup that is dynamic and diverse,” says Ted Hagaman, festival director. “It’s the quality of the artists and performances that our guests see over the four days of the festival that, in turn, creates another important element of MerleFest’s success: people truly feel that the festival is a great value. So many music fans and families return year after year, making MerleFest a regular spring tradition. We will always work to make that tradition continue.”

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