Sandy Lee Cherryholmes says her family isn't like a lot of conventional families in America.
"Most people would think quitting a good job, selling your house and living with your family in a bus for nearly eight years is not a normal thing to do," she said during a phone interview from somewhere in the South.
"And it's even more abnormal to be travelling across the country with three of your children playing gigs for anyone who wants to hear you and not having a 'home' to return to in the night."
However, that is what the family's namesake band, Cherryholmes, has been doing since 2000. But to get the musical family's whole story, we need to go back to 1999, said Sandy Lee, who, along with husband Jere (pronounced Jerry), are the parents of the Cherryholmes family.
"We had just lost a daughter," Sandy Lee said. "She had a lot of disabilities, and she passed away. During that difficult time, Jere and I knew we had to do something to help our other children deal with the loss."
The surviving Cherryholmes children Cia Leigh, B.J., Skip and Molly Kate accompanied their parents to a bluegrass concert later that year.
"The power of music impacted us so much that Jere and I decided we would teach our children how to play bluegrass music," said Sandy Lee, who is affectionately known as Mom Cherryholmes.
So, Mom and Pop Cherryholmes took the time to teach their kids how to play musical instruments. Cia Leigh attached herself to the guitar, B.J. and Molly Kate took to the fiddle, and Skip learned the mandolin.
Mom's mandolin and banjo and Pop's upright bass rounded out the band.
A few months later, with the prodding and support of mentor Allen Mills, who is also the bassist/founder of bluegrass band Lost and Found, the Cherryholmes left the security of jobs and a home to become nomadic minstrels.
"He (Mills) told us we were ready," Sandy Lee said. "And after much deliberation, Jere took out retirement and we sold our house and bought a
bus. We camped at campgrounds and took showers at truck stops and played for anyone who would listen to us."
The band signed to Skaggs Family Records, run by country legend Ricky Skaggs. In 2005, Cherryholmes' self-titled, full-length debut hit the market, and the band was named International Bluegrass Music Association's Entertainers of the Year, and earned a Grammy nomination.
The band's follow-up, "Cherryholmes II: Black and White," was released a little more than a year ago and was nominated for a Grammy.
Still, with the nominations come the pressures, Sandy Lee said. "After we released the album, we were told to start writing songs for the new album. We really thought we had run out of ideas for the time being but started working on arrangements and such."
In January, the band entered the studio. Presently, Cherryholmes is looking to release the album in the fall.
"We feel we came up with the best songs we have ever done," Sandy Lee said. "We feel really good how it turned out."
In addition to looking forward to the new release, the band decided it was time to settle in an honest-to-goodness house."We had land in Arizona and decided it was time to build a house," Sandy Lee said. "We had been living in a bus all these years and it was time."
If you go
What: Founders Title Folk and Bluegrass Festival
Where: Snowbird Resort
When: Today through Sunday (see accompanying schedule)
How much: $60 for three-day festival pass; $20 for Friday; $35 Saturday; $35 Sunday
Phone: 801-933-2200Web: www.foundersfestival.org
E-mail: [email protected]