Chris Padgett and Melissa McGinley knew they wanted to play music together after graduating from Indiana University in 2005. They just didn’t know where or how they were going to do it. Ending up in Western North Carolina, an area supportive of their blend of bluegrass, folk, jazz and old country music, was a stroke of luck. “We were done with school,” Padgett explains. “We knew we wanted to make music in some form and we needed a place to go. We were wondering what to do, and then we got a deal on a house that needed housesitting and upkeep in exchange for room and board. We couldn’t refuse the deal, and that’s what brought us. We couldn’t be happier.”
After performing for a year under the name Quick Six, making fans with their musical depth, wit, and some serious multi-tasking ability, they decided to…change the name of the band to The Stereofidelics. “It was too ambiguous,” says Padgett of the old name. “We knew we weren’t going to be happy with it, and we’re soon going to start doing more out-of-state touring. So why not make a fresh start?” Looking through their LP collection, the duo noticed that the old albums had “Stereo in High Fidelity” written on them, and from that they got the name Stereofidelics. “It’s the music that makes it, not the name, anyway,” Padgett reminds us.
Padgett took piano lessons at age three, but was drawn to the guitar while growing up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. “Guitar was the first instrument that I had a deep, fundamental connection with,” he says. “It became more an extension of my personality.” He started playing electric guitar at 8, learning Metallica and Led Zeppelin tunes, and was influenced by such players as Frank Zappa, Django Reinhardt, Al DiMeola, and Paco DeLucia. “I only started playing bluegrass near the end of college,” he says. “Melissa has a much more extensive background in that.”
“I grew up in rural West Virginia, where you can’t escape bluegrass,” McGinley says. She started playing violin at age 4. “I wanted to start when I was 3 but my parents thought it was just a childish whim. I kept after them about wanting a violin and they finally said, ‘Okay, fine.'”
McGinley took lessons all the way through college. “Most all my lessons have been classical,” she says. “I also studied some jazz and improv with David Baker. In college I got a chance to work a lot with Kenny Baker, who was Bill Monroe’s violin player. I was always encouraged to play non-classical music by my parents.”
Her senior year at Indiana, McGinley was offered lessons on any instrument she wished. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I want to play drums,'” she recalls. McGinley now incorporates the drum kit into The Stereofidelics set. “I learned how to play real relaxed,” she reports, “and it’s helped my violin playing to become real solid.”
McGinley shares vocal duties with Padgett in the Stereofidelics, and sports a relaxed attitude about that as well as a soulful country sound. “I never considered myself a singer, so it’s always worked out well for me,” she says. “I sang since I was little, and I grew up hearing vocal harmonies.”
McGinley even sports a fiberglass violin bow, which she will sometimes smack across her crash cymbal or snare for emphasis. “A little unorthodox,” she says, “but fun.”