Bill Mize is a homegrown guitar master who is feeling a little bit more a part of the world every day.
He's currently getting royalties from his music being used on television in Japan and Russia and an Irish movie.
"For a while I was getting them from Belgium," says Mize in a call from his home in Pittman Center, near Gatlinburg. "And I get orders from all over. I just got one from Israel. I've gotten two or three orders from India. It's just fascinating to me that people in India are buying my CDs. I never would've thought of that 30 years ago."
A little closer to home, Mize's music has been used in PBS's "The National Parks: America's Best Idea" and he received a Grammy for his work with David Holt on the album "Stellaluna." He has no idea what his music accompanies on overseas TV.
"I hope it's not a commercial for Viagra or something. It's probably a sleep aid!"
Much of Mize's music is relaxing — gentle or subtle might be a better words. Adjectives that appear regularly in reviews of his work are "sublime" and "magic."
"I don't do a lot of pyrotechnics," he says.
That only means that Mize doesn't do a lot of showy playing. Intricacies abound.
"I love subtlty and nuance," says Mize. "Then sometimes I hear notes I'm not even hitting."
Mize is as easygoing as his music.
At the moment, he's "sorting out a royalty thing" in which he has been given credit for writing Stephen Foster's song "Hard Times."
"I just don't want to get in trouble," says Mize.
Mize and his wife and musical partner, Beth Bramhall, split their time between East Tennessee and Montana. He's getting more concerts in the East than out west, so the couple are spending more time in East Tennessee lately.
"Montana is nice, but it's so isolated. When I'm here I feel more connected. In Montana, I have a little studio and I do a lot of writing, but a lot of that writing has to do with homesickness."
Mize says he was, like most kids of his generation, inspired to take up music by Elvis Presley and early rock 'n' roll and rhythm and blues artists. Before gaining fame as an acoustic guitarist, he performed in East Tennessee rock bands, soaking up everything he could.
Mize says he was particularly inspired by Knoxville guitarist Darrell Puett. The two performed together in the SouthStar band in Pigeon Forge for two years.
"I learned more from just watching him across the stage than anyone else I've ever worked with," says Mize. "I watched his timing and his touch on that guitar. And when I made that first CD ("Sugarlands") he helped me with the arrangements and wrote that introduction to 'Making Lemonade.' He's just a great musical mind."
Mize says you can hear his influences clearly on that first album.
"You can pick out Alex DeGrassi, Pierre Bensusan and maybe John Renborn. On the second CD, I just let the inspiration go where the music was going."
On the albums "Coastin' " and "Joyful Noise" Mize let his R&B influences shine, creating albums that sounded like nothing else in acoustic guitar music.
He says his more recent works, including the 2010 album "The Angel's Share," are more Appalachian sounding.
"I'm working on a bunch of new tunes and I feel good about 'em," says Mize.
He'll perform some at his upcoming concert at the Palace Theater.
Mize takes a long time to finish a song. He tries every variation he can think of before he's finished.
"Sometimes I think I (hack) my guitar off," he says. "It finally says, 'Quit doing this same thing over and over! Try this!' I just keep peeling off layers and keeping on it ... I know a lot of songwriters who just write it and it's done. Sometimes I don't think they get to the soul of it."
Mize says he can't write a song that he doesn't have an emotional connection with.
"They really all tell a story for me. They've all very personal."
He's hard at work on a new album, but don't look for it anytime soon.
"It'll be a year or two before it comes out, knowing the way I work!"---
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Palace Theater, 113 W. Broadway, Maryville
Tickets: $13, advance, $15, at the door, available at www.palacetheater.com, 865-983-3330 and Murlin's Music in Maryville.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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