By ERIC SCHELKOPF
There's not many musicians who can brag that they were invited to perform on the Grand Ole Opry stage at age 11.
Bluegrass musician and mandolin player Sierra Hull can. Hull, www.sierrahull.com, will perform Feb. 15 at the Northeastern Illinois University's Recital Hall, 5500 N. St. Louis Ave., Chicago.
The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $25 for the general public, $15 for seniors and $10 for students, available by calling 773-442-4636.
I had the chance to talk to Hull about her career as well as her latest activities.
Q - It's great to talk to you. I understand that you are working on music for a new album. What should people expect from the new album? Will you be building on your last album?
Thanks, you as well! I am working on a new album. Just getting started, but things are going great.
It will be a bit of a different record for me. More original songs than before and also adding in drums and electric guitar along the way - both of which I haven't had on my records before.
Not necessarily a bluegrass album, but a reflection of me that I haven't yet been able to express musically. It will certainly be roots based nevertheless. I'm excited and I hope people will enjoy what we've been doing.
Q - You released your debut album, "Secrets," at age 16. How do you think your music has grown since then? What was it like releasing your first album when you were still in high school? What did your fellow classmates think?
My music has grown, but naturally, I have grown as a person and I think that's the biggest thing.
Coming into being an adult and now having two records already behind me it feels like I am in more of a place to ask myself who I truly am and what I want to be.
I went to a really great school in Byrdstown , Tenn. - Pickett County High. My teachers and classmates were awesome!
I graduated with only 44 students, so it was a very small school and everyone really got along pretty well. I'm grateful to have been in that environment during that time in my life because everyone was so supportive.
Q - Alison Krauss is a big fan of your music. What was it like getting an invitation from her to perform at the Grand Ole Opry when you were only 11 years old? Do you think you lost out on any of your childhood because of all these opportunities?
I've been one of Alison's biggest fans since I first heard her music at 9 years old. I loved AKUS so much - used to draw pictures of myself playing on stage with them as a kid.
To get an invite to come play with her and the band on the Opry was my biggest dream come true ever! I'll never forget it.
I certainly don't feel as though I lost out on much because of my opportunities with music. If anything, I feel it made my childhood that much richer.
I found something I loved and was passionate about at 8 years old. It has forever changed my life and I'm so blessed as a result.
Q - What drew you to the mandolin in the first place? What advice would you give to budding mandolin players?
My dad bought a mandolin and was learning to play when I was little and I just thought it seemed like fun. My great uncle played mandolin as well, so it was an instrument I was around.
I think budding mandolinists just need to remember to have fun! If the fun is lost as a beginner, you'll never reach the point of being a disciplined musician.
I also find it super important to listen to lots of music and develop a good ear as early on as possible.
Q - Matt Glaser - head of Berklee’s American Roots Music Program - has said that you have no limitations as a musician. What's it like to get a compliment like that? Are you surprised at all that you've accomplished so far?
To get a compliment like that from anyone is always humbling. I certainly don't see myself in that same light.
I am surprised for sure that I've had all the opportunities that I have. As a kid, you don't know any better than to just accept them and be like "woohoo, this is awesome!"
As I get older, I really have a deeper appreciation of my blessings.
Q - What dream projects or collaborations do you have?
I really would LOVE to meet Dolly Parton. She just seems like an awesome person and I'd love to work with her!
I'm also a big big Bonnie Raitt fan - same deal, she just seems like an awesome lady! There really are too many people to name though that I admire and would love to work with!