14-year-old Bluegrass phenom Wyatt Ellis releases “Happy Valley” a bluegrass instrumental featuring critically-acclaimed mandolinist Dominick Leslie and an all-star bluegrass band. The tune, co-written by Ellis and Leslie is the third and title track from Ellis’ debut album of the same name set to be released February 2, 2024 on Ellis’ Knee-High Records label.
Leslie, a virtuosic mandolinist for Molly Tuttle’s grammy and multi-IBMA award winning band Golden Highway, is also featured on the track. Like Wyatt, Dom began playing mandolin and falling in love with bluegrass as a child.
During the shutdown, Dominick and Wyatt began online mandolin lessons. Eager to improve under the watchful eye of his favorite musicians who were also stuck at home, Wyatt began playing mandolin several hours a day and connecting with his heroes online. “Happy Valley" was written during one of their online lessons in 2021 when Wyatt was only twelve years old.
When asked about Wyatt Ellis, Dominick Leslie, mandolinist for Molly Tuttle states, “Every once in a while, you come across a musician who just has it. Wyatt is clearly one of them. The way music can’t help but leap out of his fingers suggests a depth far beyond his years, almost like he’s been here before. I’m so proud of Wyatt and what he’s accomplished in such a short time. If his debut release is any indicator, Wyatt has a very bright future ahead and it’s a privilege to be along for the ride! Writing the tune “Happy Valley” with Wyatt was such a fun snapshot in time. We wrote it together over the course of several online lessons in 2021. Those sessions ended up being more like hangs with a peer rather than lessons. It was a true collaboration, with Wyatt leading the charge creatively and providing much inspiration."
“Happy Valley” was produced by award-winning multi-instrumentalist and fellow East Tennessean, Justin Moses. Wyatt befriended multi-instrumentalist Rory Hoffman around the time Happy Valley was being recorded. He attended a Nashville Symphony event where Rory was featured for his whistling. When Wyatt heard the beauty Rory could create with his whistle the idea to add an intro to Happy Valley was born. “The session for ‘Happy Valley’ was so much fun for me. We were all excited to be making music together in real life after almost two years of only online collaborations," Wyatt recalls. “Dominick is one the greatest mandolinists of our era, so to write a tune with him and record it together was priceless.”
Holding his own with the best of them, Ellis was joined in the studio by a stellar list of who’s who of bluegrass musicians. In addition to the mandolin, guitar parts covered by Ellis, Leslie, and Moses, is legendary Nashville bassist Mike Bub. The instrumental tune showcases Wyatt’s .
“Happy Valley,” was named as a nod to the legacy of a holler near his home in East Tennessee and the recording studio where the project was recorded. The Tractor Shed— coincidentally located on Happy Valley Road—is a state-of the art studio housed in a converted tractor shed on the former farm of Hee-Haw icon Grandpa Jones. When discussing the history of the studio with project engineer Sean Sullivan and studio owner Mark Howard, the album title track quickly chose itself. Ellis says, “I already had a tune named Happy Valley before I even knew the studio address. It was one of those meant to happen moments, and once I heard of the history there, that was it.
Songwriter, Publisher, PRO
Wyatt Ellis / Wyatt Ellis Music / BMI
Dominick Leslie / Dom Tunes / BMI
Written by Wyatt Ellis and Dominick Leslie
Produced by Justin Moses
Sound Engineer Sean Sullivan
Studio: The Tractor Shed
Happy Valley Road Goodlettesville, TN, Recorded 8/12/2022
Record Label Knee-High Records Release Date 11/10/2023