Joni Deutsch Published

Pickin' & Grinnin' with Morgantown's Apple Pappy


From West Virginia Public Broadcasting and A Change of Tune, this is 30 Days of #WVmusic, the interview series celebrating the folks who make the West Virginia music scene wild and wonderful.  

And today’s interview is with an Appalachian quartet who are creating a new mountain sound for the next generation. This… is Apple Pappy.

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How did the band start playing music?

Emily Tanzey (guitar-vocals), Smith Sarver (guitar-vocals,) Ben Williams (mandolin-vocals,) and Greg Mulley (bass) all became friends while attending WVU in Morgantown and were drawn together by a love for Appalachian music and its tradition in storytelling.


Credit Courtesy of the artist
Apple Pappy

Where does your current band/act name come from?

Ben’s grandfather had apple and peach orchards in Hampshire County, West Virginia. We were also influenced by the phonetic form of “Appalachia.”

How has the band’s sound changed over time (if at all)?              

We learned many standards and old time/bluegrass songs before using our music to tell our own (and the mountain’s) stories.

Where does the band play in and around West Virginia (venues, festivals, etc.)?

We tend to play in Morgantown. We played at Cheatfest (Preston County) and Pink Moon Festival (Monroe County) last year, and lately we’ve performed for more private parties and weddings.


Credit Alex Heimbuch
Apple Pappy

What’s been the highlight of the band’s musical journey thus far?          

Opening for the Larry Keel Experience at 123 Pleasant St. was a real thrill. That group really inspires us.

What’s your best advice to anyone starting to make music?       

Just with any art, imitating the masters is a good place to start. However, finding your own unique voice and using it to tell the stories of your community is when your art becomes alive.

What’s it like making music in West Virginia?

West Virginia is a tight-knit community across the board. Musicians in the state are generally very supportive of each other and help lift each other up. This is an attitude you will not find in many places. It’s rewarding to make music that resonates with old and young people alike, we all have common ground in our Mountain Mama.


Credit Courtesy of the artist
Apple Pappy

Do you feel held back by being in West Virginia? Or does it feel like a musically-supportive place?

It is a much smaller pond than Nashville or even Asheville. This can be discouraging, but ultimately the talent and drive of West Virginians is unrivaled. You can’t expect support from a big record label, but you can expect it from your fellow musicians and listeners.

What, in your opinion, needs to happen in the West Virginia music scene for it to move forward?           

People are waking up to the beauty of our state and the wonderful ways in which we can combine outdoor adventure, craft brewing and live music. These three areas need to recognize their symbiotic relationship and keep our government focused on tourism and attraction rather than capitalism and extraction.

Apply Pappy’s self-titled release is out now. Keep an eye (and ear) on the band’s social media for tour dates and new music. Hear more #WVmusic on A Change of Tune, airing Saturday nights at 10 on West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Connect with A Change of Tune on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. And for more #WVmusic chats, make sure to go to and subscribe to our RSS / podcast feeds.

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