Listen to the new podcast, Gateway to the Smokies, hosted by our very own Joseph McElroy! In this episode, Joseph interviews someone else our guests will quickly recognize. Former Simple Minds band member – and Meadowlark Motel artist in residence – Mike Ogletree talks about finding traces of both his Scottish and African music heritage in the Smoky Mountains.

As a self-taught musician, Mike was influenced early on by the Cajun style band The Meters as well as traditional Scottish music and popular rock. In the podcast, he discusses his journey (both physically and musically) from Scotland to the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and how he continues to explore the Scottish roots of Appalachian music here.

When early Scotch-Irish immigrants came to the North Carolina Smokies, they brought their musical traditions with them, which consisted mostly of folk musical instruments like fiddles and rudimentary guitars. With the added influence of West Africans and the Cherokee, a new subgenre developed in Appalachia…and bluegrass was born.

Mike has created a pretty incredible music program at the Meadowlark that celebrates the Scots-Irish influence. You can find him every Saturday night hosting exciting live performances, even during this pandemic. Guests and locals alike join in on socially distanced concerts, where walk-in musicians drop by to share their mountain music, and Mike answers back with some Scottish songs in return.

There aren’t a lot of venue options for musicians to perform these days, and the Meadowlark has been a great outdoor spot for both those who love to play and their audience who wants to hear them. And now that the weather is beginning to warm up a bit, an outdoor concert is the perfect solution to shake off the winter blues and step into spring.

Listen to the podcast to learn more about the influence of Scots-Irish music in the Smokies, and if you’re around Maggie Valley on a Saturday night, stop by the Meadowlark to join Mike and other local musicians for some to-tapping fun. You can also find Mike on our Facebook page with livestream performances from the Meadowlark. Or check out his website, theblaxcotsman.com, which is a nod to his black and Scottish culture.