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About the video
The Cleverlys perform "She Ain't There". Recorded at Fan Fest at IBMA 2011 in
Nashville, on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011.
About the artists
To most people, the organ-infused, breathy pop harmonies of The Zombies’
“She’s Not There” are as far from bluegrass standard as Lexington, Ky., is from
To Paul Harris, aka Digger Cleverly, the lead singer of the comedic bluegrass
quintet The Cleverlys, however, the lines between genres are more blurred.
“I noticed that no [bluegrass band] was covering pop or hip-hop songs, so we
went for that,” he said. “It was targeting another family of people who wouldn’t
normally listen to bluegrass music.
“The Beyoncé fan base would never listen to a bluegrass song, but they love
From Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” to Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire,” the Arkansas-
based Cleverlys have injected a little Kentucky fire into some of mainstream
radio’s biggest recent hits.
Harris began playing guitar at age 12 when his family relocated to Chicago from
Arkansas, but he spent much of his early years working as a stand-up comedian
in Branson, Mo.
Harris said he was interested in creating a band as the bluegrass answer to the
heavy-metal spoof group Spinal Tap. After moving to Nashville in 2005, Harris
formed The Cleverlys in 2007, building around the concept of a faux family band
made up of talented yokels from the backwoods of Central Arkansas.
At first, the band placed heavier emphasis on the theatrical elements, with Harris
serving as the family “patriarch.” Early on, Harris said, they would stay in
character from when they left the van to set up to when they packed up and hit
the road again.
“The rehearsals would go into us just being in character and going into Walmart
to buy items and shop,” he said, laughing. “We’d go to clothing stores — go to
Buckle — dressed like we were.”
The need to win over an audience with over-the-top comedy has been de-
emphasized as new members joined and the level of musicianship increased.
The Cleverlys’ unexpected take on bluegrass has landed them gigs at the CMA
Music Festival and showcases at the International Bluegrass Music Association
Awards. On July 15, they will make their debut at the Grand Ole Opry.
By designing the band as a bridge between two distinct audiences, The
Cleverlys’ shows resonate with a broader group than most bands, Harris said.
“It doesn’t matter if you like bluegrass or not, you’ll love our show,” he said. “It
sucks people in immediately.”