Though he’s still a few credits away from college graduation, banjo player Tray Wellington is already turning heads for his deft, broad-ranging creativity as both a player and composer. A founding member of the award-winning Cane Mill Road, Wellington struck out on his own at the beginning of the year—and now his career takes another step forward with the announcement that he has been signed to an exclusive artist recording contract with Mountain Home Music Company.
“I am so happy to be signing with Mountain Home,” Wellington says. “There are so many great artists with this label. And I’m glad to be a part of this great musical family, and to share some of my music with everyone. I have listened to music from Mountain Home for a long time, so to be able to make music with the great group that has helped put out some of my favorite music is so exciting!”
A native of western North Carolina’s Ashe County, Tray’s initial interest in music led him to the guitar, but it didn’t take long until the banjo became his main focus. By the time he finished high school, he was beginning to make appearances with Cane Mill Road, and in short order, he had appeared with the group at high-profile festivals such Grey Fox, Merlefest and Wide Open Bluegrass, while recording several well-received albums.
In 2019, the quartet earned the IBMA’s Momentum Band of the Year trophy, while Tray put an exclamation mark on his time with the group when he earned a Momentum Instrumentalist of the Year award. Early in 2020, while continuing to work toward a degree in East Tennessee State University’s renowned Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music program, he released his solo debut, an EP titled Unchained Thoughts that featured four original compositions—and, in a demonstration of his stylistic breadth, versions of banjo favorite “Nashville Skyline Rag” and bebop jazz legend Charlie Parker’s “Ornithology.”
“I first took real notice of Tray’s playing when I saw Cane Mill Road at a festival in Utah the summer before he and they won their IBMA awards,” says Mountain Home’s Jon Weisberger. “After that, I got to know him a little better while I was teaching at ETSU, and once we began talking about his desire to make a career as a musician, bringing him into the Mountain Home family was practically a no-brainer. It’s exciting to have the opportunity to work with such a great young talent!”
About Tray Wellington | Growing up in western North Carolina’s Ashe County, Trajan “Tray” Wellington heard a lot of music—and from the first time he heard the banjo as a young teen, he was, he says, “hooked.” Within a few years, he had joined with a few friends to form Cane Mill Road, an acclaimed band of youngsters whose wide-ranging brand of bluegrass quickly found favor with an equally wide-ranging audience. By the end of 2019, the quartet had released three well-received albums, recorded with bluegrass and Americana star Jim Lauderdale, and performed at festivals across the country, including Grey Fox, Merlefest and the IBMA’s Wide Open Bluegrass, culminating in a 2019 IBMA Momentum Band of the Year award—and, for Tray, individual recognition as an IBMA Momentum Instrumentalist of the Year.
With growing acclaim for his talent and a lengthening list of his own, individual accomplishments—including the release of his debut solo EP; leading workshops at Merlefest and Grey Fox; a coveted position as an assistant at banjo master Bela Fleck’s Blue Ridge Banjo Camp; a cover story interview in Banjo Newsletter; and an invitation to Mike Marshall’s prestigious Acoustic Music Seminar—Wellington decided to blaze his own musical and professional trail, showcasing with the Tray Wellington Band at the IBMA’s virtual World of Bluegrass in the fall of 2020. He graduates from East Tennessee State University in early 2021.