Gary Copeland (Spence’s Rye)

Musical styles: Americana, folk, Appalachian stomp
Handmade instruments played: cigar box guitar, banjo, fiddle

As far back as he can remember, music has been part of Gary Copeland’s life. Gary sings and plays music steeped in rich tradition, bellowing the heavy sounds of Appalachia. And the roots of his musical history run deep as the coal mines in his home state of West Virginia.

Gary may have waited until his adolescent years to begin playing guitar, but he’s always been surrounded by music. He grew up listening to his grandfather, an excellent flatpicker. He heard his mother’s voice every Sunday gracing the church with hymns. His father used to whittle whistles out of tree branches for him and his brother. And the roots run so far as hearing his great-grandmother play piano in her old coal-camp home.

Those roots took hold and gave Gary the life he needed in music. He came up through childhood singing and eventually playing six-string guitar. Throughout high school and college, Gary was involved in countless musical projects, each helping to shape the path that as led him to today – a folk music artist.

Gary built his first folk art instrument using plans from the Foxfire books that lived on his grandparents’ shelves. His affinity for banjo, and the varied folk music that used it, led to all sorts of musical influences like Roscoe Holcomb, Miles Krassen, and Homer Walker to name a few. Gary, a student of music and tradition, studies the different techniques used by the various artists and genres.

This led Gary to his Folk Art apprenticeship with the Augusta Heritage Center. His instructor there encouraged Gary to get out and play what he was learning. After honing his chops and meeting other artists while playing markets and busking, Gary began to land paying gigs. Gary also has a background in audio engineering which has helped him to understand something that serves him well in music: “less is more”.

Spence’s Rye, Gary’s solo musical endeavor, is based not only in his Appalachian history but more importantly in the world that best defines him: community and family. Gary continues to record and perform his rustic and raucous Appalachian folk, playing festivals and pleasing crowds as a one-man-band. You can find much of his work at

Gary Copeland can be found at