Great Balsam Songwriters in the Round Series: Scott Miller, Irene Kelley & Tim Stafford

Irene Kelley, Scott Miller, Tim Stafford at Folkmoot

The Great Balsam Songwriters in the Round Series begins its 2020 season with Scott Miller, Irene Kelley and Tim Stafford live in the round at Queen Auditorium on the Folkmoot Center campus.

In the Round performances are particularly intimate, and feature musicians in a circle in the middle of the room, with the audience seated all around. The performers trade songs and stories about the songwriting trade. The style was popularized by the legendary Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, and most of our performers have played that venue many times.

Now almost 25 years old, the Great Balsam series is in its second year at Queen Auditorium, and launches 2020 with a stellar performance featuring Irene Kelley, who has written for Alan Jackson, Ricky Skaggs and Loretta Lynn, Scott Miller, formerly of the V-Roys and Scott Miller and the Commonwealth, and Tim Stafford, who was part of Alison Krauss and Union Station and and a founding member of Blue Highway.

The 2020 Great Balsam Songwriters in the Round Series at Folkmoot is sponsored by Suzanne and Alan Klimek.

All music at the Folkmoot Center | Queen Auditorium is sponsored in part by the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area.


Irene Kelley and her current “Benny’s TV Repair” album on Mountain Fever Records earned 5 nominations in 4 categories at the SPBGMA Awards and was recently featured on the cover of the of The Bluegrass Standard magazine.

Irene’s many songwriting accomplishments include hits like “A Little Bluer Than That,” for Alan Jackson, as well as songs performed and recorded by Ricky Skaggs & Sharon White, Loretta Lynn, Trisha Yearwood, the Osborne Brothers and many more. After three decades of work, Irene has assumed her place in a long line of great American songwriters.

She’s been seen and heard at the Grand Ole Opry, the CMA Music Festival, IBMA, Folk Alliance International, the Americana Music Festival, the Equi Blues Music Fest (France), Avila Beach Music Fest (CA), BayFest (AL) and many other venues.

Syndicated on-air appearances include Acoustic Café, NPR’s Live at Mountain Stage, CMT, and GAC as well as airplay on Country, Bluegrass, Folk and Americanaradio stations worldwide.

She also was a recipient of ASCAP’s Most Performed Songs Award in 1983 for “Love Can’t Ever Get Better Than This” Ricky Skaggs & Sharon White.


Recently inducted to the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame, fiery roots-rock singer/songwriter Scott Miller (The Scott Miller) has returned to his native Virginia to tend the family farm while continuing to release and perform new music informed by that rural area, history, and Appalachia.

Miller has recently toured with Patty Griffin, Robbie Fulks, Paul Thorn, Robin & Linda Williams, and American Aquarium.

In 1994, Miller helped form a band called the V-Roys, which was the first act signed on Steve Earle’s label, E-Squared Records.
After the V-Roys split up in ’99, Miller formed a new band, Scott Miller and the Commonwealth, which was briefly the house band on Blue Collar TV. The Lexington Herald-Leader wrote of Miller’s first albums after the V-Roys as “strong, folk-infused songs” in which “the boozy charm of his music was innocuous.”

In addition to solo shows, Miller plays some shows with a full Commonwealth band lineup, but more often plays trio shows with what he has come to call the Commonwealth Ladies Auxiliary (bass player Bryn Davies and fiddler Rayna Gellert).

Miller’s songs reflect his degrees in American History and Russian Studies, with references to his home, family, history, geography, writers and Appalachia.


After developing his skills with several bands through the 1980’s, Tim Stafford joined Alison Krauss’s band Union Station in 1990 and helped record a Grammy-winning CD, Every Time You Say Goodbye (Rounder, 1992). Tim left to form Blue Highway in 1994 with Wayne Taylor, Shawn Lane, Rob Ickes and Jason Burleson. The band is one of the most decorated and influential in bluegrass history: nominated for three Grammys, winner of a Dove Award, and nearly 30 IBMA Awards. In March 2016, Blue Highway was named the most popular bluegrass artist in history in an online poll by Bluegrass Today.

Tim is a prolific songwriter, with over 250 songs recorded. He co-wrote IBMA’s 2008 Song of the Year, “Through the Window of a Train,” and was named IBMA’s Songwriter of the Year in 2014 and 2017. In addition, he is a sought-after studio musician, having recorded with over 75 artists in addition to Blue Highway, including Willie Nelson, Kenny Chesney, Jorma Kaukonen and many more. Tim was named SPBGMA Guitar Performer of the Year in 2001 and 2015.

He has produced many award-winning records for various artists, including Kenny Chesney, The Infamous Stringdusters (IBMA 2007 co-album of the Year) , and Knee Deep in Bluegrass, the Acutab Sessions (IBMA 2001 Instrumental Recorded Performance of the Year).