Bernice & Bryan Hembree

Posted: February 18, 2018 at 5 a.m.

Photo courtesy Jeremy Scott "There's a steady evolution that's happening with the festival -- now that Bryan has established these relationships with these Nashville agents. When he first started, I think a lot of those agents didn't take him seriously, or would quote ridiculous prices, but now that all of these high-profile musicians have played the festival and loved it, that has really changed his game." -- Bayard Blain

It almost seems like fate that Bernice and Bryan Hembree met. The voices behind the popular and critically lauded musical duo Smokey and the Mirror blend beautifully while harmonizing, as though meant to be. As two-thirds of the team behind the Fayetteville Roots Festival -- their friend and partner Jerrmy Gawthrop is the other third -- it's obvious they work exceedingly well together. And the way they met was one of the most "small world" moments imaginable: A young man with whom Bernice attended high school in Mena met Bryan at Oxford while he was on a Fulbright Scholarship in England.

Through Others’ Eyes

Bernice and Bryan Hembree

“I’ve played the Roots Fest every year it’s been alive. It’s been like watching a dear friend’s child growing up. I’m not as surprised that the brainchild of such wonderful people has grown to be so wild and powerful as I am proud to have been a witness.” — Raina Rose

“Bernice is a very strong and confident-minded person. If we’re having a hard time with a scenario or a person, she’ll give us a new perspective. We get so entrenched sometimes, we need a voice of reason. Whenever we have something that we need someone to run with, it’s her. Bryan sees the complete vision and all the steps to get there, from point A to Z — when you have over 100 unique programs in a five-day event, there’s a lot to keep track of. He’s meticulous that way. He’s a great communicator — being a musician for so long, and being a teacher and being a dad, and all of those parts — those 12 jobs — it’s in his wheelhouse. He brings each of those things to work.” — Jerrmy Gawthrop

“Bernice is an exceptional singer, a great player, and she’s also really fearless in her musical endeavors. One year I introduced her to [folk singer] Eliza Gilkyson at the Kerrville Folk Festival, and Eliza said, ‘Oh, I love your voice! Do you want to sing with me tonight?’ and Bernice just answered, ‘Sure,’ with no hesitation. Without having seen the music. I think she even had to sing a song in Spanish. She’s fearless.” — Bayard Blain

Next Week

Ann Prentice Wagner

Little Rock

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