Artist profile: Matt Audette has musical Circle of Friends

Matt Audette and his Circle of Friends Band pay tribute to Hank Williams on July 10 and 11 at Haynie Grange.
Matt Audette and his Circle of Friends Band pay tribute to Hank Williams on July 10 and 11 at Haynie Grange. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Matt Audette, 58, grew up east of Blaine at 3302 Haynie Road, attended Custer Grade School, and graduated from Blaine High School.

For 10 years has has headed up the Haynie Opry concert series, not far from where he grew up, at Haynie Grange. This weekend he’s paying tribute to Hank Williams, sometimes referred to as the father of contemporary country music, joined by his Circle of Friends Band.

Audette says he’s fortunate to be able to make a living as a performing musician and entertainer. Here’s more about him.

Question: What’s your musical background?

A: My father was a big influence on the guitar. I started playing guitar when I was about 12 or 13 years old. I also played trumpet in grade school. And I listened to a lot of records.

Q: What was your first band, and what kinds of music do you play?

A: My first band was called Custer’s Last Stand. My main genre is country, but I am versed a little in all styles.

Q: Who are some of the musicians who have influenced you?

A: I have many favorite musicians, but I was strongly influenced by Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bob Dylan and Carl Perkins. I think these entertainers crossed all musical boundaries and appealed to the masses.

Q: Who is in the Circle of Friends Band, and what do you play?

A: The Circle of Friends Band consists of my lead guitar player of 19 years, Walt Roder, of Bellingham; my drummer, Ron Reiss, from Burlington; and Karl Wagoner on bass guitar, also from Burlington. I play guitar and sing.

Q: What’s the history of the Haynie Opry?

A: After attending the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, and a couple of visits to Branson, Mo., I felt something similar in Whatcom County would be good for the community. I started the Haynie Opry in 2005 as a place where people could go and listen to music in theater style, without alcohol, and people could bring kids.

Q: Who’s been attending the concerts over the years?

A: We generally have a 50-and-older crowd, but younger-aged customers are now discovering the Opry.

Q: What might people expect at your concerts?

A: People can experience a down-home atmosphere, with good music, nostalgic memories, refreshments and a modest price, with one or two acts; and it’s a professional presentation right here in Whatcom County, comparable to that in Branson.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: I am planning on running the Opry for at least another 10 years. I have many good tribute shows I want to present ,which include John Fogarty and Creedence, music from the ’60s, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, and hopefully some surprises along the way. I’d also like to start another Opry in Skagit County.

Reach Margaret Bikman at 360-715-2273 or margaret.bikman@bellinghamherald.com. Read her columns at bellinghamherald.com/behind-the-scenes.

Haynie Opry Hank Williams Tribute Show

When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 10-11; gospel show at 3 p.m Sunday, July 12.

Where: Haynie Grange Hall, 3344 Haynie Road, Blaine.

Cost: $12 and $10 for evening concerts, $5 for the Sunday concert, free for kids 12 and younger.

Details: 360-366-3321.