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The best kept secret in music


"CD Review"

"Leader and writer Luke Bulla has a handsome voice, and the group’s instrumental interplay is all too rare in pop. And it’s nearly all acoustic, just to make it more remarkable. Wisechild is rising toward a deal. We can feel it." - - Craig Havighurst, The Tennessean

"CD Review"

"Wisechild’s debut, Firstborn, is arguably the broadest of all in a town where breadth is the norm. It works, though, largely because their tight, expressive originals, rather than their diverse influences and jaw-dropping chops, are the focal point, and they stand up to the spotlight with musical wit and real emotion." - - Nashville Scene


Firstborn - Released August 2003


Feeling a bit camera shy


Wisechild unites the distinct musical personalities of four men who have played aside some of the biggest names in contemporary music, from John Cowan to John Mayer. Luke Bulla, who handles vocals, guitar, and much of the songwriting, won the Grand Championship fiddle contest at age 16, after a childhood of touring with his family’s band. Casey Driessen propels the band’s signature sound on electric five-string fiddle and mandocaster. Drummer Pasi Leppikangas brings an incredibly funky rhythmic element to the band and is complemented by the melodic bass lines of Matt Mangano.

“We want to represent all the people who spent their entire childhood locked in their bedrooms playing their instrument,” says Mangano, the bassist of Wisechild. “We've spent our lives immersed in making music, whether it was for art or trade or passion. We’ve lived it our entire lives and we’re going to show people that even guys like that can make their mark in the world of music.”

Before they were Wisechild they were already successful touring and session musicians. Matt Mangano has played with and even co-wrote one of the tracks off their current album Firstborn called “Break Away” with John Mayer. Luke Bulla has played along side artists including Bruce Hornsby, John Cowan and has co-written a number of songs with Nickel Creek’s Chris Thile, one of which appears on Firstborn and Nickel Creek’s latest release, This Side. Casey Driessen has played with the likes of Steve Earle and Jim Lauderdale. Pasi Leppikangas has an impressive resume as well including Tanya Tucker and John Cowan.

As a teenager, Bulla attended Mark O’Connor’s Fiddle Camp near Nashville and met Driessen, a fiddle prodigy from Chicago. As Bulla formulated his idea for what his future band might sound like, he kept in touch with Driessen through fiddle competitions and festivals. Shortly after his family’s band collapsed, Bulla moved to Nashville and quickly picked up work as a fiddle player in Ricky Skaggs’ band.

Meanwhile, Driessen had enrolled in the esteemed Berklee College of Music. He came to visit Bulla one summer, and moved to Nashville a year later to play upright bass in a band Bulla had put together called Wisechild, a name taken from a short story by J.D. Salinger. While playing some side gigs for John Cowan’s band, Bulla met drummer Pasi Leppikangas, who was born in Finland and raised in a small town in northern Ontario.

“I always grew up playing acoustic music,” Bulla says, “and I always had been around people who thought drums were of the devil, or that drums were the enemy. But I’ve always liked drums. Drums were the key for me." Bulla invited Pasi, a well-seasoned professional, to do some shows with Wisechild. Having a drummer on board enabled the band to branch out from traditional acoustic venues.

When they decided to record a demo, Driessen contacted his bass-playing buddy Mangano whom he had met in his dorm days at Berklee. “When Matt played bass, it was like the missing link. It tied everything together so well,” says Leppikangas. “It’s the way he plays melodies. We get a lot of comments about the solid rhythm section. People are really digging it.”

“Musicians can enjoy it and fans who don’t have a music-school background aren’t put off by it,” adds Driessen. “You know, sometimes stuff gets too heady. It’s hard to get those two at the same time.”

“Casey doesn’t play like your average fiddle player,” Mangano says. “The way Casey plays is like all the best things about every instrument. Casey can sound like a guitar, or a fiddle, or a keyboard, or a woman. We recorded some fiddle tracks for more demos and Casey made the harmonics on his instrument sound like a flute. Whatever we do, Casey sort of takes it into left field. Not too far into left-field, but left enough to get people’s attention and make people’s ears perk up and say, ‘What was that?’ And want to hear it again, because they want to know what they just heard.”

While touring this past summer, Wisechild earned a 2003 showcase at South by Southwest, performed at Dancing in the District, On the Bricks, Four Corners Folk Festival, and opened for John Mayer and the Counting Crows as well as college favorite G. Love and Special Sauce. Wisechild has also been heard on Nashville’s WRLT 102.9 The Buzz and WRLT Lightning 100.

This year saw their self-released, debut album Firstborn, but with an EP released in 2002 and a busy touring schedule with some of the biggest names in popular music, Wisechild has acquired a diverse audience; one almost as diverse as the musicians themselves and doesn’t see boundaries in musical genre.

“My whole vision for the band was to make music that’s accessible,” says Bulla. “Music that people can get into, and that they can appreciate and like, but has a lot of integrity. Anyone who hears it recognizes that it's good music."