The Singular Stoll Vaughn
One to watch this August
By Ross Boissoneau | Aug. 7, 2021
Like virtually every other performer, Stoll Vaughan is excited to get back on the road. Relieved. And a little concerned. “It’s still not the same. You just don’t know,” says Vaughan.
The Kentucky-based singer-songwriter will be performing in northern and Western Michigan, beginning with a show at St. Ambrose in Beulah on Aug. 9, at Acoustic Tap in Traverse City on Aug. 10, High Five Spirits in Petoskey on Aug. 12, and the Cabbage Shed in Elberta on Aug. 13, with an additional date at WYCE in Grand Rapids at noon on Aug. 12. He’ll then head south for two shows in Tennessee.
Vaughan is well acquainted with the area. He graduated from Interlochen Arts Academy, which he cites as particularly inspirational — despite the fact he wasn’t enamored of school.
“John Wunsch [then head of the guitar program] saw something in me. I wasn’t a classical player, but he and the head of the English department, Michael Delp, inspired me to go out there and chance this,” he says. “It was an amazing school. It changed my life. But I hated school.”
Stoll has since carved out a career as a singer-songwriter in the vein of John Prine and Townes Van Zant. His albums have been well received, and he’s toured across the country as well as Europe; his debut album was named one of "Alternative Country's Top Ten Records of the Year" in the Netherlands.
He’s quick to credit his trajectory to two mentors who’ve had such an impact on his work. One is Mike Wanchic, John Mellencamp’s longtime guitarist and producer.
“After Interlochen, I went to Indiana and got involved in Mellencamp’s world,” Stoll says. “Mike Wanchic got me geared into songwriting. That’s where I really found my place. I’m not the greatest guitarist.”
Maybe not, but it’s clear from listening to his music that his guitar playing is an essential part of his artistry. “I make music people can pick up a guitar and play. My quest is to get myself out of the way,” he says.
Wunsch remains pivotal even today. “I’m sponsored [by Wunsch and his Traverse City guitar-strings company, Strings By Mail), and I’m so grateful he was willing to invest his time.”
Vaughan has toured with the likes of Mellencamp, John Fogerty, James McMurtry, Marty Stuart and the Allman Betts Band. The lattermost is led by three sons of the original Allman Brothers Band, and Vaughan has written songs that have appeared on both the band’s albums.
His music has also found its way into television and film, including True Blood, Friday Night Lights, Shameless and The Office, including three songs in the series finale. He also worked with screen legend David Lynch, composing original music for his Interview Project.
“Most of my stuff for TV is stuff I’ve written for myself, as opposed to working with a director and trying to do music for his show.” Stoll says he’s spent time as part of a team writing songs, where ideas are thrown out, first with the subject of the song, then adding details. He prefers working alone.
“Solo, there’s less headaches. Keeping a band together is like herding cats. I’ve been playing by myself the last few years,” he says. His fourth studio album, Desires Shape, was released last year. It follows his preferred approach: stripped down to intricate guitar and voice in service to the lyrics.
That will be the format of his shows in this area. In fact, the performance at Acoustic Tap is being billed a house concert.
Though Stoll will be performing alone, he’ll be traveling with his wife, Elizabeth, who is expecting their first child. He’s looking forward to showing her the area in which he spent a seminal part of his life. “She loves touring. We haven’t done it for a while. This is our first chance to jump in the RV. I think [each show] will be a really good night of songwriter performance.”