Melding his classical training with years of Colorado mountain woodshedding, violinist Bobby Yang is reinventing the sound of the acoustic violin. His inimitable sound combines the passion of a violin with the dirt of a bluegrass fiddle and the rawness of a guitar. He has surrounded himself with musicians who share his madness, his Unrivaled Players, while touring nationally. In the band, Yang’s violin acts as both the lead singer and guitarist, as the songs of Led Zeppelin, RUSH, and other rock legends, become instrumental jams. When he isn’t performing with his Unrivaled Players, Bobby is Kevin Costner’s full-time fiddler in Costner’s new band Modern West.
In his own words: “It’s time for the violin to get dirty.” And to clarify, he means the acoustic. His rendition of Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption” solo, a solo featured on Van Halen’s debut album, is touted as better than the original, and Yang does it acoustically, without pedals or effects, on a violin.
Bobby moved from Aspen, Colorado to Atlanta three years ago. While in Aspen, he was a frequent soloist with symphony orchestras, including a breakthrough Harris Concert Hall performance of Mozart’s 3rd Violin Concerto with improvised cadenzas and a last movement in-cadenza tribute to Hendrix’s “Hey Joe.” This cadenza was a prelude to his current musical success.
He perfected his classical chops while earning his Masters in Violin Performance with Paul Kantor at the University of Michigan, but his passion for rock has led him to new venues, including the parties of A-list celebrities, such as Antonio Banderas, and the grittiest of rock clubs, like the Lucky Dog in Worcester, MA where the Rolling Stones kicked off their 1981 “Tattoo You” tour. He has earned the admiration of Top 40 musicians who regularly invite him to craft string arrangements for pop and rock singles. In the studio, he uses the violin to create orchestral layers, composing parts for the cello, viola, and violin, and then performing each part on a separate track to create a recorded orchestra.
He worked closely with Butch Walker crafting string arrangements for several songs on Walker’s album Letters. His work with Walker earned him the opportunity to record with Avril Lavigne, Cowboy Mouth, and Default. He also frequently travels to New York to work with acclaimed 311 producer Ron Saint Germain.
Bobby released his debut album No. 1 Tribute in 2005, and his second album, YANG IT! Live from Eddie’s Attic was released on November 17th, 2006. “YANG IT!”— his personal motto— is a call for people to do their best and to do it with their own personal panache; the opposite of “WING IT!”
While some violinists are clamoring to revolutionize the string world with the electric violin, Yang is proving that perhaps it isn’t the violin that needs changing; it’s the violinist.