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There's A New Voice On The Folk Music Scene — A Very Young One


There's a new voice, a very new one, on the folk music scene.


Louie Phipps, a singer, ukulele and guitar player from Northampton, Mass., who's just about to release his first album.


LOUIE PHIPPS: (Singing) Freedom in the sky, freedom passing by...

KING: If Louie sounds kind of young, well, that's because he is.

LOUIE: Well, I'm Louie Phipps, age of 9. Love reading, love playing soccer - and as you probably know, love playing the guitar.

INSKEEP: He's a veteran musician at age 9 because he started taking ukulele lessons when he was 5, which is also around when he started writing his own material.

LOUIE: I could take the chords that I already knew well and then make them into a song. I just really liked that idea and that I could create my own music.

KING: And so he did. The album is called "Louie Phipps And Friends: We Are Together." And Louie did get a little help from his friends, including Chris Thile, the mandolinist for the band Punch Brothers and the former host of APM's "Live From Here."

INSKEEP: Mr. Thile first noticed Louie last summer when the then-8-year-old sent the radio show a video of himself playing an original song.

CHRIS THILE: And I - you know, I freaked out.

INSKEEP: As you might - the song was called "Berry Bushes," which Thile sings with him on the album.


LOUIE PHIPPS AND CHRIS THILE: (Singing) Walking up the driveway's a tiny raccoon. He looks under the luminescent moon.

KING: Chris Thile knows a little something about being a young musician. His first album came out when he was 13.


LOUIE AND THILE: (Singing) Berry bushes everywhere you go, berry bushes - even when it snows.

THILE: It definitely reminded me of what I was up to at his age, but also the way that he phrases in that song "Berry Bushes" is super unique. There's a way in which the idea unfolds that might not happen had he been creating under the weight of - whatever - 35 years of music listening.


LOUIE AND THILE: (Singing) At the edge of the water, the water, the water...

INSKEEP: Thile's fellow Punch Brother Chris Eldridge is now Louie's ukulele teacher, and he plays with Louie on another original song called "Whistling Wind."


LOUIE: (Singing) Whistling wind blowing through the leaves.

CHRIS ELDRIDGE: There's just so much information about the world that's still coming to him. As he's encountering all these new things and seeing them and learning about them and thinking about them, they kind of come out in the songs that he writes, which is awesome.

KING: For his next potential release, Louie has his eyes on the sky.

LOUIE: I was thinking, I have so many bird songs. And I was thinking if I wrote - if I could come up with an EP called "Bird" just with all my bird songs. And right now, I don't think it's enough. I think I need, like, two or three more, but I can write those.

INSKEEP: Louie Phipps, bird lover, is looking out for the future of the planet, too. He says the proceeds from this upcoming album will go to the Sunrise Movement to fight climate change.

KING: And if this kid ends up being the next Willie Nelson, well, you heard him here first.


LOUIE: (Singing) A bird of freedom... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.