Aaron Bibelhauser lives his 'Blue Collar Dreams' - Jeffrey Lee Puckett - March 29, 2017

Aaron Bibelhauser has been fascinated by music since he was a kid in Hikes Point, and the piano recitals of his youth eventually turned into a bluegrass obsession as a teen. 

He and his twin brother, Adam, sought out and soaked up bluegrass and roots music while teaching themselves to play, looking for artists who best blended aspects of the past and present. Bibelhauser was thrilled by the songwriting but rarely followed suit, concentrating instead on giving older songs a new spin. 

"I didn't have the discipline for writing songs," Bibelhauser said. "I wrote maybe four or five a year." 

Bibelhauser is pulsing with discipline these days. Scoring a No. 1 hit as a songwriter will do that to you. 

Bibelhauser's "Blue Collar Dreams," a song from his 2015 solo album, "Somewhere In Between," was taken to the top of the Bluegrass Today airplay charts by North Carolina's Balsam Range last December. It stayed there for nearly three months and is still hanging around at No. 15 after being selected as one of Bluegrass Today's top 30 songs of 2016. 

"Blue Collar Dreams" also won the prestigious Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at last year's MerleFest and was selected to be part of the International Bluegrass Music Association's Bluegrass Songwriter Showcase, an annual event where 10 songs are chosen out of 1,000 submissions to be performed at the IBMA convention in Nashville. 

In the wake of the song's success, Bibelhauser, 34, has been contacted by bands looking for a hit. That has been gratifying, he said, but the real fun has been finding his way in the songwriters' community. 

"I became connected with other writers, which was more important to me," he said. "I mean, pitching songs – I've never pitched a song, so I'm learning more about it. ... I've decided to make co-writing a bigger part of what I do. I know these other writers and they know my name now so when I ask them it's not like any Joe on the street asking. 

"There's a little bit of legitimacy involved when you hit the No.1 spot for any amount of time." 

Trips to Nashville for writing sessions with established veterans such as Milan Miller have to wait until the weekends. Bibelhauser works a day job as an electrician and every Wednesday night Relic, the band he started in 2004 with Adam, plays a long set of originals and inspired covers at the Barret Bar. 

Relic has long been exploring Louisville's most prevalent version of bluegrass, the kind begun in the late 1960s by Bluegrass Alliance and refined in the 1970s by New Grass Revival. Those bands looked to bring bluegrass into the future without cutting all ties to the past, an approach first popularized by The Dillards. 

Relic, which also stars Chuck Sharp, Dave Howard, and Tavis Conley, isn't going anywhere but Bibelhauser is looking to make a second solo album and perform more as a solo artist. He realizes that not everyone gets a chance to possibly trade a day job for one making music and doesn't want to waste his. 

"I'm still kind of riding the wave of feeling good about being No. 1 on the charts,"  Bibelhauser said, "but things can't be No. 1 forever because something new is always coming out." 

Reporter Jeffrey Lee Puckett can be reached at 502-582-4160 and jpuckett@courier-journal.com.