Two years ago, bluegrass singer-songwriter Sierra Hull had a decision to make: attend Berklee College of Music or tour with her band around the country.
She managed to do both.
Hull, a 20-year-old mandolin player with a Tennessee twang, attended the Berklee College of Music on a Presidential Scholarship and became the school’s first bluegrass musician to receive the scholarship’s free tuition, room, and board. After graduating in May, Hull embarked on a roughly 40-stop tour across the country. She will return to Boston to perform in the Summer Arts Weekend July 27-29 in Copley Square.
Touring is not a new experience for Hull; she went on a six-week tour her first semester in college. But this time, she doesn’t have to worry about missing class.
“The folks at Berklee . . . were very flexible to adapting to what I had going on,” she said, adding that teachers included the production of her latest album, “Daybreak,” in her curriculum.
Hull said that ever since she picked up a mandolin, she had wanted to be a bluegrass musician. She was 8 when she learned to play; her father had started playing a few years before. There wasn’t much musical activity in her hometown of Byrdstown, Tenn., so the father-daughter duo traveled on weekends to Jamestown, Tenn. for what Hull called “jam sessions.”
“It’s a very shared music, which is really great, and I think I just fell in love with the whole idea of it and the way I was embraced by the community at a really young age,” Hull said by phone from a tour stop in California.
Her band, Sierra Hull & Highway 111 — composed of bass, banjo, fiddle, and guitar players — formed in 2005. The name is a tribute to the highway that runs through Byrdstown.
Hull was 13 when she signed a record deal with Rounder Records, and she released her first album, “Secrets,” three years later. It reached No. 2 on the Billboard Top Bluegrass chart in 2008. Her second album, “Daybreak,” which resembles a bluegrass version of Taylor Swift songs about relationships gone bad, came out in March 2011.
Hull said bluegrass singer Alison Krauss was a large influence on her, along with bluegrass bands such as Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver and Nickel Creek. She is broadening her exposure to other artists such as Paul Simon and Sara Bareilles — though she doesn’t plan on abandoning bluegrass any time soon.
“Bluegrass will always be a huge part of what I love, and what I want to do, and what I’m influenced by,” she said.
Hull said she looks forward to returning to Boston and possibly going to Club Passim in Cambridge, where she used to see shows. When the tour ends next month, she will return to her current residence in Nashville and take a brief break.
“As soon as this is over, I’m going to have a nice little lazy session at home just watching movies or something,” she said.
What’s next, she’s not sure. Hull said she wants to continue touring and producing albums, but if she doesn’t rise in popularity, that’s all right with her.
“More than anything, I just want to make really good music,” she said.
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