Jeremy Chapman knows how to play a mean mandolin. He was playing shows by the time he was 10 years old and he's still at it, with the family, at age 33.
He plays with father Bill and brothers John and Jason. Three years ago, The Chapman Brothers band hired its first non-family member, fiddler Tyler Beckett.
The group will play the Ogden Amphitheater, courtesy of Ogden Friends of Acoustic Music, on Tuesday, June 26.
"It was originally the guitar I wanted to play," said Jeremy Chapman, calling from home in Springfield, Mo. "But my hands were a little too small. So size was the factor on mandolin, but I am kind of glad I ended up that way."
The family, then based out of the Denver area, started playing a few local gigs, just for the fun of it, in the early 1990s. At first, Chapman said, there was no thought of pursuing music as a career. But after they were invited to a few big bluegrass festivals and all went well, plans changed.
Chapman remembers Iowa as being the first state that they reached musically outside their early Colorado base. The family moved to Missouri in 1998.
"The schedule just kept getting fuller and fuller," he said. "I think we were first welcome because being a family band has always been a part of bluegrass music. But eventually, a lot of musicians told us, 'One day the cute family band will wear off.' "
Many in the business advised them to go for it, to be the best they could, rather than relying on a gimmick.
People told us, 'Try as hard as you can. Practice your instruments. Take it seriously.' That was the wake-up call we needed. We realized we wanted a career, wanted to do more than the cute family thing. We made it our focus to be able to stand on the stage with our heroes and feel like we deserved to be there."
The year the Chapmans relocated to Missouri, they also won the International Bluegrass Band Championship from the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America. Their 1999 album "Notes From Home" helped them win Vocal Group of the Year. John Chapman, who also sings most leads for The Chapman Brothers, took home Guitar Player of the Year honors from the same society in 2002.
According to the Nashville Scene magazine, "The Chapmans transcend the 'family bluegrass band' label with a solidly rooted style and an abundance of major league talent."
Jeremy Chapman said he enjoys the travel his job affords -- it's all he's ever done.
"I love getting to travel as a family -- I feel lucky about it now," he said. "In our younger years, it was more difficult, being stuck in a van with those brothers. But we can go on long trips now without arguing. Also, as much travel as we do, we get to see a lot of cool places and meet some really nice people."
Chapman said he is grateful he started as young as he did, because it afforded him a chance to see firsthand people like Bill Monroe and Doc Watson, both now gone.
"We feel fortunate we got to meet all those guys, especially when we first started out."
The Chapman Brothers just recorded some new music and are hoping for an album release soon. Their latest offering, 2010's "Grown Up," hit No. 1 on several bluegrass radio charts.
That album is a career retrospective, with some re-recording of older tunes.
"The (recording) quality was not very good, and some of it was also before puberty." Chapman laughed. "Those high pitched vocals! So we decided to take a different route -- pick songs we did early on and re-record and rearrange them. It was a fun experiment. Some of them don't even sound anything like they originally did. And they are much better."