The Malpass Brothers have toured with country star Merle Haggard and have played their music all over the United States — and in countries like Ireland and Scotland.
But the two brothers remain rooted in their humble beginnings as boys growing up in Goldsboro.
“We grew up on N.C. 111 sort of in the Elroy community,” Christopher, 33, said. “My mom and dad lived right down the road from my dad’s mom and dad, Robert and Christine Malpass, where my daddy was born and raised.”
Taylor, 29, said his was a typical family, easy going.
“We were just your normal family,” Christopher added. “My mom was a teacher and my dad worked as a mechanic and a locksmith. My granddaddy ran a little store on Ash Street, Malpass’ Service Station, then it kind of turned into a little bar.”
Christopher and Taylor pretty much grew up at their grandparents’ house, because they spent so much time there.
Their grandfather played a big part in them becoming musicians, as he played and sang songs a lot.
“My granddaddy played and we would sit and watch him just about every night because grandma worked the night shift,” Taylor said. “When grandma came home, he would put us to bed like we’d been in there all night. He was one of the reasons we ever picked up a guitar.”
The brothers picked up the kind of music their grandfather would play — and that was traditional country and old gospel.
“That’s what we loved,” Christopher said. “We knew there were other types of music, but we just loved that kind. I think it’s in our DNA. We’re both kind of old souls — we like old cars, old music. We just relate to that music, it’s so real.”
Taylor said traditional country and gospel tell a story rather than a song with random words.
“It talks about people’s lives and things that have happened to them. I think people were a whole lot more honest in their music than they are now,” he said.
Christopher feels that a lot of young people now are missing something with today’s music.
“Nothing’s real anymore,” he said. “The old music tells stories that would make you feel emotional, would make you cry, make you mad. I think we’ve kind of turned into a society where there’s no emotion anymore.”
Christopher plays acoustic guitar, which is what his grandfather played. Taylor plays mandolin and also electric lead guitar.
Growing up, Christopher went to Spring Creek High while Taylor chose to attend Eastern Wayne High School.
When he was around 14 or 15, Christopher formed the Malpass Brothers with Taylor, and they were performing about 100 days a year at churches throughout North Carolina and Virginia.
Then they began traveling and playing with Don Helms, Hank Williams Sr.’s steel guitar player. After two years, they branched out and eventually began touring with Merle Haggard, which they did for seven years.
“It opened a lot of doors for us,” Christopher said.
He said playing for audiences is about the best feeling a person could get, and it makes him want to keep doing it.
“It’s medicine for you and the audience,” Christopher said.
Taylor said every show is different, sometimes giving them an adrenaline rush.
“There’s been times in our music career that have been a real adrenaline rush and sometimes you just feel like you’re in your living room playing,” he said.
Touring with country stars and playing their music in other countries hasn’t changed the brothers.
“Taylor and I are a little but unusual,” Christopher said. “I still work at a transmission shop here and my brother is a mechanic in Roxboro. Not that we’re famous, but I think it keeps us grounded.
“We could go on the road all the time and not have to work at other jobs. But you really like an artist until you see them on a talk show and realize they don’t have an idea of anything out of the bubble they’re in. Some people are so famous they can’t get out of that bubble. I think it’s good for us as artists to stay in contact with our audiences. Nobody puts their pants on any differently than anyone else. I’m a regular guy that’s had a lot of great opportunities. We are very blessed.”
The Malpasses have three albums out and are working on two more, one with bluegrass artist Rhonda Vincent and another with Jimmy Capps, who was the guitarist at the Grand Ole Opry for 60 years.
And they had the opportunity to perform at the Grand Ole Opry a couple of weeks ago.
They will be at the Paramount Theatre Jan. 11 at 7:30 p.m.
“Everybody here has been so good to us,” Christopher said. “We play at the Paramount as a thank you for the people.”