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The Onlies began as a trio of lifelong friends and musical collaborators who realized early on that they shared a fascination with traditional fiddle music. Leo Shannon, Samantha Braman, and Riley Calcagno started making music together at age seven (2005), and quickly became immersed in fiddle music and tradition in their home of Seattle, down the West Coast, and across the world. In recent years, they have developed their sound with the addition of Vivian Leva, an acclaimed talent of old-time, country, and Americana. 

TRIX courtesy of Ballard VOX

The Onlies have developed an individual sound, with original songs that “demonstrate an enviable ability to move beyond the immediacy of their lives to touch at deeper truths, and...covers of traditional songs and tunes (that) harken to the original but are unleashed with the kind of wild, free abandon that only youth provides” (Kithfolk). Their albums have charted on radio stations around the country, and they have had the opportunity to perform and collaborate with Elvis Costello, Darol Anger, Bruce Molsky, Laurie Lewis, Altan, Tristan Clarridge, and John Herrmann. In recent years, the Onlies have found a musical center in Old Time Appalachian stringband music, and their fiddle, banjo, and guitar playing have become a fixture in a wave of young people who are studying and engaging with the old time tradition with a deep respect for the history of the music and people who make it, as well as a curiosity about how old time music fits into contemporary sounds and culture. Their most recent collaboration is a recording of old time tunes and songs with John Herrmann, Meredith McIntosh, Eric Robertson, and Tristan Clarridge in a project titled The Ruglifters (Yodel-Ay-ee 099). Vivian Leva's charting solo debut, Time is Everything was released on Free Dirt Records in 2018 as well. They are the 2017 winners of the Appalachian Stringband Contest in Clifftop, WV. The Onlies have a lot to say in the future of American folk and traditional music.

20 thoughts on “Bio

  1. Bill Cross

    Saw you at Canyon Wren at the festival, and wish you all great success in the future. Hope to see you again sometime, so my wife and I will look for a gig nearby. Do you know Rib? It would be great to have you at the Heybrook Hoedown benefit in Index on October 13th . Ask Rib or Hunter about it.

  2. D'vorah Kost

    Just heard your radio spot (101 FM from the Icycle Creek event.) I loved it! Your playing and your speaking were so impressive, tight, warm and friendly, right there and right on! I'm seeing your website for the first time and am delighted in all your doings, new album, songwriting, music music music. Bravo to all of you!!!

  3. Anna, Finn, Tong Yuan

    We love you guys. You are soooooo awesome. Glad we know at least one of you (Anna knows two and doesn't she feel superior because of it.) Such talents (yay for corny sayings) 🙂

  4. Kristina

    I heard your group on NPR and really enjoyed your music. I also got a big laugh listening to the interview. Really liked the fact that you all go to Garfield High School because my Grandmother was student there (class of 1937) and a percussionist in the marching band. I must catch a live performance of the Onlies!


      Thanks Kristina!!! Your grandmother likely went to school with Sami's grandfather, Sam Robinson, or his elder brother John. Sam graduated in 1940 (or 41), and John graduated a few years earlier. Sam was a bit of a football star (he went on to play at UW), so their paths may have crossed at least on the football field. Both have passed away, but Sami walks the halls of Garfield proudly knowing they, too, were there.

      Come introduce yourself to us at Northwest Folklife -- we play at the Northwest Court stage at 7:20, Friday May 24. We'd love to meet you. And, with hopes that your grandmother is still beating her drums, we recommend bringing her too!

  5. Tony Lawless

    Hi Guys

    I have listened to and reviewed a lot of albums in the last while on and have not been so impressed with a debut in a long time. Devon Leger of Hearth Music posted a review of your album on Tradconnect so its my first introduction. You cheered up my Sunday morning and I will be posting a few blogs and Soundcloud files on you guys in the coming months. So young and so talented. Love it. Tony


      Tony -- thanks so much for the ultra-ultra-inspirational words. You can't imagine how you cheered up our entire month! Thanks, too, in advance for any online mentions. We'll stick an album in the mail to your Dublin address, if that's OK (we think the art's pretty cool -- Leo took most of the photographs!). In the meantime, you'll find extensive liner notes here: . Thanks again! -- leo, sami, and riley (

  6. Courtney

    Leo, I think we may have shared precious shade at VFF on Sunday--stage 5, Black Prairie, next to the sound tent. Annalisa is my daughter's fiddle teacher.

    Spent some time on your website, love your music, love that the three of you are doing what you're doing!

    Hope you come to Portland soon, would love to take my daughter to see you guys. Super cool for her to see people her age playing this music. I signed up on the email list, so I'll keep my eyes open for upcoming shows!

    I wish you all the best in your musical journey...

  7. Ned

    I enjoyed your playing in Palo Alto, and when I bought the CDs, the conversation with Ethan was so interesting that I forgot my wallet & left it on the stage - it only took a week to get it back ! I'm sending your CD to my almost-13-year-old grandson in Orlando, who's the first violin in the Florida Youth Symphony and really likes Rodney Miller's music.


      Ned -- Thanks for the great comments, and we're glad you got your wallet back. Tell your grandson that both Sami and Riley play in the Garfield High School Orchestra, and there's much appreciation among The Onlies for the classical tradition, too. We hope he loves the CD!

  8. Kristin Leary


    I saw you last night at the Shasta Summit Concert at Freight & Salvage in Berkeley. I was so impressed by your playing and singing. I downloaded your album today and have been thoroughly enjoying it. I look forward to seeing what the future has in store for you.



      Thanks so much, Kris! We loved playing at the show, and hope to be playing Berkeley again soon. Please come by and say hi next time, or come to Seattle!!! - leo, sami, and riley! (P.S. You probably figured it out, but the CD was produced by Tristan Clarridge, the cellist in the Berkley show.)

  9. Ryan Leschel

    I heard you guys on the radio down here in south florida (a long ways from you) and was immediately taken away at the skill and quality of your music. This is an awesome genre and its so good to see other young people break into it and expose it. Keep up the amazing work and hope to hear more music!


      Thanks Ryan! We were excited to send our CDs out to radio stations that would play our kind of music, and were really surprised how many folk radio stations were in Florida. So thanks for the note that we're being played down there, and your words of encouragement! sami, leo, and riley

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