Eleven Madison Park is one of the best restaurants in the world, and it’s owned by my dear friend Will Guidara. My older brother Jono is a household name there, as he has designed and manufactured all the dinnerware. This was a special night and it’s also the new video for a song that Travis and I wrote from our recent album, Let it Go.
Colorado has always been a home away from home for the Stringdusters. Now it really is home, so we recently teamed up with the amazing people at Oskar Blues to help front range flood relief. We just got home from the Rd to Boulder tour, which raised a bunch of money for OB’s new Can’d Aid Foundation. We also donated proceeds from the Rd to Boulder EP, featuring Bruce Hornsby and a few cuts from the Dusters recent PBS Bluegrass Underground show. We want to thanks Oskar Blues for making great beer and doing good things. We also want to thank our new friends Paper Bird. These guys are an excellent band with great things ahead, and they killed every show of the tour despite some brutal travel–absolute pros.
Long before the Stringdusters, I worked as a fly fishing guide in Southwest Montana. Over time, music took over my life and outdoor pursuits faded into the background. Years later, as the Dusters business plan evolves to include the marketing reach and overlap of companies like Patagonia and Klean Kanteen, we are finding our way back to the great outdoors. This past summer we worked with a great nonprofit, American Rivers, raising awareness about the issues facing our country’s waterways, as well as this great organization. Klean Kanteen, Patagonia, Osprey and the Moab Brewing Company were all on board, helping to make the tour possible, spreading the word and supporting the cause. At the end of it all we gave $1 per ticket to American Rivers, and hopefully this is just the start of our relationship. We also set out on an incredible 6 day float of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River along with a bunch of fans and our new best friends, Idaho River Adventures. It was the perfect way to put us directly in touch with the tour’s underlying message. What an incredible trip–check it out.
Festy number four is almost here. One of the most fun parts of the planning is putting together the lineup–a cross section of our extended musical family. It always starts with a list that’s way too big. Here are some of my highlights for the coming year:
John Scofield Uberjam: I’ve been a Scofield fan from before I took up banjo. He is my favorite improviser of all time, always on the absolute ragged edge of musical feeling. Sco’s recent work with the Uberjam band really showcases his sound of the last 15 years. It’s driving funk that’s ultra-creative and unpredictable, equal parts skill and purity. Sco has played with everyone and his tone is one of the most distinctive sounds ever known to man. He is a God.
Big thanks to the Bluegrass Situation for inviting me to be a part of their growing musical world. The BGS is the brainchild of Ed Helms–banjo player and long time friend of acoustic music. For my first piece I jumped back into some of the bigger bluegrass issues but in a context I had never really considered. Things are changing fast, and right now is a fascinating time to be so immersed in the scene. Check out the article at the BG Situation site, along with plenty of other worthwhile content. The full text is also copied below. Enjoy!
THE MUSIC IS IN OUR HANDS NOW
What happens when a musical tradition grows old?
In its short, roughly 70 year life, bluegrass music has already veered off in a number of compelling directions, but always had its inventors around to represent that straight, ‘traditional’ path down the middle. Though some of the most prominent bluegrass pioneers ultimately took a more experimental route (Earl Scruggs Revue, anyone?), they are a link to the musical past, connecting us to that ‘traditional’ standard that many still believe to be unmatched. But right now that is all changing. Continue reading →
I remember the day, probably 5 or 6 years ago, when we decided we would actually throw our own festival. We were in a white van, making the usual 8 hour drive between 2 gigs that should have never been on 2 consecutive days, when rationale is impaired but enthusiasm is the only thing that’s getting you through. We directed all that energy at this tiny, non-existant festival, and the Festy Experience was born. Now it’s year 4, the Festy is growing up, and we couldn’t be more proud. For us it’s all about taking the best of what we have seen at festivals over the years, gathering our friends, heroes and Jamily members from far and wide to celebrate life in the VA mountains. Today we did the initial lineup announcement (and John Scofield is on it!). Hope to see you there in the Fall..
Here’s our first real music video offering that has transcended youtube’s orgy of content, residing now on a proper television set thanks to CMT. Produced by our amazing engineer, Billy Hume (both the music and the video), ‘Rockets’ is about optimism and change. As Travis said in reference to the song, “this is our time, our opportunity to do great things and experience life while we are alive.”
A few weeks ago I was up in Boston as a guest teacher at the Berklee College of Music, and I’m happy to report that the banjo is cool again. I was there for two days, working with students in the American Roots Music Program on everything from right-hand techniques to strategies for young professional musicians. Compared to my time there as a student roughly ten years ago, much has changed. These days there is a clear acknowledgement of the importance and popularity of traditional music. Acclaimed faculty are attracting talented students, some of whom will surely be a part of the next wave of exciting acoustic bands to hit the scene. Berklee is playing its part in the stringband boom with a program that’s barely five years old, but already significant. It was great to go back and check it all out.
I was a student at Berklee from 2001-2003. I started playing the banjo only a few years earlier as a freshman at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. I was relatively inexperienced compared to other players my age, eager to keep learning and working on my craft. I wanted to go to music school, and my main goal was to work primarily on banjo, rather than choosing guitar as a principal instrument, a workaround that other banjo players had used at in the past. Tony Trischka, my teacher at the time, suggested the Berklee College of Music as a place that might welcome the banjo, given its growing popularity. Continue reading →
I just rolled in from 2 of the most amazing weeks of my life, and I’m pretty sure I was at work the entire time.
To most people, being in a band means white 15-passenger vans, sandwiches for dinner, endless days on the road and an endless dream of big stages and bright lights. That’s all part of it, but there’s so much more going on before you hit the big time. It’s a lifestyle, full of important choices along the way. While the creative work is never over (we love playing music together), you can’t put life on hold. This is what the annual Stringdusters Ski Tour is all about. True, I did scarf down turkey on rye for dinner last week on tour, but I also enjoyed 8 days of amazing skiing in some of the most beautiful, inspiring places on earth. The irony is that when you are doing what you love you are usually also doing your best work, and that’s success. The skiing was amazing, the music followed suit and almost all of the shows were sold out. I want to go back now.
Many thanks to our amazing partners on this tour. Oskar Blues Brewery makes delicious beer in Andy Hall’s hometown of Lyons, CO. Mountain Khakis is a great clothing brand that embraces quality and the outdoor/adventure lifestyle that we love. Protect Our Winters (POW) seeks to ‘engage and mobilize the winter sports community in the fight against climate change,’ a worthy cause that needs all of our attention. POW was founded by Jeremy Jones, maker of the amazing Jones snowboards. His brothers, Todd and Steve, are the masterminds behind Teton Gravity Research, the absolute sickest ski film makers out there. And finally, big thanks to everyone at Icelantic skis. I first discovered these guys a few years ago during a legendary demo day at Targhee. Later that day I wrote an impassioned email to the address on their site, and a cool relationship was born. They make epic skis in the USA and live life to the fullest on all fronts–great people, great boards, great philosophy. Those beautiful skis in the video are my new Nomads, and I love everything about them. And thanks as always to our friends at GoPro for the epic video gear.