All Good 2013 Featured Artist Interview: The Infamous Stringdusters

TIS.PressPhoto.2012As we gear up to make our first visit to the All Good Music Festival at Legend Valley in Thornville, Ohio, it seemed fitting to feature a group that we’re excited to see. Not that we aren’t thrilled to spend a weekend with Bob Weir & Pretty Lights, but there’s always a few artists that make a long drive and a weekend of camping a memorable experience and we feel certain that The Infamous Stringdusters fall in that category. All Good is scheduled for July 18th – 21st and features performances from the previously mentioned, as well as Primus, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Yonder Mountain String Band and many more – no overlapping sets. Enjoy our interview with Jeremy Garret, fiddle player for The Infamous Stringdusters.

Nick Payne: Thank you so much for taking time to talk with us today. So you guys are currently on tour right now, correct?

Jeremy Garrett: Yea. Well actually I should take that back. I say yea because were kind of always on tour. I’m actually home right now. It’s a rare occasion.

So I hear you all are operating out of Charlottesville, VA these days?

It’s kinda home base for the band, but right now everybody kinda lives all over the place.

Oh really?

A couple CO residents, I live in Nashville, one guy lives in Charlottesville, and another guy lives in another city.

Ok. Because your bio says that you started in Nashville and relocated to Charlottesville, and I was curious about the switch.

Well it’s all new developments, but Nashville’s a great place. I still live here. I have a lot of different connections here still. Some of the guys moved to Charlottesville, and that’s where our management company is. We play a lot in that zone and it’s kind of our home base as far as our audience is concerned in a way, but we have a lot of different zones all over the country, but it’s a good spot for us. I guess the deal is that everyone just wants to live where they want to live and in the environments they want to live in, and we’ve created a successful business that allows that to be sustainable so everyone can be where they want to be as far as their family and environment and we all get together when tours come up.

So how did you all meet?

We meet at IBMA which is a convention for the International Bluegrass Music Association which was held in Louisville KY when we met. Then it moved to Nashville and this year it’s in Raleigh, NC. But it’s an annual convention that happens for the industry and we just met jamming in the hallways.

Well that’s pretty awesome. That seems to have worked out pretty well for you.

Yeah and some of us knew each other from various connections in the music business before, but it culminated there.

Cover Art for 'Silver Sky', the Stringduster's latest release - Mar. 2012

Cover Art for ‘Silver Sky’, the Stringduster’s latest release – Mar. 2012

So I was excited when I found out we’d be speaking because I grew up playing classical violin. What got you interested in violin?

I started when I was 3 years old. I started out in Suzuki and my dad was a bluegrass player so I was learning both at the same time. I kinda quit Suzuki when I was 5 and self taught fiddle stuff. And, I went to college for music later, and I’ve really been studying my whole life.

Who were some of your influences?

Good question. I tended to like some of the older traditional violinists like Kenny Baker, Benny Martin, Chubby Wise, you know the list of your core fiddle players, Paul Warren, and then as I grew up I learned that there were other fiddle players and I copied them a bit as well, such as Stuart Duncan. Stéphane Grappelli was a huge influence. I really love his jazz style and the tone he gets.

On your site, you talk a lot about lifestyle; is there a lifestyle statement you’re trying to make and how would you describe that statement?

Hmmm well. You put me on the spot with trying to make a statement! You know we all love the outdoors a lot and were all involved in a lot of activities. Travis is an avid mountain bike rider. A lot of the guys take road bikes on tour with them. I like to get out and do some hiking. We all love to go fishing. We all ski. We all love nature and grew up with that mentality that we love to play music but were also into these lifestyle type things and we realized we all share that passion. Even though I myself am not a mountain biker, I get involved in other things. We all have our thing. It’s important for us to maintain that when were out on the road. Were always looking for hikes, and we hang out with folks we meet who have the hookup on certain things. We have some friends that river raft…

This year were actually doing an American Rivers Tour this August. It’s gonna be a lot of fun. It’s going to be a tour of all the American river cities and in the end we end with a trip down the Salmon River in Idaho and we’re going to do a week in the mountains fly fishing and rafting down this river. All in hopes to raise awareness about the American rivers and the vulnerability of the systems and what it takes to maintain the environment. We all love and enjoy it [nature] and want to be around for a long time.

You’re our featured artist for All Good and you’ve gotten accolades for your elaborate live shows; what should folks who haven’t seen you yet expect at All Good this year?

We’ve been doing our show a lot, so a lot of people may re-experience us. We’ve always jammed out and been honing that. As a band grows that gets more refined and honed in. We’ve been a band now for 7 years and we’re on the road most of our time, so we spend a lot of time thinking about music. We’re not going for anything, we just let it evolve into what it’s gonna be. It’s going to be a real improved Stringdusters. You’ll see us like your experiencing us for the first time. If you’ve never seen the Dusters before, obviously you’re in for something. But if you have, check us out again because we’ve grown a lot musically. We’ve added lights to our show. We have one of the world’s best sound managers with us too. He just dials in that acoustic sound. There are not a lot of engineers who can do that. We’ve been tweaking and refining our show. We work a lot on making it fun so it’s a good experience for everyone. We try and hit all the senses.

All Good presents a huge variety of musical genres and your music has lots of non-bluegrass aspects,. Could you talk about how non-bluegrass influences inform your music?

Like anyone you’re going to listen to pop radio right? My mom wasn’t into bluegrass like my dad. She liked Michael Jackson and some of these soul singers, so that was a huge influence. I was listening to that right along with Scruggs. Growing up, I was along the lines of Guns and Roses and U2 and 80s hair bands. It’s a blend of all that. It’s funny. I don’t listen to music as much as I used to. I used to fully immerse myself in listening to a lot of music. Now I find all my creative time is spent making music and playing instruments myself. Those [influences] carry over whether or not it’s conscious. A lot of those guys have heavy blues influence too. Not all of us come from a bluegrass background. All of those things all fused up create the Stringdusters!

When you sit down to write a song, do you intentionally add non-bluegrass influences? Do you try to ?push the envelope” with how traditional bluegrass is viewed?

We’re not paying attention to any rules or putting ourselves in any one genre. We’re just trying to make the very best music we can and play the most appropriate thing for the song we’re trying to develop and embellish. We have our sound and that comes from the players unique abilities. But we’re never really trying to go for a certain thing, so it just naturally evolves on its own. As we go on, it’s easier for us to predict what the other player is gonna do. We’ve been around each other long enough. It’s like a married couple. You can finish each other’s sentences. It’s a similar vibe. Musically that’s happening a lot. It’s nothing verbally, but just these musical cues. It just sorta happens.

Finally, Why do you think it is that of all the different folk genres that bluegrass has had such staying power and even a revival in modern times ?

A lot of people think it’s just cause Mumford & Sons have a banjo in their band. The Avett Brothers and that thing. But it’s probably just because of the internet. There’s more access to this deeper roots-y sort of music that people didn’t have access to before. I mean bluegrass bands don’t have to have a big record label to promote their music to get it out in front of the public eye. They’re just relying on these small time labels and their ability to place an add in magazines and play the bluegrass festival circuit and hopefully sell some records at the record table. That’s what happens a lot with bluegrass records because they’re not a rich form of music as far as the public eye and selling and that sort of thing. I think because of internet and all this social media it has raised awareness of this really high quality, integrity music called bluegrass. I always knew it because I’ve been involved in it all my life and I know how much integrity there is in each player and how serious and devoted each player is to practicing their instrument for hours and hours and hours on end. But I think word is getting out about how good it is and I think that is because of the internet.

Well one more… You know we’re from Macon, Georgia so I have to ask, do you guys have any plan to visit Southeast?

Yea! To be quite honest I sometimes don’t always know what’s coming up in the schedule. We’ve played down there quite a bit. We have plans, I think, to go back to Athens sometime

Well were really looking forward to seeing you at All Good, and Thanks for your time!