Since 1989, Leftover Salmon has been a staple in the jamband scene. Their mix of bluegrass, country and rock has morphed through the years, but always stayed true to their Boulder, Colorado raised mountain slam-grass roots. We got the chance to ask Greg Garrison (bass) a few questions about the band, the music and just to pick his brains a little before their upcoming show at the Ardmore Music Hall in Philly on Thursday Sept. 17th. (If you’re not in Philly, this stop is a part of their current tour, so check for dates closer to you.)
Thumbing through the previous interviews, there’s definitely a feel that Leftover Salmon does what Leftover Salmon wants. The band and touring schedule seem to grow organically, with members ebbing and flowing and things just taking off when they’re “right”. How has that influenced the sound of Leftover Salmon over the years, and how has that affected what kind of fans who come out?
Well, I think most bands have to kind of do what they want if they expect to have any longevity. I think our willingness to live in the moment musically has always excited our fans- sometimes we’re good at it, sometimes we’re not, but that’s kind of the deal with an organic band like ours. They push us in the right directions, and respond when we’re doing our job well, which is gratifying.
The Stanley Hotel shows – how did those come about?
Our original banjo player, Mark Vann, always had a vision of doing something up there. Our manager John Joy was finally able to pull the proper strings to make it happen last year, and it really turned into a special event for us and the folks that attended. There’s just a freaky kind of energy up there, and whether it’s real or manufactured is up for debate. I was in one of the most haunted rooms, and nothing happened. But ask our drummer Alwyn about the gummy bear incident…shit was getting weird there for him! Not sure what we have planned for this year, but it will go above and beyond whatever we did last year I’m sure.
Who do you enjoy seeing live? Anyone you want to see, but haven’t been able to?
This summer, I dug seeing Wilco, Jason Isbell, the Wood Brothers, Gillian Welch and Jackson Browne. Also saw a great Julian Lage Trio show with Scott Colley on bass that was really inspiring. I always love seeing Lucinda Williams. I’m a huge jazz fan, and I go check out shows when I can in Denver- this week I’ll be seeing the Kurt Rosenwinkel trio. I need to see Keith Jarrett play- I have a fantasy of taking a trip to Europe at some point and hearing him with the Standards Trio (Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette) in some beautiful opera house. Someday!
After more than 25 years, what goals do you have as a band? Any favorite venues to revisit, new collaborations to meld, or festivals to join?
I think our only real goal is to keep having fun working together. That’s something we’ve been very conscious of since revving things back up over the past 5 years- if we’re not having fun, it’s not really worth the time and effort!!
Are plans still on for a new album release in 2016?
We do have plans to start working on a new studio record in early 2016- not exactly sure when it will be coming out. We have a new live record, “25” coming out in November. It’s 25 live tracks collected from shows over the past 2 or 3 years, and we’re really excited about it. It was my first opportunity to sit in the producer’s chair for one of our projects, and I think the fans will be really happy with how the band is represented.
Any great “on the road” stories to share?
Well, there was that one time…
And on that topic, seeing bluegrass fans throughout the years, are they still as rowdy as ever? Are the backstage parties still as hoppin’?
They are rowdier than ever. In the words of Robert Earl Keen, the road goes on forever and the party never ends, right?
Any words of wisdom to newer bands, bluegrass or not, coming up through the ranks?
Listen to John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Bill Monroe, and Hank Williams. All at the same time. Then do it backwards. And try to sound like that.
Today, Leftover Salmon is: Vince Herman (vocals, acoustic guitar, washboard); Drew Emmitt (vocals, acoustic and electric mandolin, electric guitar, fiddle); Andy Thorn (vocals, acoustic and electric banjo); Greg Garrison (vocals, acoustic and electric bass); Alwyn Robinson (drums); Bill Payne(vocals, keyboards)
Check out Archive.org if you want to get more familiar with their sound.