Cultivating WinterWonderGrass: Leftover Salmon
By Alesha Damerville
Images from leftoversalmon.com
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – For over 25 years, Leftover Salmon has headlined shows and festivals across the country. With time comes change, and Leftover Salmon is very familiar with this concept.
“A turning point came recently, when our current full band came together,” says banjo player Andy Thorn. "We collaborated with Bill Payne for a while - he left to join the Doobie Brothers, which is amazing!
“We looked around for a sixth member, then finally played with Erik Deutsch, who is an amazing keyboard player,” Thorn says. “Something really clicked with him. We also have a new drummer, Alwyn Robinson, who is incredible and so much fun to be around.
Adding him and Erik has brought the age of the band down a bit, which is nice for us younger members. Our fun level is even higher now.” Thorn, Robinson and Deutsch join longtime band members Vince Herman on vocals, guitar and washboard, Drew Emmitt on vocals, mandolin, fiddle and electric guitar and Greg Garrison on vocals and bass.
“It’s pretty cool to be a fan of Drew and Vince as a young teenager and now they’re like my older brothers. I love those guys."
“Everyone in the band really wants to be there and everybody is in it to win it,” Thorn says. “Now we’ve had that group for almost two years. It’s been fun to develop with them and have a six-piece full-time.”
Thorn joined Leftover Salmon in 2010 after a brief stint in the The Broke Mountain Bluegrass Band with Anders Beck from Greensky Bluegrass and Travis Book from The Infamous Stringdusters.
“I played a lot of instruments as kid,” Thorn says. "The banjo was the first bluegrass instrument I picked up; I found it at a yard sale. I also had a mandolin and a guitar all through my younger years, but I was drawn to the banjo.
One of the reasons was because not a lot of people were playing it, so I was kind of unique in that way. I had the banjo and I was playing it.”
“These days a lot of upcoming bluegrass artists learn about the music from more of the ‘jammy’ side of the spectrum from bands like us, Greensky and The Infamous Stringdusters,” Thorn says. “I would encourage the young people coming up to learn the roots first. A lot of people skip over that these days because of all of these great bands that are a little more progressive and maybe a little more interesting. People need to learn the roots as well, like the old fiddle tunes and the traditional songs.”
“I think you will hear a lot of the Colorado outdoor and mountain themes in our stuff,” Thorn says. “A lot of our inspiration comes from our experiences in Colorado. I’m sure you Steamboat folks can appreciate that.”
The sound coming from Leftover Salmon is a unique blend of Cajun/Zydeco,rock, country and bluegrass. "Poly-ethnic Cajun Slamgrass” is the term coined by the band to describe their blend of music.
Leftover Salmon is releasing a new album early next year. “Were really excited about it,” Thorn says. “It’s a little bit more of a band album than the last two were. All of the band members were really into it and contributed original material. We recorded it all to analog tape, which is cool and different to us and gave it a really natural vibe.”
“The studio had all of these vintage synthesizers and Eric was amazing on them,” Thorn says. “You will hear sounds on this record that you’ve definitely never heard on a Leftover Salmon album before. We're not the most organized band. We are figuring things out as we go, which I thought was a really neat way to do it instead of being over-rehearsed and tight. Everyone contributes ideas as we go, then we go out for drinks after.”
The guys in Leftover Salmon have worked hard to ensure their presence remains as one of the most charismatic and engaging bands to hit the touring circuit.
“We’ve played in Steamboat many times,” Thorn says. “We’ve actually played closing day twice, and those have been some of my favorite gigs.”
The free shows at the base of Steamboat Resort always encourage attendance from eclectic groups of music fans. “The thong guy you know? How can you beat that? He’s on his buddy’s shoulders in a Borat thong, eye level with the stage,” Thorn says.
“We are excited to be back in Steamboat and see everyone on the mountain. I’ll be the gaper,” Thorn says. “I’m excited for WinterWonderGrass. It’s cold and the nighttime set isn’t pretty but we have fun. There is a lot of whiskey involved. I get to be an artist at large and play with the band.”You can catch Leftover Salmon at the WinterWonderGrass Festival this February. For more information on the festival, lodging and ski passes, visit www.winterwondergrass.com
For more information on Leftover Salmon visit http://www.leftoversalmon.com