Let’s continue on with current events and circle back with some old friends. How does Tom Marshall relate to the whole Phish machine in 2011?

TM: Oh my God, well, first of all, just keeping myself out of it for now. Just from the perspective of a fan in the audience and, by the way, that is what I’ve been doing lately—I don’t go backstage; I don’t go back. I’m out in the audience the whole show, and it’s like turning over a new leaf in a way where I used to go back all the time and schmooze and hang out with the people back there with the all access laminates. I’m completely treating this in a completely different way and loving it, just loving being out in the audience. As someone who has seen many shows—I think David Steinberg, ZZYZX, has helped me count, and I’m in the 220, 230 region of number of shows, which might be surprisingly small for some people, but it’s a big number—I really think that Phish is in a great, great place right now—musically and, especially, mentally, which is everything.

Do you feel you are in that place now, too? Like, maybe the writing is working really well for you, so you’ll up your writing time from one to two hours per day? And, do you feel you can still get that excitement from both forms of your writing—the songwriting and the long form fiction?

TM: Oh, that’s an interesting question. I don’t really think about it in that way. Right now, the way it is working with me and Trey, which is so great, is that I know that we’ve been talking about getting together, but we’ve been writing apart a lot lately. He and I both know that we’re so incredibly productive when we are together as opposed to trying to write a song over the phone. I know that I’ve been stockpiling. (laughs) I’ve been getting songs ready in preparation because if I come really prepared—and by that, I mean that I show up with a sheath of possibly at least 20, not complete lyrics and songs, but 20 good beginnings of songs, and in there, some will be complete in my mind, and then Trey will take and mix and match. Trey is always prepared musically. He has easily 20 ideas floating around in his head, and that also gives us an easy way to get started.

The magic happens on the second day after a couple of songs have been recorded that we
came prepared with, and then, the fun part starts. That’s when we venture into uncharted territory, and that’s when the pure collaboration exists between us, and we’re able to write songs that come from the ether, (laughs) as we call it, where we pull a song that wasn’t there five minutes ago, and suddenly, realize that it was there. That’s the magic.

But, back to your question, that’s what I am preparing for now. I know Trey and I are going to do a two- to three-day songwriting session. As for the other writing that I am doing right now just for myself, I have a goal in mind and I’m going to keep that to myself right now. It’s a book project, and I’m just plodding along and I’m really having fun. I’ve tried a few book things in the past, and I’ve tried to collaborate with books, but this one, I’m realizing I can’t really collaborate. I can’t. I’ve tried. I really did. I brought other people in on this project, and, when it comes right down to it, it’s my idea and I’ve got to just develop it myself. Realizing that and realizing that everything I do musically is collaboration is sort of night and day. There are two huge and different and separate projects, but I do tackle them both, religiously, every day, at least a little, at least an hour. They are intertwined and, possibly, the song “Steam” is proof that they’re intertwined, but they are separate and they are fun.

I’m not sure that I answered the question properly about Phish right now. I’ve got to say, and I think I touched on it by saying that, mentally, they are really great, but I did go backstage at Great Woods, and I saw all four members for the first time in a really long time. I got to sit down and have some nice words with Fishman and Page and Mike. I really do want to emphasize that there is something special happening. Like, for example, Fishman practicing so much. I told him that I can tell because his drumming is just amazing. And Page and Mike, similarly, and Trey—I know how much work he is doing. I wanted them to know how much I can tell how great a time they are having on stage. And they really appreciated that. It’s just sort of palpable —and this wasn’t always the case, Randy—there is only good energy back there now and among the four of them. It is really an amazing thing that they are able to get here through a dark cloud that descended upon them. The hint of the cloud started as early as 1999, but it got really dark around there in 2004.

Well, we’ve known each other for a while, but you seem remarkably healthy, focused, and balanced yourself these days, so it is such a pleasure to speak with you.

TM: Thank you, Randy, and I think you would know because you’ve seen me not so healthy and focused and balanced (laughs). I really do. I feel like we’re on top of a beautiful Vermont mountain, looking down at the beautiful trees and opportunities abound ahead of us.

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