For the members of Michigan veterans Greensky Bluegrass, making a bold and unconventional statement is just another day in the office. Since forming over 15 years ago, they’ve striven to find new and unique ways to mesh bluegrass melodies with jamband improvisation to create a sound of their own. 2016 is yet another year that they’ve driven that point across loud and clear.
The past year has been full of highlights and milestones. For many popular touring bands today, the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado ranks high as a bucket list performance destination. Greensky Bluegrass reached that milestone in July when they sold out the venue as a headliner, using the open and wild confines of the amphitheater to aid energic and improvisational nature. The band also played the Ryman Auditorium and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, among others.
That momentum has carried over (and then some) to the fall as the band released their sixth record, Shouted, Written Down & Quoted. It’s an album that finds Greensky Bluegrass at its most ambitious and most patient creative state to date. They recorded it during two different sessions — one at Echo Mountain Studio in Asheville, North Carolina, and the other at the Mountain House Recording Studio in Nederland, Colorado. With no time limit, the band took their time to get everything right. Shouted, Written Down & Quoted is a well thought out and diverse sounding collection of songs that further pushes the envelope of the group’s sonic potential.
Here dobro player Anders Beck reflects on the band’s busy year, breaking new ground on the new album and the power a dobro can have on a song’s mood and atmosphere.
It looks like band’s been having another busy year. What are some of your favorite moments so far?
We played at a lot of festivals. Playing festivals is always fun. Selling out Red Rocks for the first time. Headlining and selling out Red Rocks was a pretty phenomenal experience. And now it’s just nice to be back out on tour playing shows inside and getting to do full two set shows and starting to play songs from our new album, which was released a couple weeks ago. And play some of those songs live that we haven’t played before. It’s proving to be very exciting.
How do you keep yourself energized to keep up with the band’s busy schedule?
The bottom line is I really enjoy playing music with my band, who are my friends. So it doesn’t seem that hard to me to keep the vibe high because it’s really fun. We’re lucky to do what we do. And that’s certainly not lost on us. We also have a great crew that works with us with life and sound and day to day work. They work their ass off so we can be energized to play the show. So that’s incredibly helpful. The third factor is the fans. When we go out on stage there are a lot of people that excited to see us play. If you’re tired on that given day those people really help to create that energy. That transfer of energy is so important to improvisational live music.
The album’s title seems to be reflective of this collection of songs and its variety. Could you tell me a little bit about the title’s origins and why the band liked it so much?
Shouted, Written Down & Quoted is one of the lines from one of the songs. Traditionally, the last four albums we’ve taken a line from a song that’s not a song title. So there’s no title track. We picked something we thought was an interesting phrase that wouldn’t have worked out as a title of a song but because it could be the title of the album it becomes part of the collection. We find it an interesting dichotomy of words. We’re sort of word geeks. The full line from “Hold On” is “Sometimes things better left unspoken should be shouted, written down and quoted.” So in some level, in my opinion, what we’re saying is while the album is called Shouted, Written Down & Quoted, we’re also alluding to some things that are left unspoken. Which to me is another interesting phrase to me in a way that is important to me because it’s got a little bit heavier content on the album.
How’s it heavier?
It’s a little heavier due to the way people grow up. People change and things change in people’s lives. Beyond that much, I think it’s leaving it up to the listener to decide.
What were the biggest influences for you with approaching this album?
For me on a personal level, I try to go into an album pretty open. We arrange a lot of the stuff in the studio, so I use a lot of my different musical influences in bluegrass to more of the jamband and rock-and-roll type influences. For me, playing dobro on the album, there are a lot more rock-and-roll tones. There are a lot more electric sounding solos, which is something we haven’t done a whole lot of on the albums. For lack of a better word, getting a shreddy tone on an album was really fun, interesting and exciting for me. So I got to use more of those rock-and-roll influences that I have.
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