To pivot a little bit, you guys and Keller did an awesome show at Red Rocks this year. Whose idea was it to recreate Breathe?
Well I don’t know who initially talked about it, but it was kind of a convergence of our 25th anniversary and the 20th anniversary of Breathe coming out. Also, like I said, we’re trying to play music with people that have influenced us or have been important in our growth as a band. We’ve played so many shows with Keller back in the day that it just felt really appropriate to do it and it was so great playing with Keller. And he was so easy going about it all. He could have very easily gotten really picky about how every little detail had to be for the album and he just was very laid back about it and made sure that it was fun, and it was a lot of fun.
Were there any dormant songs that were tricky to learn again?
Yeah, like all of ‘em. [Laughs.] Some were tricky, some were not. Keller has a certain way that he writes songs. After reabsorbing and going into the third or fourth song, you could almost anticipate the way the song was gonna develop and change and it was really cool to get back into Keller’s head and how he writes.
We love Keller and we’re just really psyched that it went so well at Red Rocks with him. I think we were a little nervous about how it was gonna go, how the songs were gonna come off and all of that and it was just smooth as silk.
As far as this 25th anniversary tour goes, what have been some personal highlights for you?
Wel, I did enjoy that one song set [“Rosie” at Electric Forest] and I’m really proud of the band as a whole that we didn’t find reasons to not do that, ya know? It was our smaller play at Electric Forest, so we were like, “What can we do differently in this show that’ll make it special?” There were different ideas brought forth to like learn an entire album from a band, to which I was like, “Please, god, don’t make us do that.”
What band was it?
Well it could be anybody, but we never got that far on that concept. I said, “Why don’t we just play three or four songs and just jam through the whole rest of the set?” We ended up with, “Let’s start with ‘Rosie,’ start changing the keys and just jam and we’ll have different people in the band call key changes?”
We had general ideas and guidelines on how we could get through it, keep it moving and keep it interesting and then when we get done, we’ll come back into “Rosie” at the end. I felt like it was a great challenging musical set, to have to push yourself to be creative and musical when you don’t know what’s gonna happen. I said, “Well we’ve been calling ourselves a jamband for 25 years. We’ve actually done a jamset it took us 25 years to do it.” I mean we always jam but that was like, “I’d do that every night! That was fun!”
Any other stanouts.
Yeah, that was fun playing, the Cap is always great. It’s hard for me to pick out individual things I feel like I’m enjoying the consistency of the bands playing now and I am really psyched that we have a lot of new material right now we’ve been writing and recording tons over the last two years and ya know we talked about it like, “hey let’s not become a cover band of ourselves,” we have to keep creating and keep it fresh. So I’ve been enjoying that.
Yeah, you beat me to my next question. I was going to ask about how things are in the SoundLab.
Yeah well I think we’ve been making good use of it. We’ve probably recorded, I don’t know, 14 songs over the last year and a half or so. We haven’t put it out as an album, we may, but now it’s just like, let’s do this song and then let’s do these in three years and then we’ll finish ‘em off one at a time and finish them as singles and then we’ll work on the next three songs because everybody in the band writes, there’s no shortage of original tunes. Sometimes there’s too many to get ‘em all in. That’s better than the other possibilities.
Yeah, well the last thing I wanted to ask about Billy is, you’ve been playing cool free shows with your wife, Jillian. Tell me about what draws you to that kind of thing. Obviously I’m sure it’s fun to play with your wife. Is there any kind of creative itches that it scratches or do you just kind of like getting out there?
Oh yeah. We’re really into the old country Waylon’ and Willie, and who are some of the other guys that we like doing, like Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. When we’re at home we play a lot of music and get into harmony singing and working up these tunes. We’ve always kind of played a couple or three gigs per year. We have a friend who runs a concert series in Golden and we’ve always played a few shows with him per year. We did a recent one that was super fun with our friend Ross James and Ross is part of a family from back in Marin County out in the Bay Area. He plays with Bill and Scott Law and a bunch of those, Grahame Lesh, and he moved to Denver so we said, “hey let me come up and come over and well learn a couple of tunes and you can come sit in with us when we play our Golden show,” and he ended up playing on every song. He plays electric guitar, I play acoustic, and Jill and I sang and it was super fun, so were looking to do that a little bit more now that he’s out here. But yeah I think everybody in the band in String Cheese has some other projects that they work with to a smaller or greater degree so they don’t have to feel like they make the band play certain kind of music all the time. Rather than do that its like, scratching your itch or getting your jones on, it’s something where you can say, “I love String Cheese but I’ll never play a George Jones tune” or something like that so I like to play tons of bluegrass but I can’t make the band play bluegrass all night. People in the band wouldn’t enjoy it because people would be like, “what is this” and it would create tension that you don’t want in the band, so I think that’s why a lot of people pick up side projects so they can pursue those kind of outlets and different styles.
That does it for me, Billy, thank you so much for your time. Is there anything we haven’t talked about that you want to bring up?
I think that we covered our bases. Once again I’d like to say that during our 25th anniversary, I wanna thank people like you and Relix that have supported us and all our fans that have really kept us going through thick and thin. String Cheese really appreciates its fans and we’re really proud of all the people that come out.