‘Tis the season, and Umphrey’s McGee’s Kris Myers is gearing up to usher a snow squall of cheer and philanthropy to the Brooklyn Bowl Nashville, with the second-ever Slayride – a medley of music, charity and community. The holiday charity concert was curated by Myers and features some of the most beloved and talented musicians from Nashville and beyond, including a house band comprised of Myers, Mark Lettieri, Kevin Scott, Felix Pastorius, Wes Bailey and Ty Bailie and special guests, including Marcus King, Rashawn Ross, Jeff Coffin, Corey Frye, Jen Hartswick, Eric Struthers and more.
The show is set to be put on in a Christmas Special styled format hosted by Nashville transplant and co-founder of Leftover Salmon Vince Hermon. The event is in benefit of David’s Den, a 501c3 non-profit resource in Nashville for musicians and the creative community that surrounds them, that aims to be a safe space where they can get support, guidance and friendship during times when they’re feeling isolated, self-destructive, experiencing internal pressures due to depression or other mental health matters.
Following 2021’s gathering Myers is more ready than ever to bring a sackful of gifts to the Nashville community via Slayride.
Tell me a bit about this year’s Slayride; it seems to be very rooted in the Nashville music scene.
Yes, it’s a lot of local players and we picked a charity that’s locally based as well. The intention was mainly to keep it more local if anything but always open to other opportunities and just kind of building it on the second year at the Brooklyn Bowl.
It’s a very impressive lineup. As opposed to last year, how did your approach change in organizing the event?
I’d say we wanted to make things more official this year. Have things set more in advance, and we also realized that we had to have a little push and pull with when artists respond or not or if the actual artists we had originally will be the same lineup towards the end of the whole process. We’ve learned some of the main obstacles we’ve had to overcome and catch those obstacles earlier in the game, which is logical. Also how you communicate with artists and maybe give them fewer emails and less clutter which is another thing to be careful and cognizant about.
[Last year] I didn’t really have any vision of what the flow of the setlists or the format would be but now that I’m going into my second year, I’m getting a better grasp of what would work and what would be potentially a little too eclectic. I think that takes an artist or a musical director to contribute to the vision of the music and the show schedule, and I think that was a part of this event that went so well and is going so well.
We just loved the process either way because all these exciting things pop up, and once the word gets around in the community, we still just sit back and are amazed by how many new things come to the forefront.
I will say that last year, it was a ridiculous amount of music. I think we definitely went over the top. I had three sets of music [laughs]. I think that might be a little too much for most.
As Slayride is a holiday-themed event, is that something you take into consideration when you’re outlining the setlists?
Yeah! We always factor in whether or not there’s a silent auction and if there are some personalities and verbiage between the songs. We work it out like it’s an actual show almost like a TV show like a Tonight Show or something like a Christmas special, but without all the cheesy announcements and commercials. So we have that sort of format and that helps keep things contained and organized but then the rest of it is collaborative and more improvisational moments that I envision working with the songs.
When I think of your work with Umphrey’s McGee and the UmBowl improvisation is not unfamiliar territory so it’ll be fascinating to see where it will go. With artists like Marcus King and Jen Hartswick, it should be very interesting. What are some of the collaborations that you’re really looking forward to?
Right from the start I look at how many artists here are local—not all of them are, but most of them are—so we wanted this event to be amazing musically and make sense for the players involved, but we also wanted to highlight and bring together the best of Nashville and to share some communal joy with the music and the collaboration.
I think about which artists don’t normally work together and how they would mesh together.The collab that I look forward to on this one, first of all, is Jerry Douglas who is a master. He’s legendary and he’s also a real authentic Nashville studio musician who’s been around on so many records and kind of an older generation of players that we can all learn from and be inspired by. On top of that, he’s just a really cool guy, all around he’s just really open and excited, and that brings a lot of extra joy to the experience.
I’m also looking forward to Mark Lettieri who’s my new favorite musician along with the Snarky Puppy world. I’m just always so impressed by all the production on their albums and all the killer music that those players bring and Mark, of course, his newest releases are amazing. The Baritone Sessions is particularly great.
I’m really excited about that and then, of course, playing with Felix Pastorius, who is legendary in his own right and, you know is still bringing his own stamp to it. He’s not a local player here, but he’s someone that I enjoy playing with so I still have a couple of those guys involved. Then Kevin Scott, of course, who’s another favorite. Daru Jones is involved because he came by at a studio session I was doing and basically we just started hitting off because he lives out here as well and it’s a big community—that’s kind of how I went with it. We’ve also got fantastic horns this time.
Not eleven pipers piping but it’s a little bit more than that, huh?
Yeah, it’s even more than that! [Laughs.] A little bit over the top but that’s what this event is supposed to do! As long as we still put on a great show musically and enjoy it, it’s really a win-win, and that brings people together for a great cause.
Speaking of good causes, did you take any inspiration from Warren Haynes’ Christmas Jam in Asheville?
I did a little bit because he has brought a variety as well. He was sort of a part of my inspiration of doing this in a way that was more versatile and not just catering to the jamband genre. I kind of compare the events in some ways, and regionally it’s like I’m representing the Nashville chapter of this sort of experience for sure, but I wasn’t really even envisioning it to be that originally. I just wanted it to blossom into something without much plan or thought into what it would be or where it’d end up, and now here we are.
With 2022’s Slayride what were your thoughts on having artists return from the previous year?
I want to change the rotation of players from year to year, but some of the artists are continuing on. I think the ones that came back the second year definitely knew what to expect, and if anything, I promised to make it a little easier this year, as well, which is always something we strive for. They also knew what kind of preparations it involved, and I think we all agreed that we wanted to make it a little more fun and a little less heavy lifting. At the same time, though, we didn’t want to fall back on standards for whatever genre because a lot of standards are just kind of very ordinary and we wanted to make Slayride extraordinary. So the music you bring has to be carefully chosen based off of what’s attainable, what people are willing to learn and then who will enjoy it as well. So all of that is factored in.
What’s the overall feeling you want guests and viewers to walk away with after Slayride this year?
Bliss and nothing but bliss and happiness, just gratefulness. Personally, I’m grateful, that’s for sure. Everyone coming together like this is quite amazing. I’m very taken aback. Then on top of that collectively we all end up bringing together one common goal which is to provide charitable efforts and do it almost like a public service but also do it because we want to.
It’s almost like it’s a recreation—sometimes it’s all business with your players, but for this event, it doesn’t feel that way. That’s all I hear about: People being happy with the setlist and the experience and feeling good about it. Not feeling like they were being thrown into a stressful, super overly curated event, instead like a friend’s thing. I want people to still be themselves.
Could you tell me a little bit more about your connection with David Den and why you chose that non-profit?
David’s Den was originally brought to the attention of my partner coordinator in this, Pierce Harrison. He was aware of to some deep-rooted communal charities and not ones that are really big and corporate. David’s Den is a growing not-for-profit that is putting together a community center and resources for people with mental issues, mood disorder issues any kind of troubling issues with their mental states. It primarily focuses on musicians who can’t really afford to go in patient through their insurance or to a rehab or something. This is more of a community-based option that I think is the future for a lot of the efforts to help people with mental health issues which is becoming more and more of an important thing.
We have to all take care of each other and this gives people a safe haven to find a hobby. They have a lot of great resources, recreational things to do like woodworking, arts and crafts, welding—you can do anything in construction and whatnot. They have people there who are experts and help with getting you involved with team recreation and there’s a lot of other people there who these people can relate to and actually feel comfortable around in their own skin. I think that this charity is about building community and trying to bring people to it.
I was checking out their website, and the tone of their mission statement read as very direct and purposeful.
I think what it comes down to is we’re finding that when you help someone else, you learn something about yourself as well, and grow as a person more than you ever would have dreamed. When you actually do help other people, contribute and commit to it, that is kind of a secret in life that is really important for people to understand—helping others gives guidance and friendship, and that’s especially impactful for people who are dealing with mental health matters. This is a resource that truly helps, and it’s available whether or not your insurance will accept it. That’s very rare.
I went to the facility on the east side. It’s really amazing, a beautiful lofty place and they have all these great tools, and people are on-site moderating everything. You can always call someone there if you wanted to go there because you’re having mental issues or you’re dealing with something. It gives you an option rather than going through the system, so to speak.
Well, the event is just days away. Do you have anything you’d like to add before the event?
All I can say is if you’re either local or regional or you’re willing to travel, I promise you this will be one of the greatest shows you will see all year. I promise you. As far as the musicality goes, it’s top-notch, and it’s already sounding amazing what all the artists are bringing forth to it and all the surprises we have in store for the show. I’m very enthusiastic about it and encourage people to buy their tickets and get over here and check it out. It’s a one-of-a-kind event, a pretty heroic dose of music.