INTERVIEW: Sawtooth Brothers

How would you classify your music?

We would put our music in the broad sense of “bluegrass”, but only because the range of the term “bluegrass” has greatly expanded over the years. We’ve talked a lot about this as a band, actually. We’ve thrown out terms like “progressive bluegrass”, “modern acoustic”, and “newgrass”, but most people hear us and just say “bluegrass”.

Who are some of your top 5 musical influences? 

Individually, the band members listen to a huge range of artists, but a few especially bring us together for a listen. On our way to a show, we’ll be found listening to Punch Brothers, Infamous Stringdusters, Nickel Creek, The 1975, or possibly Twenty One Pilots. The most direct influence comes from bands with similar instrumentation to us such as the Punch Brothers and Infamous Stringdusters, while we may borrow song structure and other ideas from pop and alt rock.

What do you want fans to take from your music?

Best case scenario: we hope our listeners have fun and that the music provokes some emotion. What emotion is felt depends on the listener, but I believe music is most successful when it can communicate an emotion for someone. At the very least, we hope our songs are catchy and get stuck in your head. There’s a reason we use a lot of hooks.

4. Can you tell us a bit about your latest album? When will it be released and how does it differ from your previous work?

Our new album, “One More Flight”, was release on February 5th and it is our first release under this configuration. In the past, we had a 5th member on banjo, and our music was traditional bluegrass in a strict sense. With his departure, we decided to take a new turn and toss some of the bluegrass rules aside to let our original material be whatever it was going to be. Our new material is based around hooks, more complicated arrangements, and precise parts as opposed to the standard arrangements and improvisation of traditional bluegrass. We also took more liberties in the studio, and we had the chance to work with a great producer, Dan Deurloo, who really helped our ideas come to life.

What do you love and hate about the Music Business?

We love music. Listening to music…playing music… It’s all good. And, the chance to do what we love as a job is a total thrill. We feel really lucky to get to be onstage having a blast instead of sitting at a desk. The flip side of that is all the behind the scenes work. Most people don’t know what goes into the maintenance of a band. There are fun, creative rehearsals, and then there are serious, business rehearsals. And beyond that, there’s all the administrative work that never quits and never comes with a cheering audience.

What is the best concert you have been to? What do you like most about playing live?

While I can’t speak for the whole band on this one, I’ll say that one of my favorite concerts ever was Brandi Carlile at the Cabooze Plaza in Minneapolis last summer. It was outdoors on a gorgeous evening, and the vibe was amazing. Everyone knew all the lyrics, and Brandi seemed one with the crowd. She and her band played flawlessly and without the help of any backing tracks or gadgets. You won’t find that kind of raw talent just anywhere. Brandi’s incredible voice and showmanship kept everyone’s rapt attention.

It’s that connection with the audience that makes performing so much fun. Whether it works or not depends the most of the performer, but the audience has to be with it too. It goes both ways. So when you play a live show and the crowd is just as ready and excited as you are, that’s when the magic happens.

Is there a song on this latest CD that stands out as your personal favorite, and why? 

If you had asked me last year, I would have said the title track, One More Flight. But then, we turned it into a music video, and I had to listen to it a few too many times during filming haha. So, while I’m proud of all the songs, I the most thrilled about “Don’t Go It Alone”. It was the last song we wrote for the album, and the most collaborative. Each of us contributed a big chunk to it, and it’s the only song for which I wrote the lyrics. The end product is not something any one of us could have done on our own. No pun intended, but we really came together on “Don’t Go It Alone”.

8. How have you evolved as an artist over the last few years? What made you decide to come back into the music business?

We’ve been doing this for 10 years now. When we started I was the youngest in the band at age 12, and the oldest, Jesse, was 16. Back then, our parents drove us to all our shows. So, the first big evolution was the first show we played without mom and dad there. Over the last few years, we’ve changed a lot in our approach to the business. We started recording less frequently in order to invest more into each project. And with our latest album, the goal has been to expand our fan base outside the realm of the bluegrass scene. That’s part of the reason we dropped our old name, Sawtooth Bluegrass Band, in favor of the simpler, less specific, Sawtooth Brothers. With that name change, came our new focus on original material. “One More Flight” is our first album of all originals, and our first attempt at making an “album” with a cohesive sense of a sound vs a CD with a collection of songs.

If you could meet, play a gig, co-write a song, have dinner, get drunk with any band or artist (dead or alive) who would it be?

Chris Thile. I think I can speak for the whole band on this one. Thile is one of greatest musician’s of all time, ever. He’s a lyrical genius and prophetic song writer. There seems to be no perceivable limit to his musical ability. 10/10 would drink whiskey with.

So tell us what’s next?   

Next is getting the album out there. We spent over a year working on this project, but that’s just first step. Now, we want to get it to our audience’s ears and make sure we make the most of our opportunity to share our craft.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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