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INTERVIEW: Chain Station

As winter in the mountains prepares for its annual retreat, seasoned string band Chain Station ushers in the spring touring season with the release of Backroads, an album of original bluegrass songs inspired by the highways, landscapes and residents of the band’s Colorado home.  The full length record is set for release on May 3rd.

High-lonesome harmonies. Fiery fretwork. Acoustic instruments. Those ingredients of traditional bluegrass music are all present, tucked into an 11-song tracklist that not only nods to Chain Station’s appreciation for the old-time heroes of the genre, but also pushes the band into new territory. After all, Backroads isn’t your grandfather’s roots music. Produced by international banjo champion Kyle Tuttle, it’s a modern album rooted in creative arrangements and inspired performances — an album that will please newgrass fans and traditional listeners alike.

Today’s premiere and new taste of the album comes in the form of “Now and Again,” a track that captures the best of the traditional melodies with the new modern twist. The band also sit in to discuss the new single and what else is in store.

Hi guys, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

We are doing great. Excited to get back on the road with our new album, Backroads.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Now and Again”?

“Now and Again” started as an idea long ago by Alex Thoele on Guitar. He heard that phrase often in everyday life and always tried to fit it into a song. It finally came together when Chain Station had a long wait before a gig in Gunnison, CO at a brewery. The group played it for a long time, but never recorded it. We received so many requests to put it on the new album, so here it is. We changed it up a bit for the new album. Jon Pickett always sang such wonderful harmonies on it that we didn’t want to change the words or the simplicity of the song, but Kyle Tuttle, producer of Backroads, felt it could get a different feel by changing just a few things. He gave us some ideas that Chris Elliott and Jarett Mason ran with. They came up with a beautiful harmonized melody line that brought the song together. The song reminds one to look inside if there are ever any questions in life that need answers.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

The line “people they will say to you, mister you can buy from me….” Was inspired by the nature of consuming these days.

The single comes off your new album Backroads – what’s the story behind the title?

We were working on our song Backroads and Jon Pickett was looking for a pre-chorus or bridge. He threw out a line and Jarett and Alex just started riffing with some ideas. Then, Backroads came out of one of our mouths and we all got super excited. We thought, man, this is what we have been looking for the whole time. We all love driving down Backroads and we all feel it has shaped our lives, so what a great name for the album.

How was the recording and writing process?

Chain Station took off 2 weeks from touring and just spent a ton of time together shooting back and forth ideas for new songs. We all put our iPhones out in front of us and started playing. Alex then mixed those iPhone recordings and sent them out to everyone. We came up with some great stuff that we sent to Kyle Tuttle. He gave notes and we ran to the studio to record the songs. We took another 10 days in the studio so we could really come up with some organic feels. From there the songs changed even more into something beautiful. We added a few songs as we had late night sessions in the studio.

What was it like to work with Kyle Tuttle and how did that relationship develop?

Kyle Tuttle was a perfect fit for us. We met him at a bluegrass pick in Nashville that Ashleigh Caudill put together when we were touring through that area last year. We also loved the sounds on his solo album. Kyle flew in a couple days before our recording session started and he came to one of our live shows to hang with us.  We hit it off and were in full stride the minute we started recording. We stayed next to Swingfingers Studio near Horsetooth Reservoir, so we had a ton of time together as a group to really make the most of our recording studio time.

How much did he get to influence the album?

Chain Station decided going into the recording studio that we would try anything musically. Kyle helped us stretch out some songs and he gave great insight on structure of songs. It is always great to have someone else during the recording process that is fresh and new to the band. We also had Aaron Youngberg on the knobs and he has great ideas as well. With the addition of Chris Elliott on Banjo, we had a trio of banjo minded fellas that really make this album unique.

Do you tend to take a different approach when you are collaborating with someone else rather than on your own?

Our approach was very open-minded on this one. If someone had an idea, we were trying it.

What role does Denver play in your music?

Denver and Estes Park has played a huge role in our music. We have so much support in Estes Park community and that is where Jon Pickett and Alex Thoele started playing music together on mountaintops. Denver brought us to the next level with all of the opportunities to play breweries, distilleries, and cideries as we progressed as a band. Colorado is such an amazing place for live music. Chain Station has been making a living for 7 years playing music.

Featuring new members – how much did this new members get to influence the music on the record?

Chris “C-Bob” Elliott really put the sparkle in this album. He plays the banjo in such a unique way that lends itself towards progressive bluegrass. Chris opened up to any ideas the group had. His singing also helped make this thing amazing. He is an amazing baritone harmony singer.

How did you get to capture the road trip experience on this record?

The songs are about Nature, Backroads, and the humans around us.

What aspect of the Bluegrass genre did you get to dive into this material?

We have a few songs on the album like “Mother Nature” that really leans hard on bluegrass mandolin by Jarett Mason and 3 finger scrugg banjo playing by Chris Elliott. Jarett Mason also wrote an instrumental on the album called “Spooky Ridge” that is heavily influenced by David Grisman music, whom Jarett studies often.

What made you want to eventually pay tribute to Colorado as a whole?

The mountains of Colorado are our homes and it is what makes us go round. We are skiers, fly fisherman, outdoorsmen, 4x4ers and musicians who love to hang out with people of all kinds and play music for them.

How did you approach this and was it easy to pull it off?

It was easy to pull off for us because we all love Colorado so much.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

The inspiration for these songs have come from the people we have met, the places we have been and the music we have played with others. The band is very fortunate to have a great support base and we work well on playing and making music together.

Any plans to hit the road?

Chain Station has a full midwest tour coming up in April that leads into another small tour of southern Colorado and New Mexico, and that leads into some amazing shows in the summer around Colorado, the midwest, and Canada. Check out chainstation.com for more info

What else is happening next in Chain Station’s world?

Chain Station is getting our music out there via music festivals and other avenues that we have played for years. We can’t wait to see everyone along the way.

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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