Leftover Salmon‘s banjo and fiddle virtuoso Andy Thorn has been off to an extremely busy and creative start to the first half of the year. Thorn has been in the studio working on solo original material that he hopes to release later this year. Furthermore, Leftover Salmon released their new studio album, Something Higher, in May, and will host their second-annual music festival, Fish Out Of Water, at Taos Mesa Brewing in Taos, New Mexico, on August 10th and 11th.
Fish Out Of Water Festival’s stunning host venue, the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership, has become a favorite venue for Thorn to play with Leftover Salmon. Live for Live Music’s own Sam Berenson was fortunate enough to get a chance to chat with Andy Thorn last week, while out on the road on a stop in Raleigh, North Carolina. In their conversation, Thorn had shared his thoughts on the upcoming festival and why New Mexico holds a special place in his heart. Plus, being a Colorado mountain-man, Andy made sure to let us know all about his favorite kinds of beer!
Read on to read this new interview with Andy Thorn, and to purchase tickets to Leftover Salmon’s second-annual Fish Out Of Water Festival, head here!
Live for Live Music: Tell us a little bit about how Fish Out Of Water Festival came to be and Leftover Salmon’s connection to the festival?
Andy Thorn: I think we just saw how cool that venue is down in Taos, and we started talking to the owner of Like A Boss Productions, who helps put Fish Out Of Water on. Just talking to this guy and seeing how cool of a spot it was, they asked us if we wanted to throw an event here, and we love New Mexico and Taos, so we thought this would be a great place to do it. They also already have the infrastructure, like a permanent stage, which is this amazing adobe stage.
L4LM: The venue looks pretty spectacular.
AT: It is spectacular. You can camp right there. It’s just a really stunning setting for a show. Probably one of the best sunsets I saw last year was out there at the show. There’s this big half-dome adobe stage, and it’s kind of sunken down, creating a natural outdoor amphitheater.
Plus, the surrounding area is so cool. There’s a hot spring about five miles away. You drive to the end of this dirt road and hike down to the Rio Grande River, which leads to an incredible hot spring. There’s that to do during the day, and you can jump in the river. It’s just a very nice experience.
L4LM: So you guys get to spend part of your day going about your leisurely time down there?
AT: Yeah, we’ll go into town and hangout and we’ll spend a few hours at Manby Hot Springs—the one that I was just talking about—because it’s right there and so nice. Then you hike back out and go play the show.
L4LM: The event is at Taos Mesa Brewing. Are you a beer guy?
AT: Yes. [laughs] They have great beer. I like all beer. When I’m gigging, I like a lighter beer because it keeps my energy level higher, but if I’m at home, I’ll drink heavy IPAs, double IPAs, and imperial stouts. When it’s hot and summertime though, sours and pilsners are really good.
L4LM: What’s your history with Taos, both musically and personally?
AT: My history in New Mexico goes so far back. I used to go there with my Boys Scout troop in high school from North Carolina. I’m actually in North Carolina right now. My scout troop used to go to this place, Stillmont, which is right on the other side of Taos, and I went there for two, two-week-long backpacking trips.
I would backpack with a banjo strapped to me, and my friend had a guitar, so we’d be going around to all of these campsites playing for everybody. You know, we were teenagers. I came back for the second trip, and a ranger had been telling a story about us for the three years in between, about these kids backpacking with their bluegrass instruments. I’ve always loved it down there, and it’s fun to go back every year. I’ll be doing a week-long road trip down there and going to Ojai Caliente, which is an amazing hot spring down there.
L4LM: Switching gears to Leftover Salmon, how has the new Something Higher material found itself in the mix since releasing the album a few months ago?
AT: It has blended into the old material really, really well. It also lets us have a lot more fun, because we have more current and original material to choose from. There’s always a big back-catalog with [Leftover Salmon] with like 300 songs on our song list. Having the new stuff that we all wrote together too—even though there were individual writers, we all collaborated on every song—it’s really fun to see which songs are getting longer live. Certain ones are good for stretching out, but we’re still developing with that.
L4LM: “Game of Thorns” is a track on the new album. Are you a big Game of Thrones fan?
AT: I like Game of Thor— [laughs] See, I can’t even say it the right way anymore. I was playing it for my friend when I was showing him the album and it was still unnamed. The song has a sort of minor-y, celtic-y vibe, so he just started calling it “Game of Thorns”. I never thought of a better title, so that’s what it became. It is a fun play on words though. And, I’m not the biggest Game of Thrones fan you’ve ever met, but I do really like the show.
L4LM: You and Drew Emmitt have a special connection onstage. Was this natural from the get-go or has it taken time and patience to get where you guys are?
AT: We always got along really well. I’ve actually been a fan of Salmon since I was in high school, so I’ve always loved Drew [Emmitt] and Vince [Herman] before knowing them. Chris Pandolfi of The Infamous Stringdusters got me in with Drew when he had to leave his band, and from the first time we started hanging out together, it was clear we had a lot of shared interests.
Drew taught me how to ski because I was a really bad skier when I first moved to Colorado. He lives in Crested Butte and is super into mountain biking as well. I moved to Colorado with just a station wagon full of stuff, and I didn’t even really live anywhere for the first year. I just was camping around and enjoying the outdoors. Drew’s really into all of that stuff.
Our relationship has grown a lot over time. Musically too, he’s influenced me in so many ways. I think to myself, how can I elevate this solo to the level that Drew can when he does his fast tremolo? I just try to match that level of excitement.
L4LM: What have you been working on outside of Leftover Salmon over the past couple months?
AT: I’ve been working on a separate solo album with all of my original stuff. I’ve actually been working on this since last Christmas, but I’ve been slowly pulling things together. It has Mandolin Orange on it, John Stickley, Bobby Britt, the fiddle player from Town Mountain. These guys are my North Carolina friends, so we grew up kicking it together. I just got Mandolin Orange’s harmony vocals sent to me, and it’s just amazing to hear them. So, I’m putting that album together, and it should be out later this year.
L4LM: What about in terms of live music and gigs?
AT: I’ve been doing a ton of stuff. Drew and I have been doing a lot of little duo things, or we’ll add on to a band. We just did a Dead and Company post-show with The Motet guys and Yonder Mountain String Band‘s Adam Aijala at the Fox Theatre in Boulder. It was kind of a funk-meets-bluegrass night, and we had a sold-out crowd. That was one of the most fun things I’ve done recently.
I’ve also been playing with Keller [Williams] quite a bit. We just did Keller and the Andys at Northwest String Summit, which was hilarious and awesome. It’s me, Andy Hall, and Andy Falco, so now we’re all pumped up on that and like, “When can we do that again?” There’s almost too much stuff to do than there is time for. It’s a good problem to have.
L4LM: Colorado’s music scene right now is the best it’s ever been. Why do you think this is?
AT: I don’t know exactly. I think part of it is the reemergence of Denver being a big, successful city because for a while, Denver wasn’t really a desirable place to live. A lot of it is also the population influx. I’m not sure what caused it, whether it was legal pot or just the outdoor opportunities you can do, but so many people came here, and I think most of the people that moved to Colorado are music-type people. They came to Colorado to at least go to some shows. It’s helped make the music scene even bigger.
More musicians have moved to Colorado because of this, and it’s kind of this snowball effect. All of these great musicians are doing local shows all of the time, which gets people more excited, and now it’s crazy. There are so many music venues in the Front Range, I can’t even count.
L4LM: Who’s catching your attention in the music scene right now?
AT: It’s really fun to watch all of my friend’s bands like Greensky Bluegrass, the Infamous Stringdusters, John Stickley, Mandolin Orange, and Town Mountain. The people in these bands are kids that I grew up playing with, so it’s super fun that we’re getting to share and do this all together.
Then there’s Billy Strings, who’s incredible to watch. Every guy in his band is amazing. There’s always tons of energy. The Lil Smokies are also blowing my mind—I’m like, “Holy shit!” They used to open for the Emmitt-Nershi Band when I played with them way back, and they had almost half-different band members back then. Now it’s just like, wow. They’re so solid.
L4LM: Are there any artists you’re dying to play with, that you haven’t already?
AT: Oh. [laughs] Yes, but I don’t know who. Who would that be? I think I get to play with a lot of the best. I get to fill in with the friggin’ Travelin’ McCourys, who are the best. I got to play banjo with them for a week, which was amazing. I’d just love to spend time with any really good banjo players and dig deeper into that well. It’s a hard question!
L4LM: I really appreciate your time, Andy, and thank you for having a chat with me.
AT: No problem. It was my pleasure!
Fish Out Of Water Festival is going to be one of the can’t-miss music festivals in the Southwest this year, with the festival returning to Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership and Hotel Luna Mystica for its second edition on August 10th and 11th. In addition to performances from host band Leftover Salmon, fans will also be treated to sets from Dumpstaphunk, David Lowery and Johnny Hickman (of Cracker), Trout Steak Revival, Poor Man’s Whiskey performing “Dark Side of the Moonshine”, Gasoline Lollypops, Last To Know, Liver Down The River, Sweet Lillies, Ry Taylor & Friends, and The Noseeums and more.
For more information and ticketing, head here.
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