Leftover Salmon is preparing for their upcoming 30th-anniversary show at The Mission Ballroom in Denver, CO on December 31st. The performance will look to cap off what’s been another exciting year for the band, while celebrating three decades since playing together for the first time at a New Year’s Eve show in 1989 in Crested Butte, CO.
Live For Live Music recently spoke with Vince Herman and Drew Emmitt as the two were en route to Knoxville from Atlanta for a run shows as part of their ongoing 2019/2020 duo tour leading up to the big Colorado celebration next week.
Both members were open to discussing Salmon’s musical influences, the Colorado music scene, the future of Jam music, what they thought about Billy Strings, and more. Herman even provided a few predictions for the near future that fans of Leftover Salmon will find particularly exciting.
Live For Live Music: You guys just got back from Strings and Sol, huh? I see you didn’t hesitate to get right back out there.
Vince Herman: Yeah, I was home for about ten hours before I headed back to the airport for this string of shows with Drew.
Live For Live Music: Leftover is releasing a vinyl box set in tandem with the New Years Show that includes all ten studio albums the band has recorded. Are there any from the collection that stand out to you in your 30 years as a band?
Vince Herman: [laughs] Well you know, I never listen to our records as soon as they are out. There is no returning to them except for working to recreate them live. After the process of making the record, we just kind of leave it there.
Live For Live Music: Understood. Are there any studio experiences which the band looks back upon fondly?
Vince Herman: You know, all of them were great experiences in their own way, but the Nashville Sessions  was probably the most fantasy-island like. We had the opportunity to work with Randy Scruggs, who opened the door to working with people like Waylon Jennings, Sam Bush, Taj Mahal, and Del McCoury on the record. It was a pretty cool experience, I’ll tell you that.
Live For Live Music: You and Drew have functioned as leaders of Leftover Salmon since the beginning. Are there any lessons you have learned along the way?
Vince Herman: I have always seen my job as harvesting the musical ideas in the band. We’ve had a lot of great players over the years, and each member has brought their own thing to the group. I’ve learned to work towards bringing the best out of each of them, you know?
Live For Live Music: Definitely. I read in an interview you did ten years ago as you prepared for the band’s 20th anniversary that you defined your sound as, “Polyethnic Cajun Slamgrass.” Is that still your go-to definition of the band’s sound?
Vince Herman: You know, I guess I wouldn’t use the word “Polyethnic” as much these days. Back in the day, we were incorporating a lot of Tex-Mex and Zydeco because we had an accordion in the group. I might call us a “Jazz-grass” band these days, you know? Hard to know what to call it … We are really excited about this lineup now. Eric Deutsch has been in the band for about three years, Greg Garrison has been with the group for something like eighteen years, and Andy Thorn has been with us for eight or nine years. We love the sound that these guys bring.
Live For Live Music: In many ways, Leftover was instrumental in laying the foundation for the Colorado jam scene we know today. What do you think is key to the continued health and longevity of the music as the scene progresses?
Vince Herman: It’s all up to Billy Strings at this point [laughs]. You know, he is uniquely qualified to move this music forward. It’s great to have a kid who grew up skateboarding and listening to metal who is also deeply rooted in the traditional side of the music. It’s a rare combination that comes along. I think the response speaks for itself. I was actually hanging with Larry Keel last night, and we were talking about all of this. Larry told me that Billy said to him, “I just got it from you guys!”, and Larry said, “Yeah, you got it from us, but not the selling out part!” [laughs].
Live For Live Music: In your documentary, Years For Your Ears, there is a section that talks about the foundations you laid at The Telluride Bluegrass Festival as Leftover Salmon was lifting off.
Drew Emmitt: Telluride is magical, to put it simply.
Live For Live Music: In Leftover’s early years, who was inspiring you on the Festival’s main stage?
Drew Emmitt: Oh God, there were so many. You know, Strength in Numbers and Newgrass Revival were kind of the epitome of what we were trying to do at the time.
Live For Live Music: How have you two seen the Colorado music scene change over the years?
Vince Herman: When we got our start, the Colorado music scene was really tight-knit. After Leftover Salmon’s first gig at The Eldo in 1989, we almost immediately got booked at six other mountain venues. That’s all because everyone knew each other. Word got around quickly. I mean, you know why people want to come here. They are moving here en masse. I think it’s good. We are creating a new world.
Live For Live Music: The band’s 30th-anniversary show on New Year’s Eve at The Mission Ballroom is branded, “Thirty Years Under The Big Top”. I am definitely sensing a circus theme here. Tell me, as someone who is scared of clowns, what will the clown to attendee ratio look like?
Vince Herman: There will be no scary clowns. That actually reminds me, we did have a crew guy back in the day who was deathly afraid of clowns, and we walked into an Insane Clown Posse movie showing one time in which there were 300 kids moving their arms in unison chanting “Die motherf*cker, Die motherf*cker, Die!”. Everyone was dressed in scary clown face. It was pretty special. He will be there at Mission Ballroom.
Live For Live Music What do you see in Leftover Salmon’s future in 2020 and the coming decade?
Vince Herman: Oh man… well, we are going to be the first band in history to do a three month run at Red Rocks in which we headline every night. Drew will also be the new president. Trump will be tied to a wooden frame so that the crows can pick his eyes out.