For the last thirty years, Leftover Salmon has been one of the most influential bands on the national bluegrass/jam-grass scene. For a band with such little assistance from mainstream music channels, it is remarkable what they have accomplished over their career.
As a child growing up, my parents would take our family to see traditional bluegrass bands from time to time at Silver Dollar City, which is an 1880’s themed amusement park in Branson, Missouri. Fast forward to my “first” junior year of college in 1997, and I had recently been hooked on the sounds of The Grateful Dead and Phish. Inevitably, a friend of mine gave me a L.O.S. disc, and I gave it a spin. The first song he played was “Down In The Hollow.” It took all of about ten seconds of hearing Drew Emmitt’s vocal range, coupled with the bands tight playing, and I was hooked for life!
My love and appreciation of Leftover Salmon has been a gateway to exploring many other bands in the bluegrass scene, and quite frankly, bands that probably would not exist today if it weren’t for Salmon paving the way.
I had the pleasure of catching up with author, Tim Newby, to get his take on his new book, Thirty Years Of Festival!
What was your inspiration behind this project?
While interviewing Vince Herman for an article I was writing for Honest Tune Magazine about their Aquatic Hitchhiker album, Vince said something that really struck me. He said, "I started playing with Drew when I was first out of college over thirty years ago. It was pretty footloose and hippie van when we first started, and over the years there have been marriages, and breakups, and band changes, and all kinds of things, but at the end of the day there was always Drew and Leftover Salmon." I had just recently had my first book published and was always kind of on the lookout for a new project and that thought just really struck me. To have something you have done for the vast majority of your life that still inspires and brings people joy, happiness, and all those emotions that music can cause is a pretty profound thought. I thought there has to be a story in there that needs to be told.
How long have you been associated with the band?
I live in Baltimore, and funny enough, I had never met any of them before starting the book. When I first had the idea, I reached out to publicist Perry Serpa who was working with the band at the time. Perry put me in touch with the band's manager, John Joy. John and I had a long conversation about the idea. He presented it to the group to see if they were interested. I first met the band at Delfest in 2015 and started interviews with all of them after that. Everyone could not have been more helpful and open. They all were willing to share whatever they had to help. Vince even had me out to his house in Oregon for a week to go through old trunks and boxes of stuff he had kept which provided some amazing finds. I have to recognize how open the band was in this journey. I told the story as I felt it needed to be told, and Salmon deserves huge credit for trusting me and allowing me to do that. There were many difficult topics and subjects that I covered in the book, that while I am sure were uncomfortable for them to discuss, they still answered every question I had deeply and thoroughly.
What was it like to tour with the band on their recent “Stories From The Living Room” tour?
It was manager John Joy's idea for the Stories from the Living Room tour. At a show at the Rams Head in Annapolis, Maryland I had met up with Vince and Drew early before the show to go through some pictures with them. One of my favorite things about Salmon is how Vince takes events and conversation from his day and incorporates them into the show later night. During the show that evening, Vince began relating some of the stories we had been talking about earlier in the day and adjusting the setlist to reflect those stories he was telling. I was sitting with John, and he leaned over and said, "This is what we need to do for the release of the book, a seated acoustic tour with the band telling different stories from the book." In that instant, John pretty much devised the whole idea they would use for the Living Room tour.
As far as the tour itself, I thought the shows were pretty amazing. To be able to see a band in the kind of intimate venues they played on the tour and to have them telling stories in such a relaxed fashion, was incredible. I think it is another aspect of Salmon that makes them so special, their willingness and ability to put themselves out there on the edge. I was honored the band asked me to be a part of the shows. It was fun to get out on the road and talk to so many people about the book and the band. As a fan, it was great to see the band night after night and see them dip into rarely visited parts of their catalog. Although these shows were billed as “sit down, living room” vibe, the band really brought the energy, just as any fan would expect.
Leftover Salmon: Thirty Years of Festival! Is available for purchase on Amazon or directly from the publishing house, Rowman.com.