After forming in the early 2000s, Greensky Bluegrass has continually pushed boundaries, constantly evolving their sound and has become one of the most prevalent bands on the bluegrass scene.
At festivals, Greensky Bluegrass became one of the fan favorites, as they were able to perform at major festivals, including the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester. In fact, in 2018, the band held its inaugural festival, Camp Greensky, a three-day musical paradise at Manistee National Forest in Michigan.
The first-year festival was such a hit, that the band is bringing it back in June, taking place on June 6-8. That’s just one of many events for the Michigan five-piece, as they opened 2019 with a North American tour that will come to The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville on Thursday night.
Toward the end of last year, Greensky Bluegrass offered fans a teaser of their new album, “All For Money,” which is scheduled to be released on Friday. In November, the band released its first track off the new album, “Do It Alone,” which is a track that shows Greensky’s ability to shape the genre, using a nontraditional style, in what is considered the band’s new anthem.
Before Thursday’s show in Nashville, The Tullahoma News was able to talk to mandolin player Paul Hoffman via email about this coming year for the band.
The Tullahoma News (TN): You guys will be playing the Ryman here on Friday in Nashville. Is there something special about getting play Nashville and specifically The Ryman?
Hoffman: Huge honor. Not just because it’s such an important part of acoustic music history, it’s also a beautiful venue. Hard to not feel like being a part of a show there is alike going to church.
TN: I know I'm supposed to focus on this show, but looking ahead, I saw where you guys have three shows scheduled for at Red Rocks in September. As a big music fan, that's easily one of the coolest places I've been lucky enough to see a show at. Which leaves me curious, from your perspective, where are some of your favorite venues that you've been able to perform?
Hoffman: There are so many i love for all sorts of different reasons. Red Rocks is definitely high on the list. Two venues in Milwaukee, The Pabst and The Riverside are both run by the same company and they take such good care of us. Delicious dinner, a barista, record player and Nintendos. All the amenities. The new venue in D.C., The Anthem is pretty incredible. Festivals are great. Can’t get a better view than the one from the Telluride stage.
TN: Again, looking ahead to the future a bit, I think one of the cooler things that I think you started last year, was the Camp Greensky Music Festival. I'm curious, how did that end up becoming a thing?
Hoffman: We waited a while to have our own festival because we’ve been so busy playing all sorts of other festivals. We had been playing Bell’s annual garden opener party for like fourteen years and there wasn’t enough room for everyone so we moved to the woods. We all love music and curating a festival lineup is a blast.
TN: Moving ahead, you guys will be putting out your new album, "All For Money" soon. What can you tell us about it as far as the writing process for it, how long you guys spent on it, and maybe the sounds that you incorporated on it.
Hoffman: Dave and I do most of the writing between cycles and bring a bunch of tunes the session and then we sort of arrange as band. With this record a handful of the tunes were really undeveloped which made the band process really exciting. A lot of the effects and stuff we used in this record are things we’ve developed in our live shows
TN: Back in November, you released "Do It Alone," off that upcoming album, and it was a song that I really enjoyed. It definitely feels like one of those, where I'm driving down the road, blaring this song. So, I was curious what was the writing process behind this song?
Hoffman: Sometimes I write first thing in the morning and stuff just spills out. I was thinking for a while that we needed another rock anthem. So it was sort of on my to-do list. I had always intended to write more lyrics for chorus but the simple just grew on me. It seems like it lends well to everyone shouting along.
TN: This is going to be my last question for you guys, but it's one that I'm generally curious about. When I hear the term bluegrass, I definitely didn't expect to hear a song like, "Do It Alone." One of the things that I really enjoy about you guys is your ability to sort of challenge the narrative -- for a lack there of better word. So, my question is what exactly is bluegrass? Can it be confined to a simple sound or it like other genres where it's constantly evolving?
Hoffman: We are clearly crossing outside the bluegrass boundaries on a regular basis. Hard to say exactly when though or what is and what is not. We have all the right instruments and we stay pretty true to roles of the instruments. So does bluegrass have to have a banjo? Maybe. Does it need to be high and lonesome songs about mountains and moonshine? Maybe. Bluegrass is great. I think that’s the part i'm certain about.