A Conversation with The Infamous Stringdusters’ Andy Hall
The Infamous Stringdusters are a GRAMMY Award winning American bluegrass band who just released their ninth studio album. During our conversation we talked about the state of current events in the world and the influence music can have on how people engage with their political surroundings. The band has made an intentional decision to publish music that has a positive influence on the world. I spoke with Andy Hall about their most recent release and the band in general. Enjoy!
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I started off asking Andy about their sound as a band. He told me, “Our influences couldn’t be more varied. We have a traditional sort of bluegrass instrumentation, banjo fiddle, dobro upright bass and guitar, but most of us didn’t grow up listening to or playing bluegrass.
Most of us grew up listening to all manner of different things. I grew up listening to heavy metal and rock ’n’ roll and was a guitar player first.
I went to see the Grateful Dead, and Phish and it’s the same with some of the others.“The bluegrass thing came just a little bit later. Our influences as a band range from a folk background with Travis who came up going to folk festivals. I’m a heavy metal guy. Andy Falco is a big Grateful Dead fan and into the Blues. Chris Pandollfie, he started listening to Bella Fleck pretty early on, so that makes sense.
“We spent about 10 years as a band together in Nashville. And that was really where the bluegrass thing was. We were really focused on learning how to play bluegrass properly and really fine tuning our instruments in that style. So, we started all varied and then we went into the a bluegrass phase when the band started.
“We did that for a while and then kind of branched back out once we felt like we had a good foundation, and let those old influences come back in and filter through this bluegrass instrumentation.”
The band spent a number of years living and playing in Nashville. I asked Hall about their time there and what it’s like to be part of such a talented musical community.
“Yeah, it’s like the best of each of our instruments all lived there. For me, I was a big Jerry Douglas fan and he lived there and you could run into him, or you see Sam Bush in the in Whole Foods or something. Being around that energy was so exciting for a young musician. It just really propelled us to be around people that are better than you, and are these legends, and makes you want to practice and get better.
“Our influences are wide ranging and more and more as we go along we let that be expressed through the band. We don’t necessarily feel like we have to be a bluegrass band, but we love bluegrass and we play quite a bit of it.”
The title track on their most recent studio album is called “Rise Sun.” It’s an energetic and uplifting song that has a number of apparent influences, including Gospel music. I found this to be a unique way to start the album. I asked Andy about the Gospel influence on the album.
“That song is definitely our version of a secular spiritual song. You know we’re all deep people and have a spiritual side you know we’re not particularly religious, but this song definitely has the gospel vibe.
“It starts out with clapping on the on the two and four as we call it in musician terms, which is where gospel people clap. The opposite of bluegrass people who clap on the one and the three. The gospel people clap on the two and the four, a little bit of music education for you, but that’s what kind of gives it that sound.
“It starts off a capella and then goes into the bluegrass vibe. Travis wrote that, our bass player, and it’s definitely been one of our favorite songs and a fan favorite. It’s one of those songs that, when it happens during a live show, I see it on the set list and I just know that moment is going to really coalesce and the crowd always reacts.
“And it’s just your home run in the set. It just always works.
“People love it. And that’s what it is. It’s uplifting, it’s energetic, it’s bright, and it has a cool message. It’s just such a cool simple song, there’s nothing too crazy or fancy about it.. It just has all the elements that really brings people for their feet. So it’s fun to play.”
I also asked him about upcoming projects.
“We’ve done eight or nine full length studio records, a bunch of EPs of cover songs, we’ve put out a bunch of live records, we’ve put out so much music in our career, we were giving ourselves a moment to not put the pressure on to immediately record another album.
“But we have a track in the bag. It’s a collaboration with G Love, of G Love Special Sauce, he’s a buddy, and we recorded an awesome song with him. That’s a really cool collaboration, it’s like bluegrass, rap, it’s this whole cool thing.
So we’ve got that, we’re going to be releasing in the coming months. We’re currently in the middle of our heavy touring season, which ends up being the focus, there’s always going to be stuff coming out because that’s how it goes.”