Interview with Leftover Salmon’s Andy Thorn
by BissList contributing editor, Josh Danson
I recently spoke with Andy Thorn, banjo player for the seminal Colorado “slamgrass” unit Leftover Salmon, as he was about to set off for the West Coast on the second leg of the band’s Fall Tour. Thorn was thankfully spared the worst of the recent flooding that devastated so much of the Rocky Mountain Front Slope, but his house has apparently become something of a refuge for many that were displaced by the deluge. During our conversation we discussed the floods and the sense of community that has arisen out of the tragedy and then turned our focus to the music. Most specifically, we discussed the recently announced partnership between Leftover Salmon and one of their local craft brewers, Breckenridge Brewery, to deliver some of the band’s new music through an inventive marketing arrangement. Starting in July and running through October, Leftover Salmon has pre-released four new songs through Breckenridge Brewery’s 12-pack Sampler Packs, with download codes provided on four collectable “Artist Series” beer coasters packaged within the 12-packs.
The four “Artist Series” coasters, were specially created by four well-known artists from the “Rock Art” community -- Gary Houston, Jeff Wood, Nate Duval and Tyler Stout – taking their inspiration from Leftover Salmon’s music and Breckenridge Brewery’s beers. In addition to the coasters, each artist is printing a limited run of 100 screen print posters. The posters will be available through select giveaways on social media and at special events across the country.
In addition to the download codes available on the coasters, the first three songs in the series, “High Country,” “Thornpipe,” and “Get up and Go,” are all currently available for download on iTunes, with the fourth coming soon.
Here’s the rest of my conversation with Andy...
BL: I saw that you’ve been playing some shows with the guys from Assembly of Dust. Have you played with those guys before?
AT: Yeah, those guys are really good friends. We did a tour together with them with the Emmitt-Nershi band and got to know them then, so this was kind of picking back up on that.
BL: Last time I spoke with Vince [Herman, LoS’ founding guitar player and vocalist] you guys were just back out on the road after a pretty extended hiatus and feeling really good about being back out there. You guys still feeling rejuvenated and enjoying yourselves out there?
AT: Yeah I think so. We haven’t been killing ourselves too bad, so we’re pretty fresh these days whenever we go out. And we got some new material recorded, so we’re playing a lot of that and that’s good fun and it’s keeping it new and fresh for everybody.
BL: So you’re keeping a little spring in your step. That’s great. I guess you get wiser as the years go by and you’re better able to prioritize what’s important. Are you guys all family men these days, or is it just that when you mature as an artist you’re better able to find that comfort zone between going out there getting after it and pulling back a little and keeping your sanity?
AT: Yeah, you know, it’s trial and error really. Sometimes you do lose your sanity, but that’s OK [laughs]. Together we have a lot of fun. Everybody gets a long really great. Vince actually moved to Oregon, which is a little sad because I used to just go over to his house all the time. His house had an open-door policy, so anytime you stopped by somebody was there jamming, whether it was his kids or him. So that’s a little different, but now we just see him when we’re playing in the band and that kind of keeps it even more fun that way – and he probably gets a little bit more rest too.
BL: You ever get a song in your head or a little kernel of a song and have to call him up and play something for him, or play something for him over Skype or something like that?
AT: Yeah, or if I run across his kid’s band playing in town I always give him a call and say, “Hey man, I’m watching Gypsy Moon [featuring Vince Herman’s son Silas on guitar and mandolin] and they’re killin’ it!” or something like that. I know sometimes he wishes he was here, but I know he’s happy up there where he is too.
BL: Tell me a little about this new promotion you guys are doing with Breckenridge Brewery.
AT: They’re based in Denver and our manager is friends with some of the guys there and I guess in talking they came up with this promotion. Breckenridge Brewery is trying to get more involved with the local music scene and they came up with this idea. So basically it forced us to go into the studio and figure out some new songs and that was really the best part of it, because otherwise we don’t get together to work on new stuff often enough. So it was really just a great excuse for us to go into the studio, because everyone had a bunch of new originals, and we recorded ten new songs -- and four of them are coming out through this new promotion.
BL: That’s great. And it’s pretty appropriate considering Leftover Salmon is kind of good times music…
AT: Right, for some bands it might not be an appropriate partnership, but it was perfect for us.
BL: Hah, right! Well you guys are so closely associated with Colorado and the Rockies. It’s kind of like: Craft Music, Craft Beer…
AT: Yeah, it just kind of makes sense.
BL: Now for the most important question of the interview… Can I get one of those 12 packs out here in California?
AT: I hope so! Honestly, I’m not exactly sure what the availability is right now. But if you see us out in San Francisco we’re going to have a ton of the coasters with us and we’ll be giving them out to people at the shows and there’s a download on each one.
BL: That’s great, because the artwork is really cool and I’ve really enjoyed the couple songs that I’ve heard so far. Particularly “High Country,” which is one that you wrote, correct? It’s kind of a traditional bluegrass-y piece.
AT: Exactly. Yeah, it’s just a simple little tune that’s fun to jam.
BL: Yeah, just an old-timey, kind of nice, traditional bluegrass piece.
AT: Yeah, it’s definitely the most traditional tune of the bunch.
BL: How would you describe the other tunes in the set? What’s Thornpipe all about? Is that another acoustic piece?
AT: Yeah, it’s a banjo instrumental. Kind of traditional as well. But other than that we a little bit of everything. We have some bluesy stuff with the harmonica player Sugar Blue [a Grammy Award-winner who is best known for his work with the Rolling Stones on Some Girls, Emotional Rescue and Tattoo You]. Andy Hall from the Infamous String Dusters played dobro on one song. So there’s some cool guests too.
BL: Well that sounds great and it brings me to my next question… You guys are playing at the Independent in San Francisco, one of my favorite venues out here, this coming Sunday [October 6th], and I see it’s billed as Leftover Salmon and Friends. Any hints as to who the “friends” might be? Or do I just have to go to the show and find out?
AT: We’re really not even sure at this point, but we have so many friends who are playing Hardly Strictly on Sunday that if you just look at the schedule you could just sort of expect any of them to show up. A lot of those bands are good friends of our so I have a feeling that a lot of those people will show up. Should be pretty cool, should be some pretty fun guests.
Leftover Salmon and Friends are playing at The Independent at 628 Divisidero in San Francisco on Sunday, Oct. 6th at 8:00 PM.
# # #