Member of the Grammy-winning bluegrass band The Infamous Stringdusters, Jeremy Garrett (aka G-Grass), works as hard as anybody in the music world.
From his tireless touring and recording efforts with The Dusters, to notable collaborations, to his own solo work, Garrett seems to always be on the grind. His latest body of work exists within the 12-tracks of his latest opus, River Wild, which officially dropped March 25th.
The multi-instrumentalist has played fiddle since the seasoned age of three-years-old, and has staked his claim as a notable guitarist, mandolinist, vocalist, and songwriter to boot. Basically, there’s not much this guy can’t do.
With these talents, he has accumulated many accolades and awards with The Infamous Stringdusters, such as winning three International Bluegrass Music Association awards, most notably Album and Song of the Year in 2007. They’ve also been nominated for three Grammys, having taken home Best Bluegrass Album for their 2018 record, Laws of Gravity. The band has performed in countless club, theater, and festival crowds throughout the years, and is often one of the headlining acts at said festivals.
Garrett’s new album, River Wild, is the successor to his acclaimed 2021 album, Wanderer’s Compass.
The talented multi-instrumentalist was able to take time out of his busy schedule to discuss the new album, touring plans, and much more.
So last time we talked, you had just released your album, Circles. How do you feel your new album, River Wild, compares and contrasts to it?
Believe it or not, I actually recorded and released another record in between Circles and River Wild, called Wanderer’s Compass. The Circles record was based loosely on my fiddle looping project, along with some singer songwriter-type material. Wanderer’s Compass, was a dive deeper into electronic possibilities as far as effects and utilizing a looping pedal. River Wild is a totally different record than those two, as it is based around original/traditional bluegrass music, and I called on some of the best players in the bluegrass business to help me! A sort of returning to my roots if you will. I have been steeped in the traditions of bluegrass music, and it was so fun to get to delve back into that part of my musical influence.
Is there a central theme or motif throughout the record?
Passionate songs, originality, along with traditional driving bluegrass instrumentation is the overall theme of the record. I really just tried to make a great bluegrass record that both traditionalists and progressive music listeners could hopefully enjoy.
How long did it take you to write and record?
I’ve had the idea to do this record for a while. I had a handful of original songs that I thought would be great for this project, including a couple that I had recorded as a stripped down version on a previous record of mine called The RV Sessions. There were a couple of tracks on that record that I knew would be great with the full bluegrass band treatment, so I added those songs to the project. I also wrote 4 instrumentals especially for this project. All together, if you don’t include the span of time it took to write a few of the songs included on the record, the overall production time was maybe 3 weeks, add a couple more weeks to write the instrumentals and put the finishing touches on the arrangements.
“I’ve heard people talk of this ‘balance’ thing in the music business before, but to play ball at a high level, you basically have to give your life to it.”
Where was it produced and who were the special guests or notable artists who really helped take it to another level?
The core band unit was recorded by engineer Scott Barnett at Crossroads Studios in Asheville, NC, and I produced it. I sent a few tracks off for overdubs from some folks that I knew I wanted on the record, but wouldn’t be able to make the timing of the session. Thank goodness for technology when it comes to recording these days. So many things are possible in that realm.
I took great care in choosing the artists that would join me on this project and I was thrilled with the results. I think they are the best of the best that bluegrass has to offer. Honestly, I feel like the musicians I chose, all played their hearts out on this record and really made the songs be all they could possibly be. Lou Reid sings harmony on a track called “Time To Get Into The Change,” and it is over the top! Seth Taylor on guitar, Barry Bales and Travis Book on Bass, Alan Bibey on Mandolin, Josh Shilling singing a bunch of harmonies, Gena Britt, Ryan Cavanaugh, and Russ Carson on Banjo, Andy Hall on Dobro.
How important is determining the order of songs on an album like this to you? What made you choose “I Am The River Wild” and “Burning The Slash” as bookends?
I think you want to choose songs and an order that flows nicely on a record. “River Wild,” starts with a dynamic build and pulls your focus in musically speaking, so I hopefully have your attention. Then I like to build a rollercoaster after that… taking you through all the emotions. The ups and downs, the mournful to the happy to the exciting. I thought “Burning the Slash” would be a nice closer as it is played like an old time fiddle tune, but played solo on the fiddle.
While I’m sure you’re excited to play all of them live, is there one or two songs from the album that you’re particularly looking forward to busting out on stage for your fans?
I truly have plans to play all the material live and with a fun lineup of players, throughout this year. “I Am The River Wild” will definitely be high on that list, along with “In The Blink Of An Eye” and the instrumental “Potato Farmer.”
How is the creative process different on your solo albums versus albums with The Infamous Stringdusters?
When recording a “solo” record versus a band record like the Infamous Stringdusters would record, it’s all on you. All the songs, all the sounds, the players, the singers. It’s a tremendous amount of work, but for me personally, truly a labor of love. Creatively speaking, it’s a chance to dive seriously into one’s vision. When making a record with the Dusters, there is a lot that is shared vision-wise, which makes it strong in my opinion. However, it is so personally satisfying to challenge myself to make a project like this on my own.
Do you have tour plans in store to promote the album?
I have a few small run of shows planned through the summer and into the fall, utilizing some of the musicians from the record, along with some musicians I’ve built connections with other over the years playing bluegrass music.
How do you balance your solo career with your career in The Stringdusters? Is it a challenge to maintain both?
Balance!? Ha! There’s no balance in the music business. You do your best and I have a family, so that can be challenging to bring balance to as well. There never has been any balance in the music industry though. That’s a pipe dream if you ask me. It’s the type of business you give your life to. I’ve heard people talk of this “balance” thing in the music business before, but to play ball at a high level, you basically have to give your life to it. I have always had a passionate drive for my music, no matter if that’s making it with other people, or on my own. It’s all challenging for sure.
What might the rest of 2022 have in store for you and/or The Stringdusters?
A lot of shows are coming up for both the Dusters and myself. 2022 is shaping up to be one heck of a year with the new music out, GRAMMY nomination for the Dusters and my new project as well. Hope to see you out at a show!
Photos by George Trent, Mountain Trout Photography