—– What were your favorite bands in high school and how do you rank them today?  I was into The Allman Brothers, Grateful Dead, David Bromberg, Poco. New Riders of the Purple Sage in high school, but when I would listen to The Allmans I would say “Who is this Robert Johnson?”, and look him up. I was heading towards roots music as a teenager. When The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band released “Will The Circle Be Unbroken?” it had a major impact on me and my friends. That is how we discovered Doc Watson,  Vassar Clements, and Merle Travis. Doc became my sign post to all that followed. He had such great taste and style. From blues, bluegrass, swing, Doc had it all. Then Garcia, Grisman and Vassar released Old and in the Way, which also led us towards Bluegrass. New York radio had great non-commercial radio that featured bluegrass, Irish, jazz and blues. That was my education.

—– You started out as a drummer – what’s your first recollection of the mandolin and when/how/why did you pick it up?  I started playing mandolin because there was one in my house. My Dad played violin and mandolin (all by ear). Mandolin seemed like a good idea because everyone played guitar.
I played drums from 4th grade through high school.

—– What do playing drums and playing Mando have in common for you?  I think it helps inform my mandolin playing because mando is percussive and plays on 2 and 4 in bluegrass.

—– Did you take Mando lessons or are you self-taught?  I taught myself mandolin at first, but eventually studied with Barry Mitterhoff. (Skyline, Hot Tuna). I still study and take lessons from various people via skype.

—– I assume there are go-to guys that Mandolin players hopes to emulate – who were they for you initially and who are you in to today?   To discuss influences, any bluegrass mandolin player must mention Bill Monroe. I love Sam Bush, David Grisman, Doyle Lawson, Ricky Skaggs, Jethro Burns and the list goes on. Although I am sure I am influenced by many people, I don’t think I emulate anyone because mostly I learn from other instruments, like guitar (Django) fiddle and even piano or horns. I have recently become obsessed with the music of Django Reinhardt sometimes called Gypsy Jazz. I released a CD called Mandology and lead a band of the same name.

—– What is your Mando of choice and how did you settle on that as your ‘ace’ of choice?  I play an instrument made for me by the great builder A. Lawrence Smart. It is modeled after an F-5 Gibson.

—– How did Blue Plate Special come together and how would you describe the bands dynamics on stage, and off?  Blue Plate Special started in 2001 after Tom Wise (Bass)  and I were playing together for a bit. After kicking around a few band configurations, Tom’s wife Jay Friedman began playing fiddle and man can she sing! (Who Knew?) The three of us started learning some tunes and we all began to write. We added some musicians who have come and gone. Fortunately, about 7 or 8 years ago, we hooked up with some amazing young musicians James Hempfling (guitar) and Dan Whitener (banjo).
At this point we are all best friends.


—— Do you guys feel you part of the Nu-Grass movement or are you more traditional?  I wouldn’t say Blue Plate Special is a traditional bluegrass band. Bluegrass is an ever evolving and growing genre with some bands keeping it really traditional and others taking liberties. This has been true now for decades. I feel like we do what feels right, what the song tells us to do.  Sometimes that means keeping it traditional, sometimes not. We play swing, blues and some rock covers. What ever feels like fun and sounds good. What characterizes our band I think, are the arraignments. I really don’t like to cover a tune without making it our own. We work very hard to find a sound for each song often with three part harmony.

—— How does the writing process work in BPS?  When someone comes in with an original song idea, we arrange very carefully. It is really fun to see a song evolve in that fashion. When I write a tune, I sometimes hear the music almost fully formed. Maybe with a word or two or a concept. The lyrics usually follow.

—– Blue Plate Special are to perform at the CMAs in the ‘honorable mention; Bluegrass” category, what tune do you guys do, what do you wear, and how would the choreography work?  If we were to perform at the CMAs we would dress up in our finest clothes(I would have to go shopping) and try to smile a lot.



How would you describe the inner-band dynamics of The Lil Smokies?  Does it work the similarly off stage as on or do roles change some between the two? I’ve always firmly believed that one plays his instrument like he lives his life. This is certainly true for our band. That said, as much as it is a collaborative effort on stage, it is off of the stage, as well. Between interviews, conference calls, long drives, and loading up the van, we all try to do our share. I would like to tip my hat to our bass player, Scott Parker, and our banjo player, Matt Cornette, for being the primary drivers. Thank you, gents.

What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you guys this year?  I think there are some secrets better left on the road. Talk to me after the show, in the alley in hushed tones.

How do you think being from Montana inform your music and vibe?  Indicative of Montana is space and serenity; my favorite of the vast catalogue of its great attributes. I think we’re able to appreciate that space and let that permeate into our music. Bluegrass, at times, can be incredibly fast and frantic. I think incorporating space can slow the song or set down and be quite effective.

How do songs come about for you and The Lil Smokies?  It definitely varies song to song. For myself, it’s the constant battle between perspiration and inspiration. Usually, I tend to think there needs to be inspiration before the perspiration, but lately I’m trying to find the inspiration inside the perspiration. Once a song is ready to bring to the band, it can take a couple rehearsals to arrange it or months of coming back to. It really varies from tune to tune.

Did you grow up with music in your family?  Yeah, my father is a musician for a living. He’s a singer-songwriter, guitar player, and multi-instrumentalist. I definitely grew up inundated with the music of James Taylor, Paul Simon, Chet Atkins, Earl Scruggs and the Beatles. Over time, even as much as I rebelled against it, there was no escaping the power of osmosis.

Was there a live concert experience that impacted you early on?  In high school, I went to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and was completely floored by the enormity of the festival. I think seeing Béla Fleck and the Flecktones’ set that year (2005) was a really monumental moment in my musical career.

What was your first personal public performance?  My first public performance was playing guitar with a jazz pianist at a fancy restaurant, my freshman year in college in 2006. It was all simple instrumental jazz standards. My jazz knowledge is incredibly poor. We got through it somehow. I was, personally, yelled at for playing my stratocaster too loud though. Victory.

How do you feel about playing covers? any personal fail-safe campfire goto’s?  I love playing covers. We try to do at least one cover a night. I think it’s important to have a thread of familiarity with audience members that aren’t versed in your own original material. I think as long as the cover is special and authentic, you can make it your own. The Punch Brothers are an incredible example of embracing cover tunes, even with an extensive archive of their own originals.

What singers / songwriters are on your Mt. Rushmore?  In no particular order: Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Taylor Goldsmith, Chris Thile.

What advice do you give to a young musicians & artists seeking their path?  Play because you want to play and because it’s fun. That is the golden rule, which can be applied to writing and performing and touring and all the other subsections of the music industry. Also, be authentic and humble. People will really resonate with humility and authenticity.

The Lil Smokies are granted a wish by a NASA Genie in which you can time travel back to open for any show / band / concert in history — what are your coordinates?  I’m not a Deadhead at all. Neither is the rest of this band, but I would think opening for The Grateful Dead in Egypt in 1978 would be one hell of a night. Plus, it’s on my bucket list to see the pyramids.


Will-KosterWhat were the first few albums you ever bought with your own money and do you still enjoy them today?  I remember really grooving to Michael Jackson at an early age and buying the cassettes “Bad” and “Dangerous.” I would crank my boombox and try to do the moonwalk. MJ is still the King. The compositions, performances, and production on his albums are still among my favorites.

How long have you been singing and what artists did you like to emulate most as a kid?  I started singing when I moved to Colorado in 2005. I started singing a lot of blues songs and wrote songs occasionally. Casey our bass player and I lived in a mountain cabin for a while and we dove into a bunch of artist’s musical catalogues. We would end up learning a lot of the songs we were jamming out to. Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, The Band, and Neil Young to name a few. 

Trout Steak Revival are helping lead the charge for the ever-growing ‘new grass’ movement and yet for so many it’s a brand new experience; What do you feel Trout Steak’s brings to the genre or are you more purists than anything else? I feel like a huge part of new-grass and bluegrass music is the strong community vibe. We love being a part of the bluegrass family. I hope that what we are bringing to the genre is honest and full of fun and love.

Did you grow up with bluegrass or was it an acquired taste?  I heard of bluegrass music my freshman year of college. I went to Indiana University and a friend from West Virginia who plays fiddle, invited me to Louisville, KY for the IBMA’s. It was quite the introduction to bluegrass watching the greats perform and witnessing the organized chaos of thousands of musicians hanging out in a hotel. My first bluegrass jam went pretty bad because I only knew how to play blues solos… a new friend told me I should get a Dobro because I liked to bend notes so much….. and so I did.

Would you like to sing more lead with the band? is that something you have to fight for being in an outfit where everyone can sing so well?  Sharing is caring.

What’s the bands approach to songwriting? (how do you come up with songs? you guys had mentioned you were a democracy when we me that night at BK) We approach songwriting in a very honest and collaborative way. We typically start working on a song when someone has some lyrics, a melody, and some chords. We will start playing around with the ideas and see how the band can support the song the best. We usually will add a few chords, come up with instrumental melodies, figure out harmonies and things of that nature, as a group.

In terms of lyrics, do you feel you guys have a message (ie – what are you guys really about?) Lately our songs have been pretty uplifting and positive, but who knows….we may go through a dark phase at some point? Mostly, we just want to sing songs that we feel and that are true to us.

Any tips on what it takes to stay focused, fresh and sane on the road?

  1. stay hydrated
  2. don’t drink hotel water
  3. drink good coffee
  4. shower when groovy
  5. pack clean socks and undies for at least a week
  6. to boost moral: come up with famous peoples names to replace everyday words. For example: Can you pick me up a Gregory Alan IsaCoffee? (Gregory Alan for short) or Russels! meaning please turn on the Courtesy Lights (Kurts) in the bus…. It sounds strange, but it helps.
  7. Go swimming whenever possible
  8. grow to love burritos, hummus, chips, and veggietrays
  9. always order the meatloaf
  10. be excellent to one another

Trout-Steak-Revival-Band-FeatureWhat are you guys listening to on the tour bus this year so far? (any surprises?)  The Wood Brothers, The Lowest Pair, Elephant Revival, Fruition, The Infamous Stringdusters, The Deer, Kendrick Lamar, Prince, Bill Callahan, Bonnie Prince Billy, Mandolin Orange, My Morning Jacket, Ry Cooder, and Magnolia Electric Company are the ones that come to mind first. Surprised?

Do you think smashing a fiddle on stage would be cathartic, desperate or downright wrong?  I may differ to Bevin on this one. I would cry big tears.


U2tUN19rQUtqTmsx_o_old-mother-logo---jonas-friddle-the-majorityAre you happy with how Use Your Voice turned out?  Absolutely. Working with John Abbey at King Size Sound Labs we were able to really capture the sound of our live show.

Do you have a philosophy when it comes to the recording? Philosophy is a strong word for it, but we definitely strive to maintain our personality in the recording process. It can be very easy to make decisions in the recording process that trim away character in the pursuit of perfection.

Do you still believe in the concept of an album or is it all about the single mp3?  I believe in the album. I love albums.  If songs are telling a story or expiring a feeling then it has to be true that the artist has more than one take on the same idea they want to present.  On the other hand…if you’ve got a great single there’s nothing wrong with letting it stand alone.

How does the songwriting process work for you?  I like routine.  Days in a row of uninterrupted time so when the ideas start coming then you can use them right in the moment.  I read an interview with Neil Young where he says that’s the only way to do it. If you store ideas for later you can forget why you had them in the first place.

Are there any triggers in your life that cause you to sit down and write something, or does it just happen?  It feels like they just happen, but I’m sure that’s because something has been stewing for a while.

What was the first real concert you ever attended and what impression did  it have on you?  I can’t say for sure what the first one was…might have been George Winston.  I saw Jackson Browne a couple of time solo and that was amazing.  He played for hours taking on request after another.

c927e37cd6502ca7ec57575619efe3eaWhat is your approach to playing live and what is your mind-set pre-show? Playing live is the pay-off so we try to enjoy it as much as we can.  As and independent band it takes a lot of work to book and prep all aspects of a show. So it’s important to press the reset button and lose the stress before playing.

If you could tour with any artist as support who would it be and why? Paul Simon.  I saw him perform with his band and I can only imagine how fun the dressing room jams must be.

What are your favorite 3 albums of all-time? Jackson Browne: Late for the Sky, Paul Simon: Rhythm of the Saints, John Prine: John Prine.

Earth is to be destroyed by an asteroid — you been instructed to put one song (any song ever recorded in a time capsule to represent mother earth, what would it be? Well with that prompt wouldn’t it have to be Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush”?

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