ANDY DUNNIGAN w/THE LIL SMOKIES

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.

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GREGG YDE w/ BLACK LAUREL

How did you get hooked on rock and roll?  It was unavoidable in the house I grew up in. I had four older siblings who were all into music. My brother Mike played drums and my brother Mark played guitar. We had the jam room in the basement with tapestry covered walls with Mateus bottles everywhere. Illegal ashtrays. This was the 70’s and everybody who came into my orbit had long hair and KISS or UFO shirts on. I was baptized into Rock and Roll and have been a devout follower ever since.
What was your first public/live performance like?  It was probably sometime around sophomore year in high school at our local community center in Libertyville Illinois. They hosted a weekly open mike. I don’t remember much about it except I played solo acoustic. I don’t remember being nervous. I rarely get stage fright and when I do it is usually for smaller crowds. The intimacy of playing to a handful of people can be intimidating. Throw me up in front of a packed room and I’m ready to go.
Favorite albums growing up?  The first truly great record that entered my world was the Jackson 5’s Greatest Hits. The J5 were still a young outfit and pre puberty Michael. Such a great album when Motown was still on top. Around the same time my Sister brought home the Beach Boys Greatest Hits and that really struck a chord with me. The first album I bought with my own money was around 4th or 5th grade. The Beatles Revolver. My brother Matt who was a couple years older bought the Rolling Stones Black and Blue on the same outing. By the time I was in 7th grade you could find most Beatle albums, some ELO, Chicago, Queen and the Who in my young collection. I also had that Steve Martin album with King Tut on it…..but don’t tell anybody.;)
 
Do you hear their influences still in your new stuff?  Sure, it’s all rolling around in there. I’m trying to push out the pre Jackson 5 / Osmand Brother period and I think I’ve been successful.
How did Black Laurel come about?  I was new to New Orleans and looking to get back in the game after a long sabbatical as a family man. I just started asking around for like-minded musicians. My buddy and co worker at the hardware store I worked at in the Quarter played, so we got together, wrote some songs. When we felt we had a set, we went to Craigslist to find a rhythm section. The rest will hopefully be history. Of course, I’m the only original guy left. It has been addition by subtraction ever since.
Did you have specific goals for the recording sessions for debut EP?  We just wanted to capture our sound as economically as possible. The EP is just us playing live with a quick overdub session for vocals and some doubling of rhythm guitar and solo’s. It was produced by Rick Nelson of Afghan Whigs at Marigny Recording Studio, just down the street from my house. The next one we hope will be more relaxed, but money for diy bands is always tight.

Were the songs all new or were there some that you had been sitting on for a while?   Two of the songs were written by our bass player, Rade Pejic and I’m assuming are current. Of my five songs, all were newer, with the exception of ‘Set Your City Free’ which was written awhile ago. The line “were gonna march into your town. Knock all your statues down” was about the invasion of Iraq but in New Orleans, everyone thinks it’s about the removal of Confederate monuments.

How would you compare Chicago and New Orleans in terms influence to Black Laurel’s music?  New Orleans references are sprinkled  throughout our lyrics. Not so much musically. Chicago had a great rock scene when I was active there. Jesus Lizard, Ministry, Smashing Pumpkins, Liz Phair, Boom Hank, Veruca Salt, Red Red Meat. New Orleans is a Jazz and R&B town. There is a nice underground rock scene starting to bubble to the surface, but the tourists don’t want anything to do with it. I will say that living in New Orleans has been great for my playing as there are so many unbelievable musicians everywhere. Shake a tree and a great musician will fall out……along with some beads and discarded crawfish shells.
Songwriters often say they think of their songs as almost like their children — how do you feel about the old Nurv material when you hear it now?  Some need to go to their rooms without supper. Some deserve to go to College.
You go down to the crossroads, your rider by your side and come across the Devil  listening to “Judy Brown. He wants to strike a deal — he wants your guitar; what do you ask of him? 
Depends on the guitar and what Trump…..er…Lucifer is offering in return.