Interview with Andy Thorn from Leftover Salmon
This year has already been filled with so many musical experiences that I am having a hard time keeping up! Having seen Leftover Salmon numerous times this past year and on Jam Cruise at the beginning of this year, I had the privilege to talk with banjo extraordinaire, Andy Thorn about their upcoming tour: Floydfest, King and Strings, Roosterwalk, Jam Cruise, Boogie at the Broadmoor and so much more.
Check out the full interview below and make sure to catch Leftover Salmon on their upcoming tour! This interview will also be on the first episode of my brand new podcast coming soon! This has been an exciting journey and I look forward to what the future may bring. Thank you all.
JBP: How is the tour going so far?
AT: It’s going great, we’re having a blast. I have a broken leg so, I’m on crutches. That’s the only bummer. Ya know? What are ya gonna do?
JBP: I think I saw that on social media but wasn’t sure if it was something that you were still going through. Are you still able to play?
AT: Yea, I’m not in pain or anything which is great, it’s coming around. I broke my leg on December 20th and I had a gig with Keller Williams that night. I actually made the gig. I had surgery on the night of December 20th and woke up feeling, not so bad. I had an IV of painkillers in my arm at the time so, I did that gig and then I had to skip my Christmas plans to go to North Carolina to play with my old friends, Mandolin Orange and Jon Stickley and all of them. I did end up making the Leftover Salmon New Year’s tour and I did that, another gig with Larry Keel and by the time that was all done, I was in some severe pain. I was just playing the gigs and going to bed afterwards but when the painkillers wore off, I was not doing great.
JBP: So that’s why you weren’t able to attend Jam Cruise?
AT: I had to pull out of Jam Cruise last minute so, the guys, I mean hopefully they had so many amazing people they work with through the years. Matt Flinner is actually known as a mandolin player, is also an incredible banjo player and he has filled in with the band every time they’ve needed someone. So, he knew most of the songs. I’m sure he did a great job.
JBP: I can personally vouch that it was awesome. Brandon “Taz” Niederauer sat in with them for the first set and I literally had tears in my eyes.
AT: Nice, Jon Stickley is one of my best friends since childhood and I know they got to sit-in with him during that set, as well. We grew up playing together. So yea, I was really bummed.
JBP: You joined the band in 2010, what brought you to Leftover and how has that experience helped shape you as a musician?
AT: I actually heard about Leftover Salmon back in North Carolina. So I was a fan before ever joining and I even remember at 14 or 15, I saw Leftover live and they blew me away because they were so much fun. I bought their live record at the show and I remember listening to that shit all the time. I saw them at the Cat's Cradle, I saw them at Ziggys and then by that time, I got into college and I was a music major. I stopped going to so many shows and I had my own band. I ended up gig-less until 2008 when I joined the Emmitt-Nershi Band so, that’s how I got in touch with the band and it just happened naturally because I loved the band and I already knew all the music.
JBP: So you’ve been playing with Leftover for almost 10 years now?
AT: Yeah it’s been quite a while, still having fun. I love it. I love these guys, it’s awesome.
JBP: Are you currently doing any side projects or anything like that?
AT: I am. I have a new solo record coming out. I am actually finishing up right now, as we speak. So, that’s really exciting. That’s me and all my North Carolina friends: Jon Stickley and it’s got the folks from Mandolin Orange, they’re really good friends of mine and then Bob Britt, the fiddle player from Town Mountain. So, I have all those guys and the bass player from Big Fat Gap, Miles Andrews. So, really excited about that.
JBP: Are you still located in North Carolina?
AT: No, I’m in Boulder now. I’ve been out here in Boulder for 10 years. I miss my North Carolina friends but I love this Colorado lifestyle. Which led to me breaking my leg.
JBP: Yeah, how did that happen?
AT: Skiing. I broke my tibia and I had to have surgery. Now, I have a metal rod in my leg. It takes a long time to heal, man.
JBP: So was it worth it? Are you going to get back out there and do it again?
AT: Yeah I mean, I love skiing. I’ll be out there. I’ll get out there the second I can.
JBP: So you guys will be playing FloydFest again this year?
AT: Yeah, that’s one of our favorites. I love it. I remember my scoutmaster had been telling me about the Floyd General store and their musical jam forever. He always wanted me to go up there with him and jam. I finally got up there a couple of years ago and it’s just amazing. We’ve been doing FloydFest for a long time and it’s really fun because I usually fly home to Durham and then I go up there with my family and we just have such a great weekend. It’s a great family atmosphere or a partying atmosphere. Anyone could just have a good time there.
JBP: I completely agree. I went to FloydFest for the first time this past year and saw you guys play with numerous special guest and sit-ins during the Buffalo Mountain Jam.
AT: Yeah the way that this Buffalo Mountain jam naturally happen, the first year, you know, Greg Allman had to cancel because his health was getting bad and they asked us to put together a set with Keller Williams and there you go. So, we ended up pulling all the guests and it became this Buffalo Mountain Jam and now we do it every year and it’s really really fun.
JBP: It has truly become a staple of FloydFest and I look forward to what you guys do this year. You play with a lot of up-and-coming artists. Who are some of your favorites that you have shared the stage with?
AT: Oh man, there are so many. Obviously, Jon Stickley Trio, I mean he is one of my best buddies. I love their stuff. I love Mandolin Orange and I really dig, Billy Strings, whenever he sits in with us, it’s pretty incredible.
JBP: Oh yea man! Billy Strings is crushing it right now. I’ve seen him numerous times.
AT: Yeah and some of the ladies are killing it like, Della Mae are really incredible. I love seeing the ladies play some bluegrass. It’s killer. There’s not enough female representation in this genre. Who else do I love? And then I really like a lot of the indie folk stuff that’s not as bluegrassy and that has been fun to get into.
JBP: Yes, there is all kinds of music to see at some of the festivals you play from bluegrass to Pop-Rock acts like, Greta Van Fleet at FloydFest this past year.
AT: Yeah that was my first time seeing them and it was kind of crazy.
JBP: Wild to say the least. The vote is still out for me. Billy Strings and Marcus King are two of my favorites right now.
AT: Oh man, King and Strings? Did you go to Roosterwalk last year?
JBP: I did and it was a fun time. It was my second year covering that festival.
AT: One of my best friends from college, Johnny Buck runs that festival. We actually used to write songs together. We wrote a song “All That I Can Think” in college that the String Dusters still cover today. I wish Leftover could do FloydFest and Roosterwalk but the competing radius clause does not allow it but I know Johnny has done a great job with Roosterwalk.
JBP:It certainly gets bigger and better every year. This King and Strings thing is really something to see, they are both powerful forces in the future of this music industry. What are some of your favorite places to play besides the ones we previously discussed?
AT: It’s all about the festivals like, Telluride Bluegrass that’s one of the best. I actually get to play a gig up there this year with my band from college, Broke Mountain Bluegrass Band and that's Anders from Greensky, Travis Wolf from The Infamous Stringdusters, Jon Stickley and then me and our friend Robin on mandolin. So, we’ve added Telluride this year that’s a pretty cool project. A lot of these Colorado festivals especially, the small ones are so much fun. Like Yarmony Grass and then just some of the clubs that we play are also fun. Like tonight, we are playing the Bluegrass Hall of Fame in Owensboro, Kentucky. I haven’t even been inside yet. I’m about to go check all the music stuff out. We play such a wide range of theaters. We’ll play a rock club one night and then an amazing theater the next. Like the Ryman Auditorium and all these different festivals, it keeps it fresh and fun you know?
JBP: That’s what keeps you going even when you have a broken leg.
AT: Yes, precisely. This fried chicken is going to keep me going tomorrow in Memphis, that’s all I know.
JBP: Tell me about Boogie at the Broadmoor? You’ll be playing with artist like Lukas Nelson and Sam Bush?
AT: Yeah, Lucas has been winning awards left and right for being a part of that movie, “A Star Is Born.” We got to know him on Maui and he is the nicest guy. So, he agreed to do this. I’m sure it would be a lot more expensive to book him now but he is a super cool dude and we always collaborate. So, that’s pretty cool. We have the nitty-gritty dirt band which is, I mean, when I was growing up my mom was playing it all the time so, I know all their songs. That’s going to be really fun. We have a String Dusters side project featuring, Sam Bush, “Bluegrass Generals” that’s going to be pretty out of this world, and then some great local bands. Sam Bush will be there all weekend too.
JBP: And that takes place in Colorado Springs?
AT: It’s at this amazing venue the Broadmoor. It has over 100 years of history. Like, Al Capone used to hang out there and shit. It’s a pretty unreal place. We used to do it at the Stanley Hotel which is famous for “The
Shining” and we sort of grew out of it and needed a bigger place to do the gig. So we are going to give the Broadmoor a shot. It’s going to be really cool.
JBP: Well, that sounds like a wonderful weekend of music, I don’t wanna keep you from exploring the Bluegrass Hall of Fame. Thanks for talking with us and I will come say, “Hey” at FloydFest.
AT: For sure man, come say, “Hey.” I hope I didn’t talk too fast, I just drank horchatas at lunch.
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Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.