Tag Archives: High Country

Interview! Leftover Salmon’s Vince Herman and Billy Payne

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Words and Images by Tim Newby

 

This New Year’s Eve Leftover Salmon celebrated twenty-five years as a band.  In that time they have established themselves as true-leaders of the jam-grass scene with their influential and unique mix of sounds and styles that has branded them as a truly special one-of-a-kind band that is beyond description.  For many bands entering their 25th year they seem to be on cruise control, coasting towards retirement.  But Leftover Salmon is not one of those bands.  Since their return from a brief three-year hiatus from 2004-2007 following the death of founding member and banjo picker extraordinaire Mark Vann, the band has been anything but coasting.  The addition of Andy Thorn in 2010 on banjo seemed to push the band to new, exciting,  innovative heights.  The release of the 2012 album, Aquatic Hitchhiker, only confirmed this.

 

As the band enters its 25th year it continues to reach brand new heights and never seems to rest on past achievements.  Much like the addition of Thorn  a few years prior, a new band member added in 2014, legendary keyboardist Billy Payne from Little Feat, heralded new musical  peaks for a band that only seems to be getting better with age.  Following the addition of Payne, Leftover Salmon released their eighth album, High Country.

 

Following the release of their newest album Leftover Salmon founder, guitarist and singer Vince Herman, and newest addition Billy Payne checked in with Honest Tune to discuss the band’s twenty-five years, the addition of Payne, their newest album, and what the future holds for Leftover Salmon.

 

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Honest Tune: Thanks for checking in with us, what have you been up to lately?

Vince Herman: Playing music. [laughs} If they weren’t paying us for this I would be out doing it anyway. It has been almost twenty-five years, it will be twenty-five years this New Years. We are just ridiculously and incredibly lucky that we have been doing this for long and we have played with many of the good kind of people. Now we got Bill Payne in the band. He is one of the most recorded keyboardists in rock n roll.

 

HT: How did it come about to have Bill join the band full time?

 VH: He produced a record of ours (2004’s Leftover Salmon) right before we went on hiatus. We had a great relationship with him and we did a bunch of shows with Little Feat. I have been going to Jamaica to the last five or six years to be part of the Little Feat fan fest. We have just played music in a bunch of different situations with Bill and we have good friendship and camaraderie on a number of different levels. He is a great writer and he is a good guy to sit around with on the bus.

DSCN2593editedBill Payne: I worked on a record with them. I produced a record for them that followed the concerts in tribute to Mark Vann. Paul Barrere and I were both part of those gigs. It was a bunch of people. It is a small enough world. Dave Miller was the monitor engineer at those shows and he had worked with Little Feat so there are just a lot of connections that happens with bands.

The guys got in touch with me a few years about playing a gig in Laramie, Wyoming. Andy Hall was playing, Sam Bush, and a couple of other folks and they asked me to play and I said sure I will play. So we kind of hit it off there. From there it just sort of blossomed into a gig about a year ago at Thanksgiving. I played with them in Boulder for two nights and then they asked if I wanted to go to Mexico with them (for Strings & Sol 2013). I said sure. Then I started doing dates regularly around New Years with them.

I just think they are a great band and the way these things work is I know I bring my own stamp in, but it works both ways. Leftover Salmon is a wonderful group of musicians and I love their material. They have three really great singers in Vince, Drew, and Andy. I can sing too. So we are really opening up what we can do. I think Vince recognized the best way to see what we could do would be to just ask me to join the band.

 

 

DSCN2611editedHT: I was at those shows in Mexico and it really worked.  I think you are such a natural fit with Salmon.  There are so many similarities that can be drawn between Little Feat and Leftover Salmon. Was there any thought at that time on your part that you might like to join full time?

BP: The thought had crossed all of our minds I’m pretty sure. I kind of held off because I wanted to see how everything would fit. I think I said why don’t we just consider that we are dating and took it in that direction. There is no rush. Little Feat is not doing anything right now. We might be in Jamaica in March. I am hoping Paul Barrere is healthy enough to make it down with us.

 

HT: What does Bill bring to the band that’s different?

VH: It is really cool to see our rhythm section go off on these improvs with Bill and go somewhere that Drew and Andy and I could never lead and Bill can. His vocabulary is so ridiculously large and when he improvises he can go absolutely anywhere. Those improvs are something that I don’t think the band has hit so consistently.

 

HT: Bill, what has it been like for you to join these guys?

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BP: I liken playing with these guys to being in the middle of a lake., and you are on your water-skis and you are going to be pulled out of the water at a moment’s notice by the world’s fastest boat so you better just hang on. That is how it is playing with these cats. They can play just about anything. Alwyn Robinson on drums and Greg Garrison on bass, those two cats as far as their musicianship and being able to take it to a lot of different places whether on a jazz level or other areas makes it a great experience for all us. Drew is phenomenal with his mandolin, guitar, and violin playing. Each and every one of these cats on their own is very strong. It reminds me of Little Feat in that regard because that was the way we were as a band. We were all pretty strong in our respective areas as well. And I think that’s what really makes a great group and enables them to generate a lot of momentum.

 

HT: Vince, it must be great to bring in someone who has such a large musical vocabulary and can speak so many musical languages.

VH: Yeah, you know we think it’s a pretty good fit. {laughs} He has really unique things to add. I just feel lucky as hell that I play with these cats, Drew and Andy, and all the guys that have been in the band over the years. I have a personal philosophy to always be the worst player in your band. It has worked for me.

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BP: [laughs} Vince is a wonderful player. He is just such a diamond in the rough. He is in a very good place to discover who he is. He knows who is, but he is still in that place of not quite believing he can play the guitar. He never comes off like he is shy, but when you play in this band you better be ready to step up. The rhythm section he has is a very good cushion, maybe better than what he had before.   I think that’s what we are doing now. It’s the dichotomy of feeling comfort and going to comfort zones, but still challenging each other. And that’s what keeps bands together for a good length of time. And it’s what keeps bands and their audience on a level where they keep progresses together, and are able to see it grow which makes it exciting for everyone.

 

HT: Is Bill on the new record (High Country, released November 2014)?

 VH: Yeah Bill is on the new record.

 

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HT: Did he contribute any songs?

VH: Just one called “Bluegrass Pines.” He wrote it with Robert Hunter. He has been writing with Robert Hunter lately.

BP: It’s like a lot of stuff I would do with Little Feat. Robert does the lyrics and I do the music and the melody. He is such a wonderful cat to write with.

 

HT: How was the approach to High Country? Any different than what you have done in the past?

VH: On this one we wrote some tunes together, mostly though we each kind of each showed up with tunes. The next album is going to be real New Orleans-centric. I think it will be more of a concept. Whereas High Country there is a thread running through it still has a whole lot of variety of ideas and topics running through it. It is definitely a Salmon record.

 

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HT: And Salmon records are always a party. You guys seem to really be enjoying what you are doing right now and the addition of Bill seems to have invigorated you even more.

 VH: Yeah we are really psyched about the new record, High Country. We might also have a live release coming out soon. And then we are going to go to New Orleans to work on a new record and we are starting to write for that now. Writing with Bill is a really fun process.

 

HT: Will that new album be out this year?

 VH: No, we will try and record it in the fall so it will probably be 2016. I guess I bring it up because we are fired up as we look down the road and we are making these cool plans. We got a trip to Hawaii going on. We are going to Alaska, Strings and Sol in Mexico. Ski tour in the winter. Then we start festival stuff up. It’s pretty exciting to be going into year twenty-five and have so much to do. It is a good place to be.

 

los6475HT: Besides the lineup of the band what do you think has changed for you over the last twenty-five years, Vince?

VH: There have been so many different phases of this band that I have liked. I started playing with Drew when I was just out of college. It was pretty footloose and hippie van when we first started. There was my first marriage and then there was another marriage. You go through all these periods of your life and somehow the band kept going constantly right through them all. It has changed a lot over that time. We used to do a five or six week tour. I can’t imagine doing that now. At one point we were playing like 230-240 shows a year.

 

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HT: As a band you seem to be in a really good place, you can go where you want, when you want, and be the life of the party at every festival you go to. At this point twenty-five years in is there anyone you still look to as an idol or whose career you look to emulate?

 VH: Probably Lorde. {laughs} It’s like wow she’s 17. I guess Tim Obrien comes to mind. He was my inspiration to move from West Virginia to Colorado in the early eighties to see Hot Rize and be part of that bluegrass scene. Tim has always been an inspiration to me. You find your musical niche that you love playing and bluegrass was that niche for me. You don’t make Lady Gaga money in bluegrass but you can have a long career in this music. It’s not like you are burnt out with the audience because of over exposure.

 

 

HT: And bluegrass fans are very faithful.

 VH: They are. And I love what John Hartford said, “If bluegrass music was any more popular I would have to play it to people I don’t even know.”

 

 

Watch Leftover Salmon celebrate 25 years at the Vic Theatre in Chicago 12/13/14

 

 

 

 

Leftover Salmon expand winter tour

DSCN2584editedLeftover Salmon have added dates in February and March of next year to their already announced Fall and Winter tour dates.  Previous dates included a visit to the Hangtown Halloween Ball October 25, a two-night run in Boulder Colorado, a return visit to Strings & Sol in Mexico, and a New Year’s Eve run at the Vic Theatre in Chicago.  New dates will see the band make stops in Montana and Idaho before returning to their home-state of Colorado for a lengthy run of shows.  All shows will feature new band member Billy Payne from Little Feat.

 

Leftover Salmon’s new album, High Country, will be released November 28.

 

The band played the title track from the upcoming album during their recent show at the Ryman Auditorium.


PREVIOUSLY ANNOUNCED:

10/25   Hangtown Halloween Ball                   Placerville, CA

11/28   Boulder Theater                                   Boulder, CO

11/29   Boulder Theater                                   Boulder, CO

12/11   Strings & Sol (12/11-15)                    Puerto Morelos, MEX

12/30   Vic Theatre                                          Chicago, IL

12/31   Vic Theatre                                          Chicago, IL

1/2       Alyeska Resort/The Sitzmark              Girdwood, AK

1/3       Alyeska Resort/The Sitzmark              Girdwood, AK

1/8       Charley’s Saloon                                Pala, HI

1/9       Charley’s Saloon                                Pala, HI

1/10     The Mill House at Maui Tropical Plantation   Wailuku, HI

1/11     The Mill House at Maui Tropical Plantation   Wailuku, HI

 

NEWLY ADDED DATES:

 

2/5       Big Sky Big Grass                              Big Sky, MT

2/6       Knotty Pine                                         Victor, ID

2/7       Knotty Pine                                         Victor, ID

2/8       Big Sky Big Grass                              Big Sky, MT

2/11     The Top Hat                                        Missoula, MT

2/13     Knitting Factory                                  Boise, ID

2/14     Park City Live                                     Park City, UT

2/17     Animas City Theatre                            Durango, CO

2/18     Animas City Theatre                            Durango, CO

2/19     Sheridan Opera House                        Telluride, CO

2/20     Sheridan Opera House                        Telluride, CO

2/21     WinterWonderGrass                           Avon, CO ***

2/22     WinterWonderGrass                           Avon, CO ***

3/13     The Stanley Hotel                                Estes Park, CO

3/14     The Stanley Hotel                                Estes Park, CO

3/15     The Stanley Hotel                                Estes Park, CO