In this interview, Three Tall Pines talk about the band name, their influences and how they ended up playing bluegrass in very cold and snowy New England. You’ll also hear all about their forthcoming recording of traditional music and some reflections about the Boston music scene.
To learn more about Three Tall Pines, visit their website.
Check out this example of Three Tall Pines jamming at the Strawberry Park Bluegrass Festival.
I’ve got to ask a pretty straightforward and obvious question right off the bat. Why Three Tall Pines when you are a quartet?
Good question, we actually named the original duo after a photo Dan (the lead singer) took on a trip to British Columbia. Bands can be like a pet or a person, once you name something it is hard to rename it (especially when you buy the domain name!)
How did you all get into this kind of music? Many young musicians dream of being rock stars—so what drew you to bluegrass and Americana music?
I think my rock stars growing up were actually the guys and gals at the local bluegrass jams. All I wanted to do was be able to keep up with them and sing the songs they sang. By asking who wrote these songs or hearing the people jamming talk about who they liked led to finding records and cassette tapes that were copied and emulated. So I think we may have bypassed the rock streams or that bug never hit us.
If you had to choose a handful of musical artists who have inspired your music, who would they be and how have they inspired you?
Our group has been influenced by so many different things including the New England landscape/history, the rich trove of American music from bluegrass artists like Bill Monroe, Stanley Brothers & Del McCoury to singer/songwriters like Gillian Welch, Steve Earle and Tim O’Brien, and of course local musicians and friends including hometown musicians and the rich/diverse seed bed of Boston based American string band musicians.
I understand that you recently recorded an EP up in Maine and that you were assisted by the great Darol Anger. Tell us about that experience.
We just wrapped up an EP the will take us in a bit of new direction for recorded music. All of our previous recorded material has mostly been original material. On this EP we decided it was time to honor our roots and record a few of our favorite traditional songs. The record was recorded at The Studio in Portland, ME by engineer Steve Drown and produced by our friend and great musician Ron Cody. We were planning to record our version of the Bill Monroe classic “Body & Soul” and we wanted to make that our version of the tune still honored the traditional version. Ron had the idea of reaching out to Darol as a great musical mind that knows how to push the boundaries of the traditional music while retaining respect to the original tune. It turned out great. We also brought in our good friends Lauren Rioux (of the Republic of Strings, fiddler/teacher Portland, ME) and Brittany Haas (of Republic of Strings and Crooked Still) to get an amazing triple fiddle sound. This was a really a great experience and everything seemed to make sense while it was happening, seemed very organic (other than trying to schedule all these musicians to be in one room at one time, that was a challenge).
I recently read a review of one of your performances and it talked about how amazing it is that your sound is so “southern” yet you’re a “northern” band. I suppose that’s a compliment because most people do connect the dots between bluegrass and the Deep South or at least Appalachia. How do you put yourself into a mindset to write songs that translate from your New England heritage and end up sounding like they were written on the back stoop of a small cabin in the mountains in Arkansas? 🙂
We get this a lot as Dan’s phrasing is influenced heavily by southern artists including both bluegrass and country artists. I guess you end up emulating what you hear on the records you listen to. We are all heavily influenced by the rural (disappearing) New England landscape both inland and costal and the context of our songs contains references to many things like stonewalls and broken down farms which were and are prevalent in our region. We are also surrounded and moved by the Boston string band scene that has been championed by bands like Crooked Still and Joy Kills Sorrow that combine the sounds of intricate arrangements and rhythm patterns with traditional American folk music. I also think the Harvard/MIT higher educational atmosphere of Boston has a strong cultural influence. Historically the Boston/New England area has been known for being on the cutting edge for lots of things like manufacturing, factories, social reforms, transportation etc… and I guess that demand to keep things moving forward informs the music too.
To answer the question if you take some New England boys and rear them on lots of recordings with southern accents and surround them with their this landscape and the progressive atmosphere you get a unique New England sound that has a little “Southern Flavor”.
You’ve played indoor and outdoor bluegrass festivals, clubs, and coffeehouses. Do you have any memorable experiences that stand out?
To be cheesy every show has been memorable and unique. We always try to make each show special not only for the audience but for ourselves as well.
Three Tall Pines and The Stray Birds are appearing at the me&thee in Marblehead, MA on April 26.