Quick Q and A with Twisted Pine

It seems that everyone is talking about Twisted Pine!  It’s the innovative instrumentation and absolutely gorgeous harmonies that grabbed my ears and threw me against the wall when I first heard them.  Grammy Award-winning artist, Allison Brown, says the band has “charismatic appeal” and she’s got that down for sure.  This band is pure energy–full of smiles and smart riffs.  It’s wonderful to see a group enjoying themselves so much on stage.

Twisted Pine is an extremely busy band, and, as you can read below, they’ve got additional projects happening as well.

Twisted Pine will be playing at the me&thee in Marblehead on Friday, October 5.  We can’t wait.

Check out his fabulous video of their cover of “Heart of Glass’ by the one and only Blondie.  If covers aren’t your thing, check out this fun video captured at the Cantab.

I’d like to hear about the very beginnings of the band.  Who met who and how did the band formulate its unique sound?

Three of us met while attending Berklee College of Music and from being a part of Berklee’s Roots Program. From there Dan, Rachel, Chris, and myself met through mutual musical friends and going to The Cantab Lounge. The Cantab Lounge is in Cambridge’s Central Square, and they have had Bluegrass Tuesdays since 1993. It’s a really great way to hear new local acts, or bands traveling through on tour that are up and coming.  In the basement, they have a big jam where anyone can join and that’s basically where we got our chops. Picking, ripping solos and learning traditional songs. Eventually, we started playing at Dan’s house and working up our own arrangements and got a monthly residency at The Cantab. That’s pretty much where it all started.

Tell us about how you write your original songs.  Are they co-writes or do some of you write solo and bring the songs to the band to mold and refine?

So far Rachel and I have been the primary songwriters. We have a wide mixture of writing styles, and that includes bringing in our own finished original songs from top to bottom, but also we will co-write with either someone in the band or sometimes someone outside of the group. Sometimes the songs come as full-on arrangements from one person or as fragments. We’ll bring these to the band try to start arranging the song, then that might spark a new idea or if the song needs another section of lyrics, instrumental solos, double chorus…etc Everyone puts in an even amount of contribution to the arranging of these original songs, and covers.

I’m very interested in your choice to do a cover album and especially intrigued by the selection of songs and artists you chose to record.

We started playing pop covers for a wedding originally, a couple of them really stuck because we thought the grooves were so hot and we couldn’t believe we could convey these styles onto our acoustic instruments. So we continued to work up covers that were either traditional songs, newly written hidden gems with our own special twist, or pop songs that we wanted to just do a really great job performing the way it was written. With all of these in our repertoire, we decided to make an album that we thought our audience might really enjoy.

In addition to those artists you’ve covered, do you have other artists who have inspired your sound in other ways?

Well as a band I think we closely identify with other string bands that came before us such as Joy Kills Sorrow, The Punch Brothers, and Crooked Still. But for our own musical influences, there is a wide range with each of us such as Anais Mitchell, The Wood Brothers, Aoife O’Donovan, Andrew Bird (Folk end) and Donny Hathaway, Elton John, Shania Twain, The Judds (Pop end) just to give you an idea.

You’ve won several prestigious spots at key festivals over the past couple of years. What’s it like to play before big audiences at festivals where you were not known well?  Is it a pressure-filled experience or do you just go out and have fun?

Every time we take the stage, especially in a major festival setting, there’s a huge rush! We feel so much. Nerves are definitely there, but there’s also this sense of raw excitement — literally, anything can happen, and it often does! There have been weather-caused power outages, moments when gear stops working, busted strings on stage; these things can be stressful, but we tend to turn what could be fear into fuel for our performances. We all focus in on one another and just have a ton of fun with it.
Some of your members have other music ventures.  Can you tell us about them?
Kathleen has an incredible duo with Brad Bensko called, Kat & Brad. They’ve been playing music together for a long time; having bonded over a mutual love for retro pop music (especially The Beatles!) they worked up many tunes from the American Songbook and have written inspired originals together in that vein. They even reimagine some songs of Kathleen’s that Twisted Pine plays! Their voices together are sweet as candy. Check them out here.

Dan plays with a whole lot of folks around Boston, but you can usually count on seeing him with Sick, Sad, & Lonesome. They’re a band that can shift easily between bluegrass, classic country songs, and old-time tunes with the highest, most lonesome vocals arrangements! Dan is a man of many talents — he plays upright bass with them and many other bands. If you love his solid mandolin chop in Twisted Pine, you’ll love to hear him take on the steady downbeats. He’s also a recording engineer that has worked with many projects around town! You can check out Sick, Sad, & Lonesome here.

Chris spent his college days in a band that still plays from time-to-time called Booty Stank. They are the FUNKIEST. Chris holds it down on the electric bass in that group. He also plays sessions for folks (both upright and electric bass) and used to tour with wonderful songwriters like Mark Whitaker and Max Wareham and the Morning Bugle. You can check out Booty Stank here.
I have always been a big fan of collaboration. I love working with other songwriters and musicians. Sam Moss and I formed Sumner & Moss in 2015, originally a duo started because of a shared affinity for harmony singing and quiet folk songs, we’ve since turned it into more of a classic country outfit, playing with a bass player and a drummer whenever we can. Recently, I’ve been playing a lot of solo shows and recorded an EP that I will be releasing November 18th, 2018. I’ll be doing a little touring in support of that with my partner Ian Fitzgerald. You can check out my solo project here.
What are your short and long-term goals for the band?
Short-term: we’re working on our next album right now! We’re getting the team all in place and arranging all the songs — it’s a very exciting time for us.
Long-term: we want to take Twisted Pine as far as we can go! We’ve been manifesting a Tiny Desk Concert (hear that, Bob Boilen?) among other things. We love playing music together and we want to share our songs with as many folks as we can!