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Published: 2012/04/29
by Randy Ray

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Salmon with Drew Emmitt

RR: Leftover Salmon was one of the founding fathers of the do-it-yourself movement. It is difficult to teach a band how to be independent these days. I would think that it helps that, over your long career, the band has had to do some of that work themselves.

DE: Absolutely. Absolutely. It makes more sense now for bands to do it themselves. Major record labels are not necessarily the be-all end-all anymore like they used to be. More and more bands are discovering that it makes a lot more sense to do it on your own. Our friends in the String Cheese Incident figured that out a long time ago, and started their own record label, SCI Fidelity. I always thought that was really smart. At the same time, we were going after the major label deals because it seemed to make sense at the time, and I think it did. I think that the major label deal that we got really helped us for a little while, and helped us make a couple of records that, otherwise, we probably couldn’t have made— National Sessions and Euphoria —on our own at the time. It was a great thing to have, but nowadays, it makes a lot more sense if you can get it together yourself, and have your own backing to go without a major label. I think a lot of bands are discovering that. It’s just the way that everything has changed. Once again, it’s a product of the Internet and all the new technology. I think it must be tough to be on a major label these days. There are definitely still bands that benefit from that and the label still benefits from, but I think, by and large, it makes much more sense to do it yourself now.

RR: You brought up a great point because Salmon has straddled both worlds, whereas, some bands haven’t really done that—your own major label experience, the “key exception” I referenced, and in a world where touring was also critical.

DE: Right. I am glad we got to experience that because every band dreams of getting a major label record deal and it was exciting for us. We got courted by several different labels. Gosh, it was Capricorn and Atlantic and Island and Sony before settling on Hollywood Records, and the whole process was pretty fascinating. It was very exciting for us. It was good to have experienced that, and come back around to doing it ourselves again, which, ultimately, is what I think we should be doing, and probably what we should have been doing all along. But, I have no regrets. I’m really glad we got to experience the whole major label thing.

RR: The charisma of the band is immediately apparent in the documentary, too, not only because of the various band members, but the Salmon sound, as well. I can see how veteran band members may get very jaded by being around each other so much, but do you also stop and think that you were pretty lucky to be a part of a band that has had an impact over time, while being able to continue doing it?

DE: Absolutely. Oh, yeah. This band was really a happy accident. I think that we’ve all been lucky to be on this ride. It’s been quite a journey, and it continues. I feel very fortunate that we can continue now. We still have that chemistry, even though we lost a major component with Mark Vann passing, but to be able to get this back, and to have this feeling again is really great. It’s like home. I love the other projects I get to do, as well, but this band, gosh, there’s so much history and there’s definitely a comfort level both on and off the stage that I don’t feel with other bands. Yeah, I feel very fortunate.

RR: I wanted to finish our conversation by asking about those other projects. You just played with Billy and the Emmitt-Nershi Band at the Suwanee Springfest.

DE: Oh, it was great. That band is really fun, and what I love about it is that it’s just four of us playing acoustic and the four of us can travel around in a van, and it’s just really easy, and that’s a great chemistry, too. Andy, of course, is also in that band, which is kind of a nice thing and really where that started. We had Andy in the Emmitt-Nershi Band first, and he found his way into Salmon, so that’s a nice continuity factor there. Playing with Billy is great. I’m really having a good time with him. He’s a good friend. That band is really doing well. We’ve got Johnny Grubb on the upright bass from Railroad Earth, and he’s been a great addition, and our tours with that band have really started to blow up. We’re starting to sell out some bigger places and we’re getting quite an audience for that band, as well. We’re planning on making a new record in August, and that’s definitely something I want to keep going, as well. This is fun and it’s easy and I really need that bluegrass outlet, too—that pure acoustic outlet—and that’s been really great.

RR: Well, as a writer and a fan, I need the outlet of the Drew Emmitt Band, too.

DE: Thank you. We’re doing FloydFest and we’re also doing a festival that I host in Crested Butte, Colorado called Bluegrass in Paradise. We are basically the house band, and we have people sit in with us. So, yes, I have both of those two things going, but, right now, I’m putting it on hold a little bit because Salmon is getting busy and the thing with Billy has gotten busier, so, unfortunately, I don’t really have the time right now to fit that band in. I’m holding off a little bit, but it doesn’t mean I’m not going to do it again. I’m waiting for the right time. Right now, one more project is almost too much. It’s always there. I can always revive that whenever I want to, but I’ve made the choice to put more effort into Salmon and the Emmitt-Nershi Band. At some point, maybe, I’ll do another tour with that band. We’ll see what happens.

RR: I love when I reach this point. You used the word “unfortunate” to describe being so busy, and I am thinking that has to be a good problem for a musician to have—many solid projects floating around up in the air while moving forward.

DE: It really is. It’s awesome. I definitely feel like I’m in a very good place in my career right now. It’s nice to have choices. It feels good to have different outlets. So, yeah, it’s definitely a good problem to have.

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