Andy Thorn: Singing and Picking Upstream with Salmon
Can you talk about the upcoming two-night Thanksgiving run in Boulder.
This is the third year in a row that we’re doing Thanksgiving weekend shows. There’s a lot of weekends through the year that bands set as their time to do weekend shows and I think this is a great time to do it, because there’s a great family vibe in Boulder. A lot of friends and family are back in town on that weekend. I always have a big Thanksgiving at my house and friends come from all over the country to do Thanksgiving together and hang out for the shows. That’s been going on for the last two years and I’m pretty stoked this year. I think it’s going to be the best one yet.
You grew up a fan of Leftover Salmon. Do you still pinch yourself that you’re a full-time member of the band?
It is surreal at moments, but it’s been long enough now that it’s actually real and insanely cool to be part of the songwriting for the band and to fully be in the band and not really feel like the new guy. When we play some of the tunes that I used to love back in the day from the Euphoria album and you go, “Oh yeah, I listened to this a 1,000 times in high school,” so it’s fun to be up there making music.
I probably saw them 10 times, whenever they were in town. I didn’t travel to see them, and that was probably from the ages of 15 to 20. After that point, I was always in my own band and didn’t get to as many shows. I saw them up at MerleFest, Cats Cradle and Swamp Fest.
What was your favorite song?
It’s hard to say. I really dug “Highway Song,” from the Euphoria album. It starts with a banjo roll, so it’s fun to play that for sure.
Can you describe what happens that allows you to no longer feel like the new guy?
Time and the attitudes of the other guys. They make you feel right at home and just try to have as much fun as possible. And being let into the songwriting and the singing. Those were things that weren’t going on when I first joined the band. Now, I’m getting more involved which is really great.
How have Drew and Vince helped you along this ride?
Drew’s been real great to me. I joined him in the Emmitt-Nershi Band five years ago. We became really good friends, more than musical friends. He’s kept me working the last five or six years. And also we’ve had a ton of fun all around the country playing music, skiing, and hiking. And just being on stage with a singer and picker that good, you just have to step-it up a little bit – it’s forced me to work really hard. When you’re singing next to Drew and Vince, it stands out if you’re not up to their level, which I’m not, but it forces you to step up.
And Vince is the most fun guy to jam with. Before I was in the band, he was living in Nederland and I was living in Boulder and I would stop by his house after I was done skiing in Eldora. We would have these jam sessions and that’s how I got to know Vince. His attitude about music is my style too. It fits my attitude – not taking it too seriously – but also playing really well and having fun with it.
How are Drew and Vince different?
Vince is more playful and Drew’s a little more serious. Drew’s songs are more epic and Vince’s are more fun and when you combine them together it’s the perfect mix of everything.
How would you describe the songs that you write?
I think it’s just a mixture of everything too. I’ve been influenced by these guys since I was kid and a lot of the music they listened to, I was listening to. We’ve all had the same influences with slight differences. There’s a lot of my North Carolina influence in there too.
Early in your career, you played with Larry Keel and Natural Bridge. What kind of influence did Larry have on you?
He had a huge influence on me. I joined his band when I was 22, right out of college. I was actually touring with him during my last semester of college. He’s from Virginia and they have this amazing repertoire of tunes – old traditional stuff – and that’s one of the most amazing things about Larry. He knows these really cool tunes, Getting to learn how he plays them stylistically was a really good experience. A lot of them are tough and they’re really different. They’re kind of like gems that a lot of people don’t do and don’t hear often. I was on the road with him about a year and a half and it was my first band on the road, just figuring it out but those guys played so fast. I don’t know if you heard him play, but he’s probably the fastest guitar player alive. Keeping up with the speed and intensity was something to get used to.
What’s it like playing in the Emmitt-Nershi Band?
It’s a lot different from Leftover Salmon. It’s just the four guys in the band when we’re traveling. We don’t have a sound guy or road guy. We don’t have much gear. We have our instruments and we plug them in and that’s pretty much it. It’s really pure. It’s more acoustic but we still take the jams way out there. It’s really creative without using the amps, pedals and electric guitars.
In that setting, you get to be around Bill. What have you learned from him?
Billy knows how to build up a jam really well. When I first joined the band, I was more of a picker. I liked to improvise but I didn’t do many long jams. The way he builds his jams from start to finish – I definitely took some notes there and learned about that.