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Published: 2013/10/10
by Kayla Clancy

Yonder Mountain String Band’s Fresh Harvest

Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival will return to Mulberry Mountain in Ozark, AR on October 17-19. The lineup also includes Tedeschi Trucks Band, Les Claypool’s Duo de Twang, Railroad Earth, Beats Antique, JJ Grey and Mofro, Justin Townes Earle, Turnpike Troubadours, Greensky Bluegrass, Everyone Orchestra, Darrell Scott & Tim O’Brien, Steep Canyon Rangers, Elephant Revival and many others. Yonder’s Dave Johnston took some time to discuss the event as well as his introduction to the banjo, his approach to songwriting, his love for the Grateful Dead as well as some advice for younger players.

What would you say is the difference in the vibe between a two or three night run in a city and being on site at a festival?

Being on site at a festival is different than a city because you’ve got more of that campout kind of feel. You’re more in nature and you’re surrounded with people who have that au naturel vibe going on. In that regard it’s a lot different than the city where you’re like, where do you want to eat? And they’re both really cool. Spending a couple days in Chicago or New York is really a great experience. You’re around all these people and they’re thinking differently than everyone in the festival. One’s more like the weekend camping trip and the other is like the weekend club scene. (Laughs) It’s cool.

Will you guys have any sort of theme in mind for song choices at Harvest this year?

Typically we choose things based on theme when we get there and think, well I’m feeling like this or I’m feeling like that. We leave the discussion for the thematic element open until the very last moment before the show.

Since Les Claypool is on site will there be a return of ‘Dave Johnston’s Sinister Laugh’ (Primus tease)?

Man that would be great. We got to meet Les in Amsterdam a little while ago. I just loved talking to him. He was a great vibe and a great hang. I would love to have Les sit in. That would be awesome.

Who have been your favorite special guests to play with over the years?

We’ve had a lot of great guests we’ve played with. Future Man from the Flecktones was great, and Jon Fishman was a great guy to play with as far as drummers are concerned. Danny Barnes is always great to have on stage, and Larry Keel. They’re great friends and we love having them.

Is there anyone you would love to have play with you guys?

I think Robert Plant would be cool to play with.

Do you have a favorite banjo player? How might they influence your style?

I don’t have one singular guy, but there’s a lot of people I listen to still that influence my imagination, and those would be Bela Fleck, Danny Barnes, Earl Scruggs, Pete Wernick. That group of guys right there still affects me in a way that speaks to my imagination.

Is there something in particular you like about their style?

I think it’s a very rhythmic thing. Pete, for instance, plays in a four person band. I play in a four person band. So what he brings to the table is great, and it’s real good for me. I’m really into Danny Barnes. His musical mind, and his musical heart are really right on to me. I can’t get enough of him. I really like Bela’s tone, his composition and his writing and the amount of lyricism he can bring to very complicated music ideas.

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