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Published: 2014/05/29
by Dean Budnick

Yonder Mountain’s New Pathway: A Conversation with Ben Kaufmann and Dave Johnston

In late April Yonder Mountain String Band stunned fans with the announcement that Jeff Austin would be leaving the group. Yonder had kept its original lineup intact for 15 years and the departure of the quartet’s founding mandolin player caused consternation for the band’s many supporters. As Ben Kaufmann and Dave Johnston reveal in the candid discussion that follows, the decision to move forward and begin a new era (along with guitarist Adam Aijala) was not taken lightly and followed many years of consideration and some measure of angst. However they now appear sanguine about the future of Yonder and what the coming months will offer.

Kaufmann begins the dialogue, while Johnson jumps in a bit later, caught up in practicing his banjo.

BK: To start things out, let me say that for Yonder 2014 is now a time of rediscovery and reconnection almost like I’m going back to my early teens when I would come home from school and I would retreat to my music room because music was the only place in my life that I found safety. I grew up without any religion, I never had a conversation about spirituality and what that means versus religion. But as I’ve gotten older music is the only connection I’ve ever had that I’ve internalized that could even be close to being described as divine. Music is the only thing I’ve ever had that has brought me a sense of connection to something bigger. The most powerful, pure and for lack of a better word divine experiences in my life have all been music-related.

My father was a musician and he gave me the gift of music from an early age. I’m raising my boy like that too—music is the second language that I have to teach him. Four years of Latin in high school doesn’t really cut it. I teach him music and sharing that is something very sacred to me.

That is something that I can share and that is something that was shared with me and with these changes in Yonder, that’s the thing I’ve realized: over the course of the last 16 years while it was extremely exciting and we achieved no end of firsts for a bluegrass band, as it went along the sacredness of the experience became less and less and less. The success became greater and greater but by the end the sacredness was lost.

What do you attribute to that?

BK: On the one hand the very normal stresses of being on the road and all of the normal things that any band would talk about. But for me it also seemed like the heart of the whole thing had become compromised.

When Yonder first came out of the gates, it just connected and went big really quickly. We hit it at the right time and it seemed like everything just started to grow and grow and grow right away. So while the first couple of years were lean years, every time we went back to a place there were more people, every time we went back to a place people were more excited about us and that’s great. But within the band there were clearly different motivations. What gets you off? And for me the thing got me off was not that the crowds were bigger or that people cheered louder, it was always about sharing.

While there is tremendous joy and magic in it, life is hard and I write music and play music because I’m trying so desperately to make sense of all of this craziness that I see and the joys and the sorrows and the whole experience. Music is the way that in three and half minutes with some rhyming words, I can share my experience—these are the things that I’m thinking about and this is what I’m trying to make sense of. A song is a great question that you put out—this is how I’m feeling, is anybody else feeling this too?

What I need out of it is to have that purity and when I felt that going away, it was compromising my connection to something divine and began to sort of darken my soul. I’m still learning about my place in the universe and what I’m even doing here but I felt the darkening and the contraction and as I watched it continue I realized that it would be the worst failure for me because music is going to be how I figure this thing out—that’s what I have and it has to be bigger and it has to mean more than simply are there more people here in Atlanta than there were the last time we played Atlanta. It has to be more than the business and that was a very powerful realization to come to all of a sudden and recently. I finally made peace with myself that it is about more than success—it’s more than how many people are in the audience, it’s more than if somebody cares to write something nice about you in a magazine. It’s way more personal than that and to watch it sort of become corrupted for me was something that I couldn’t live with anymore.

If I were reading what you just said without any additional information, I likely would assume, “Well this must be a quote from the guy who is leaving the band.”

BK: I don’t think the way things were ending up was good for anyone. I mean you can boil it down to the cookie cutter promotional thing that you’ve got to point out, saying “After a long discussion we all decided to move along for creative differences” and yeah that’s true. But it’s so much deeper than that. I mean you get two paragraphs to put up online to say that what’s happening and kind of why but we just started talking about deep, personal, spiritual stuff and you can’t put that into two paragraphs and have it be anywhere close to really expressing what my heart is trying to say.

We got to a place where we were not achieving our highest good—not even close. It’s like sex without love, it can be enjoyable but at the end of the day it’s not going to be the true satisfaction that you need. I’m a sensitive artist. I’ve always been overly sensitive, I feel like I walk around with my heart exposed and I don’t want to change that at all, that’s my power. And so when we get to this place and ask the hard question—there are so many reasons why I could tough it out, there are so many reasons why I could say, “You know what, let’s just give it another tour, another year or whatever.” But then we’re old and tired—the heart of the thing isn’t in it and as a sensitive artistic person that just sounds like the death of art and I can’t have it die.

It became a situation that simply couldn’t continue. The four of us had this great conversation and we actually put all the cards on the table—we’ve reached this point and now it’s time to get down to brass tacks, how do we all feel about this, is anybody happy? And nobody was happy. There’s an element of tragedy in this thing and I’ve been thinking, “What do I want to share here? What’s okay to share and what’s too personal to share?” Because I want to be respectful but as I thought about it I did want to share this because I think it explains where I’ve been coming from for the last 10 years with this band.

Was there a precipitating incident that you can talk about?

BK: No, not in the short term. The heart and the balls of this band are coming from some place pure—experimental, improvisational, in the moment creation. That requires an extraordinary amount of faith and trust in each other. You all have to be on the same page and over time it just became clear that we weren’t. We were in it for different reasons, wanting different things out of it and I felt like there was a terrible compromise. I thought I could continue to sacrifice certain elements of my own peace and of my own joy so that we could continue because I can make you the list of pros and cons and number one thing at the end of the day on the list for why we should keep it together was the paycheck and what a stupid career decision it could possibly be to blow this thing up. And that’s okay, it’s legitimate but like I said I am a sensitive artist and it was way too sacred and way too important to me to let a paycheck or fame or some grasping at a weird thing like that overrule something that is just so much more important and vital to my world. I can die poor but if I’ve been true to my heart and music and how just intertwined those two things are, it became more and more and more clear.

Maybe when we’re all 65 or 70 and nobody gives a shit about us anymore we can all write four versions of our tell-all-book about the bullshit that went on but when you boil it all down you get to a point where you just sit there and you go, “Oh my god it’s not working.” How do two parents know that, “Yeah we’ve got these kids and we’ve been sticking it out for the kids but it’s time.” It’s not good for anybody, everybody’s suffering. You know at some point you’ve got to make a hard decision and you make those lists—why should I stick it out? And you go down the list and you tally it all up and all of the things on the sticking it out side of the list at the end of the day they were bunk. It didn’t work for me anymore, something had to change. I felt myself suffocating and suffering in a way that as a sensitive artistic person was killing me and I can’t have that.

It just affected every aspect of my life—my relationship with my wife, my relationship with my kid. My kid is two years and a couple months old and I realized if I was answering honestly, my son had never known his daddy to be doing what he loved to do, which is odd because music is what I love to do. Music is so much a part of me—I would say I’m almost half music and the other half I’m fat and bones. But I’d come home from tour like I’d just been to the fucking front line and it would take me two weeks to become even remotely okay and then I’d have a week at home where I sort of felt okay and I could connect with my wife and be cool around my son and then I’d have another week that was the week before I’d have to go back out on tour and that was spent in a state of terrible anxiety and just darkness because the environment was so toxic. So and talk about failing as a father and a husband…

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There are 47 comments associated with this post

Larry Hulst May 29, 2014, 14:40:28

All musicians that are I it for the long haul face family decisions. Grow up with real responsibilities sucks.
My step son Victor Damiani (original bass player for the band CAKE) made the happiest decision in his life when he walked out of the band CAKE and into the lives of his 4 sons. This was the wisest thing Victor could do. I love Yonder, this decision is their best for the future.

YMSBFan May 29, 2014, 16:14:14

It was time. Jeff was a stage hog, and seemed for years to always be more into “Hey, Look at me” and more self-congratulating. Wishing the Trio the best in their new endeavors.

YonderLuv May 29, 2014, 17:00:25

This article puts into words the difference between what I saw in Tahoe/Oakland the end of March and then at Dark Star Jubilee last weekend. I appreciate their honesty here and explains even more why I love these guys so much! Their playing and their stage presences says to me they’ve gotten their souls back and I’m excited to see where they go!

diana May 29, 2014, 17:17:11

Although the Tahoe show in March was great, it was obviously a bit off – the vibe was just not the same as the past five or six shows. This makes it clear why. Sad to see the change, but hopeful it will lead to some great things in the future for all parties.

yossarian May 29, 2014, 17:42:39

Late night Yonder at the Jubilee really was great. The 3 Yonder dudes, Jerry Douglas, John Frazier and parts of the set with Nicky Sanders from Steep Canyon Rangers and Rob Koritz from DSO... just an insane amount of talent, they were gelling and the vibe was great. I’m excited to see what they come up with.

runnergirl May 29, 2014, 18:50:38

Say what you want about Jeff but at least he would let the fans in and share the energy during the shows which was a very large part of the Yonder experience for many of the fans. Part of the draw for me at least was to experience that escape into the unknown…hopefully they can still do that without Jeff.

Mj May 30, 2014, 01:00:35

That was an interesting read. I’m excited for what is to come of the band! As someone who has loved yonder for 13+ years and was there in the old days(including the infamous Stanhope house, which we made it to because the band hooked us up with a ride, place to stay and the guest list) and they would play outside after a show ended because they were having so much fun. To watching meltdowns happening on stage a few years ago I think the band is back on track! Best of luck to them.

zach May 30, 2014, 04:55:03

Wow, I feel like a dick. For whatever reason, I just assumed that Jeff left the band and at Delfest was telling everyone would listen that he was an asshole. Not cause I didn’t agree with the decision… every time I saw Yonder the last few years they were wholly uninspiring and lacked energy— which was a huge contrast to how they used to be. I was pissed at what I thought was Jeff’s refusal to do a final tour or at least honor the contracts they had already signed (I was also slightly less pissed but thought it was dumb the rest of them would continue under the same name). It never occurred to me that they kicked Jeff out. Not sure why, perhaps because he has so many side projects, is a rock star, Yonder was his band and assumed the other three wouldn’t have the audacity to kick him out of the band and then continue it without him. That is totally fucked up. Again, well I’ll always miss Yonder the last few times I’ve seen them wasn’t really Yonder so I totally understand the need to make a change. That being said, for the other three guys to kick Jeff out of the band and then continue to play under the same name is just beyond fucked up. They’re basically saying that we don’t want Jeff in the band but want to continue exploiting the big name that he was a huge part of building. If they used a different name they wouldn’t get as big of bills as they will by still using YMSB (even though those bills will still be smaller than when he was in the band) but that only seems fair. I mean, at least just call yourself Yonder or even Yonder Mountain to signify that YMSB doesn’t exist. BK seems genuine or whatever but he also comes off as a greedy fucking bastard because he’s like I don’t care about the money or how many people we draw I just want to enjoy playing the music. Really? If you don’t care about money or drawing fans then why are you still using YMSB.

Wow! May 30, 2014, 09:39:22

What a bunch of sissies! Go Jeff! You don’t need these a-holes! The only reason they are making or will be making good music is due to the amazing talent of their guests!

Rachel May 30, 2014, 13:44:45

As a fan for 15 years, I don’t want to say too much because I haven’t been this sad about a band breaking up since Jerry Garcia died. I do hear all the different sides, and I am trying to be open and excited to hear both Jeff’s new solo project and Yonder’s new configuration. However, the one thing I feel very strongly about, and of course this is just my opinion, so who gives a crap, is that just like The Grateful Dead changed their name after Jerry died, PLEASE change your name to just Yonder. This is no longer Yonder Mt. String Band and I think to honor yourselves and what was, this would be a great move. You want something fresh, a new start, then this would be perfect. I hope the band will consider this. Thanks for all the years of music spiritual bliss you have provided me with. See you at String Summit and at Strings and Sol.

Brandon May 30, 2014, 14:10:55

I have to agree with Zach, this has been handled really poorly from the beginning. Coming out with a press release that’s cleverly worded so it seems like Jeff quit rather than the truth that you forced him out, so that all the casual fans who don’t know what’s going on will put all the blame on him. And then continue to take cheap shots at him in every interview, while Jeff takes the high road and doesn’t comment. Pretty classless, to be honest. You guys think Jeff has a big ego? How about your egos, thinking if you keep the name and pretend that nothing has changed, you’ll continue to do well without the person who wrote all your best songs and made your band different and special compared to all the other jamgrass bands.

Mike May 30, 2014, 14:25:50

Well put Ben and Dave. I am so excited to hear what’s next for Yonder 2.0. Follow your god given talents and your hearts and you can’t go wrong. So much talent left in the band, what a wonderful breath of fresh air another musician(s) will bring. Onward.

wharrves May 30, 2014, 16:28:48

Like so many others have said up there, we read this one so wrong. Look, first of all, my personal solo virtuoso pick for the band was always Adam, so I’m not saying this from a place of deep-seated Austin-worship, especially in a musical sense. But what the guy really did well was looking after the crowd while the other members were up on Cloud 9, absorbed in the musical aspect of the show and that actually really counts for something. No matter how many years went by as their fame ballooned, Jeff had the ability to make people in the room feel like they were at an intimate show, among friends. I understand that the other band members want the show to be more downhome, communal and less “rock star“ish and additionally, less about “how big the crowd is”, but you have to understand that as good as it sounds to say that on the surface, those things are part of the difference between listening to a CD and being at a live show. The bits and pieces of personality that apparently cramped everyone’s style up there are what I personally treasure about Austin. Feeling awkward for a few years and then having one big blowout kitchen table conversation and (presumably) ganging up on him and then continuing to capitalize on all of those contributions of his is childish and passive-aggressive of them. What they meant to say when they were talking about his January absence and what a relief it was to realize that they didn’t need him to carry a beat was simply that they each had more attention than ever. And yeah, I get that he was the last one of them to really master his instrument, so seeing him become so popular might have felt kind of weird for that reason. Still though, to make a metaphor of his stage presence and how this situation played out: Austin is like the first kid in his group of friends to show up to a snowy hill with a shiny new sled while everyone else is sitting around throwing snowballs. After a while, taking everyone for rides on the sled could sort of make the day seem like it was as much about sledding with him as messing around with the rest of them in their snowball fight. The other kids felt a little bit of insecurity over their own popularity and their control over the day’s activities and they have a choice – Do you want to contribute, add your own style and make things even better and more exciting? Cool, go grab what you can; one guy brings some dish sleds, one guy makes a snow fort, one guy does some snow angels and they all get attention for themselves the right way.. If you feel too much like it’s all about this kid and his sled, give your friends a reason to be excited about mixing in other activities that give your voice a chance to be heard. Yonder instead solved this interpersonal/creativity/social dilemma by throwing the kid’s sled over a fence. So now we’re all back to watching 1998 Yonder from before Jeff found his whole stage groove throw snowballs at each other and while it might feel like a huge relief for the band to have that pressure off and attention back, we the fans are poorer for losing that extra fun and silliness. That’s one heck of a shame.

Eric May 30, 2014, 17:52:32

I am grateful for this interview in order to understand more fully how and why this is all happening.I appreciate their candor and opening their hearts to us all. Must have been a very hard decision for them all I am sure! That said I trust they will all find their vibe and bring us something new and beautiful. it may not be what we all were used to but all bands change and go thru metamorphosis that is to be expected in any band that has been around 15 years.
I am excited to see how it all shakes out. I am excited for a new and different Summit this year.
Find your hearts and souls and show us your joy. Thanks for letting us into your process.

Rick May 30, 2014, 22:05:08

Hopefully this change works out for them! Saw them at Summercamp it was a good show. Seems weird to hear them say they want to get away from the whole rock star thing when they had Jake Cinnagur sit in with them for half their summercamp set. I love Jake but the sit-in was a little weird and it kind of overshadowed Jerry Douglass and made him lost in the mix which was a shame! The mando player who played with them was awesome though! Hope they get things figured out and I hope Jeff continues doing good with his own thing. The whole not caring about the crowds thing is odd though! Without big crowds you can’t play music for a living and support your family! Maybe you will learn that when fans of Jeff split for something else like let’s say GREENSKY BLUEGRASS who are killing it right now! Money’s tight people only have money for so many shows a year. And if a have a girlfriend or wife it’s double the cost for every show! Trying to say it’s all about the art is BS it’s about entertaining your audience sure it’s cool when you write something personal and people love it like let’s say Left Me in a Hole! But you do kind of need that guy with tons of energy feeding his energy to the audience playing cool uptempo rock type songs and awesome covers!

boogiegrass May 31, 2014, 00:52:26

Now, now kids,
If you can’t say anything nice…

danimal May 31, 2014, 02:47:34

this one of the saddest things ever. Didnt realize all this was going down. I thought he was on maternity leave. Why not be straight up?? Jeff Austin made me fall in love with bluegrass. Classy guy for not hating on them for keeping the name. But people who pay for Yonder tix (which are at the highest price and biggest venues theyve ever played) should know Jeff’s gone. Not a hater, love yonder, but jeff was the guy I loved. So torn

danimal May 31, 2014, 02:54:13

Jeff Austin was Yonder. Do your thing man. We will all wait for you to come back and play soon. Whether you are with yonder or doing your own thing, you will always be a huge inspiration of mine

danimal May 31, 2014, 03:13:08

cant say I liked yonder from the beginning. But Jeff Austin made me fall in love with this band. To not hear him in their music is not Yonder for me. Hope this situation turns out for the best, but for now this has got me rally bumbed

danimal May 31, 2014, 03:22:34

by the way its 3am and im drunk. I havent followed ymsb from the begining but jeff defiantly was the guy that got me into yonder. sorry if i upset any “true” yonder fans

Angela May 31, 2014, 10:37:43

JEFF IS NOT YONDER ! you sad sad mislead kids, did you not meet some of your best friends at a yonder show , do you not have some of your best memories dancing to Boatman? Because that is YONDER the love and experiences that these boys brought into our lives for 15 years. Im so grateful that they are going to continue as YMSB that’s their band too and just because one person doesn’t share the ideas of love and light anymore why should they change who they have been? I cant wait for summer tour and for the new reborn energy that Adam Ben and Dave will bring. I have hope for a better Yonder, more friends and more unforgettable dances and Ill support you three in whatever you decide because I believe in you. For those of you who do not , im sure you can go cluck off to some panic :)

Angela May 31, 2014, 10:39:31

O and Zach don’t worry to much, you are a dick

Metalback May 31, 2014, 14:35:32

Two words…substance abuse

hometown hiker May 31, 2014, 18:14:25

Great read, I am glad that Yonder is moving on. I love Jeff and will continue to support him, but I must say that seeing Yonder with the McCourys in January was about the best grass show I’ve ever seen. Carry on, Ben, Dave, and Adam!

Blake May 31, 2014, 18:18:02

Such a shame. I too love Jeff’s banter, similar to Claypool imo, so it won’t be YMSB for me. See you at Greensky and Jeff’s solo shows. Good luck “Yonder”

kafkas hat June 2, 2014, 10:09:08

Wow…Jake Jolliff is a phenomenal talent; like a more reserved and tasteful Chris Thile. Youtube his video playing with Jason Anick “what a wonderful world.” If I remember correctly, he us the first mandolinist to attend and graduate from Berklee School of Music.

riverside June 3, 2014, 00:59:08

Jeff is the man and Adam is the man. Reunite. Dave’s cool too.

Shucks This Sucks June 4, 2014, 09:33:31

I take it that the other three fellas were tired of Jeff being a prick. That being said, they have every right to continue on, but they should change the name of the band. Simply put, without Jeff, it’s just not YMSB. I’m really bummed about this shake-up. I’m sure BK will get a chance to see himself become a poor, but happy, musician, as their booking will decline after this run of previous signed deals will come to an end after their summer run. As others on here have said, there are other bands like Greensky, and RRE, that will simply replace them when one needs to fill their yearning for some jamgrass. As far as all this BK ‘Kafka-esque’ bullcrap, it’s just that, a bunch of bullcrap. And to think I used to believe he was the ‘cool’ one in the band.

rusty June 5, 2014, 08:57:12

After seeing YMSB at Delfest I was left feeling like it was a reunion show with special guests. Time off needs to be taken and life/music reevaluated. Best of luck to everyone involved in this mess, I will miss the complete Yonder lineup, and unfortunately I am stuck seeing them two more times this summer, at least I still got my RRE though!

Clive Bigsby June 5, 2014, 20:47:09

Without Jeff there is no real reason to see the band. Period.

kyle isaac June 5, 2014, 23:08:19

You’re all over thinking it! Bands break up for various reasons and they always will. I wish both entities well. In my opinion as someone who has been very involved in live music since 1980 I would go see Jeff Austin play with Englebert Humperdink!

nobody June 7, 2014, 13:20:39

You know what’s annoying? When someone acts all enlightened and higher consciousness but they lack the true qualities that really define it…..forgiveness, unconditional love, non-judgement, acceptance…

Bahhhh June 7, 2014, 16:37:53

What a fucking joke.

Bahh June 7, 2014, 16:49:02

Angela, you ignorant slut, Jeff sang boatman. And this emi boy band is no longer the Yonder Mountain String Band.

ld June 8, 2014, 20:34:53

Wow this is a lot to digest. When I heard Jeff was gone and read ‘the statement’ it was clear to me Jeff was voted out of the band. After reading through this it is clear that is what went down. I loved YMSB saw them first time at HSMF and have seen them many times at many places (Amsterdam, New Orleans most every Tahoe show etc) Last show was at Montbleu South Shore and it was not great to me. How many bands can last 15 years? I guess we were lucky it lasted as long as it did. Jeff was always my favorite in the band and I disagree w previous poster who claimed Jeff was the last to master his instrument. Really?! Ben was always my 2nd favorite musician and songwriter but all that new age mumbo jumbo from him in this interview made me nauseous. I get Jeff maybe was a dick but please if you kick him out change the name of the band to Yonder or something. I doubt I will go see YMSB again unless in a festival setting such as Telluride HSMF etc. This was perhaps inevitable but after reading this interview it seems clear to me that Ben is the prime mover behind the ouster and comes off as very Yokoish.

clive bigsby June 9, 2014, 12:25:12

I don’t care if they call them selves Yonder Mountain String band or Pigs in a Blanket. They still suck.

wait and see June 9, 2014, 14:49:36

I can imagine that so many of the people that are taking such a hateful stance are the same people that walk around HIGH AS FUCK speaking about how everyone should love everyone else and rant about world peace and shit. NOW LOOK AT YOU. Why don’t you all just wait and see what happens. I doubt any of you have a clue of what really went on inside the band. Get over it! Bands break up. On a side note I have a friend who I used to go to shows with and who still goes to many shows tell me that the three were awesome without Jeff. He believes its the first time they were playing better than they did in 10+ years. So why don’t you all try them and see before you get on here and talk hate. WARMONGERS! Probably a bunch of Conservatives!

Slim June 10, 2014, 10:12:45

Just too much judgement for what noone really knows the details about. Everyone has thier own musical journey to take fans and musicians, who is anyone to judge what the musicians choose to do ( just as the fans have the right to not go to YMSB shows anymore) If they don’t wanna play together anymore then thats thier choice in thier journey. As far as the name goes simple math 3 remaining members out of 4 they should be able to keep the name if they want. Its as simple as this also if the music they make is good then see it if not don’t. I personally got tired of Jeffs ego and onstage antics and stopped seeing the band 8 years ago. I look forward to getting back to a show. Good luck to all musicians involved.

Scott June 10, 2014, 14:06:10

I am a big Yonder fan and will give the Jeffless version a try, but I’m very worried the energy level of the shows will suffer. Jeff’s intensity and wackiness is what turned very good music into an amazing experience and set them apart from other very good bluegrass bands. As others have said, he really pulled in the audience. I think they had a great balance before, and I worry that they will be too much Yin and not enough Yang without Jeff. Oh Ben – what have you done?

Bill June 10, 2014, 22:40:02

The yin and yang comment was spot on. The best part of Yonder shows of old was you could connect to the poetry of a Ben song then Jeff would bring the energy back and you could dance your metaphorical (or sometimes literal) pants off. I saw them at Summer Camp without Jeff. The collaborations were awesome to listen to but not great to watch. Jeff always elevated everyone stage presence and made collaborations an art. I can’t believe “creative differences” got in the way of this band. I believe there may be a lot that is not being said and I’m okay with that. Because of Yonder there is a whole bunch of awesome jamgrass/string bands out there. I’ll still see Yonder when they’re around and hopefully see Jeff in some of his new ventures. And hopefully one day see them play together again. Peace and love y’all.

Tom June 11, 2014, 10:39:58

I have seen Jeff-less YMSB twice this year—1 Feb show and the Dark Star Jubilee show. Those shows were positivie deviations from the norm—not necessarily better or worse, but different in a positive way. I feel like they were in a stagnant rut and if they need to blow it up to bring on a new era of creativity then so be it. I know they won’t always have Jerry Douglas, but man it was pretty amazing to see him w/YMSB. I’ll see Jeff, too. He’s sort of what appealed to me and made YMSB “not your typical bluegrass band” IMO. It is a bummer when musicians split, but maybe this will end up better for both in the long run. They obviously had things running way too deep, and the divorce analogy they put out there seems fitting—the last few years they stayed together for the kids (fans). It’s sad, but all things pass. I’m as excited to hear Jeff fine-tune his band over the next few years—just as I am w/YMSB. In keeping with the divorce analogy: it was sad when it happened, but now we’re all like the kid involved in a divorce—we have two sets of parents that will try to spoil us rotten. Stay positive, folks.

Tostonesfix June 11, 2014, 15:23:24

Too much information. Show some humility, gents. Geez.

Lonesome LA Cowboy June 13, 2014, 22:48:06

Hey Ben, sounds like you need some cheese with all that whine. Holy crap, this “interview” (and I use that term lightly) made me feel some sympathy for Jeff, having to put up with an insufferable b!tch like Ben for 16 years.

Longtime Yonder Fan June 16, 2014, 15:33:16

I agree with lonesome LA cowboy. In the article Ben comes off as whiny. You know he is a “sensitive artist”! So sensitive that he booted the best part about Yonder. What, he wants to be the center of attention now after all these years? They are all talented musicians, but the part that I love is the energy that Jeff Austin brings and Yes he is a front man and loves the limelight, but that’s what makes the band fun to watch. Ever since we have been going to Yonder concerts he has been right up front, why is it so upsetting for Ben now? Davey doesn’t want it and I don’t think Adam does either. Let’s see how the trio does on their own when they stop riding on the coat tails of the other artists they have been playing with. You never know, maybe Ben will finally get his wish and become the starving artist that he inspires to be.

Pine Trees June 17, 2014, 12:10:25

what does it matter when every other jamgrass band is leaps and bounds more talented… YMSB already hit their peak a few years back- Really they should take a hiatus try to capture some of that early magic songwriting and re-learn their collective instruments- With or without Jeff it was getting stale and the new tunes and jams were not keeping up with the competition. Def change the name- Def get stick out of Ben’s tight ass- and def go see Grant Farm, Trampled By, Greensky, RRE,Infamous String Dusters…for the real thing

Jk8fan June 20, 2014, 20:28:05

Jeff is a great entertainer. Hardly the best mandolin player out there, but very entertaining. Hopefully, he gets replaced with a solid permanent member and the other 3 give the guy a full share of the band revenue. Best of luck to Jeff. I saw the Jeffless band in Atlanta with The Traveling McCoury’s. Great show.

Jarr October 1, 2014, 18:22:43

yonder mountain string band was a 4 man band and Jeff completed that circle. I think a name change is due, and I think that if you are gonna try and fill Jeff’s shoes, at least fill them with someone who is fun on stage and can play as well This joliff guy has no stage presence what so ever. Yea he can play but so can a million others. I fell in love with yonder due to the talent and due to the amazing energy that was brought to the table, mostly from Jeff. Jakes is good but he’s no yonder member. I really loved the band but for some reason I just stopped listening all together….. good luck to you guys. I’ll always have Harvest Fest 2011 imprinted in my brain and that’s all I need.

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