Chris Pandolfi, Stringduster

An interview with Chris Pandolfi of the Infamous Stringdusters
by Christopher Snyder

 

To submit a story or to just say hello, email us at lmnandr@gmail.com

Check out the Live Music News and Review.com Facebook page for updates and announcements.

From the video channel of GoPro

For most of the last century, bluegrass music has taken its place alongside rock and roll, improv, and jam music as an exciting genre that both dips into its lengthy past, and blazes a trail into the future.  Because of the interest of folks like Jerry Garcia, the Dead and Phish and Robert Plant bringing to light heroes of the bluegrass genre like David Grisman, Tony Rice, Alison Krauss and others- fans are being exposed to the folks who are keeping the modern bluegrass flame bright.  Bluegrass has remained vital and continues to bring in new fans today.
Several bands have taken advantage of that crossover potential and toured the country with a music of bluegrass and modern rock tendencies, including String Cheese Incident who are much closer to a jam band as are Leftover Salmon.  Other bands from Greensky Bluegrass to Yonder Mountain Stringband are closer to a traditional bluegrass style, with a myriad of bands wandering the lines between traditional bluegrass and modern rock.
The Infamous Stringdusters may have surpassed them all.  Composed of Travis Book – bass; Andy Falco on guitar; Jeremy Garrett on fiddle; Andy Hall on dobro; and Chris Pandolfi on banjo.  The band for years has been crossing the country and the globe bringing their sounds to adoring audiences.  They may have trumped all of the other bands in the genre recently by taking home the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album in 2018.  Our very own Christopher Snyder caught up with Chris Pandolfi to share what is happening with the Stringdusters, his new solo band, and all things bluegrass.

LMNR Christopher Snyder:  Your brother (Jono), along with your grandparents have made a huge impact on your musical taste. The first adventure with the banjo was back in 1997. What attracted you to this instrument?

Photo by Jim Mimna

Bela Fleck and the Flecktones drew me to the banjo. My older brother was a bass player, and a huge Victor Wooten fan.

We started going to see the Flecktones and were simply blown away. The combination of amazing music, pure innovation, and the journey of a really live show were so enthralling. I went to see them at the knitting factory in Tribeca, 3 nights, 2 shows a night, and bought my first banjo the day after the last show. The rest is history.

LMNR: The Infamous Stringdusters have been traveling throughout the country for eleven plus years now. You guys are a band of brothers and seem like your guys are truly living the musicians dream. How has your approach to touring changed over the years?

When you are first starting out, you take every gig that comes your way, driving through the night, living on peanut butter and jelly. It’s a grind, but you are also just so excited to be out there doing it that you don’t know any better. Survive that period and you will likely survive as a band. Much of that depends on the synergy of personalities, and I feel so grateful that we grew together in that time, both personally and musically, to a sustainable place that would get us over the hump. These days our touring conditions are much improves, but the mission is the same: bring our music to as many people as people, spread the love and build a community. It’s truly the greatest joy of all, to see that community grow and support not only us, but each other.

LMNR: Film is also a passion of yours, documenting many tours along with your banjo cam. Are there any tours that really stick out in your mind that you filmed?

The European tour we did in 2007 stands out as a very well documented piece of Duster history, full of adventures and hi-jinx. You can still see that on youtube. Last years big tour has a lot of well documented shows as well. These days I still do lots of documenting, but I focus on the performance, trying to capture unique moments and crowd energy. 

LMNR: You also have a solo project, TRAD+. How did this all come about?

TRAD PLUS grew out of my eclectic taste in music, from banjo and bluegrass to ambient and electronic. I love it all, and this solo endeavor is my attempt at combing all those sounds into one cohesive vision. I use a lot of my own vinyl and drum samples, along with software and analog instruments, in hopes of creating something really unique. TRAD PLUS is definitely a work in progress, and a new album is on the way soon.

LMNR: At your time at Berklee College Of Music, who were professors that mentored to being the banjo player you are today?

I was the first ever banjo principal at Berklee, so there were no banjo teachers. I studied with guitar players, focusing more on the language of music and what to play, rather than how to play it. I would have to work out a lot of the fingerings/techniques on my own. David Newsam was my main teacher there, and he was amazing. We are still friends to this day.

LMNR: You have also been a producer for a few albums including your solo albums. What are the similarities when it comes to be in the forefront as a musician and behind the scenes as the producer?

Every musician is a producer in some way, so there is a lot of overlap. It’s all about translating all the skills you have into meaningful music and composition. It’s all about the vision. The job of producing another band calls on a lot of those skills, but is also a mentor/leader type of roll, and I love that. I love helping young bands to up their game and grow.

LMNR: With your 2018 Grammy win and relentless touring, you guys are nationally known artists. What are some keys to your success as musician?

I’d say the main key is persistence. You have to be all in. You can’t build a touring career on the side, especially not with the way the music business is today, with its heavy focus on touring. It’s also key to get started early, so you don’t know any better when you are eating PB&J in interstate 70 at 3 AM, on the way to the next gig.

TOUR DATES:

NOV 7 WED
The Pabst Theater
The Wooks
Milwaukee, WI, United States

NOV 8 THU
Strand theater
The Wooks
Pontiac, MI, United States

NOV 9 FRI
Woodward Theatre @ Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum
The Wooks
Owensboro, KY, United States

NOV 10 SAT
Orange Peel
The Wooks
Asheville, NC, United States

NOV 11 SUN
The Lincoln Theatre
The Wooks
Raleigh, NC, United States

NOV 13 TUE
The Metropolitan Theatre
The Way Down Wanderers
Morgantown, WV, United States

NOV 14 WED

Photo by Jim Mimna

Center for the Arts of Homer
The Way Down Wanderers
Homer, NY, United States

NOV 15 THU
Gramercy Theatre
The Way Down Wanderers
New York, NY, United States

NOV 16 FRI
The Jefferson Theater
The Way Down Wanderers
Charlottesville, VA, United States

NOV 17 SAT
Neighborhood Theatre
The Way Down Wanderers
Charlotte, NC, United States

DEC 7 FRI
Strings & Sol (Dec 7-11)
Shook Twins
Puerto Morelos, Mexico

DEC 14 FRI
WinterWonderGrass Stratton Music & Brew Festival (Dec 14-16)
Stratton, VT, United States

DEC 28 FRI
10 Mile Music Hall
Meadow Mountain
Frisco, CO, United States

DEC 28 FRI
10 Miles Music Hall (2-Day Ticket for Dec 28 & 29)
Meadow Mountain
Frisco, CO, United States

DEC 29 SAT
10 Mile Music Hall
Meadow Mountain
Frisco, CO, United States

DEC 30 SUN
Ogden Theatre
The Drunken Hearts
Denver, CO, United States

DEC 30 SUN
Ogden Theatre (2-Day Ticket for Dec 30 & 31)
The Drunken HeartsJon Stickley Trio
Denver, CO, United States

DEC 31 MON
Ogden Theatre
Jon Stickley Trio
Denver, CO, United States

JAN 16 WED
Troubadour
West Hollywood, CA, United States

JAN 17 THU
Belly Up
Midnight North
Solana Beach, CA, United States

JAN 18 FRI
The Fillmore
Midnight North
San Francisco, CA, United States

JAN 19 SAT
Crystal Bay Club Crown Room
Crystal Bay, NV, United States

JAN 20 SUN
McDonald Theater
Eugene, OR, United States

JAN 22 TUE
Historic Ashland Armory
Ashland, OR, United States

JAN 23 WED
Midtown Music Hall
Bend, OR, United States

JAN 24 THU
Wonder Ballroom
Midnight North
Portland, OR, United States

JAN 25 FRI
Wonder Ballroom
Midnight North
Portland, OR, United States

JAN 26 SAT
The Showbox
Midnight North
Seattle, WA, United States

JAN 27 SUN
Wild Buffalo
Bellingham, WA, United States

FEB 22 FRI
WinterWonderGrass (Feb 22-24)
Steamboat Springs, CO, United States

MAR 10 SUN
Gasparilla Music Festival
The Avett Brothers
Tampa, FL, United States

MAR 31 SUN
Greenfield Lake Amphitheater
Wilmington, NC, United States

APR 11 THU
2nd Annual Bender Jamboree (April 11-14)
Las Vegas, NV, United States

 

To submit a story or to just say hello, email us at lmnandr@gmail.com

Check out the Live Music News and Review.com Facebook page for updates and announcements.