Leftover Salmon is like the Energizer Bunny. Formed in Boulder, Colo., in 1989, they just keep going and going and going. Last year the band released Something Higher on Los Records, and earlier this year the group was the subject of the Tim Newby book Thirty Years of Festival! We caught up with founding member Vince Herman to give us a few insights on the band. And be sure to catch their DittyTV Concert Series debut Wednesday, Aug. 14, at 8 p.m. CDT.
1) First of all, it’s been 30 years since the very first incarnation of Leftover Salmon. Y’all have had many members and you were on hiatus for a while but you’re still touring and putting out great music. What factors contribute to the longevity of Leftover Salmon?
Leftover’s longevity has definitely benefited from the fact that we play whatever we want with little consideration of trying to be a certain kind of a band. The freedom of crossing genre lines I think makes for well-entertained musicians! The folk/bluegrass scene is also very supportive of long careers that pop music doesn’t necessarily lend itself to due to meteoric rises and falls in air play. With us it’s been a long, slow ride into obscurity.
2) Similarly, you guys have toured hard in the years you’ve actually been together. The song “Places” on your current record, Something Higher, speaks to that touring life a bit. What are the challenges of so much time on the road?
The road is where we make our living. Records certainly don’t provide income anymore. We’ve always been a working—essentially blue collar—band. I think we peaked at around 230 shows a year back in the ’90s but are considerably below that torturous pace now. Sure the diet isn’t that healthy and sleep is elusive but we get to do a lot of livin’.
3) Speaking of the album Something Higher, as usual it’s a mind-boggling array of styles and themes and your creativity just seems to grow. After so many years of being professional musicians, what does this album mean to you guys?
The Something Higher album was a real joy to make with these guys. Everyone’s on top of their game and the producer and studio were perfect for having the album come to life the way it did. Though it doesn’t really make economic sense anymore, making records is still really satisfying.
4 There are a handful of bands now with that “jamgrass” style but you guys really created that genre. What are your thoughts on being the godfathers of a whole genre of music?
I see the Jamgrass genre as a long line going back through the Kentucky Colonels, Newgrass Revival, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Poco, David Bromberg, and so many others. Being a part of that lineage is a massive honor for a kid from Pittsburgh that grew up absorbing all I could. Now that I’ve been doing this for over 30 years, I’m honored to have found a niche in this fun, fun world of music.
5) Finally, what’s next? As you pass 30 years of Leftover Salmon, what can fans expect to see and hear from you?
Coming up, we will be doing some more recording, putting together unique gatherings, playing lots of festivals, and doing more arts center kind of shows in an acoustic setting.