East of 8th: How did y’all decide to come together and form The Lil Smokies?
The Lil Smokies: The band started back in the winter of 09’ in Missoula, MT; The lineup was quite a bit different back then as was our sound! Matt Cornette (banjo) and I (Andy) are the only remaining original members from back in the day… although Scott Parker (Bass) joined soon after. It basically was a literal garage band, until we worked up enough cover songs to start busking on the streets. We got attention pretty quickly around town and then things just took off from there. Once we began touring fulltime we lost some members who couldn’t commit to an obtuse life of gas stations and green room guacamole. In the wreckage, we picked up Jake Simpson (fiddle) and The Reverend Matthew Rieger (guitar). It’s quite the sacrifice- living on the road. We wouldn’t all be doing it, if we didn’t love music and love each other.
Eo8: What is progressive bluegrass—or rather, what makes your brand of ‘grass progressive? Prograssive. I couldn’t resist.
TLS: Homage to tradition is an important part of any art form. We’ve all spent countless hours studying the rules and tools of the fathers of bluegrass. Now we get to take those principles and create our own art. Our focus when writing and performing is to help our fans recognize that they’re not alone in the rollercoaster of life. Progressive bluegrass is a fitting title for what we do, but I (Rev) would encourage you to come to our shows and decide for yourself what you’d like to call it.
Eo8: Y’all are touring machines! What’s your secret to maintaining sanity on the road?
TLS: Everyone is a little different in his respective survival techniques. I (Andy) like to get an hour of exercise in on most days after soundcheck; luckily there are YMCA’s scattered in every corner of this great country. It helps me mentally more than anything and gives an opportunity for a little solitude during the day, which is a scarcity…also, the 15 minutes in the sauna after the workout flushes out all the previous night’s sin. It’s a road hack. Foolish not to use it. I (Jake) skateboard and watch “Family Guy.”
Eo8: Can you share your tips for managing your lovely locks and formidable facial hair with our readers?
TLS: The flowing locks you see on stage are simply the product of laziness and neglect. I (Rev) never get it cut and use cheap hotel conditioner. The real heroes are my parents. Aside from passing down hair-growing genes, they have supported and encouraged me from day one and continue to do so every day. My mother does not have a beard.
Eo8: How do you enjoy playing Nashville?
TLS: I (Jake) have a bittersweet relationship with Nashville. I spent about 8 months in Nashville, living out of my car, playing on Broadway, and trying to get gigs. Growing up on traditional country, bluegrass, and western swing, hearing the evolution of popular country music on the radio was frustrating enough, but spending time in Nashville, and witnessing the division of new country artists and more independent roots artists was disheartening. Musically, the town seems to be divided down the middle, however, there is a creative energy in Nashville unmatched by any other city, in my opinion. The majority of my musical heroes have walked the streets, played the bars, recorded, had hard times, and some of them fostered success in Nashville. It’s a place that can send you on your way to a sustainable career, or chew you up and spit you out.