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Five Minutes, Five Questions – Andy Hall, Infamous Stringdusters

Posted by Tony Reyes |
Photo courtesy: Scott McCormick The Infamous Stringdusters return to the Hillberry Harvest Moon Festival for a performance at 9 p.m. Friday.

Photo courtesy: Scott McCormick
The Infamous Stringdusters return to the Hillberry Harvest Moon Festival for a performance at 9 p.m. Friday.

In June, progressive bluegrass outfit the Infamous Stringdusters released a collection of live recordings of their full album “Laws of Gravity,” and on Oct. 27, the quintet will debut their new five-song covers EP, “Undercover Vol. 2.” Fans and new listeners will hear songs from both on Friday evening as the acoustic group returns to the Hillberry Harvest Moon Festival in Eureka Springs for a headlining performance. Dobro player Andy Hall took a few minutes during the group’s heavy touring schedule to answer these questions for The Free Weekly.

Q. You’ve played Hillberry before as well as Wakarusa, so you’re kind of familiar with the Northwest Arkansas festival scene. Is there anything that stands out about your time here you’re excited to get back to?

A. What always surprised me is how many awesome music fans there are in that area. I don’t get to spend a lot of time in Arkansas, so when I do and I see this huge colorful group of awesome music fans, it’s just a great treat. But also the landscape’s beautiful colors — I love the rolling hills and I love the fans, and we’re excited to come back.

Q. So tell me how a Stringdusters show might differ a little bit when you’re at a festival versus when you do a club show.

A. Well, that’s changed over the years in that they’re much more similar now than they used to be. In the past, the club show would probably be more jamming and improvised sections because we had more time. The festival, sometimes it would take us a minute to get into the flow of jamming, but now when we play a festival, we take our time — we’re going to jam, we’re going to improvise. It’s going to be high energy.

Q. How is the experience of being at the live show different from people putting on your record at home?

A. Those jams that happen in between songs, that’s very unique to the live show. And on the [full-length] record, we wouldn’t generally record cover songs, but in a live show we’ll do a few covers that are fun and interesting. When you’re a bluegrass band doing cover songs, it’s particularly fun because a lot of times they sound so different in a bluegrass format. People are like, “Oh my gosh, it’s this song I knew as a pop song, but here it is with banjo, and it’s kind of weird and fun.”

I think people put bluegrass in a niche thing and in a way, it is. But our goal is to just widen that out as much as possible and make people feel anything. Our hope is to encompass [feelings other genres can inspire], and playing cover songs in a bluegrass band is a fun way to kind of turn people’s heads a bit and show them that an acoustic band can still rock just as hard in a way.

Q. I really felt that on “Laws of Gravity,” too. There’s some funk elements, some R&B elements — but even just in the lyrics, I felt like there was a lot going on there with varied influences.

A. Yeah, well in traditional bluegrass, the lyrical content in this day and age, it’s a little generic. And people aren’t really relating to like “hop on a train” or “living in a cabin.” But that’s what traditional bluegrass lyrics were like. And it’s our job to sort of continue to break that stereotype lyrically. Musically, we love the sound of the banjo and the fiddle and dobro and all that, but we want to make it relatable for people now, so in our songwriting we try and [take] a modern approach.

Q. When you’re in the writing or creative process, are there ever themes or messages — however subtle or direct — that you’re hoping the audience will take from a song?

A. We have a bunch of writers in the band so I think there’s a lot of variety in the content we write about. There’s certainly relationship songs; there’s always going to be that because that’s what a lot of people are dealing with in some way all the time. But we’ve written some environmentally focused songs, [and] want to open people’s minds to those issues. In a lot of ways, we’re kind of spiritually engaged. Not in any religious sense, but in sort of an introspective sense. And we definitely like to uplift. It sounds cheesy, but that’s a big reason we play music is to try and uplift. We really do want to spread a message of joy and peace and togetherness, and that’s what the whole band is about these days.

— Jocelyn Murphy

jmurphy@nwadg.com


FAQ

Hillberry Harvest Moon Festival

WHEN — Continues through Sunday

WHERE — The Farm, Eureka Springs

COST — $60-$180

INFO — 888-762-7158, hillberryfestival.com


FYI

Hillberry Harvest Moon Festival

Music Schedule

Today

6 p.m. — Sad Daddy

8:15 p.m. — Mountain Sprout

10:30 p.m. — Horseshoes & Hand Grenades

Friday

4:25 p.m. — The Squarshers

6:45 p.m. — Keller Williams’ Grateful Grass

9 p.m. — The Infamous Stringdusters

11:50 p.m. — Leftover Salmon

2 a.m. — Julian Davis and the Hay-Burners

Saturday

2:25 p.m. — Arkansauce

4:30 p.m. — Dirtfoot

6:45 p.m. — Greensky Bluegrass

9 p.m. — Railroad Earth

12:40 a.m. — Fruition

2:30 a.m. — Opal Agafia & the Sweet Nothings

Sunday

11:30 a.m. — Picking contest

2:50 p.m. — Handmade Moments

4:50 p.m. — Old Salt Union

6:50 p.m. — Yonder Mountain String Band

9 p.m. — Railroad Earth

12:30 a.m. — Arkansauce

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