Leftover Salmon is a band that has been around long enough that it doesn’t really need an introduction. For three decades, the band has played a sound that is based in bluegrass. On New Year’s Eve, the band will release a box set entitled 30 Years under the Big Top. By phone Vince Herman (guitar, vocals) discussed the longevity of the band, Leftover Salmon fans, and the upcoming box set.
Americana Highways: What does it mean to you that Leftover Salmon has been together for 30 years?
Vince Herman: It’s been great to have this amount of fun for this long and to have a career doing this. We’re a bunch of bozos playing bluegrass music and we found a way to make a living doing it.
AH: What do you think is the key to the band’s longevity?
VH: Stylistically, the Americana and bluegrass scene lends itself to longer careers than rock or pop music. It’s a pretty diverse age of the fan base. That’s definitely part of the genre. We just keep showing up too. That’s the other part. And having a good time.
AH: Along the way you created your own category of music.
VH: Polyethnic Cajun slamgrass is what we called it early on. That’s kind of become jamgrass. I’m not that much of a believer in saying that things start somewhere. It’s all connected. We’re connected to bands like Hot Rize, Bluegrass Revival, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Things like that. It’s as much a source of jamgrass as anything we’ve done. A buddy of mine Rob Bleetstein started the Americana charts at Gavin Radio Report years and years ago. He walked off the street and said, “You’re missing a whole corner of the world musically.” You should let me write this chart. That was the start of the Americana chart. I think he was right in that there was a whole world of music that didn’t get reflected in the mainstream. We’re just another cul-de-sac on the Americana highway.
AH: What’s the best thing about Leftover Salmon fans?
VH: They’re usually pretty ready to get rowdy and pretty accepting of adventure on the band’s part. They don’t necessarily come out to see the same versions of the same songs. We’re always allowed to be adventurous with this crowd.
AH: What kind of experience do you expect for the listener of the box set?
VH: It’s a travelogue of all the various versions of Leftover Salmon. There’s been quite a few players in the band over the years with me and Drew Emmitt being the constants. There has been lots of changes in the songwriting. I think it’s going to be a pretty diverse listening experience with the box set.
AH: What would you be doing if you weren’t making music?
VH: Running for political office. Absolutely. I’m pretty obsessed with all of this going on. Part of the Hippie Revolution was tune in and drop out. Even though we’re a cul-de-sac on the Americana Highway, the counter-culture really needs to step up and get involved. We need input from a lot more kinds of Americans in the demographics of those who vote. The demographic really need to change soon because we’ve seen what happens.
AH: Do you find that’s something missing in music today?
VH: The relevance to the times is not as common as it was in the 70s and 80s where protest music could find a voice in radio. Maybe that’s not so much anymore. It seems a rather different environment than when Nixon was in office. I think there could be more awareness of the times.
30 Years under the Big Top includes all of Leftover Salmon’s studio albums and is sure to be a collector’s item for fans of the band. It will be available everywhere on December 31. Order your copy here.