Where the Sky is Green and the Grass is Blue: An Interview with Greensky Bluegrass’ Anders Beck

Greensky Bluegrass

It takes an element of surprise to start catching ears, turning heads and flipping worlds upside down. Though when you’re a band that’s all surprise like Greensky Bluegrass, it just comes naturally. The band stands where experienced jam band meets wholesome Midwestern bluegrass, unchallenged in what best categorizes as jamgrass, wielding a sound that just feels right. Even Anders Beck, the band’s dobro player, is aware of the undesireable connotations bluegrass carries nowadays, but hopes music lovers will be surprised by their refreshing take on it.

“It’s bluegrass, but it’s also kinda rock and roll, and I feel like a lot of people read the word bluegrass and sort of think, ‘Oh, I don’t like bluegrass,’” he admits. “To a certain extent, I don’t really any more either.”

Greensky hasn’t just updated bluegrass’ texture, rather they’ve taken its instruments and incorporated much more of a rock attitude. “We are sort of different from traditional bluegrass, which sometimes comes across as some really old-timey genre from the past. What we do or try to do at least is take instruments, the banjos and the mandolins and things like that, and use the instruments to create something that is our own certain musical texture. It’ll always be bluegrassy by nature because of the instruments we use, and then from there we try to take it in our own direction.”

This style, wrought from around eleven years of effort, has earned them spots at massive festivals like Bonnaroo where many unsuspecting passersby have been snared by their surprising sound and energetic performance. Anders is excited by the band’s crossover potential and their growing recognition. “It’s kind of like we lie somewhere in the middle of both things, so it works for everybody on some level.”

Greensky Bluegrass is returning to Madison in support of their latest album, Handguns, released in October. Anders hopes fans won’t worry too much about not knowing much of the setlist because much of the album was built and practiced live on previous tours.

“There’s been a lot of stuff we’ve honed in on stage before release, before we made the album,” he said. “People who have seen us before will get to hear a bunch of new music and hopefully they’ll get to hear all the old music that they wanted to hear as well.”

Live performance is the number one priority for the band since it gives members an opportunity to stay true to their jam roots through improvisation, spurred by interaction with the crowd.

“It’s really interesting from a musical standpoint because we certainly focus on the technical aspect of music and songs and songwriting and playing, but there’s so much more to it when you’re doing it in front of hundreds of people or thousands of people, be it at a festival or a club, where so much of it is about energy as well and creating a good time for everybody,” Anders said.

The band, based in Michigan, are well experienced with Madison, enough that it stands out in Anders’s mind. He has certainly anticipated getting back.

“Personally, what I’ve come to expect from Madison is a party. Every time we play there, whether it’s a Tuesday, a Saturday or whatever, the crowd is always ready to rage. I don’t know if that has to do with us, with the town, or probably a little of both, but I’ve always had a great time playing in Madison. I’m psyched to be back. It feels like a [it’s been] long time.”

Come redefine your understanding of bluegrass’ potential and expect nothing less than a high-caliber rock performance when Greensky Bluegrass returns turns the High Noon Saloon upside-down.  They’ll hit the stage tomorrow night (Saturday, December 3, 2011).  Get your tickets here.

–Evan Benner

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Related Content:  Free MP3 Download From Greensky Bluegrass: “Don’t Lie”

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