An Interview With Greensky Bluegrass’ Paul Hoffman

Paul Hoffman, mandolin player for Greensky Bluegrass, was kind enough to take a few moments out of his schedule to respond to a few questions for JamGrass.net. Here’s what he had to say.

JamGrass.net: It’s been a cold and snowy winter in the Midwest. I’m sure the band is looking forward to hitting the South and the Spring thaw. Has the weather impacted the creative process at all?

Paul Hoffman: We’re in the South Spring thaw now. It’s very nice in Tulsa, OK and it’s warm. I don’t think the cold had too much effect on the creative process. It was a cold tour though for a few weeks in the Northeast and Midwest. It definitely makes seeking out the awesome meals in a city less appealing. We walk a lot and when it’s -16 going 2 miles for a Bánh mì just doesn’t seem worth it.

JamGrass.net: The band seems to have taken a liking to one of Atlanta’s newer venues, Terminal West. Any particular memories stick out from the venue?

Paul Hoffman: We’ve only been there once so far but we did love it. One of the best shows of that whole tour in our collective opinion, actually. I do believe the recording may surface as an official release someday. The staff and the vibe at Terminal West are great. What’s not to like? Can’t wait to do it again.

JamGrass.net: When can we expect the new album? Any new material planned for the current tour?

Paul Hoffman: We are playing some of the material and holding some as well. Super excited for the release. There’s been a lot of opportunities with this album that we haven’t had the privilege of considering with previous releases. It’s added some time to the process but we are confident it will be worth the wait.

JamGrass.net: The Keels are opening. Can we expect any collaboration?

Paul Hoffman: Hell yeah!

JamGrass.net: The kinship between Greensky and others bringing together the bluegrass and live improvisation styles seems extremely strong, with shared festival dates, etc. The opportunity to combine resources and launch a tour in amphitheaters or arenas seems plausible. The idea worked with HORDE in the 90’s. Has the idea ever been discussed?

Paul Hoffman: Great idea. To my knowledge nothing is in the works. I like it though. We love all our contemporaries. It’s a competitive business for sure but there is so much camaraderie amongst us. Events like Strings & Sol, Northwest String Summit and Hangtown really showcase that. It’s something I am extremely grateful for.

JamGrass.net: The “Rift” cover generated a lot of attention and was a nice tribute to the PHISH anniversary. How did the tune get picked? What was the arranging process like?

Paul Hoffman: I always thought it would be a great bluegrass tune. It’s almost there without any work. Some of the characteristics of bluegrass rhythm are all over all the genres of music. The arranging process…hmm. It was interesting. Very challenging. That band called PHISH is REALLY good. They play a lot of complicated music. What was interesting is turning a piece for 3 melodic instruments into 5. We all sort of share [Jon] Fishman’s job and [Mike] Devol plays the bass line but sort of the bass drum, too. Splitting up the piano and guitar melodies amongst all of us was unique. Careful doubling and dividing. Mostly we just held on and crossed our fingers that it was badass.

JamGrass.net: Lots of festival dates planned for 2014. What are some of your favorites?

Paul Hoffman: We love Telluride. It’s pretty much a goal to be there every year. We’re back at High Sierra and Bonnaroo. A couple more I can’t tell you about yet, either. Festivals are exciting. I love seeing new bands, bathing in sunscreen, and playing music with new musicians.

JamGrass.net: It seems everyone has at least one festival they host these days. When can we expect an official Greensky festival?

Paul Hoffman: We are doing three nights for the Garden Opener at Bell’s this year. It’s always been our summer kickoff event. This is the tenth year so we added another night. Actually it’s our first three night stand. In our minds, it’s sorta been our “festival” for awhile and we’ve had a hard time imagining something different or replacing it in some way. Plus, we like being at everyone’s festivals so much. How’s a guy to choose?

JamGrass.net: You and Anders were voted in the JamGrassers Band by readers of JamGrass.net, along with Ben Kauffmann (Yonder Mountain String Band), Chris Pandolfi & Andy Falco (The Infamous Stringdusters), and Tim Carbone (Railroad Earth). Can you try to help make sure this collaboration takes place this year?

Paul Hoffman: That sounds fun. Count me in.

Greensky Bluegrass is currently on tour, check the dates below. Support the band and JamGrass.net by purchasing tracks from Greensky’s catalog at Amazon.com. Check out the Spotify list below for a preview.

  • 3/14    Old Rock House    St. Louis, MO
  • 3/15    Exit/In        Nashville, TN
  • 3/19    Lincoln Theatre    Raleigh, NC
  • 3/20    Terminal West    Atlanta, GA
  • 3/21    Suwannee Springfest    Live Oak, FL
  • 5/1    Tipitina’s (Uptown)    New Orleans, LA
  • 5/1    New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival    New Orleans, LA
  • 5/9    Aiken Bluegrass Festival    Aiken, SC
  • 5/10    NC Brewers & Music Festival    Huntersville, NC
  • 5/22    Delfest    Cumberland, MD
  • 5/23    Delfest    Cumberland, MD
  • 5/24    Summer Camp Music Festival    Chillicothe, IL
  • 5/25    Revival Festival    Harmony Park, MN
  • 6/5    Bell’s Beer Garden Opener    Kalamazoo, MI
  • 6/6    Bell’s Beer Garden Opener    Kalamazoo, MI
  • 6/7    Bell’s Beer Garden Opener    Kalamazoo, MI
  • 6/13    Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival    Manchester, TN
  • 6/19    Telluride Bluegrass Festival    Telluride, CO
  • 7/2    The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino    Las Vegas, NV
  • 7/3    High Sierra Music Festival    Quincy, CA
  • 7/4    High Sierra Music Festival    Quincy, CA
  • 7/17    Northwest String Summit    North Plains, OR
  • 7/18    Northwest String Summit    North Plains, OR
  • 8/2    Red Rocks Amphitheatre    Morrison, CO
  • 8/3    Fox Theatre    Boulder, CO

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