Up-and-coming bluegrass musicians to headline Strings
October 30, 2014
Steamboat Springs — A musical friendship was formed by two renowned stars of American roots music, and now Aoife O'Donovan and Noam Pikelny have come together to headline venues across the U.S. on their 2014 November tour.
O'Donovan is known for her captivating vocals as the lead singer for the dynamic bluegrass band Crooked Still along with her dexterity in the female folk trio Sometymes Why.
Sharing the spotlight, Pikelny, who is known for his influence in the bluegrass group the Punch Brothers was awarded the Album of the Year and Banjo Player of the Year at the 25th International Bluegrass Music Awards. He's also collaborated with the likes of Wilco, Fiona Apple, Norah Jones and Jon Brion.
For more than a decade, the two have crossed paths collaborating and performing together. At 7 p.m. Tuesday, the duo will be at the Strings Music Pavilion. It will be the kick-off show for the Strings winter season with tickets starting at $28.
On Thursday, Pikelny spoke with Explore Steamboat about the upcoming performance and being back in Colorado.
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Explore Steamboat: Have you ever been to Steamboat before? If so, what will it be like to be back here and in Colorado?
Noam Pikelny: Yes, but it's been three or four years. I've been to Telluride for the Bluegrass Festival with the Punch Brothers and used to come to Steamboat when I was playing with Leftover Salmon.
Colorado figures into my musicianship and career heavily. Especially because my first professional job playing music was with Leftover Salmon when I left the cornfields of Illinois to move to Boulder. Because of them, I got to know Colorado really well, and it couldn't have been a warmer welcome jumping into that band.
The state really is the real base of their audience, and I definitely took note of how special the music scene is there. Colorado has a fond place in my heart and a profound influence in my career. I always love coming back and getting to bring a new project like this back with me.
ES: You were recently awarded Album of the Year and Banjo Player or the Year at the International Bluegrass Music Awards. How does that feel? Is it kind of surreal for you?
NP: I think it's surreal definitely, but first and foremost it's an honor. So much of my career was built on the fringes of bluegrass, and to come back and make a traditional album supported by the bluegrass world is extremely gratifying and special to me. I'm a bluegrass musician at my core and that really informs my musicianship. It's the center of what I do and was a labor of love to make this record. It's one of the greatest honors of my career to receive this award, and I'm very proud.
ES: You have such a knack for playing the banjo. Did you have a good teacher or was it one of those things that just clicked for you?
NP: I think it was both. I started playing in Chicago and had lots of great teachers who were really generous with their time. For example, I had the opportunity to work with Greg Cahill, from Special Consensus, and I rode my bike to his house often for lessons. Other teachers include Béla Fleck and others who have been passing through and I tried to get a moment with them to learn a few things.
ES: Tell me about you and Aoife performing together. What is the chemistry like between the two of you compared to other musicians you've performed with?
NP: I think we gravitate toward each other because we are very like-minded with our musical interests. It's really a good fit. At this point we have performed and worked together on and off for a decade or so. It's a long-established musical friendship, really. It's a pure joy to work with her.
ES: What is it that you like about Aoife's singing? How is her voice different than other musicians you've worked with?
NP: The first thing people notice with her is her voice. She has such an amazing voice and emotive sound; it's so unique. The main thing people takeaway after seeing her perform is her voice and the tone of it because she is such a well-rounded musician. Singing the rhythm the way she does, it draws people to the song.
ES: What are you looking forward to for the upcoming performance here?
NP: Being back in the mountains again will be great. I've been to Colorado many times but it will be the first time when it's my own project. It's very exciting, and we are both looking forward to it.
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