If you’re in Nashville this week- make plans to be at the Station Inn on Wed, Jun 29 at 6PM. Molly is doing a showcase and it is FREE. Go get something to drink and a thing of popcorn (you’ll see when you get there) and enjoy some wonderful music! Plus, when everybody is buzzing about this Molly Tuttle person before long, you can tell them you are way ahead of the curve!
Molly Tuttle is not a name many of you will recognize immediately. I hope that changes in the near future. She is a wonderfully talented singer, songwriter and guitarist. Though her public work to this point has been largely with her family (as well as an EP with John Mailander), she has a new CD out with a group called the Goodbye Girls and she is working on a solo project that will no doubt enlarge her audience.
It was a pleasure to get acquainted with her recently. Here is our conversation:
JM: I have known of your name for some time, but I just recently became acquainted with your music after your Music City Roots appearance last Fall. I really enjoyed what you were doing.
MT: Yeah, thank you.
JM: So take off and tell me about yourself.
MT: Well, I started playing guitar when I was eight. My dad is actually a music teacher, so he taught me how to play. I grew up playing with him and I have two younger brothers who play music as well. We all played together and with other kids our age. I grew up kind of in the bluegrass background, I went to bluegrass festivals and jams a lot when I was learning how to play.
JM: Well, your guitar technique is pretty phenomenal.
MT: Thank you.
JM: Who would you name as influences. Obviously your dad had a lot of influence, being your teacher. Who were you listening to and absorbing?
MT: I was listening to Tony Rice, David Grier, and I love Gillian Welch. Dave Rawlings had a big influence on my playing as well. I really love his style. Those were probably the main people I was listening to a lot.
JM: So Bluegrass/Americana background, generally. Are you at this point in your career, seeking to kind of cement that influence and imitate it, or take it further? Where do you see yourself right now in that situation?
MT: Well, I mainly am performing right now with a bluegrass instrumentation band, fiddle, banjo, and bass. A lot of the songs that I write aren’t in the traditional bluegrass sound. I’m kind of taking it in a little different direction, but definitely rooted in bluegrass. My album branches out a little more, there are some tracks with an electric guitar. Just kind of takes it one more step outside of the bluegrass world. I definitely still love bluegrass and am influenced by it a lot.
JM: Is the new project largely originals? Or is it a mix?
MT: So far it is ten songs and then one original tune that I wrote.
JM: Great. I had listened to the two family albums and the EP that you did with John Mailander. The EP had some very interesting things on it. It was definitely bluegrass informed but there were some other things in there. The song Morning Morgantown I found very interesting and lovely.
MT: That’s a Joni Mitchell song. When I was studying in college I took a classical Joni Mitchell ensemble, the teacher would help us play them. It was really fun.
JM: I am glad to see that you are featuring some of your original material, and will be anxious to hear it when it comes out.
MT: I’m excited about it. Its a lot different than the albums I have done before. I’m excited about the direction that it is going in.
JM: Instrumentation on that project is about the same, you mentioned that you had some electric as well?
MT: Yeah. I have some percussion as well. I was working with the producer, he brought in some great players for it and had really great ideas.
JM: Good, what’s the timeline on that at this point?
MT: Well, we are still finishing up the mixing. It is taking longer than expected. That will be done in March. Then hopefully in the Summer we will have it ready to come out. I could see it being postponed until Fall, but hopefully in the Summer we will have it out.
JM: Well that would be good. I don’t know what your plans for touring are, but if you were able to get into some of the festival circuits it would be handy to have it on hand.
MT: Yeah, I am excited to have something out.
JM: You went to Berkley, a lot of names are associated there now in Bluegrass and Americana- very good and very talented names. Did you have a lot of contact with people who are now in the business, either contemporary with you, people who went there that you worked with, or that you had contact with for the future while you were there?
MT: Well I definitely am still friends with people I went to school with. Once I moved to Nashville I met a lot of people who went to Berkley.
JM: Do they still have a thing where people from Berkley get together in Nashville?
MT: Yeah, I went to one of those. My old songwriting teacher was taking a bunch of Berkley students to Nashville for that. A mix of alumni and students.
JM: Well that would be kind of a hoot to get together.
MT: Yeah it was cool.
JM: One of your Berkley buddies, Sierra Hull’s new album came out this a bit ago and I have been absorbing it for a while. It’s fun. It’s an interesting ride, totally different.
MT: Yeah I think its cool. I just missed her when I went to Berkley. She had just graduated. She came back and visited a couple of times, she’s a really great musician.
JM: She is very talented and seems to be a very down-to-earth person.
JM: What are you listening to? Who do you listen to now?
MT: Its kind of all over the place. I still listen to some bluegrass. I love traditional bluegrass. Hazel Dickens is one of my favorite people to listen to.
JM: When you are writing or getting ready to take an old song and reset it in your particular style, is there any particular process or mentality that you go through or questions that you ask? Or is it all kind of dependent on a situation?
MT: I guess it’s kind of dependent on a situation. When I am writing it is kind of a long process usually. Or when I am revising a song going back and picking them apart making sure that every line is just how I want it. There are some songs that I’ve written that the words all kind of come out at once and I don’t revise it as much. But usually I just kind of have to work at it. Then when I am learning another person’s song, I usually like to learn it just like they did it and then work from there and try to come up with my own arrangement or version of it. That can sometimes take a long time, sometimes it will develop over a year of playing a song, I’ll slowly come up with my own version of it.
JM: Do you find that revision process exciting or tedious? Everyone is a little different.
MT: I think it is really exciting when I feel like I am making a breakthrough with a song. When I come up with a cool melody idea or think of a line that fits in that I haven’t been able to come up with for a few days. Sometimes it can feel kind of tedious.
JM: I can imagine that getting to that breakthrough point can sometimes be frustrating.
MT: Yeah definitely. Sometimes it feels like you aren’t really getting anywhere with a song. Then something will click eventually.
JM: You have spent a lot of time dealing with group projects. This is your first solo effort. This is a little more exposed and you are almost totally out front.
MT: Yeah definitely.
JM: Has that been a shift for you or has it come pretty naturally?
MT: It was a big shift, being responsible for all the pieces coming together. Definitely was more stressful than when you are in a band and everyone is kind of working together, everyone doing little pieces that fit together to make the bigger thing that you are creating. When I was doing this last album it definitely felt like I had a lot more responsibility to make sure everything was going to go smoothly and come together.
JM: Well I am looking very forward to it, to see what you come up with.
JM: When you were on MCR, there was a lot of buzz in the chat room about your set. It was exciting to see that you had this kind of base already.
MT: Yeah. I think I sent out an email to my email list. It was cool to see that a lot of my friends and fans from back home tuned in, and other places that I have played before. People seem to like the show.
JM: Did you grow up in California?
MT: Yeah, I grew up in the bay area and my dad is still out there teaching.
JM: Well there has been a lot of Bluegrass and folk music from the bay area. Its been a hotbed at times of a lot of activity. So you had an opportunity to listen and maybe even participate with other people, who you might not have had opportunities with had you been from other places.
MT: It was a really cool place to grow up. I got to see a lot of great local musicians. It was pretty exciting once I got to the level where I could play with some of my heroes that I had seen growing up.
JM: Is there anybody in particular that your flame was really stoked by, that was really kind of a bucket list type thing? Someone that was really exciting, that you really wanted to play with and got to.
MT: I guess growing up I always enjoyed going to see Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick and they both live in the bay area. It was pretty cool once I got older and they would ask me to come play with them on stage or we would sing together at festivals. That was always really exciting and still is when I get to play with them.
JM: That is cool. Not only swapping instrumental licks but singing harmonies as well.
MT: Yeah, singing with someone else is a really cool connection for sure.
JM: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me tonight- looking for great things from you!
MT: No problem.
Here are a couple more videos to tide you over until the project releases.
Townes Van Zandt’s White Freightliner. Video is light, but listen to the guitar work!
Last one from 2013. Beaumont Rag, or as Clarence White used to call it: the Julius Finkbine rag… who knows why…