These guys will probably grow on you

An interview with the Blackberry Bushes Stringband

Jim Drake’s Entertainment Blog

I’ll try not to ramble on and on here, like a blackberry bush that’s starting to grow over the fence, down the drainage ditch and over to your neighbor’s property, where the tendrils are starting to take hold along the underbrush, competing and winding their way into the empty field that’s just waiting for summer to start, a field that will create a habitat just right for unstoppable growth – eventually resulting in prized black berries that will be a treat for the deer, and a curse to the landscaper who will try and try to keep the brambles at bay.

Instead of fighting them, let them grow, and better yet, give them a listen.

You’ll be glad you did.

The Blackberry Bushes Stringband will be at CEBU Lounge on Saturday, March 2, starting at 9:30 p.m.

An interview with Jess Raymond of the Blackberry Bushes Stringband

Thanks for stopping by and playing in Hood River. Your stringband will be at CEBU Lounge on March 2. Have you ever had a chance to visit before?

We have driven through the Gorge so many times and have never been able to stop before. It makes sense that we will find people we can relate to in such a beautiful place. I understand there’s been a recent lineup change in your band.

Tell us who is in the band, what they play, and how has scaling back given your sound a new musical direction?

Currently, the band is Jes Raymond on guitar and vocals, Jakob Breitbach on fiddle, and Taylor Kent on upright bass. Changes are going to happen in a band; we are trying to use the changes to be creative. It opens up the sound a little more to have a trio, and we each have a little more responsibility and opportunity. We used to concentrate on creating a rhythm base for the soloist to sit on top of. In the trio, the parts are more woven together.

Speaking of your sound, the songs on your website are very nice quality. I’m hearing the traditional bluegrass elements, but delivered in a modern way. Some have compared you to what Nickel Creek used to be. How does that feel?

Nickel Creek was a wonderful band; those players are all inspirational to us. I am also really inspired by string bands like Crooked Still and songwriters such as Martha Scanlan, Andrew Bird and Sean Hayes. I love Roots music, and especially where it intersects with contemporary sounds.

I’m guessing the fiddle tune “Blackberry Blossom” had something to do with the band name. How did the band name come about?

I was working for a plant nursery and spent a good amount of time pulling blackberries. My arms were gnarly, and all covered in scratches. We needed a band name - so we were named after the bushes.

You guys are opening for the Steep Canyon Rangers in Portland next month. Congratulations on that! How did you land that gig, and will that show be one of the larger shows for you this year?

The booker at the Triple Door (in Seattle) has been having us do a residency at their Musiquarium Lounge; He is a fan of the band and has been looking for a good spot to put us in as an opening act. We have him and our agent, Phil Einsohn, to thank. It will probably be the biggest exposure we have had in this area. We are excited! It comes at a really great time too, when we are just back from California. Hopefully, we'll have our suntans on.

What drew you to stringband/bluegrass music in the first place?

My dad loved country and bluegrass music. We went to some festivals every year when I was a kid, but really when I went to college in Chapel Hill North Carolina, that is where I really started to connect with the genre. What would you like to tell Hood River folks in order to get them to come out to your show? I would say that we are performing artists. Some musicians are more about recording, which is great, I love that too, but my first love has always been performing. Nothing makes a great show like a great audience. We do it together.

What’s next for the Blackberry Bushes Stringband in terms of touring/recording?

We are about to release a series of singles, which is a new approach for us. We are going to put out a live album this summer, and we are working on video to accompany the singles. We are headed out to the Mountain West and down to California this spring. Jakob and I are getting married in the fall in Dubuque IA. That’s where he is from, so we'll have the band back in the Midwest around that time. To infinity and beyond!

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