Railroad Earth’s summer has quite busy and they’ll be playing at Peach Fest this weekend and Hot August Music Festival on August 20th. this coming weekend among other stops, and a visit back to the historic Red Rocks in September. Brady and Andrew of Live Music Daily sat down and spoke with Tim Carbone prior to their Del Fest performance earlier this summer. We discuss late night shows, Warren Haynes, and much more. Check out their tour dates here and catch them in a city near you.
LMD: You guys play a lot of festivals. What makes Del Fest special to you personally?
The most special part of Del Fest is Del. He’s an American icon and dare I say an institution almost. He’s kind of the last guy standing in the old school bluegrass world in a way. You can point to someone like Tony Rice, but he was after Del. That’s a huge thing to have someone like that here. They choose who comes to play and not the other way around. We feel really lucky to be here.
LMD: What do you enjoy about playing a late night show?
There’s a different energy in a late night show with the way the sets are easily designed to be a little more expansive. You have a little bit more time to develop the music. People have had a whole day of music and they’ve just had dinner. They’re ready to do their late night thing. All of the outside music is done so any musicians that are still around are probably coming to the show. You can get your friends up there to sit-in and make interesting and special moments that you wouldn’t usually be able to make. It’s totally awesome.
LMD: You’ve been playing more electric guitar lately. Tell me about some of the old bands where you played electric guitar and talk about the transition to fiddle.
I’ve always played fiddle. Fiddle was my main instrument except for my very first band when I played drums. I was in a band with Andy Goessling from 1978 until 2000 called Blue Sparks From Hell. I played electric guitar and fiddle in that band. Blue Sparks From Hell did 250 gigs a year for 19 years. 4700 plus gigs. Railroad Earth has been together for 15 years and we haven’t cracked 2000 yet. When I talk to a musician and tell them that Andy I were in a band where did 4700 plus gigs they look at me like, “What are you talking about?”
LMD: Talk to me about the Ashes & Dust tour and album. You’ve been a band for 15 years. It must have been really cool to do some stuff with Warren. What did you enjoy about that whole time?
The first time I played with Warren was when I sat in with the Allman Brothers at Red Rocks. That was the first time I actually met him. I was packing up my stuff and they were like, “Hey man we’d love to have you sit-in on a song.” A couple years later he called us and we came down here and did an acoustic set at Del Fest. His management made some noise to our manager at the time and said, “Hey maybe it would be fun to collaborate.” Nothing really happened and it kind of just sat there. Next thing I know I’m getting a call from him and he’s like, “Hey I think we’re going to do this.” He called me in early November and we were already in the studio in December. We did it a place called the Barbershop. Warren just wanted to have us come in and he’d play us the songs in the control room. He and Todd got together and wrote a song that’s on the record.
LMD: What’s Warren like in the studio? They say different personalities in the studio kind of drive creative direction.
He let us do our thing because he knew that’s what we were looking for. We pretty much created stuff on the fly, which is something that we do a lot. There were multiple takes from each song. All of the solos that I did were solos that came from the take themselves. Andy, John and Warren were all in the same room. We all had visuals except for drums. It was super cool. We didn’t tour that much with him because the schedules didn’t work out.
LMD: What’s your background like as a producer? You’re a full-time on the road musician and then you’re also producing. You kind of have an angle and ear for certain stuff.
I’m kind of a blue-collar style producer. I know the process inside and out and I also know how to run a session. I have a good ear for arrangement and I have a good feeling of where the song could go. I also know how to create a good even keel vibe. I take care of all the details so nobody has to worry about anything except going in and making the music. I produced more records last year than I’ve done in my entire career. Some bands I just did records for are Gypsy Moon, Great American Taxi, Coral Creek Band and Hot Buttered Rum. I did six records last year. I’ve done 58 records now in my producing career. I will give everybody credit where credit’s due, but anybody that thinks they just go in and produce a record doesn’t understand that it’s a skill set. There’s part of it that you know how to do because you’ve worked with other producers, but I was lucky because I got tucked under the wing of some great producers like Bob Clearmountain at the Power Session. He worked with The Police and Bruce Springsteen for example.
LMD: What are some of the best venues that you’ve ever played? A lot of people say Red Rocks, but what are some cool non-Red Rocks venues that you’ve played. Are there any rooms that you’ve really liked playing over the years?
My favorite indoor room is The Fillmore in San Francisco. Every once in awhile you go into a place and you think that’s it going to be a dump. We played Bend, Oregon recently at the Domino Room. That place only holds like 450 people, but the crowd was great. The audience was like 110% honest. You just never know. It really depends on the crowd. There’s just something really magical about playing at The Fillmore in San Francisco.
LMD: Is there anything coming up this summer that you are really looking forward to?
This gig here at Del Fest is the one that I’m really looking forward to. We’re looking forward to getting out there and playing again because we’ve been off for a couple months. I’ve been doing a lot of stuff. I revamped my whole recording studio. My rig is humming now and I’m writing some stuff with some other people. I’m doing this record with this guy named Lou Rogai. He’s in a band called Lewis & Clarke. He lives right next door to where my studio is and we ended up crossing paths. We came up with this idea to do an old school single. We took a true story about this guy that killed his girlfriend back in the 1870’s and wrote a song called “Blood in the River.” I wound up playing bass on the song and writing a string trio for it. Another thing I’m doing is a side project called The Contribution with Jeff Miller and Phil Ferlino of New Monsoon. Keith Mosely of String Cheese Incident plays bass and Duane Trucks from Widespread plays drums on it. For the new record we’re going to release a single at a time and donate all the money from each single to a different non-profit organization. We’ll partner with the various non-profits to try and get the word out.