The band Leftover Salmon has been a stalwart in the “jam band” scene since the early 1990s. Formed in Colorado, the group has released as many as 13 albums and toured extensively all over the world. There influences are myriad. Their playing ability and inventiveness in live performance have made them a celebrated music festival act. I had a chance to chat with Drew Emmitt about their most recent record “Show Me Something Higher” as well as their show coming up at the Crystal Bay Club at Lake Tahoe on Friday March 6 and the Warfield Theater in San Francisco on March 7.
Hear an audio interview with Drew Emmitt.
I started our conversation asking Drew about bands that are influencing him recently.
Drew: “Oh, boy, that’s a tough question because I’m influenced by so much music and there’s so much great music coming out. I tell you one thing. I feel like our friend Billy Strings is really killing it. I’m loving the new stuff that he’s doing. There’s a lot of great bands right now in our little jam band world, and I’m really impressed with what everybody’s doing. You know Greensky and The Dusters and Billy Strings and The Lil Smokies, lots of great music happening, Tyler Childers. Boy it just feels like it’s a real Renaissance right now of great music coming out.”
The title track from Leftover Salmon’s most recent record is a song called “Show Me Something Higher.” The song is about the idea of wanting the world to be a better place, where people are more connected and help each other lead fulfilling lives. I asked Drew about the inspiration for this song.
Drew: “I was driving, I was coming back from Telluride between Montrose and Gunnison. I just got this idea, a feeling like things need to be higher. The human race needs to aspire to those higher ideals of what’s going on now. Just feeling like, man there’s got to be more, and so this phrase just kind of came to me. Show me something higher than what’s going on now, and I pulled off and walked down by the big reservoir there near Gunnison, Blue Mesa, and just started writing it.
“That’s where the first line comes from, “went down to the water to watch the seabirds fly.” I was just kind of hit with an inspiring kind of moment. And then, it wasn’t it finished, so I said, Vince why don’t you write the second half to all the verses, and he did. He came up with these great additions to the verses, and it turned out it was the first time Vince and I had ever written a song together. So that’s the other cool thing about it. I don’t know, just kind of a moment in time that I was lucky enough to capture and turn into a tune.”
Another standout song on the album is called “House of Cards.” It’s a timely and politically charged song about the times we are living in. I asked Drew if he could give us some insight on the song and where it came from.
Drew: “We’re all pretty politically charged, especially me and Vince, and when we were making the record, we had the TV on a lot between tracks, and there was a lot going on then as there is always, but seemed like at that time there was a lot of crazy stuff going on, the whole Russia investigation and just all the tidal wave of news that was coming out.
“Vince had already started the tune, and then we finished in the studio. It was so much information, so much inspiration to contribute to that. But you know, it’s obviously a tune about the times that we’re in and the government that we have now and how much things have changed and how crazy it is and hoping that things will turn around. The last line of the chorus is “love is gonna win again” and I think that’s pretty poignant and pretty right on.”
The band has been around for over 30 years now and they stay busy writing, recording and touring. I asked Drew about what projects they have coming up in the next few months.
Drew: “We’re releasing a box set that’s vinyl “Thirty Years of Leftover Salmon.” We’re marking the first year of our book, which is a really cool thing, “Thirty Years of Festival.” When we come out to Tahoe, we’re also playing the Warfield for the first time. We’re really excited about that. So that’s going to be a super fun weekend. And then we come back to Colorado and we play Durango and then Salt Lake and then we go up to Jackson Hole a couple days. That’s going to be a cool run. And then we do our little festival at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs at the end of the month. This is our second year of doing that. And that’s a blast. So, in the immediate future a lot of great stuff, and then this summer a ton of great festivals, and we’re starting to release a record we made last fall.”
Will Houk is musical arts corespondent for The Ally. Take a moment and support his work.