It has been a while

 Hey there everybody! Been a while…..

I apologize for the long delay. It’s been quite a year for me. Lots of ups but some downs as well. The biggest down was going back to work after being off for six months with a severe back issue / surgery. Getting back to work was great (an up) but it took a lot longer to get back to normal physically (a big down). Add to that the emotional stress of not being able to go back living my life how I was able to pre accident and it was pretty tough (another big down). I didn’t have all the downtime I had so posting videos and interviews took a backseat. 

The ups were I started playing with some great players in a band called The Blues Green and we have been playing A LOT!! My schedule is busier than ever with gigs and we are doing a pretty cool mix of swing, gypsy jazz and Americana. If you are in Charleston,SC come on out to a gig…I’ll buy you a beer (or soda)!

An even bigger up was meeting one of my heroes last night — The Dawg himself David Grisman. When I gave him some stickers and told him about the site, he responded “Yeah man!  I’ve check it out!” I almost fell over and I am definitely inspired. 

So I am going to try and at least post a new lick a month. I’m also going to change the format of the videos as well to keep them a little shorter.

Anyway, looking forward to more music in my life!



5 Quick Questions with….Jenni Lyn Gardner!!


This Tuesday 5/12/2015 the band Della Mae released their newest cd called “Della Mae”. As if that isn’t exciting enough, they also played on the legendary Grand Ole Opry stage that same night! A well deserved honor for the band that includes this week’s guest Jenni Lyn Gardner.

When I first started playing music in Charleston, I had quite a few people ask me if I was familiar with a “local”picker by the name of Jenni Lyn Gardner. At the time I was not, but the amount of praise she was receiving from her fans and friends was enough to make me check her music out. Man, am I glad I did!

If you aren’t familiar with the band, Della Mae is great. They are a hardworking group with great songs and incredible musicians. Jenni Lyn fits the bill perfectly! Tasteful and fiery at the same time, she has the gift of playing for the song and along with her mandolin skills, she’s also got a great voice!

She’s been a professional musician since the age of 18 and along with a Grammy nomination, she’s had IBMA nominations, taken part in the prestigious Mando Madness at Merlefest, been featured on the cover of Mandolin magazine, traveled the world playing music, and played with the father of bluegrass Bill Monroe!

On top of all of this Jenni Lyn also has another band called Jenni Lyn and the Palmetto Bluegrass Band! So I’m pretty stoked that she took time out of her busy schedule of touring to do this interview.

You can keep up with Jenni Lyn here! Check her and her band out and enjoy this 5 Quick Questions with….Jeni Lyn Gardner!

  1. What are you currently playing (mandolin brand, strings, picks etc)

JL–I play a 2014 Randy Wood Mandolin. EXP 75 D’Addario strings. Blue chip picks. K&K pick-up blended with a Chantelle Ear Trumpet Lab microphone for live sound.

2. What are you currently listening to?

JL–Sam Bush, Del McCoury Band, Blue Highway, Bill Monroe, and The Stanley Brothers. I am a huge Sara Siskind fan and most recently have been loving Billy Strings & Don Julin.

3. What is your favorite beverage when picking some tunes?

JL– It really depends on the occasion, but my go-to’s are: a bottle of PBR, IPAs or Patron with soda water and lime.

 4. If you were to pick up your mando at this second, what tune would you play?

JL– A tune written by Kyle Tuttle called Bobcat on the Banjo. We play it in my band Jenni Lyn & The Palmetto Bluegrass Band and it will be coming out on Kyle’s solo banjo album this year. It’s a super fun one to pick.

5.  What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

JL– Do your very best and BELIEVE in yourself.

Della Mae has a self-titled album coming out May 12th on Rounder Records and we are playing THE GRAND OLE OPRY!! We have an action packed touring schedule this year including Europe. Show dates can be viewed at

Thank you mandolins and beer!

Thank you Jenni Lyn!

5 Quick Questions with……….. Joseph Brent


Joseph Brent is such an incredible, unique mandolin player that the first time I listened to him, I literally felt stunned. I had to listen again and again and again. It was unbelievably motivating. It’s an incredible moment for a musician to be moved to want to play “Right now!” and that is what Joseph Brent’s playing does for me.

I wish I could type in words exactly what it is about his playing that is so wonderful….but I can’t, and that is good for you! You need to hear is for yourself. From Nocturnes and Caprices by David Loeb to traditional tunes to the Flaming Lips it’s all over the place and it’s all fantastic!

Joseph has a brand new project called 9 Horses (here is a link to one of the tunes) with Sara Caswell and Shawn Conley. They have a gig coming up May 8th at Subculture in New York (buy discounted tickets here) and Joseph has taken time out of his busy schedule to do a “5 Quick Questions with….” and it, like his playing, is awesome!

Check out Joseph here and here and check out his “5Qs” below!

  1. What are you currently playing (mandolin brand, strings, picks etc)

My 8 and 10-string mandolins were made by Brian Dean in Cape Breton, NS, Canada. The 10-string is my main instrument in most contexts and I use it exclusively with 9 Horses now that I’ve found a capo that works with it (a cheapo plastic Dunlop guitar capo that Tom Crandall at T. R. Crandall Guitars modified for me). I use the 8-string occasionally in the studio when a brighter sound is called for. I string the 10-string with D’Addario Flat Tops and .056” singles for the low C course. The 8-string gets GHS Silk & Steels, for a little extra darkness. My main pick for both is the Blue Chip TAD 50 unbeveled, but I use TAD 60 beveled for Bach or classical music that has lots of notes and needs precision at the expense of tone or projection. With 9 Horses I also sometimes use a felt ukulele pick for strummed chords when I really want to provide a soft cushion for Sara’s violin to float over. For amplification, I use a DPA 4099G into a Mic Mechanic for reverb control, mixed about 60/40 with the Schatten pickup which goes into a Tonebone.

  1. What are you currently listening to?

Mostly the past few weeks, I’ve been listening to the mixes of the upcoming 9 Horses record! Shawn and Sara are such incredible musicians; it’s such a great feeling as a composer to write for players who don’t just play the ink, but improve everything I write (and make me look awfully smart!) by filtering it through their own individual musicality. Really looking forward to getting this record out there.

I’ve also been freaking out over the new Bjork album, which is just the greatest ever… Lately I’ve been listening to some Allan Holdsworth, who drives me crazy because it seems like a lot of whipped cream and not a lot of banana, and yet underneath the pyro is an immense musicality. So I’ve been trying to reverse engineer some of his playing to get at the good stuff that’s hidden under layers of artifice. I love the music of Ludovico Einaudi, which you’d have to classify as New Age music. Believe me; I’m as surprised as anyone else. I think he’s a real composer who happens to write such spare, elegant music that what’s left sounds like New Age even if it isn’t really. It’s really hard to write something that simple! I also just rediscovered the Peter Gabriel So album, which is unbelievably good. Dirty Projectors, Eels, my friends Kishi Bashi, Tall Tall Trees, and Elizabeth and the Catapult that I was just touring with (now THAT was a tour bus full of talent!), that amazing Hundred Waters record, Julian Lage, Richard Thompson, St. Vincent, Spoon, War On Drugs. Mountain Goats, Elliott Smith, Neutral Milk Hotel, Animal Collective, and Flaming Lips are constantly in my rotation. I’m a big runner, and when I run I listen to Supergrass or Bruce when I want a pick me up, and Sigur Rós, Brian Eno, or Gillian Welch & Dave Rawlings when I need something chill.

  1. What’s your favorite beverage when picking some tunes?

My default is to something bitter and hoppy like an American IPA. Green Flash and Stone make several fantastic IPAs, which is really cool since their breweries are really close by in San Diego. I also like Smuttynose and Founder’s Centennial, or for something a bit lighter, Dogfish 60 or Racer 5. There was a time I only ever ordered IPAs, but I’m starting to grow out of that, and if I’m at an outdoor café on a nice day, a Belgian Pale Ale like Duvel or even a German Pilsner feels more right. It also depends a lot on what food I’m having with it. I’ve always believed that beer is just as appropriate with fine food as wine, it’s just not as traditional and most people don’t know enough about it to know which should be paired with which. Irish food, especially a hot bowl of potato leek soup, should of course always be paired with a pint of Guinness! About a year ago I became a vegetarian, which you’d think would make pairing more difficult but thankfully I’ve found that not to be the case!

  1. If you were to pick up your mando at this second, what tune would you play?

I always start with string crossing warm-ups, most of which I learned from Carlo Aonzo in Italy, but then I’d go right to whatever 9 Horses tune I’m working on at the moment. I usually start with a groove, or a lick that I think sounds good, or sometimes I’ll bang out a sound or chord cluster on the piano until I find something I like, or that sounds nice on my mandolin (having that 10-string really opened up a world of possibilities, and I write on it exclusively). Pretty soon, a melody will appear, and usually the form of the tune will reveal itself soon after. Then it’s just a matter of filling in the blanks. At that point, I can’t really put the instrument down until I’m done. Right now, for instance, I’m working on a tune that came to me after listening to Alexandre Desplat’s score for Zero Dark Thirty, which has this dark cello and low brass thing happening throughout, and I was trying to translate that sound to mandolin and bowed bass with violin floating above it. Still working on that one, but it’s living mostly on my low C string!

  1. What is the best advice you’ve been given?

I’ve had lots of great teachers over the years, but a friend of mine that I run with occasionally was just teaching me about hill climbing. I said I wasn’t very efficient on hills, and I can feel my form slipping halfway up the steeper ones, and she said to try not to think of it as a physical challenge. “The hill isn’t any steeper for you than it is for anyone else; the runners who are best at hill climbing are the ones who accept the challenge as it is, and enjoy the challenge rather than focus on its difficulty.” That’s some pretty good advice for running, or for practicing, or for pretty much everything else in life!

Thanks Joseph!

5 Quick Questions with……..Will Patton!!

Will Patton

This week’s 5Qs features jazz mandolin player Will Patton. Once again the Mandolin Cafe was responsible for turning me on to Will Patton’s music! After seeing one of his songs featured on the front page I was hooked! The tune Wes’ Street Blues off of his album “Peripherique” is to this day one of my favorite to pick along to!

Will has a new project out called “Times Arrow” and it’s as incredible as you would expect a release from Will to be! You can find Will online here at his website or here on Facebook!

I give you 5 Quick Questions with…..Will Patton!

1.   What are you currently playing (mandolin brand, strings, picks etc)?

          WP —  A Gibson A 1920, JBouvier F-5 Tradition, Campanella Strings Due, 1930 National Steel tenor guitar, Dobro. D’addario J-74, turtle picks.

  1. What are you currently listening to?

          WP —  Solas, Bill Evans, Rodney Crowell, Bonnie Raitt, Hilary Hahn, Mike Auldrige…

  1. What’s your favorite beverage when picking some tunes?

          WP —  It depends — Trout River Red Ale (now defunct, I hear, Shed Ale (both local to VT), Sam Adams, glass of Cab, cask strength single malt Irish Whiskey.

  1. If you were to pick up your mando at this second, what tune would you play?

          WP — Forked Deer

  1. What is the best advice you’ve been given?

          WP — Relax!

If you want to catch up with Will he will be at the Cafe Leno Mando Summit on June 13th and at Jim Ricther’s Camp the last week of July.


5 Quick Questions with Don Julin!

don julin

Take a look at any festival schedule worth it’s salt and odds are good your are going to see Billy Strings and Don Julin on the lineup. These two are absolutely burning the road up. Just search youtube for clips and prepare to be blown away!

While the duo itself may be new to some of you, Don’s name is most likely pretty well known to you, especially if you frequent! He resides up in beautiful Traverse City, Michigan (although I’m not sure how much time he’s been able to spend there recently!) which is where I first became familiar with him. He’s a master player that teaches at the prestigious Mandolin Symposium put together by Mike Marshall and David Grisman, he’s authored two exhaustive books in the “Dummies” series, he leads a mandolin orchestra up in northern Michigan, he has his own jazz band that released a killer album called “Vibe” a few years back and his tune “Mr. Natural” has been used in a few medical product commercials as well!

He found time in his crazy schedule to do this interview and I couldn’t be more grateful! So I give you “5 Quick Questions with…..Don Julin”

1. What are you currently playing (mandolin brand, strings, picks etc)

 DJ — I currently have two Nugget mandolins, a 1979 F5, and a 1991 2-point. The F5 seems to like lighter strings so I use a custom set from GHS made up of .038 .024 .015 .010. The 2-point seems to like heavier strings so I have been using J75s. Last week I tried some Straight Up Strings and loved them.

2. What are you currently listening to?

DJ — John Hartford, Tom Waits, Bill Monroe, Frank Wakefield, Dawg, Miles Davis, Sun Ra.

3. What’s your favorite beverage when picking some tunes? 

DJ — I enjoy a good smokey single malt scotch or a good old domestic beer like PBR.

4. If you were to pick up your mando at this second, what tune would you play?

DJ — Probably some tune that I am working on that is not quite finished yet.

5. What is the best advice you’ve been given?

DJ — “There are only two songs ever written: one was the blues and one wasn’t”.

Keep up with Don at the following links:

Billy Strings and Don Julin