By KARA POUND
Trampled By Turtles, a five-piece, progressive bluegrass group from Duluth, Minn., makes its way to the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall tonight in support of the band’s seventh studio album, Wild Animals (BanjoDad Records, July 2014). Comprised of Dave Simonett, Tim Saxhaug, Dave Carroll, Erik Berry and Ryan Young, TBT formed in 2003 and has been hitting the road hard for more than a decade. From an appearance on the Late Show With David Letterman to headlining Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the guys have had a few very busy years. Compass caught up with fiddle player Ryan Young as he was running errands on a day off from touring. Here’s part of that conversation.
Compass: You guys have been around for more than a decade, but really started gaining traction over the past few years. What do you attribute that to?
Ryan Young: Luck and hard work; probably in that order. If I had to get more specific, I’d say – especially right now – there’s a market for organic music. Pop music, for the most part, is computerized and modern sounding. And I love it, too. I’m not saying anything bad about it. But there’s a certain population that is kind of refreshing for them to hear something that is so organic as Trampled By Turtles. It’s five guys making music with their own hands. It’s basically just songwriting and musical ability.
Compass: The band is from Duluth, Minn. What’s the music scene like there?
R.Y.: It’s fantastic. It’s basically, completely unknown outside of Minnesota. People in Minnesota know it and maybe even people in the Midwest area know about it. But it’s not a national thing at all. People around the country don’t know about it. For the size of the city, which is pretty small, there are just a ton of bands. There are enough bands where they’re able to put on a local music festival every year and they call it The Homegrown Music Festival and it lasts the whole week and there’s like 200 some bands. Out of those bands, the only really national acts are ourselves and then there’s a band called Low and then there’s this guy named Charlie Parr.
Compass: What’s life like on the road for five guys?
R.Y.: Right now it’s actually kind of luxurious compared to when we started. In the very beginning, we were in a mini van, our banjo player’s mini van. And then we started making a little bit of money and we ended up buying a 15-passenger van that we had for many many many years. But, nowadays, we’ve been fortunate enough to be able to afford to rent a bus, so now it’s kind of luxurious. There’s plenty of room and we don’t have to drive any more, which makes for a better show because we’re not so exhausted and crabby and uncomfortable. We’re in better spirits, which makes for a better show.
Compass: What makes your latest album, Wild Animals, different from past releases?
R.Y.: This is the first time we’ve ever used a producer and this goes back to one of the other bands that’s kind of been successful out of Duluth, Low. The lead singer of the band Low, his name is Alan Sparhawk, we asked him to produce our new record. This is the first time we’ve ever worked with a producer, so there’s this little bit of a different sound to it [the album]. It’s basically still Trampled By Turtles, but we had a different set of ears there [in the studio] and just another person’s opinion. We all look up to him and trust his musical ideas. So that’s the main difference. It’s got a little bit of a different sound. Possibly it would only be audible to someone that’s a big fan of our music and has heard our older stuff.
Trampled By Turtles perform with opening act Nikki Lane tonight at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall. Doors open at 8 p.m. and show starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $22 in advance and $25 day of show. This is general admission, standing room only.