July 11, 2008

Rothbury Interview with Drew Emmitt: My Favorite Buddhist Mandolinist.

The Emmitt Nershi Band at Rothbury.

I like the sound of that…Buddhist mandolinist. But I am getting ahead of myself. I had the opportunity to sit and chat with Drew Emmitt after the Emmitt-Nershi band’s Saturday afternoon set at Rothbury. Since elephant is Boulder-based, and Drew plays the mandolin in two Boulder based bands, Leftover Salmon and the Emmitt-Nershi Band, I am tempted to call Drew a Boulder Bluegrass celebrity. But he is way too nice and down-to-earth, so we’ll just stick with bluegrass/newgrass heavyweight. Both bands are touring this summer, and he has a new solo album, the Long Road, just out.

Traipsing around the country just as fast as his picking (he had just flown into Rothbury from the High Sierra Music Fest), you can catch the Emmitt-Nershi Band at the Boulder Theater on August 6th. If you’re a Leftover Salmon fan, they’ll be playing the Fillmore on Halloween. That show has not been announced yet, but Drew accidentally told me, and he was nice enough to give an intern a break and let me, um…break the story!

I asked Drew what he thought about Obama’s quotation about musicians and change  in this month’s Rolling Stone. Drew remarked how in a way he thought big organized religion has failed (amen), and while he is a big fan of reading religious writers and theorists from Tolle to Jesus, he thinks that “Music is the one thing now that can change the world,” uniting people the way nothing else can, creating “community with a universal language,” and allowing for a give-and-take energy exchange you cannot get anywhere else (and “what else is more fun in the summer?” Drew asked. And then he added “Almost too fun” with a grin and a chuckle that should be prerequisites for all bluegrass musicians). He also thinks the musical community is becoming more aware and conscious, and noted that the Telluride Bluegrass Festival gave artists metal reusable water bottles and like Rothbury (and the Boulder’s farmer’s market!), vendors use only compostable items.

As I alluded to earlier, Drew has been a practicing Buddhist for 30 years and finds “Buddhism similar to playing music.” Having just started meditating and being tone deaf myself, I asked him to elaborate. Drew explained: “When you’re playing well, you’re Zen, and in the moment, you’re letting the music come from you and you let go of your ego and get out of the mind; you calm the inner chatter, and you feel the energy, and you’re being one with the environment, one with body and mind.” Well since I doubt I am going to pick up the mandolin, I’ll be keeping up on my beginning meditation practice.

Drew thanked me, and I thanked him, and I said it was “my pleasure”…and I could not have meant it any more.

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