Peninsular Place

The Magazine

October 1, 2012

Greensky Bluegrass

Greensky Bluegrass - Photo by Michael Weintrob

Kalamazoo-based bluegrass sensation Greensky Bluegrass has had a busy summer, gaining steam with festivals and sold-out shows and playing with some of the biggest names in music. And now they will be making a stop at the Blind Pig this October.

Dave Bruzza (guitar, vocals), Paul Hoffman (mandolin, lead vocals), Anders Beck (dobro, lap steel) and Michael Arlen Bont (banjo, vocals) make music that is different from the bluegrass you’re used to. Greensky Bluegrass has a sound that includes, “poignant rural ballads about real people […] and grit and attitude from a whiskey-soaked card game.” Recently, iSPY had the opportunity to speak with guitarist and vocalist Dave Bruzza, during which he spoke about the guys’ whirlwind summer and some of their favorite onstage guests.

A few of you guys met in Kalamazoo. Did you all know right away that you wanted to play bluegrass, and who were some big influences for you?

It was definitely an evolution – when the band first got together, the whole goal was to learn how to play our instruments, to play bluegrass. Funny as it sounds, Jerry Garcia was a huge influence, along with Skaggs and Scruggs, Bill Monroe, John Hartford…

What would you tell people who have never heard your music about your new album?

For one thing, of all the records I’ve made, this is easily my favorite that I’ve ever made with anybody. As a group, we’re incredibly proud of this album as a whole, and we went about recording it in a very different way. We recorded it on tape instead of doing it all digitally.

You guys have played a ton of festivals this summer and are known for your high-energy live performances. How would you compare the studio recording experience to being up on stage?

The studio has endless possibilities. When you’re live, you’re in the moment and you’re creating with everyone to make something as a performance. Making a record is a performance, but you have the ability to change something – and there are endless possibilities with what you can do.

Greensky Bluegrass has had some pretty fantastic guests join you up on stage. How does collaborating with other musicians change the experience, and have you had any favorite guests over the years?

Oh, man. We’ve worked with a lot of people over the years. We’ve had Tim Carbon from Railroad Earth who helped us with a couple of records and has joined us onstage numerous times. Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann from the Grateful Dead were amazing. It’s great to have someone who people haven’t heard of – Cris Jacobs, for example – that guy is electric. We played Baltimore Friday night and that show was just explosive and good with a really fun vibe. Bob Hendenjer, a saxophonist, joined us onstage. Most people don’t associate sax with bluegrass but he’s just such a zen performer. Guests are very special and definitely fun because it can change what’s familiar to us and our fans and becomes something that’s really new and fun at the same time.

After such an exciting summer, is there one experience that stands out as the best?

There have been so many, and this year has been great. We had the opportunity to go to Hawaii and Alaska all in the same year – a fun experience. Seeing the crowds grow everywhere all over the country has been really exciting. It’s hard to pinpoint just one great moment.

It sounds like your live shows are something that shouldn’t be missed. Is there a way for people who can’t make your show to watch your past performances?

Actually, has lots of free downloads of live shows from all over the country. You just type in a name to find live shows to download.

And last, but not least, are you looking forward to your upcoming show at Ann Arbor’s Blind Pig?

Yeah, we’re looking forward to it! It’s been a while since we’ve played near Detroit, and we’re excited to get back. I actually played one of my first gigs at the Blind Pig with my brother in 1999.

Greensky Bluegrass will perform at the Blind Pig along with Joshua Davis on Saturday, October 13. Tickets are $15. For more information, visit To learn more about the band and to listen to the first half of their latest record for free, visit

About the Author

Mary Simkins
Mary is another awesome member of the iSPY team.

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