Modern jam band pioneers Leftover Salmon have been wowing audiences with their “polyethnic Cajun slamgrass” sound for over 30 years.
The current lineup has been playing together longer than any other in the band’s history and is stronger than ever.
As Leftover Salmon last performed in the Tetons back in 2017 at Targhee Fest, the band is eager to get back to Jackson as part of their current “Ski Tour,” which started in Alaska and has included stops in Crested Butte and Lake Tahoe.
With a new bluegrass album coming out in the spring featuring guests like Billy Strings and Darol Anger, Leftover Salmon are locked into a creatively fruitful groove.
In advance of their two acoustic shows at the Center for the Arts on Friday, Feb. 10th and Saturday, Feb. 11th, founding member and guitarist/vocalist Vince Hermann joined us for a conversation over the phone.
The following interview transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity. This conversation was recorded on Thursday, Feb. 9.
JACK CATLIN/KHOL: With so many classic tunes. I mean, you guys, like you said, 33 years of music, so many classics. Which song or songs sent out to you as your best and or most fun to perform live?
VINCE HERMAN: With 33 years of accumulated repertoire it’s hard to do that. But, ideally, you know, you’re really in the moment in every song and while you have the basic song form, you know, established and all that, you go looking for new things to react to in the playing of your bandmates and the crowd and all that stuff. And it’s that point when you kind of improvise into something that really takes hold and goes somewhere unexpected, and if it works when it goes somewhere unexpected that, you know, we like to chase. So it’s hard to say that there’s one tune that really does it for us.
KHOL: I know there’s so many variables in play whenever you’re doing a show, but you have kind of a skeleton outline or kind of a definitive strategy, or do you get on stage and just go and see what happens?
HERMAN: You know, probably about 75% of the time we start with the setlist. You know, what we play might not have much to do with the setlist we wrote down, but it just feels more comfortable to have a plan. And in some situations where it’ll be hard to communicate what the next song is we kind of will stick to it list and do that kind of thing. We like to switch up between the singers, you know, we’ve got five singers in the band, well six really. Greg’s been on a singing hiatus of late, but yeah, with six singers and writers in the band, we just try to pass it around and not have anybody really dominate the setlist. And as the guy who stands in the middle, I see it as my job to kind of harvest the best of what the musicians in the band have to say and add and create the space for that to happen.
KHOL: I wanted to shift the focus to you, Vince, as a solo artist, because you’ve recently moved to Nashville. You put out your first album as an individual entity this past November. What inspired you to put out a solo record after all these years, and what was that whole process like?
HERMAN: Yeah, I moved to Madison, Tennessee, here just outside of Nashville a couple of years ago and settled in, lured here during the pandemic by the prospect of doing a lot of co-writing. I bought an RV and rambled across the country and ended up staying in Nashville for a while, and I started doing some co-writing things. Over the next year, I accumulated a batch of songs that I really wanted to get out there and get heard by people. In the two years I’ve been here, I’ve probably written more songs than I have the rest of my life. So it’s been a really huge creative bonus for me to be here in an environment where writing is just what people do, every day. So hooking in with that network of people has caused a really big resurgence in my own creativity musically, and having never done a solo record, I was having this pile of tunes accumulating. I just figured it was it was time like it never had been before.
KHOL: So does that segue into Leftover Salmon or do you keep it separate? Do you have songs specifically for Salmon or in your solo material, or do they kind of bleed together sometimes?
HERMAN: No, I try to keep the solo material pretty different so that when people do come to the show, they know they’re going to get something different than a Salmon show. Some of the tunes I’ve written we’ve been doing with Salmon that aren’t on the record and regular parts of my solo stuff, but I like to keep a separate. Salmon as a new album coming out in the spring. It’s cover songs from the it’s called “Grass Roots,” and it’s kind of a nod to the musicians and songs and styles that, you know, kind of fed us early on and still inspire us as far as where we kind of get our inspiration from. This “Grass Roots” record is a nod to that. I imagine the next Salmon album will have some more original material too, to toss together. Also have a band called The High Hawks with Tim Carbone, Chad Staehly, Brian Adams, Will Trask and Adam Greuel from Horseshoes and Hand Grenades. We just have a new record. It’s going to be out in the spring, probably this fall actually. We just got done recording that, bringing some of that new material to that band. I’m just feeling more creative than I have ever and really psyched to have three different outlets to put that music out with.
Listen above for KHOL’s full conversation with Vince Herman of Leftover Salmon.