Written by Nicholas Stock
Jeremy Garrett, a.k.a G-Grass plays fiddle. He started at the age of 3 and has never stopped. Jeremy is an accomplished guitar and mandolin player, vocalist, and songwriter. Jeremy is a founding member of the GRAMMY award-winning band, The Infamous Stringdusters, and has performed in all-star line-ups and as a solo artist. He takes the stage on Feburary with a host of friends at the Aggie Theatre in Fort Collins.
NS: What inspired you to pick up the fiddle at such a young age?
JG: Who knows what they want at age 3!? Well, apparently I knew I wanted to play fiddle. My Dad is a bluegrass musician, and we always had records and instruments around. I started in Suzuki while having my dad hum bluegrass fiddle tunes I would try to pick up on fiddle.
NS: Tell me about how you joined up with The Infamous Stringdusters in Nashville.
JG: Well, I moved to Nashville with another band I had going way back in the day. Long story short, that band fell apart just as we got to town and so I was forced to integrate myself into the Nashville scene. This became a good thing, but at the time, I remember it being lonesome. Starting at the ground floor and having to scramble a little, I started playing in the scene there and eventually made my way into the Ronnie Bowman band with Andy Hall and a former Duster, Jesse Cobb. We were constantly talking about how we could start our own band and make a go of it and so with the addition of Chris Pandolfi and Chris Eldridge (our guitar player at the time); we put together the unit. A couple of years in and we had Andy Falco as our guitarist and Jesse had left the band. We have been playing music now for more than a decade.
NS: How did you get the nickname “G-Grass”? Also “Freedom Cobra”?
JG: Lol.. well, Ggrass is derived from my own branding I was doing way back in the day “Garrett Grass” shortened to Ggrass. My fans gave me the “freedom cobra” name. I guess it has something to do with me squirming around on stage while I’m playing.
NS: At one point you lived in an RV traveling out west and waiting for the birth of your child, what was that like?
JG: Absolute chance of a lifetime. We loved traveling the country and living free to go wherever we wanted. It was a great practice on how to live a minimalist lifestyle, not to mention all the beautiful country we saw as we made our way around the US. I also brought recording gear and recorded two records in the RV called the “RV Sessions”.
NS: Recently you’ve been offering a fiddle workshop including a previous event you held The Music District here in Fort Collins. What’s it like to teach as opposed to performing?
JG: I enjoy teaching within moderation. I have had many people hit me up about wanting to take Skype lessons and what not, but with my touring schedule, there is no time for that. I wanted to create an event that would be something I could go all in on. An intensive workshop where people could come and learn any techniques they see me applying to the fiddle or the looping station. It was for me the first of what I want to make an annual event. It was a lot of fun and there were about 25 students that attended the class.
NS: After winning a Grammy with the Stringdusters in 2018 have you and your band found a wider audience? What has changed since then?
JG: I’d say it is business as usual for us. Winning a Grammy is huge, no doubt. But like all accolades, it is what you make of it. For me personally, it’s like having gas in the tank. You spend and spend energy and when you get back, it’s what really keeps everything happening. Sure some heads have turned and paid attention because of the Grammy, but for us, we continue to make original music and play the best shows we can. Nothing has changed in that regard except maybe they are even better now.
NS: The Stringdusters are a peak in the bluegrass world, they have described the band as a “Future Supergroup” and as “Flawless” by bluegrass critics. How do you and your bandmates approach bluegrass that’s different from your contemporaries?
JG: Well, each of us has had a long history of playing music in professional settings and have honed our craft to the best of our abilities. Countless hours practicing on a solo basis from a young age and then countless hours of playing music together. We’ve all had gigs with other artists that were big in their field and have learned and gained experience from that as well. I think it’s a combination of all of that and our individual influences that make all that come together. We have had criticisms of being perhaps “too slick”, however when we track in the studio, it’s all live tracking. When we play a live show, often the jams are completely improvised. When you have as much experience as we all do, you can’t help but sound “slick”. It’s as authentic as it comes, but it’s polished. We do that on purpose… it’s no accident. We try to play well individually and together and to the absolute best of our abilities. We seriously “bring it” every single night. To quote the late grate Jerry Garcia, we “play for our life”.
NS: Lately, you’ve been focusing on solo jams with the likes of Billy Nershi and others. How have these gigs formed? Is it just a chance to keep playing between Dusters’ tour?
JG: As satisfying as it is to play with the likes of the Dusters, I am my own artist as well. I write hundreds of songs and play other instruments. I needed to find an outlet for my own art and so I ventured into solo shows. I have incorporated a looper and am able to bring the guitar, mandolin, and fiddle together. Sometimes, However, it’s awesome to play music with other friends and contacts I have in the industry. Bands like String Cheese Incident and Bill Nershi have been huge influences on us. They have also been kind to be big brothers of sorts to us in the industry. I am open to surrounding myself with other great musicians that I can learn from and make music with, so when I get the chance to throw something cool together, I jump on it.
NS: As a songwriter, you focus on a more intimate and personal subject matter. Why?
JG: I’m a dreamer and a bleeding heart. I wear my feelings on my sleeve and I believe in trying to make music and songs I write as honest as they can be. As a songwriter, we wield a powerful tool and so I also feel that when writers sometimes write songs; it is for personal healing.. or for personal growth… or just to spread light and love. That’s what makes our job important.
NS: Tell us what is Fiddle Science?
JG: Fiddle science is a brand that I started to spread the word about new techniques and electronic equipment that could be integrated with the fiddle to see what might be possible now and in the future. For years guitar players have had science and technology applied to their instrument to create all manner of things guitar related.. in fact, there are whole stores dedicated to just that, like Guitar Center.. my feeling was to explore as much as I could that very idea for fiddle. Adding in electronics and pedals as well as some playing techniques that would give it all a scientific approach on a similar level of what’s been happening with guitar. There have been other fiddle players that have explored some of these ideas in the past and I am just lending my voice to the cause. It used to be that pic ups and pedals sounded terrible on fiddles for the most part.. now, the pic ups are better, the preamps are sounding pretty good and there is a variety of pedals that sound amazing on the fiddle. Fiddle science is my attempt to explore those ideas. When I bring in the looper, that’s applying a whole other level of science to it all. The exploration alone has been a lot of fun to say the least.
NS: You have an upcoming show at the Aggie here in Fort Collins with Bill Nershi, Neal Evans, Joel Searls, and Josh Shilling. How did this lineup come to be? Anything we should be on the lookout for at this show?
JG: This show is going to be so much fun. I’m so honored to have these guys joining me for this little run of shows. These musicians are among some of the finest I know. Josh and I have written several songs together, and some have been recorded by the Dusters, so this will be a window of sorts into some other cats I make my art with.
NS: What does the future hold for Jeremy Garrett?
JG: I have a new solo record that I just finished. I poured my soul into it. I played almost all of the instruments and wrote all the songs along with a few co-writing friends of mine, Darrell Scott, Oliver Wood of the Wood Brothers, Josh Shilling, Jon Weisberger, and Donna Ulysses. Look for that coming out sometime this summer!