Miles Quale, backed by an extremely nurturing family and California bluegrass community, continues to amaze those who have followed his short career, while joining his mandolin-playing brother Teo in the Crying Uncle Bluegrass Band and the acoustic groove band Jubilee. The Alameda-based fiddler, violinist, teacher, winner of multiple California and National fiddle contests, and recent Whippoorwill Fellowship Fellow took time from his busy schedule to talk about his past and future. You can read a more extensive bio on his California Bluegrass Association(CBA) instructor page.
Hi Miles. Thanks for your time. What have you been up to since you graduated high school?
I became a Whipporwill Fellow, and with the use of their grant, I have spent the last six months or so traveling around the world. During my travels I learned from musicians, wrote new music, played shows, and using a portable studio that fit into my backpack, I recorded my collaborations with a plethora of musicians.
Wow, what will you be studying at UCLA?
I will be entering UCLA’s Global Jazz Studies Program, and plan to double major in either Economics or Physics.
How has this impacted the Crying Uncle Bluegrass Band and Jubilee?
Both Crying Uncle and Jubilee took somewhat of a hiatus during my travels but we have many upcoming shows for both bands – even into the oncoming school year. I have spent most of my life balancing school and music so I don’t think college will be too much of a hindrance.
Do you have any shows coming up that you are looking forward to?
Crying Uncle Bluegrass Band will be playing with AJ Lee and Blue Summit on August 19 at the Hopmonk Novato, and I think it’s going to be an amazing show. Also, some of our friends the Remi Goode Duo from Arizona are coming down on July 30 for a show at the Monkey House, and Crying Uncle Duo will be sharing a bill with them. Lastly, The Jubilee Uncles (an amalgamation of Jubilee and Crying Uncle) will be playing a show at the Backroom on August 13.
Tell us about the show Bright Star at the Castro Valley Arts Foundation.
Yes, I’ll be playing for the musical Bright Star (Sunday, August 27, 2023 at 2:00 p.m.) along with a bunch of amazing musicians and a wonderful cast including my cousin Arri. What’s crazy is that this will be our first time ever performing together in the 19 years we’ve known each other – My Grandma can’t wait to watch. There will be performances in Castro Valley throughout August and I really hope some of y’all will be able to come!
CUBG has played great venues, you must have some favorite memories.
Some of my favorite shows include playing the Ryman, Grand Ole Opry, the main stage at La Roche Bluegrass Festival, the Kaustinen Festival, the Rocky Top in Tokyo, and Honky Tonk in Kyoto.
Miles and Crying Uncle at La Roche Bluegrass Festival
Miles and Crying Uncle with Marty Stuart in San Luis Obispo
Who does the arrangements for your songs?
When arranging a song for the band, typically whoever wrote or brought said song will lead the process and come up with the main structure. From there, the other band members will suggest changes or write new sections/ideas to add to the song.
Can you talk about Jubilee and how it differs from Crying Uncle?
Jubilee is a band Teo and I started with twins Aerie (cello) and Tuki (fiddle/guitar/vocals). We play less traditional bluegrass as well as a lot of jazz, contemporary (Paul Simon, Amy Winehouse, etc), and eclectic musics. I’ve known Aerie and Tuki since I was three, but didn’t really play much music until I was around 12, but since then we’ve all been the best of friends. The band plays less than Crying Uncle just due to the whereabouts of our band members, but whenever we all find ourselves in the same place at the same time, we always try to put together a show.
Miles with Jubilee on Coal Burnin’ Grease Fire by Darol Anger
Your violin playing is striking. Who have you studied with?
I have studied with Chad and Catherine Manning, Tristan Clarridge, Mads Tolling, Darol Anger, and Billy Contreras.
What players and styles are you interested in?
I’d have to say that I’ve been listening to a lot of Billy Contreras, as he’s my favorite fiddler of all time. Aside from that, I’ve been ‘shedding ‘my jazz and bluegrass, while listening to anything and everything that’s good.
Congratulations on winning the Whippoorwill Fellowship. Talk about what doors that have opened.
Whippoorwill has been one of the most amazing opportunities of my life so far. Through their grant I was able to travel and world and learn many different styles of folk music. I’ve also been introduced to many amazing musicians through their fellowship program, and the organization has been extremely helpful to me even outside the bounds of the fellowship project.
Aren’t you going to be in the studio soon? Talk about the players and material that is on tap for the project?.
With my travels at an end, I’m now left with a ton of field recordings that I’ve been trying to sort through in order to pick the batch that will go on the first volume of my project. After selecting them, I spent a long time mixing them as I am not in any way what one would consider an experienced audio engineer, and now with just a few tracks left, the plan is to get them mastered and then released in my first album not done with either of my bands.
Do you do any teaching?
I teach mostly at Manning Music Studio on Gilman in Berkeley, but I also teach at the Oaktown Jazz workshops, as well as private lessons in person and over Zoom. If you’re interested in lessons please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tell us about your approach to composition.
My approach to composing is inconsistent at best. My mind works in a way that doesn’t allow me to come up with meaningful melodies unless I have been very specifically inspired by something I hear or experience. Once that occurs, I’ll hole up in my room and usually write the bulk of the tune within a day. After that, I’ll get some opinions on changes behind the tune, as well as slight tweaks to the melody, from my brother or any other close-by musician.
What inspires you?
A lot of different things inspire me. It could be an amazing concert or jam, a cool tune, a cool person, or even a cool place. Just being in the correct environment can make me want to play or write music.
What advice do you have for young, talented musicians starting a band?
Choose your band members based on who you get along with, more so than who’s the best player. It’ll be a lot smoother for the band, and you’ll have more fun. It also helps to have similar goals and interests for the group.
It must be pretty special to share some amazing music with your family members, What is the key for that to work even when there will be some understandable differences of opinion?
Musical differences with my family are settled with bloody fist fights to the death.
Ha, good one. Do you have any long-term goals or are you just taking it as it comes?
Life has been ever-changing for me, and so for now I plan to just take things as they come. I hope to be a musician but we’ll see how I feel after 4-6 years of college. However, music will always be a part of my life regardless of my job title.
Tell us about your gear.
I am a Fishman Artist! I use their gear as it tends to pull the cleanest tone out of my violin when plugging in compared to other amps and pre-amps.
What do you enjoy when not playing or listening to music?
I am big on Judo, rock climbing, gaming, reading, driving, and cooking when I’m not playing music.
Do you have any books, podcasts, etc that you enjoy?
The Dark Tower series by Stephen King is my favorite book series of all time, and I highly recommend it. The Star Talk podcast hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson is incredibly interesting and very entertaining.
Thanks so much Miles for your time and best of luck going forward.
Miles Quale with Teo Quale and Jason Howard, SuperFolk Festival 2022