Chris Pandolfi prepares for IBMA Keynote

Milo Farineau caught up with Chris Pandolfi of the Infamous Stringdusters, at Music On the Mountaintop on August 27th in Boone, NC. They spoke about Chris’ upcoming role at this year’s IBMA World Of Bluegrass.

Milo: You’ve been invited to deliver one of the World of Bluegrass Keynote Events at the International Bluegrass Music Association’s annual business conference this year. Can you share your thoughts on that?

Chris: I am flattered and excited. I think it is a cool opportunity for someone in my position to be able to share my experiences and hopefully that will help us all figure out what a productive solution if any solution at all, it isn’t really clear, is needed, I don’t know, it isn’t even clear. More than anything I want to be a moderator and encourage people to speak openly and honestly and as long as they do that it should be easy to figure out as a group what a reasonable next step should be. So I’m excited for the opportunity. Some people, I think, have kind of misconstrued my message a little bit or maybe have taken things out of context but the only reason that I am in to any of this is that I think the music is so excellent. For me that’s enough. That’s a good reason and I think that there is nothing for me to really gain from any it’s just because I’ve had such an awesome experience with this community with all these people and it’s a big opportunity to give back.

Milo: Did you see this coming?

Chris: No, I definitely did not see this coming. Seriously, before last April, when I wrote that first article on my blog, that was very impromptu action. It sort of came out of a conversation I had had with my friend Craig Havighurst who will be introducing me at the speech, and who has been an inspiration to me on many fronts. I didn’t premeditate that. I had had a blog for months where I would write occasionally something kind of substantive about what we did and I think it just caught people’s attention because it was the true story of the Stringdusters and then one thing lead to another but it was sort of accidental for me to be on that scene and doing this. I definitely didn’t see it coming at all.

Milo: Who else will be speaking with you?

Chris: Ronnie Reno will be speaking Monday, followed by me on Tuesday and then Ben Kaufmann and Dave Johnston from Yonder Mountain String Band on Wednesday.

Milo: Do you think that that’s some sort of sign that they’ve chosen a wide range of speakers?

Chris: I think it’s a great sign….. it can’t be a bad sign. It can’t be bad to hear about people’s experiences. If you decide that’s bad before even giving it a chance, I think that’s counterproductive. I think that this is maybe even overdue. People have been talking about this kind of ting for a while and we can only get more information and gain from hearing from these guys who have had a very unique and successful experience. From Ronnie Reno, who is from the more traditional side, who I think will talk about what the IBMA is now, and how he has experienced that in his career, to the Yonder Guys, I think it shows that the board members and membership there is enough people who are interest in this side of things that they want to start getting these perspectives, these opinions on a more prominent level in the bluegrass community. I think it is cool!

Milo: How are you preparing?

Chris: One of the main things I’m doing to prepare is talking to my band mates at length, we talk for long periods of time about all the issues of perception around the bluegrass community and how interesting it is for us.  You know we’ve won three IBMA awards one year and we were firmly in that scene. And now, by choice we’re in a bigger scene that includes part of that bluegrass world and part of this other world. You know, we think a lot about this stuff, my band mates have helped me think a lot about the issues. I’ve also been making a lot of phone calls, talking to people, IBMA Members, Board Members, members of other bands, radio DJs, everyone I can think of. I want to try to understand what is going on here and then try to think it through and maybe offer some positive views on that in Nashville.

Since this interview, Chris has updated his blog with a post titled “Have Faith in the Music You Love” that is a testament to his ongoing and thoughtful consideration of the state of bluegrass today.

Watch for a Part 2 of this interview with Chris Pandolfi on Thursday (9/15), where he’ll let us know what’s new with the Stringdusters, and what we can expect from their own rapidly approaching music event The Festy in October!

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About the Author

Diane Farineau

Diane Farineau, her husband, photographer, Milo and their friend, photographer, Chester Simpson, hatched a brilliant plan last year to write a book about music festivals. Somewhere along the way The Festival Project, as it has now become, turned into a website and a blog and an amazing journey into the world of today's bluegrass and Americana artists and festival scene. When not listening to or writing about music, Diane has a day job as a hospital administrator, is a mom of two musical teenagers, and writes about life's never ending stream of ironies.