Chris Thile has found himself frequently tagged as something of a controversialist in bluegrass circles. As a teen, he was welcomed with open arms by the bluegrass world, who also cherished his role in the early work of Nickel Creek. As that band began to veer away from traditional string music, some saw Thile as a traitor of sorts, a view reinforced by his subsequent fusion of bluegrass instruments with pop and classical themes.
In interviews where he has discussed this – including his interview with Brance for Bluegrass Today – you don’t get the impression that he has sought this sort of notoriety, nor sees any reason for people to look at him in this way.
I found another Thile quote this morning in a piece published online in The Hook, an arts and entertainment magazine in Charlottesville, VA where Thile and Punch Brothers are performing this weekend. The article is prefaced on this notion that Chris was once hailed as the incoming saviour of bluegrass, and is now seen as a pariah by some traditionalists among the music’s fans.
At the end, the interviewer, Vijith Assar, suggests that the role of the young ambassador of bluegrass was his if he had wanted it.
“Ever since I was little, I’ve heard people saying that I was bringing bluegrass to the next generation and stuff like that, and I just never really cared. I don’t like the idea of spending my career allying myself so inseparably to something. I certainly get, after shows, young people saying ‘I never really listened to bluegrass until I found your music.’ I tell them, ‘Well, I don’t think you’ve really listened to bluegrass yet.’ I love bluegrass– I hope I don’t sound like I don’t– I’m just not personally concerned with its fate. I think it’ll be fine without me.”
Well said. Read the full interview on The Hook’s site.