Thile interview at NewMusicBox

Chris Thile interviewed for NewMusicBoxChris Thile is the subject of a multimedia interview in the January edition of WebMusicBox, the online publication of the American Music Center. It is a conversation with Frank Oteri, founding editor of the webzine, presented both in text and video snippets online.

Thile talks about his impressions of various musical styles while growing up as a child prodigy [my term], how he composes (individually and with collaborators), and his experiences with Nickel Creek, Edgar Meyer, and his current Punch Brothers band mates.

At one point he even touches on the reasons why many of his early fans have had trouble following him on all of his musical adventures.

FJO: In one of Monroe’s early line-ups, before Earl Scruggs joined the group, there was even an accordion in the band for a while.

CT: Yeah. And they had a snare drum at the Opry a couple of times. It’s a matter of taste and the way you exercise that taste. And some people choose, I guess in the literal sense of it, not to exercise their taste, and not to develop it. “I like this right here, and I’d prefer for it not to change at all. This is what I like, and I’m not really interested in ever learning to like other things.” It gets frustrating when people get frustrated with you for not playing by those rules.

But I understand. Every now and then, I’ll get locked into the way musicians that I love sound. And they might put out a record that no longer fulfills that place that I’ve allocated to them. And temporarily‚Äîbefore I come to my senses and go, “Oh wait, that’s what I’m always doing”‚ÄîI go, “Wow, I just want them to do that thing they did [before]. Oh, it’s so nice. Why are they doing this other thing?” But then I remember it’s because things change.

It is a lengthy and detailed interview, and the video includes clips of Nickel Creek, Punch Brothers and Chris with Edgar Meyer. Even casual fans of this mandolin giant will find it of interest, while serious students of his music will be fully engrossed – as in this description of the structure of Punch Bowl, the odd and haunting opening track from Punch.

FJO: Your tune for “Punch Bowl” is polytonal; it’s probably even more harmonically out there than The Blind Leaving the Blind.

CT: It is in a way. Especially because it sets you up to want something. The structure of Blind sets you up to be less reliant on tonality, even though Blind is totally a tonal piece. There’s no doubt about it. Maybe to a bluegrass fan it sounds real funny. I think bluegrass fans think it has more to do with Schoenberg than it does with Bill Monroe, which is so not the case. But, whatever; it’s fine. Tonality is in the ear of the beholder, I guess. But “Punch Bowl” is a song. I mean, it’s, you know, 3 minutes and 30 seconds or something like that. And it starts with a lick that gives you a hint that you’re going to have two [different] thirds throughout and, and that they will be used sort of interchangeably and simultaneously. But the texture indicates that you would be getting some pretty standard bluegrass tonality. And so when you don’t, I think it’s all the more jarring. And then there’s the subject matter. The point was to somehow represent musically the danger of party scenarios, especially if one maybe has no business being in kind of a reckless party scenario based on circumstances.

Find the entire interview at

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.