The ‘Dusters Head Out Yonder

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‘Duster bassist Travis Book and his mates continue to build one of the hottest musical franchises in the country.

New hometown, new record label, the hottest new festival in the Southeast, sold out shows in great rooms around the country.  Things are really looking good for the Stringdusters.  BRO recently caught up with bass player – and new Virginia resident – Travis Book to chat about all that is new and exciting with the ‘Dusters.

BRO – For all intents and purposes, the Stringdusters are now calling Charlottesville home.  How are things shaping up in the band’s new homebase?

TB – Andy Falco and Chris Pandolfi have been out here for a few more months than me.  They have really loved it here.  Charlottesville has a great music scene and it was especially vibrant ten or fifteen years ago.  There’s a lot of great things going on recently, and it seems like there is a resurgence around acoustic, folk, and roots music.  It’s hard to say where the Stringdusters fit, but the community seems really excited about what we are doing.  We do our festival here and we did a sold out New Years Even show at the Jefferson Theater, so it feels like a really natural fit.

BRO – You are now living on the grounds of one of the finest breweries in Central Virginia and within minutes of some really sweet single track.  How are you getting anything done?

TB – I’m not.  It ‘s kind of overwhelming living again in a place where it is really nice to get outside.  I grew up being able to get to the woods really easily.  I’m trying to balance it.  I get up early, try to get some stuff done, and then I get outside.  It’s amazing here in the Blue Ridge.  Growing up in the Rockies, I never realized how good it is out here.  But I don’t actually get done as much as I actually should.

BRO – You just wrapped your annual ski tour and there were no broken bones.  You take it easy this year?

TB – No broken bones.  That’s the best news.   A friend of ours from Montana named Ed, who works a ranch out there and is just starting a family, taught us about this thing called “old man style” – just cruising and loving life.  And we realized that if you start out with the old man style mentality you can really ski ridiculously hard and aggressively and have an amazing time and still keep in mind that you need to live and ski another day. 

BRO – The band recently went through its second major line up shift with Jesse Cobb’s departure.  How has the band embraced its new status as a quintet?

TB – Initially, we were concerned that it was going to leave a really large gap.  Jesse is a phenomenal and assertive player.  Dominick Leslie came and played a week of shows with us, but then he had a week of obligations elsewhere, so it just made sense for us to try and see how it worked with just the five of us.  Five guys is still a lot; more than a lot of bands have.  We started doing shows and didn’t even really have a lot of time to rehearse.  But we knew that the best bluegrass jams often take place with just three or four people.  The more people you have in there, the more difficult it is to be heard and influenced by the other players or to hear and influence them.  One of our first shows as a quintet was at Lake Eden Arts Festival outside of Asheville, and we were really surprised to find, with only having to communicate with four other people, all the new directions that our music could go.   And once we felt how good it was to share the music with just the five of us, considering all of our shared time and the miles we have traveled together, it didn’t make sense for us to get another mandolin player.  We are really happy and are enjoying the music with just the five of us and building on what we have been doing all these years.

BRO – The band is about to hit the road again with Yonder on their Cabin Fever Tour.  You get to leave a few days early.  What’s going on?

TB – Ben Kaufmann, Yonder’s bass player, recently had a baby that came a little bit later than anticipated.  In order to relieve a little pressure on his family, the Yonder guys asked me if I would come out  for the first few shows with them in his place.  It’s really exciting for me.  Yonder was one of the first bands I fell in love with.  They were one of the first bands I would drive eight hours to see or go see for four or five straight shows.  I’m finding more now, as we spend more time with them, that they really informed a lot of my musical taste.  Needless to say, I am really psyched to get to play with them.  And the band is thrilled to get the opportunity to open for them.  We had a great run with Yonder in the fall, so this is going to be a great month for us, and it’s a trip that I get to kick it off by doing my best to fill Ben’s massive shoes.  But I have stood out there in that crowd before, sweating and dancing as much as any other bass player, so I like to think that I am the perfect man for the job.

Travis and the rest of the ‘Dusters kick off a slew of dates with the Yonder boys on the Cabin Fever Tour in Nashville on Wednesday, February 10th.  They’ll be making stops in Atlanta, Birmingham, Charleston (SC), Asheville, Knoxville, Lexington (KY), Columbus (OH), Covington (KY),  and Madison (WI) before hitting the road in March on their own Silver Sky Tour.  Grab tickets while you can – shows are selling out quickly – and be on the lookout for the March release of Silver Sky, the band’s first studio record on their own High Country Recordings.

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