5 questions with ‘new grass’ legend Sam Bush, playing free summer concert Friday

The Sam Bush Band will play the Steamboat Springs Free Summer Concert Series on Friday July 29, 2022, at Howelsen Hill.
Sam Bush/Courtesy photo

Sam Bush, a renowned mandolinist and “the father of new grass,” will be performing on the evening of Friday, July 29, at Howelsen Hill as part of the Free Summer Concert series.

Gates for the event open at 5:30 p.m., and the show will be opened by Buffalo Commons.

In 2020, Bush was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame for his time in the band New Grass Revival, which helped to spur on a new generation of progressive bluegrass.

Bush talked with Explore Steamboat to answer a few questions about his music career and inspirations.

Explore Steamboat: How did you get into music originally?

Sam Bush: I grew up in a household where music was part of our life. My mother and father were music fans, particularly country music fans, and my dad loved fiddle playing more than anything. And my mom played the guitar. My dad played the fiddle and the mandolin a little bit.

We grew up on a farm, and so music was encouraged in our house. Two of my older sisters had started singing and one played guitar, and they both sang. And so this was in the early ’60s. And they started doing duet versions of Peter, Paul and Mary songs.

Then I started playing mandolin at age 11, and within a year, they had to take their little brother along with them or they couldn’t leave the farm. Imagine being a teenage girl and you got to drag your little brother along.

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So, I started playing with my sisters, and from there, I started playing the fiddle at about age 13. Then I became the kid fiddler in a band called The Grayson County Boys and then all the while was interested in every kind of music, and so along the way, played electric guitar in high school, bass and electric guitar in high school rock bands, drum in the marching band in high school, and then bass violin in the stage band.

ES: How would you describe your sound and how it has evolved over time?

SB: The instrumentation comes from the world of bluegrass, but when I was a kid, there already were progressive musicians and singers that were changing the face of bluegrass along the way. So, I was influenced by the Dillards, Osborne Brothers, Jim & Jesse and so we started with experimentation within the Bluegrass instruments. Being a lover of rock and roll and a fan of jazz, it comes from the world of bluegrass, where we have learned to write our own tunes and make original sounds. Now, because we named a band I was in ‘New Grass Revival,’ the word ‘new grass’ has become somewhat generic in describing progressive bluegrass.

If you go:

What: Sam Bush at the Free Summer Concert Series

When: 5:30 p.m., Friday, July 29

Where: Howelsen Hill

ES: Tell me about New Grass Revival.

SB: We started in 1971. And so by even calling ourselves what we did, we were sort of trying to point out that there already was a new kind of bluegrass, by the people I mentioned, and the Country Gentlemen as well. So, we felt that we were carrying on with, with the already started tradition of playing progressive bluegrass on traditional instruments.

ES: Do you have any new stuff that you’re working on?

SM: There’s always new ideas coming. But that being said, I’m going to get an album released before the end of the year. It’ll be coming out probably in November.

ES: What’s planned for your show in Steamboat?

SB: It’s not totally planned — sometimes you really need to get there and see how’s the audience today, what are they feeling? Are they standing in the rain? Basically, we just want to bring a positive experience and for that we want people to feel through our music entertained for 90 minutes or two hours, however long we play. We really want people to just have a break from all that they’re going through and feel the positive energy that we want to give them.

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