Interview: For Sam Bush, Festival Season Is ‘the Good Time of Year’
Just as it's a beloved time for many music fans, festival season is Sam Bush's favorite time of the year. The singer-songwriter's got a busy schedule these days -- when he spoke with The Boot, he was about to head from New York City to Colorado, and he's coming back to New York State in late September for the Borderland Music and Arts Festival -- but, to Bush, it can't be beat.
"It's the good time of year," Bush tells the Boot as he recounts his upcoming schedule, calling his travels with his wife during this time a "slight pleasure cruise." The world-renowned mandolin player, bluegrass pioneer and former New Grass Revival member has long been a celebrity jam musician at bluegrass festivals around the country, standing in with bands such as the Traveling McCourys and the Steep Canyon Rangers as well as supporting country music stars including Emmylou Harris, Lyle Lovett and Garth Brooks.
Bush says the camaraderie of bluegrass jams creates a feeling of family and community that can't be replicated in other musical performance formats. "Maybe it comes from the fact that, when we first start playing our instruments -- you know, we're not plugged in, we sit in a circle, it's a communal feeling, a family-style feeling -- so maybe the acoustic instruments," Bush speculates. "I've wondered about that over the years. Maybe the acoustic instruments lend themselves to more jamming and camaraderie sometimes."
Many of the bands and artists that Bush plays with now hail from a generation that drew inspiration and musical influence from Bush and his musical peers. The bluegrass legend says jamming with players who might be his young proteges keeps him learning and growing as well.
"When I get to jam with young musicians, it inspires me ... They're playing things that I've never thought about before. So It's just a great circle of communication and musical love," Bush says with an enthusiasm and humility that belies his experience. "If I keep an open mind, then I am learning from the people that I might have influenced. They're developing their music, and now I can learn from them."
New events, too, keep Bush inspired. In late August, he was part of Dierks Bentley's first-ever Seven Peaks Music Festival in Colorado, and the Borderland Festival, which will take place in East Aurora, N.Y., on Sept. 22-23, is in its inaugural year as well.
"Any time that you get to be part of a first year of a festival, I really love that position," Bush shares, "so I am excited about getting in on the groundwork on this one, and hopefully it can succeed and we can keep coming back."
In addition to his busy touring schedule, Bush has been working on a documentary about his musical experience, called Revival: The Sam Bush Story. He was familiar with the doc's production team, who approached him, from a film they made about one of his musical heroes, Duke Bardwell.
"That's a strange thought, that people want to make a film about you or your life or what you've been doing, because, to be honest, I don't think I am that interesting," Bush says with a laugh. "It's weird watching yourself talk on camera. Us musicians ... we didn't grow up aspiring to be on camera; we grew up wanting to play music and play our instruments."
A release date for Revival: The Sam Bush Story has yet to be announced. For more information about the Borderland Festival and Bush's other upcoming tour stops, head to SamBush.com.