Exclusive Interview — Billy Gilmore & Friends tour
We had the pleasure of sitting down with The Grass is Dead (GID) front-man Billy Gilmore to talk about his new side project, Billy Gilmore & Friends. From Gilmore’s living room in Jacksonville, Florida, we discussed the upcoming tour while surrounded by stacks of musical instruments, sound equipment, and Star Wars memorabilia (yes, he is a big fan). The Grass is Dead have been tearing up the festival and music venue scene across the U.S. for years now with their bluegrassified take on the Grateful Dead catalog. When Gilmore found himself with down time from the GID tour, he decided to fill that time by bringing together friends and bandmates for this new project, Billy Gilmore & Friends. Joining Gilmore will be core members Drew Matulich out of Asheville on guitar and mandolin, and Greg Howell (The Grass is Dead) on bass. There will also be more Friends sitting in with the core trio on shows throughout the tour, including the Rev. Jeff Mosier, Jared Womack (GID), and members of Songs From the Road Band– Sam Wharton, Mark Schimick, and James Schlender.
Billy Gilmore is well known as a banjo wizard, but he is also pretty amazing on guitar, mandolin, fiddle, pedal steel and vocals. He started playing on stage at age seven and has spent most of his life up there ever since. With decades of touring experience, he has gained a solid reputation in both jam and bluegrass circles. He has graced the stage with legends including Vassar Clements, Joe Craven, Larry Keel, Sam Bush, Peter Rowan, and Jim Lauderdale, to name a few. His high-energy picking skills and endless catalog have earned him a dedicated fan base from coast to coast.
Full interview here:
Below is an excerpt from our interview.
MFN: How will the Billy Gilmore & Friends set list differ from what you are doing with the Grass is Dead?
Billy Gilmore: We are probably not gonna be doing a lot of the Grateful Dead material. We will be doing some of my original stuff that I haven’t busted out in quite a while. And then, Drew (Matulich) has some original stuff as well that he will bring. We are also gonna pull from the great American songbook of bluegrass, blues and rock ‘n’ roll. You never know what you might hear coming out of us at any moment. Especially when some of the special guests join in, we will be doing all kinds of stuff. From Bob Marley and The Wailers to Men at Work, you never know, that’s just how it goes.
MFN: Who are you listening to when you aren’t listening to your own music?
Billy Gilmore: When I am driving around in my van by myself I am usually listening to a lot of friends’ bands, which I really love. Some of my favorite bands are also my good friends, so I guess I am fortunate — Town Mountain, Songs From the Road Band, Taylor Martin. They all had great CDs come out last year, so I have them in my iTunes and listen to that a lot. Otherwise I just Tony Rice it out for a while.
MFN: Do you plan on getting into the studio with your original stuff any time soon?
Billy Gilmore: I would like to, yeah. If I did, I would probably do it here at home and be homegrown. Putting out a full studio production CD takes a lot of time and money. I can do things on my own, and get them out there. I haven’t done anything like that in a while. I put out a CD back in 2003, but thanks to the internet and YouTube, you can find us anytime.
MFN: Whom have you never played with before that you really want to sit in with?
Billy Gilmore: The one guy that I’d like to play with is Phil Lesh — preferably at his club, Terrapin Crossroads.
MFN: So you are hitting the road. How does that feel?
Billy Gilmore: Really looking forward to it. Getting to play with these guys, it’s going to be a blast. We’ll be doing something a little different from the norm over the last couple of years. It’s gonna be fun; I’m excited.
Well, we are excited, too! Check out the Billy Gilmore & Friends social media for more tour dates as they become available. There are also bound to be a few surprise guests along the way so keep an eye open for updates.