JBO: It seems like lately, rather than playing a lot of dates in many cities, your playing intense multiple night runs, either by yourselves or at festivals. Is that working out better for you guys at this point in your career?
Keith: It’s a nicer pace than grinding out show after show in a different town every night, although that’s got its upside too, but we have really enjoyed doing these long weekends. We can dig in somewhere for multiple nights and dig deeper in the catalog and really feature a lot of the different stuff the band can do, so it’s been fun. So, yeah, I think everyone’s feeling relaxed and in a good creative space and really comfortable with the current schedule.
JBO: That’s a good point. I suppose from a fans perspective, it’s also safe to say that there won’t be any repeats and it’s always more comfortable travel wise to settle into one town.
Keith: Yeah this model seems to be working for everybody and, like you say, it’s good for the fans, as well as the band to pick a destination and do a 3 night run. People get to come out for the weekend and get a good dose of Cheese and we get to play more songs, so it pretty good for every body.
JBO: I totally agree. I think it’s really smart. Even the festivals you are playing are as a headliner and not just for one night either, but 2 or 3 nights. At ElectricForest, for example, you guys head line 3 nights in a row and now for 3 years in a row.
Keith: Yeah, one of our managers, Jeremy Stein, is the head of the festival, so it’s definitely been kind of a home base built from the ground up with him. It features us and it’s been awesome. It’s a really great scene there and it obviously brought in a lot different kinds of acts. It’s also super unique in terms of the forest itself and the light shows, the art installations and the performers. It’s really about so much more than just the music and it’s been great to be able to be the house band for so many years now.
Keith: Well, It’s been expanded and I was told the forest is twice as big now and it was mind blowing last year, so I’m really excited myself.
JBO: Here’s a question of the top of my head: When you are at a festival do you guys take off when you’re not playing and go walk around and check out some of the other bands that are playing or do you go off and do your own thing?
Keith: It’s definitely a balance between a work day and rehearsal and being prepared, but yeah, the festival experience is fantastic and that’s part of what makes it fun for us. It’s great to go check out the other artist and the performers and the whole scene, so I try to soak up as much as I can.
JBO: Awesome! Are you guys going to have any surprise guests at the forest like you will have at Interlocken with Zac Brown and the Forecastle Incident?
Keith: Well, that’s kind of a long tradition. It’s a treat for us and it’s a treat for the other artists and the fans as well and I’m sure we will be doing that at Electric Forest, but you know I don’t want to spoil the surprise.
JBO: Alright…I guess I will have to wait, then.
JBO: So, speaking of Forecastle. I noticed you have a set called “The Forecastle Incident.” That is obviously going to be all about sit in guests. Can you tell us anything about that, or is that a surprise too?
Keith: The idea is yes, that there will be lots of special guest, but I’m not exactly sure yet who exactly that will include.
JBO: Well on to Interlocken Fest. It’s pretty safe to guess that one of your sets being called the “Zac Brown Incident” means that your guest is Zac Brown?
Keith: That’s the plan. We will do some of his tunes and some of ours and then some covers. I got to meet Zac a few weeks ago here at Red Rocks, hang with him a bit and talk about it and just we’re just really excited. We have a lot musical background in common. He’s like a juke box, that guy! He knows thousands of songs; all kinds of classic rock and Grateful Dead, as well as the country stuff. He’s also just a fantastic singer and a great guy to hang with too, so I’m really excited about that. It should be super fun.
JBO: It does sound super fun. I can’t wait.
JBO: So another cool fact is that you guys just announced another Hulaween, but this time, it’s at the beautiful SuwanneeMusicPark in Live Oak Florida. I absolutely love it there.
Keith: What a remarkable site! You got the Spanish moss and the mangrove trees. It’s just got a really magical unique vibe to the site. It’s been a favorite for a long time and we finally figured out how to get back there and do our own event, so that should be a really special weekend. There will be al kinds of Hulaween antics with all kinds of special performers and eye candy too. We’re looking forward to the collaborations as well. It’s a nice feel-good venue where we can set up camp for a long weekend and really dig deep into the whole festival experience and 3 ring circus that we like to roll out.
JBO: Here is a big question…when you guys went on hiatus, I think it kind of scared people that you might not come back and now that you are back, but playing less, it’s still a little scary to fans that you might break up again. Can you ease our minds a little and let us know whether there’s a chance of that or not?
Keith: No! No real chance of a break up in the near future. At the time, we just needed a break and we had a nice long one. Everyone got a chance to explore some other musical interests and now, with the schedule we are keeping theses days, there is time for EOTO to do their thing, etc.
JBO: Oh yeah, they really took off during the hiatus.
Keith: Oh yeah, those guys are maniacs! They are playing all the time!
JBO: Yeah they are! Even at ElectricForest I noticed!
Keith: I think everyone’s feeling like we are at a really good balanced as far as the amount of shows we are playing. It’s really exciting when we do get back together and it feels awesome. Were creatively charged from doing the other things and then it’s exciting to do String Cheese again. So yeah, we’ll just keep cruising. I think next year we might even bump it up a little after the new album comes out.
JBO: There’s a new album?
Keith: Yes! We are in the final mixing stage of it now. We have Jerry Harrison from the Talking Head producing it.
Keith: Yeah. It was a thrill to work with Jerry and of course we have all been Talking Heads fans for as long as we can remember.
JBO: Who isn’t?
Keith: We are super excited. We did the tracking here in Boulder. We went into the studio just after New Years. He was super creative and helped us fine tune some of the songs down to their real essence and really make them shine and pop. We are looking at a release around the end of the year.
JBO: I can not wait.
JBO: Speaking of side projects, what have you been doing?
Keith: I’ve been playing a bit with the Contribution, which is Time Carbone from Railroad Earth, Jeff Miller and Phil Ferlino form New Monsoon, Matt Butler on the drums and Sheryl Renee; a fantastic vocalist. We’ve put out one CD on SCI Fidelity Records and we’ve been tracking another one. It’s been a really fun project even though we haven’t played a lot of dates do to everyone’s schedules. It’s a super fun and creative time in the studio and we are almost done with another release.
I also do shows with Keller William. He’s a great buddy and any time I call him, I try to make that happen when we can. So between those things, some sit-ins with my friends Grant Farm here in bolder and trying to be super dad, that pretty much fills up my calendar.
JBO: So I asked some of your fans to help me come up with some good questions for you and here is the first one: Do you prefer speedy blue grass or electric jamming? I am guessing you are going to say both equally?
Keith: I do like it all. For instance, this weakened were heading out to Telluride Bluegrass, so I’m excited to take my upright bass, do some off stage pickin’, hanging out and just getting fully immersed in the bluegrass scene, but I am equally excited about getting to Electric Forest and doing what were going to do there. It’s just really cool to be in a band that has such wide ranging influences and really get to dig into different genres and try to do it all.
JBO: That’s definitely one of the reasons I like you guys so much. I have always liked almost every kind of music, and to get to go to a show and hear so many different styles of music so well blended and fussed together is a real treat. You guys do it so well!
JBO: Here’s a question from another fan. He wants me ask you about the song “Joyful Sound” and what was your inspiration behind that? I myself, find it very spiritual.
Keith: That’s a really good question. I guess it started out with some journal entries of mine and things that were a part of my own focus on how to be the best version of myself that I can be and it just translated into a song. People tell me all the time that it means a lot to them and that’s such cool and humbling feedback for me to know that it speaks to a lot of different people on so many different levels.
JBO: What are your favorite songs to sing?
Keith: Well, I really love that one. I never get tired of it. I love them all. I’ve also been learning some more blue grass and classic rock lately. I mean, I never get tired of the old classic stuff.
JBO: This is the last question and one I have always wanted to ask personally as a fan. I have to take the opportunity to ask you about the song Mrs. Browns tea house that Billy sings, because my best friend used to spend a lot of time in Jamaica and she used to tell me there was this little tiny hidden place called Mrs. Browns where you could get some “interesting” stuff served to you like mushroom tea and pot brownies and it was totally legal. Then, all these years later, I start going to Cheese shows and I hear this song. So is it safe for me to say that you guys went to Mrs. Browns why in Jamaica?
Keith: Yep, that’s where it came from. We played in Jamaica back in 98 and yep, Billy came up with the idea for the song after his experience there.
JBO: Love it! I always get a kick out of bragging to my friends that I know someone who also went to Mrs. Browns. It’s a pretty great story. I am sure Mrs. Browns would be raided if she did business here in the states however.
JBO: Well, this has been really great Keith. I love you guys and I am so looking forward to seeing SCI a lot starting very soon! Have a great summer and thank you for talking to us!
Keith: Thanks you too! I appreciate it!