An Interview with Railroad Earth
October 24, 2009 Bookmark and Share
By Jeremy Lach
The members of Railroad Earth
Railroad Earth Tree Logo
Todd Sheaffer: Lead vocals, acoustic guitars
Tim Carbone: Violin, vocals
John Skehan: Mandolin, vocals
Andy Goessling: Acoustic guitars, banjo, dobro, mandolin, flute, pennywhistle, saxophones, vocals
Carey Harmon: Drums, hand percussion, vocals
Johnny Grubb: Upright bass
The Paradise Rock Club - Boston, MA
Railroad Earth just completed a 2 night run at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston, MA. I was lucky enough to sit down with the members of the band before their Saturday show and spoke with them about how they formed, their influences, life on the road, Rothbury, and more. Read the transcript below or listen to the audio here:
Railroad Earth - Paradise Rock Club - Boston, MA
Railroad Earth played their first two night run in Boston at The Paradise Rock Club
When did Railroad Earth form and how did you all first meet?
John Skehan: 2001, maybe the end of 2000?
Tim Carbone: As far as how we all met, weíve known each other for a long time. Most of us are from Northwestern New Jersey so weíve been in and around the same musical circles for many years actually. We all kind of found ourselves available at the same time and we began jamming at Andy Goesslingís house, pickiní a bunch of bluegrass tunes. Then Todd came around in the fall or the end of the summer and he had a bunch of his songs which we tried to frame in that [bluegrass] context and thatís pretty much how it happened.
Who writes all your songs?
Todd Scheaffer: I write a lot of them, John [Skehan] writes a lot of instrumentals, and we do some together, and thatís the way it all comes together. Some with Andy, some with other guys... you know?
How do you decide what songs to choose for the setlist on any given night?
Johnny Grubb: Dartboard method.
Skehan: It changes a lot, you know, we usually start with a loose pile and pick from that and see if it shapes into something, and if we donít like the shape itís taking, weíll rearrange it. Tim and I actually did the Tic-Tac-Toe method the other night where I wrote down a song and then he wrote down another one but in any order of where it might be. So in other words I wrote down the first song for the first set and he wrote down the third song in the second set and it just went back and forth. And it came out pretty well.
Carbone: It was kinda fun.
Skehan: Iím not sure which one of us won.
Carbone: [chuckling] I think you won.
Tim Carbone
Tim Carbone
What is your favorite Railroad Earth song to play? Any one in particular?
Skehan: It changes all the time. Whichever oneís really feeling greató and hopefully they all are. Sometimes every now and then you really hit one and it just gets going.
Carbone: Yea, you know it changes all the time, I mean right now I kind of like the fiddle tune that we were just working on [during sound check]: I like playing it, I like the way it sounds when I play it. So sometimes itís just a sound thing and what itís feeling like when weíre playing it.
Itís difficult to categorize Railroad Earthís music within a defined genre. What factors do you think contribute to the unique sound that you all create?
Grubb: Almost freakishly disparate influences, Iíd say.
String Cheese Radio: And what would those influences be?
Grubb: Ah, I grew up on the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and [Andy] grew up on the Beatles, and [John] grew up on Mozart as far as I can tell.
Carbone: Yea, I mean everyone has different influences and things that informs their playing and weíre all bringing it to the same place, putting it on the table at the same time. Everyone has different influences in their instrumental playing. Andy definitely has a bluegrass influence but he can also finger pick the liviní begeezies out of the guitar. So you know, different players influenced me and different people influence me, not necessarily even musicians but people that are singular beings like Frank Lloyd Wright or Leonardo DaVinció it doesnít necessarily have to be a musician that influences you in how you approach what you do.
Who are some of your favorite musician that youíve played with outside of the band?
Scheaffer: Well since you run the String Cheese Radio, [chuckling] itís probably well worth mentioning that weíve become very good friends [with the members of String Cheese Incident] and itís really a lot of fun to play with them.
Grubb: Except Billy.
All: [laughing]
Grubb: God Almighty...
String Cheese Radio: And why is that?
Grubb: Fucking guy thinks he can just hop up there and jam any time he wants to.
All: [laughing]
Grubb: You know, nevermind if itís some big high pressure festival set in front of 20,000 people thereís Billy Nershi [laughing] screwiní around with you.
All: [laughing]
Scheaffer: Trying to buy some tequilaÖ
All: [laughing]
Grubb: You know? Mr. Good Times...
Carbone: Actually, Johnny Grubb our bass playerís gonna be having his second child. Well he isnít personally, his wife is, so heís not gonna be able to go on Jam Cruise with us. But we were lucky enough to get Keith Moseley to come play with us so weíll be playing with one of the boysó one of Ďdem guys.
Do you have any side projects youíre working on?
Grubb: Tim could probably fill up this whole paragraph. [chuckling]
Carbone: I just finished up a record actually with Keith and Jason from String Cheese, and Jeff Miller and Phil Ferlino from New Monsoon. Itís a little project we call The Contribution. We all wrote songs together and recorded them in about fourteen days time.
Skehan: Iíve been refurbishing an old harpsichord. Sort of a solitary, tragically lonely side project.
All: [laughing]
Skehan: Itís a difficulty thing to get working.
String Cheese Radio: Will we ever see its debut in a Railroad Earth song?
Grubb: Not if the rest of us can help it. [chuckling]
Todd Scheaffer
Todd Scheaffer
What is the atmosphere like on the Railroad Earth tour bus? Does it ever get too stuffy? Do you all get along pretty well?
Skehan: Iíd say we get along pretty well.
Carbone: Itís a big enough bus you know, you can get away from or get close to whoever you want. Everyone has their own bunks. Itís sort of like a crypt [chuckling], you know everyone gets into their crypt.
Scheaffer: Sorta like a veal pen is what itís like.
All: [laughing]
Skehan: All that moving around on stage makes us tough, stringy and hard to chew on.
All: [laughing]
Carey Harmon: Thatís great.
Carbone: [Sarcastically] A veal pen...
Why did the band decide to do a 2 night run in Boston.
Carey: Our manager and a promoter put it together.
String Cheese Radio: Awesome I really appreciate the 2 nights here in Boston.
How have social networking websites like facebook and twitter helped gain exposure for the band?
Grubb: Well honestly, grassroots promotion has played a large part in the overall promotion and growth of this band. And it just kind of goes hand in glove with social networking because thatís basically just word of mouth in the internet age. I donít know if itís actually made it easier because everyone has an outlet now thereís so much noise you gotta cut through. But itís really made it easier to get through to people that are looking for you for sure.
Bill Nershi of The String Cheese Incident sits in with Railroad Earth at Rothbury 2009
What was your favorite festival of the summer and why?
Grubb: Rothbury [without hesitation] because it fucking rocked
Skehan: I second that.
Grubb: They pulled out all the stops. Were you there?
String Cheese Radio: Yea, I was there.
Grubb: Yea, they killed it dude. I think a lot of other festivals got scared by the whole economy falling into the shitter and didnít maybe go as balls out as they had in years past with ambiance, free flowing beverages and whatever the hell else, but Rothbury, man, they just blew it out and it really came through in the vibe. It just felt really good.
String Cheese Radio: I would agree.
Are there any plans for a new Railroad Earth album?
Grubb: Depends on what you mean by plans.
String Cheese Radio: Umm
Grubb: Yes.
String Cheese Radio: Yes? Any details?
Grubb: As far as a time schedule I think itís still up in the air.
String Cheese Radio: Down the road?
Carbone: Probably some time next year, I would imagine.
Any plans for the summer yet? Any festivals?
Carbone: Weíre working on it.
Skehan: It starts coming together usually around this time of year. Itís not quite mapped out yet.
What about Horningís Hideout?
Grubb: [chuckling] Youíre not gonna get anything out of us buddy.
All: [laughing]
Grubb: You keep reading Phantasy Tour and call us and tell us what you find out. Alright? Youíll probably know before we do.
Do you have anything you guys want to add?
Carbone: Well thanks a lot to String Cheese Incident Radio for coming down and asking us these kind questions.
String Cheese Radio: No problem, itís my pleasure.
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