To celebrate our Artists of the Month and their brand new album, All Ashore, we interviewed each individual member of the Punch Brothers, exploring the processes, circumstances, and factors that led to the creation of this latest crop of songs. The themes and responses are just as diverse as the five men themselves and their musical approaches.
Gabe Witcher, the fiddle player – and some might say secret weapon – in Punch Brothers, has been a performer for nearly his whole life. As a kid, he toured the Southwest playing bluegrass with his family’s band; that’s how he met Chris Thile, forming a musical friendship that has spanned more than three decades. Though his stage presence is low-key, his musicianship is undeniable, playing as joyously or mournfully as a song requires. This is also true on All Ashore. [Read Gabe’s interview]
Paul Kowert came on board as bassist for the Punch Brother about 10 years ago, stepping into a band of musicians he knew casually but admired greatly. In the following decade, he’s gained even more visibility in the world of acoustic music through his band Hawktail and a gig as bassist for David Rawlings Machine. His versatility is reflected in the list of bassists he cites as influences: Edgar Meyer, Mark Schatz, and Roy Milton “Junior” Huskey. He’s quick to admit that he’s not a lyricist, yet his musical contributions definitely shape the undercurrent of the new record. [Read Paul’s interview]
Chris Eldridge, the good-natured guitarist for Punch Brothers, comes by his bluegrass pedigree honestly. As a young man, he attended innumerable shows by Seldom Scene, a pioneering ensemble whose lineup included his father, banjo player Ben Eldridge. After studying at Oberlin Conservatory, he co-founded the Infamous Stringdusters, which won three IBMA Awards following their 2007 debut project, Fork in the Road. Indeed that album title proved auspicious, as Eldridge took a different path with the formation of Punch Brothers – a rewarding partnership that a decade later has yielded their newest project. [Read Chris’s interview]
Noam Pikelny has a dry delivery only when he’s joking around. But as the banjo player in Punch Brothers, his playing is crisp, inventive, and in step with his colleagues. This is especially true on All Ashore, which explores the personal challenges of relationships as well as the growing political divide in America. This year he’s nominated for IBMA Banjo Player of the Year, while his two previous solo albums earned Grammy nominations. His Twitter bio sums it up: “Widely considered the world’s premier color blind banjoist. Punch Brother.” [Read Noam’s interview]
Chris Thile is walking briskly into the venue while chatting agreeably about Punch Brothers’ new album. He’s used to multi-tasking, of course. In addition to kicking off an extensive tour with that eclectic band, he hosts the public radio show Live From Here, and he’s also a husband and father with a lot on his mind – particularly when it comes to the state of the world. [Read Chris’s interview]
Illustrations by Zachary Johnson