Leftover Salmon has been a fixture of the Colorado music scene since they began offering their brand of progressive bluegrass over 30 years ago. By adding everything from drums and Cajun sounds to even funk and rock vibes, Leftover Salmon has always done their own thing from the beginning.
Vince Herman, the co-founder of Leftover Salmon, explained how the group’s unique sound came about. It started as a marriage of Cajun and bluegrass. Herman said he grew up in Suburban Pittsburgh, then moved to West Virginia, where he “got deeply into the bluegrass scene” before moving to Colorado, where he hoped to find a “more progressive” community. He knew Hot Rize hailed from Boulder, so he decided to give Boulder a try.
“I played in the Left Hand String Band a year or two, then a Cajun jug band kind of thing, the Salmon Heads,” he reminisced. “A couple of guys couldn’t make a gig, so I got members of Left Hand String Band to join in.”
That chance melding ended up being something immediately successful; Leftover Salmon was born.
“I thought it would be a one-off gig,” Herman said. “Then next thing you know, we had bookings for the next month.”
The band’s backstory explains why they create bluegrass sounds that are anything but traditional. Herman strove from the beginning to – as described on the band’s website – combine “Cajun, Calypso, Ska, and bluegrass into a coherent musical statement.”
While parts of the Leftover Salmon lineup have changed over the years, Herman has always been delighted to jam with members of the band.
“We’ve been really lucky to…as players come and go…to find some really great folks to play with,” he said.
After three decades of performances and music releases, Leftover Salmon is about to release its latest record, expected to be titled Grass Roots.
“It’s kind of a different record for us in that we didn’t write any of the songs,” Herman said, adding that there’ll be a rock vibe at times and even “a little funk.”
“It will release sometime in May,” he added.
Herman said the band looks forward to touring for the album, including going to Europe this year. He said he’s also hyped about this year’s Telluride Bluegrass Festival, which sets a milestone this summer.
“Telluride is an important one for us,” Herman said. “I’m excited about the 50th Anniversary of Telluride.”
Herman seems to love the strength of the community, and he’s a vital part.
“I think folks in the mountains maybe have a different aesthetic, and somehow acoustic music seems to be a fit for the mountains and Colorado,” he said when asked how his region influences its music styles. “The bluegrass scene is alive and well and thriving,” he added, mentioning a feature that impresses him.
“The RockyGrass Festival…their bluegrass academy has been growing young players and is phenomenal,” he said.
After so many years, is there anything Herman would like to do? Any “bucket list” items that Leftover Salmon has yet to accomplish?
“We’d love to get to Australia,” he said. “And wouldn’t it be fun to have a Grammy? That’s certainly the gold standard.”
In the end, it sounds like the purpose is simply to make music that gets him excited.
“We feel really lucky to be doing this and still having fun,” he said. “We feel lucky as can be.” And he feels pretty content about where the band is. “I think we know how to have a good time.”