Infamous Stringdusters fiddler-singer Jeremy Garrett sits at a small table in the back room of Rock Brothers Brewing in the Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa. With the temperature outside hovering around 80 degrees, he’s sipping on a cold ale and catching his breath. The Stringdusters just finished another long, yet bountiful, tour, with the sold-out gig at Rock Brother’s upstairs venue the Attic being the final stop of the run.
Garrett’s smart phone buzzes with an incoming text.
“My wife and daughter are snowed in at our home in Colorado right now,” he says. “We live off the grid at the end of this eight-mile dirt road near Estes Park. After the show tonight, I’ll be flying out of here at 4 a.m. to get back to them.”
Family is integral to understanding Garrett — be it his family back home in Colorado or the one he created on the road with the Stringdusters.
A fixture of the jam and string music scenes since forming in 2006, the Infamous Stringdusters have been on a fast-moving trajectory in recent years, especially after the group’s Grammy win for Best Bluegrass Album in 2018: their Laws of Gravity tied with Rhonda Vincent’s live album All the Rage.
The crowds and venues are getting larger, the music radiating from the Dusters more ambitious and free-flowing.
But, for now, he’s at Rock Brothers, drinking the brewery’s latest creation, a collaboration with the Stringdusters themselves and North Carolina’s Nantahala Brewing called “Kolsch Peak.” On this day, Garrett is toasting two things: his band’s tour and beer release, as well as his new solo album, the dense Circles (Organic Records), which aims to put the fiddle on the same pedestal as the guitar.
Why was Circles something that you needed to do? Being in a successful band, why a solo album?
I feel like the Stringdusters are something that’s very special. We are a democracy. We have five guys that all participate in sharing material, singing, picking solos, and whatnot. And I wouldn’t change one single thing about it. But I’m also my own artist. I’ve been playing since I was three years old and just sort of have been infused with music my whole life. I have a lot more [to say] that I [want to] present to the greater music world. I’m fired up to [release] my own art, something that’s uniquely just me.
You have this album out now, another one done and ready for release, and you’re going back into the studio to record a third. Where does this productivity come from?
It’s been my life as far back as I can remember. [Growing up in Idaho] and playing with my dad in bluegrass bands, seeing him [perform and record], growing up in church and singing all the parts. Even the high school orchestra had its impact on me. I have a large appreciation for music and the power that it has. And I feel like every day, more and more as time goes on — especially nowadays — that music is a force to be reckoned with in all the noise that’s going on around us. It’s as viable and important as any political conversation or as any book or whatever. Those things all have an impact on the world. And that’s where I feel like I can sort of shine — to be a force for good in that voice.
You refer to your solo music as “fiddle science.” What does that mean?
Fiddle science is all about experimentation. I have sounds that I try to create for myself and my solo thing, especially because I’m playing all the instruments — fiddle, guitar, mandolin, singing, and then using the looping machine. So just the whole vibe is already kind of different [from the Stringdusters]. For me it’s a little thicker as far as the sounds that I’m going for — it’s a mad scientist laboratory.
You have all these great guitar gods, all these [guitar] pedals and extravagance. The pedals are all geared towards guitar, but never for a fiddler. Why not? I feel like now is this new frontier where the pedals are better and the technology is better than it’s ever been. Now is the time to really dive deep. And so fiddle science is a project all about really searching inward and going as far as I can go like a lot of guitar players have done in the past. In my opinion, fiddle or dobro or banjo deserve every bit as much focus as electric guitars have gotten, but they’ve not gotten the same level of [attention] — let’s bring these guitar pedals into our world and see if they work.