Sprig of That

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A Sprig of That

by Shelby Berry

We typically think of the progressive bluegrass genre as jazz-influenced and experimental in the bluegrass community. Progressive means something a little different when it comes to Sprig of That.

It means occupying the space between Northern European fiddle styles, modern American string music, and indie contemporary classic music — even if all the instruments are still acoustic.

Making a name for themselves amid a global pandemic, Sprig of That delights listeners with their wide range of musical integrations and cohesive, constantly evolving sound.

“The fluidity with which we have found a common language together has been one of my favorite parts of playing in this group,” said tabla player Krissy Bergmark. “When we are together and making music, it just feels like we are bringing ourselves to the music and creating an experience. The fluidity, teamwork, and the way we care for each other as friends and people make it fun.”

Formed in the storied musical city of Minneapolis, Minnesota, the band plays their original acoustic songs and fresh arrangements of folk favorites intended for an audience who likes a more modern approach to acoustic music.

 

The dazzling fiddling by Isabel Dammann and guitar by Ilan Blanck set the stage for their memorable musical moments — the tabla. Krissy Bergmark’s staple instrument anchored by its Indian Classical traditions and melodic beat produce the band’s sound.

“I think the kind of music we originally bonded over was this modern, acoustic, fiddle style. That’s what we were listening to, so the music we were writing was inspired by guitar and fiddles playing chords in a medley. That’s just where we ended up,” said Ilan. “Whatever I’m listening to at the time is what I’ll be inspired by. It often comes out as string music in the folk umbrella, but we have influences from other genres as well.”

Family and early musical influences inspired Krissy, Isabel, and Ilan at a young age, leading them to find each other. A shared love of string music and a connection with a musician friend brought Sprig of That together in January 2018.

Since then, the trio built its name in Minneapolis and played on New York’s historical Rockwood Music Hall stage, partnering with organizations like the Carnegie Hall, The Julliard School, and Minnesota Public Radio for educational workshops around the country.

It was almost serendipitous when Ilan and Isabel met their first week of college when they sat next to each other at a first-year orientation for string players. Meeting Krissy a few years later through a mutual classmate, all three musicians found themselves living in Minneapolis after college. One jam session later that lasted for hours on end, they knew they had found something special.

Sprig of That, a name inspired by food servings and the imagery of nature, quickly began writing music together, recording and performing their music live. A small taste of the welcoming nature of the bluegrass community had them surrounded by the magic of music, playing shows in some of the most iconic and original venues around the country.

“We even played a show in a used bookstore in a small town on the edge of Wisconsin. It was the largest used bookstore in the state and located in an old tobacco factory,” said Ilan. “We were surrounded by 600,000 books while we sang. It was a smaller crowd but hearing my guitar in that room felt like what it sounded like in my head. That place was just magical.”

After four years of exploring their sound and finding out exactly who they are and who they want to be as musicians, they decided it was time to record their debut album. 

Although they had recorded an EP a few years ago, this time was different.

Sprig of That brought on producer Wes Corbett of the Sam Bush Band and Grammy award-winning sound engineer Dave Sinko to record at Nashville’s Sound Emporium Studios. Now that the album is recorded, the band is raising money through a Kickstarter campaign to release their music to the world.

“Everything we wrote came from a place of curiosity and passion,” said Isabel. “We’ve been pulling from our backgrounds individually. It’s been special as we’ve grown as a trio and honed our sound in a special way. We know each other so well as musicians and humans. People can feel the communication between us when we play.”

After writing music that they felt was the best they had ever created, Sprig of That wanted to pull out all the stops for this debut album. They connected with Art House Connection to help them fund this project through Kickstarter. With a team reminding them that this community-centered campaign allows them to send love into the world with their music, it launched in early March.

“We have learned that if we reach out genuinely and make connections with people who want to see us succeed, it will be successful. I feel so inspired not only to keep doing this but to be able to return the favor to others that need support in the future,” said Ilan.

Sprig of That looks forward to releasing their debut album to the world and hitting the road to perform their new music live, fostering the best versions of themselves for the world to see.

“I’m the son of Mexican and Jewish immigrants that grew up in the suburbs of Milwaukee,” said Ilan. “The fact that I ended up in a band that is several different things and different styles that people don’t know what to make of feels par for the course. A lot of groups are at the edge of things, but with us, it feels like it’s part of who we are.”