Famous & Infamous
by Stephen Pitalo
When Jeremy Garrett Isn’t Fiddling for the Infamous Stringdusters, He’s Making a Name for Himself with Great Songs and Wild Sounds
As fiddle player, singer & songwriter in the GRAMMY Award-winning group The Infamous Stringdusters, Jeremy Garrett helped that band break onto the national scene in 2007, scooping up 3 International Bluegrass Music Association awards, including Album and Song of the Year. Since then, the Stringdusters became a national ambassador for progressive bluegrass, playing to a club, theater, and festival audiences around the country. Still, Garrett hasn’t limited himself to just Stringduster affiliation.
Releasing his solo effort River Wild in March, Garrett keeps busy with his solo band as much as his original band, which keeps the man his fans call “G-Grass” or “Freedom Cobra” for his dynamic stage presence. He wows listeners by using electronic effects to layer and loop multiple instruments and vocals. This second solo album is a true sonic exploration of everything from mountain-loyal hyperspace fiddle to 1990s Seattle sounds. You can see him dropping into all-star band line-ups ranging from funk music to traditional bluegrass at any moment.
With a bluegrass musician father, Garrett started playing the fiddle at age three and sang a cappella gospel music in church in his youth.
“My dad was really into Flatt & Scruggs, The Stanley Brothers, and Bill Monroe and was a bluegrass guitar player/bass player,” Garrett explained. “It was natural for me to get into bluegrass because of my parents’ influence. I learned to live the music for myself over the years, studying various musicians.”
Growing up in Caldwell, Idaho, Garrett experienced the only bluegrass-type event in the area: the old-time national fiddlers contest in Weiser, Idaho.
“I never was really into the contest scene, but I loved hanging out and jamming with the hippies in the sticker bushes during that event. That’s where I got my chops for improv on the fiddle.”
Forming the Infamous Stringdusters in the early 2000s in Nashville after his band had broken up, he freelanced for a couple of years around the Nashville area.
“This turned out, of course, to be a great thing for me, and I played with some amazing folks around the Nashville area and was touring nationally. One of the bands I freelanced with was Ronnie Bowman. His band at the time was The Committee.” Garrett also met Andy Hall and Jesse Cobb. “We knew Chris Pandolfi and Andy Falco from the northeast area,” he added, “and we ended up putting the band together while we were in Nashville.”
With a flair for fiddle pyrotechnics, Garrett explored his more intimate side as a songwriter, contributing several songs to the Stringdusters, including the title track for their 2014 album “Let It Go”; the song won first place in the 2014 USA Songwriting Competition’s folk category. With his collaborations with Jon Weisberger, Josh Shilling, Darrell Scott, Oliver Wood of The Wood Brothers, Becky Buller, and more, he’s a prolific musician with more than just great chops.
“I have used sonic effects for quite some time in my shows now, probably a decade or so,” Garrett explained his affinity for altering his sound with technical assistance. “I enjoy experimenting and trying things that for years had just been used by mostly electric guitar players.”
The record, Circles, is loosely based on his solo looping project show, employing both sonic effects & elements of his singer-songwriter talents.
However, the new record River Wild has fantastic guests like Barry Bales, Alan Bibey, Seth Taylor, Lou Reid, Josh Shilling, Travis Book, Andy Hall, Russ Carson, Gena Britt, and Ryan Cavanaugh.
Whether it’s the Stringdusters or his new combo, The Jeremy Garrett Bluegrass Band, Garrett has no intention of stopping.