Interview with Erik Yates from Hot Buttered Rum

erik yates, hot buttered rum
Erik Yates from Hot Buttered Rum

Interview by Scott Preston

Hot Buttered Rum, one of the hardest-working and fastest-rising stars in the musical firmament, has become, over the last five years, a group that is infinitely greater than the sum of its parts. It began with a core of five uniquely talented musicians, writing and singing songs on the mountaintops and city streets of Northern California; five musicians who, on the night they realized they loved playing together too much to ever stop, were sipping a warm buttery drink from which the group derived its name. Since that fateful night, the organization has steadily expanded to include a rich tapestry of fans, friends, and family, reaching from coast to coast.

Often described as a rock band playing bluegrass instruments, the band melds blues, folks, bluegrass, jazz, and rock, and the members’ varying degrees of classical training lead them to invest heavily in group composition. The widespread appeal of HBR’s music stems not only from the band’s musical versatility and prolific songwriting, but also from the magnetic chemistry the group creates onstage together. It is this chemistry that is propelling the band to ever greater success. (from

Cincy Groove: How long has the band been together?

Erik Yates: I would say going on 5 years. The idea for the band and a lot of the songs have been around for a lot longer. Nat the guitar player and myself were in a band called the Foggy Notion Boyz back in college. Zac and Brian were in a band called Oversoul. We kind of fulled around for a couple years, played gigs here and there. Then we really decided to play out in about 2002.

Cincy Groove: I know you play a lot of different instruments. What was the first instrument you learned to play?

Erik Yates: I first learned to play the piano. I have always been pretty good at whatever instrument I picked up. My personality is kind of to be the jack of all trades. I have played piano, saxophone, bass guitar, all the way through high school. The reason I’m playing a lot of banjo is because the band needed a banjo player. I really discovered the banjo and bluegrass music at about the tail end of college.

When the movie O Brother Where Art Thou came out it really put a face on bluegrass/americana music. It made it a lot easier for us and any band that was playing some form of Americana.

Cincy Groove: I noticed one of your songs is now a theme song for a local cooking show? How did that come about?

Erik Yates: Our manager set that all up, I guess he has some connections in the industry. The artistic director needed a song and knew Chris, our manager, and gave him a call. We are still waiting for those apple pies to show up on our front doors (laughing). But we are happy to contribute our music to something like this. I think really you have to weigh your options in situations like that. You have to think is this going to hurt us or help us? But it didn’t really feel dangerous so we were happy to do it and get our music out to a wider audience.

Cincy Groove: I think you are one of the few touring bands who drive a bio-diesel bus.

Erik Yates: We do drive a bio-diesel bus. Its finally starting to work out for us financially. We are always trying to find ways to minimize out impact. We thought one day , we are going to drive 600 miles today. Do we want to burn fossil fuels or vegetable oil? We don’t advocate bio fuel as a perfect solution. It definitely brings its own set of problems with it. But I definitely feel better about bio diesel than I do about burning fossil fuels.

Hot Buttered Rum:
Bryan Horne – double bass & vocals
Nat Keefe – guitar & vocals
Zachary Matthews – mandolin, fiddle & vocals
Aaron Redner – fiddle, acoustic and electric mandolins & vocals
Erik Yates – banjo, guitar, Dobro™, ukulele, flute, whistle, clarinet, saxophone, accordion, piano, harmonica & vocals


Upcoming Hot Buttered Rum String Band tour dates:
for complete show details visit
5/7/08 Headliners Louisville, KY
5/8/08 The 20th Century Theatre Cincinnati, OH
5/9/08 Music Mill Indianapolis, IN
5/10/08 City Nights Theater Springfield, IL
5/23/08 Desert Rocks Music Festival Moab, UT
5/24/08 Summer Camp Chillicothe, IL
5/25/08 Summer Camp Chillicothe, IL
5/31/08 Monterey Music Summit Monterey, CA
6/7/08 Wakarusa Music Festival Lawrence, KS
6/13/08 El Rey Theater (LA) Los Angeles, CA
6/14/08 Wave House San Diego, CA
6/20/08 Moe’s Alley Santa Cruz, CA
6/22/08 Dunsmuir Historic Estate Oakland, CA
7/12/08 All Good Festival Masontown, WV
7/15/08 Vail Hot Summer Nights Vail, CO
7/19/08 McCall Summer Folk Festival Donnelly, ID
7/25/08 4 Peaks Music Festival Bend, OR
7/26/08 Trinity Tribal Stomp Junction City, CA
7/27/08 Trinity Tribal Stomp Junction City, CA
8/8/08 Dead on the Creek Willits, CA
8/17/08 Yarmony Grass Music Festival Yarmony, CO