Interview by Scott Preston
Formed originally in 1998 by Jeff Mosier, Blueground Undergrass has developed a solid reputation and nationwide following by playing its multi-faceted music mix coast-to-coast. The band has always been known for exciting performances and eclectic arrangements. Its sonic wall of twang type sound pleases the whole spectrum of fans from hippies to cloggers to rockers, taking Blueground Undergrass to the brink of almost moshpit energy, yet guiding each show with song-driven clarity along the way.
By successfully parlaying an extensive knowledge of bluegrass music with major elements of jazz and Southern rock, Blueground Undergrass has forged a unique, new listening experience, one rooted in the essentials of great American genres. Their Landslide Records debut, Faces, represents a strong culmination of the bands lengthy musical experience as well as its legendary live shows.
Speaking recently of Blueground’s sound Mosier said, “I never want our music to lose the tradition of the porch no matter how much remodeling was done to the house over time. The band will continue in that spirit and tradition by re-creating old Blueground Undergrass originals, rocking out bluegrass standards, and by introducing new songs and sounds to their live shows. ”
Jeff’s special ability to combine bluegrass with trance, jazz and rock have made him an icon in the jam band world. The Reverend has shared the stage with Leftover Salmon, Widepsread Panic, Vassar Clemments, and many more. In 1994, he toured with Phish while teaching the band all about the world of bluegrass.
To add to an already eclectic musical career, Jeff also performs for senior citizens and Alzheimers patients, as well as children. He is active in public service, combining his musicianship with speaking engagements.
Cincy Groove: How did Blueground Undergrass first get together?
Jeff Mosier: I had an idea in my head and it was a musical one. It was to try to meld my experience in bluegrass, which is my biggest influence, with my second biggest influence, The Aquarium Rescue Unit. After I left ARU in 1990 I toured around with a lot of groups. One of the groups was Phish, who back then really was a nobody group. From about 1990 – 1998 I did some theater, I worked with Alzheimer’s patients. But occasionally I would go out with Widespread Panic or whoever I could sit in with.
Blueground Undergrass was my first attempt to really to try to get the music out beyond bluegrass, because my brother and I had this band Good Medicine which was traditional bluegrass. Until Phish called me in 1994 I hadn’t really thought about getting back into sonic music. Then I went out with Phish and Leftover Salmon, got to see Hypnotic Clambake, String Cheese Incident and started to see what was on the horizon. I thought wow this could be bigger than New Grass Revival. New Grass Revival was the only other experimental type of music that i really knew anything about.
So David Blankmon and I met on stage at The Fox Theater when we were playing with Widespread Panic. It was New Years 1997 and I told him and Todd Nance about this idea I had. It was basically banjo, fiddle, guitar, and pedal steel, pedal steel representing the “hillbilly organ”. Then you have a rhythm section that can turn on a dime, play anything, fusion, funk, reggae. It really was an idea to try to play something that hasn’t been played before. When I put the first group together, it just had this certain special sound and it really took off. For about a 10 year period we had ups and downs , but a lot of great times.
Cincy Groove: What brought about the original lineup of Blueground Undergrass getting back together?
Jeff Mosier: I think first, maturity, second the recognition that certain people bring things to the table that can’t be replaced. I was playing without these guys for a while and see whats missing. You know you see these tribute bands where there is one guy from the original lineup, I kind of felt like that (laughing). I had a great group of players with me after the original lineup split, but nobody knew what the fuck I was trying to do. Except my brother, Mark Van Allen, David Blankmon , I mean those guys knew what I was trying to do. They all knew about Bruce Hampton, Phish, they knew about my influences. To answer your question more specifically, you need to realize what you have lost in order to come back with a different attitude. It can’t be about you anymore, it has to be about the music. I think all of us pulled our heads out of our asses all at the right time. I think there is a lot of music held back by personal ambition. I think the greatest music is made by people who can lay their personal ambitions to the side and let it be about the band. My definition of band is a group of people who can become greater than the sum of their parts.
Cincy Groove: Does Blueground Undergrass have any recording projects in the works?
Jeff Mosier: Well I think we are going to give each other some time to learn the material. Its been 6 years since this lineup has been together so they are having to relearn some old songs and I’m also teaching them my new stuff. That was part of our problem before is that we got really ambitious, felt like we had a gun to our head. We got a tour bus and that whole deal, a lot of things we did were not necessary.
Cincy Groove: Are their any newer groups that impress you?
Jeff Mosier: Yonder Mountain and The Infamous Stringdusters. The Infamous Stringdusters definitely have the bluegrass chops. They are playing their own ideas, the banjo player isn’t trying to sound like anyone else. They have great energy on stage. They have the playing, the singing, the stage presence, the material. They can goto the IBMA’s and amaze the traditional bluegrass crowd and then goto a hippie festival and do the same thing.
Jeff Mosier – Electric and Acoustic Banjo, Vocals
David Blackmon – 4 and 5 String Fiddles, Electric Mandolin
Johnny Mosier – Guitar
Kyle Spark – Bass
Mark Van Allen – Pedal Steel, Dobro
Vic Stafford – Drums
Upcoming Blueground Undergrass tour dates:
For complete show details visit http://www.bluegroundundergrass.com
Sept 5 The Emerald Lounge Asheville, NC
Sept 6 GOTTROCKS Greenville, SC
Sept 18 Salty Dog Saloon Santa Rosa Beach, Florida
Sept 18 Salty Dog Saloon Santa Rosa Beach, Florida
Sept 25 Smith’s Olde Bar Atlanta, GA
Sept 26 Sautee Jamboree Sautee, GA
Sept 27 Sautee Jamboree Sautee, GA
Oct 12 Fall For Greenville Greenville, SC
Oct 23-26 MagnoliaFest Live Oak, FL