I am so excited to be working with these guys. I feel like there's a connection that's obviously from us all being so young but also there's a unity of intention and purpose that I've never really experienced before.

-Chris Thile on How To Grow A Band


Too much thought about the product and not enough about the art.

Chris Thile by Tobin Voggesser
Right, right, right. Who's gonna sell it? Who are they going to sell it to? Honestly, it's a cliché but the most success you're ever going to have as a musician is pleasing yourself. You can only really please one person and that's you. You can only count on that. Those are the only ears you have control over satisfying, and if you haven't satisfied those ears then Lord help you.

It's hard to satisfy anyone else in the world... any respect! Relationships don't work when all you're considering is the other person. You can try and try and try to cater to someone else's needs but if your own needs aren't being met no one wins.

Without being too forward, I've been through a divorce, too. I wondered how that experience impacted your music. There's tendrils of this situation on How To Grow A Woman.

For me, woman has always been a mysterious, almost angelic entity. I had one and I loved her, and I loved being with her. I was completely sold on the relationship, and was actually making artistic compromises to a dubious extent that really weren't healthy. It's probably one of the reasons it didn't work out. Ultimately, you'll resent some of that and it'll never be enough. The way it showed up on the record was interesting to me. I never really took a vindictive approach to the breakup even though it wasn't my idea. [Pause] Our banjo player, Noam Pikelny, just walked into the room. He's checking to make sure I talk enough about the approach to banjo tone and timing, and how we understand there's not enough banjo on the record [laughs]. He says he didn't get enough solos.

You can fix that on future releases [laughs].

Chris Thile
The approach I took to the divorce on this record was the deification of woman and the subsequent immobilization of the worshipper or follower, which is a character in this story. Certainly, I've taken a lot of liberties with my portion of the story, which is only partially autobiographical.

Sure, in fact, you use other people's words to help tell this story.

And to color it and make it more universal and exciting. Something like Tom Brousseau's "How To Grow A Woman From The Ground" is about as disturbing as you can be. You're left wondering at the end if the guy killed himself. It's only that it's in the middle [of the album] that convinces you he didn't [laughs]. But, that's not how I wanted to use it for this story, where it serves as the low point for this fellow. After that, he devolves into a party animal with whiskey and [Jimmy Rodger's] "Brakeman's Blues" he kinda goes the other way for a while. Only with [The Strokes'] "Heart In A Cage" does that period of hooliganism come to an end with him saying, "I don't feel better when I'm fucking around."

Fuck is a great word and you sing it well.

I would imagine that's the first time it's been said on a bluegrass record [laughs]. I'm not proud of that nor am I ashamed. I'll be damned if I'm going to change somebody's lyrics.

It's just one element that makes this, at best, a less-than-pure bluegrass record including a Strokes tune and a White Stripes song ["Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground"].

How To Grow A Band
Both of those songs, from the instant I heard them, they were bluegrass songs in my mind. I thought, "Oh hell, that's a no brainer!" I'm really surprised no one got to "Dead Leaves" before I did. This is a bluegrass classic.

The first time we met you played me a Strokes tune.

I played "Whatever Happened" off the second record.

You brought me around. Now I respect that band.

It was so hard for me to like them. They aren't likeable because they're so damn good looking and rich and come from art school. There's nothing rock about it until you actually give the music a chance then you see they're a great band.

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