The Art Of The Sit In | Allie Kral

[Photo by Mike Kaiz]

JAMBASE: Well now you have to tell me one. You don’t have to name the band.

AK: OK, OK. So this is still young in my Cornmeal career and I hadn’t been sitting in with too many bands and…oh, I’ll just say it, it was moe. They asked me to sit in with them at Summer Camp and I hadn’t even met them yet. Al Schnier was the first one I met and he told me, ‘The xylophone solo is going to happen and then you’re going to come in. In our case, we’re a jamband so play anywhere from three to 12 minutes, as long as you want, really.’

So I listen to the xylophone solo and the band comes to a halt and then it’s my turn to come out on stage and I’m super nervous and the initial contact happens and it’s nerve wracking but I just kind of fell into the music and I did play somewhere between three to 12 minutes. And then it was like, ‘Allie Kral, everybody!’

The entire crowd of Summer Camp erupted and it was so cool. And I’m in a daze and I’m not realizing that that was them telling me it’s time to leave the stage, and they’re going into the song that of course Al had told me earlier on he wouldn’t ever want me to try on the fly. And oh shit, there’s no faking my way out of this. I just had to play, and I glance at the setlist and it’s this song into another one and then back into the original monster, and I’m like, I don’t know what to do so I’m just going to kind of lay low. They’d intended for me to be out there like three to 12 minutes and I was probably on stage for 45 minutes.

JAMBASE: But that doesn’t sound like a bad sit-in, and obviously they liked you – you’ve jammed with moe. so much in the last few years!

AK: Oh man. Well, yeah, they called me later to play on something for them and I was all like, do they even remember me? But there are bad sit-ins, and if it’s a bad key for me or something in which I haven’t practiced my scales enough…it happens. I try to revert back to playing as simple as possible and hope it works.

JAMBASE: You don’t strike me as a guest musician who’s afraid to be aggressive, though. If we look at sit- ins as a spectrum of waiting around to be told to solo and being all over the band, not necessarily in a good way, you seem like you go after a balance.

AK: Yeah. It depends on how comfortable I am and also if it’s going to be more of a quick thing versus playing a whole show or not. You don’t want to play too much over the band because a violin sound stands out so much and especially if someone is singing, they don’t want to be competing with that. Bluegrass can be pretty showy – there’s actually a lot more room to overplay in bluegrass than there is in rock ‘n’ roll. For me, it’s intuition and I just go at it and if play wrong notes or it’s not what I was trying to do, sometimes the audience doesn’t even realize it.

JAMBASE: Is there any situation – any genre – in which you would flat-out turn down a chance to collaborate?

AK: Man, I don’t know because I was just listening to old school rap, and you know, it’d be really cool to do a show like that some time. It’d be cool to do country shows, of course. I guess if I thought it was really cheesy music, I’d have to say no. But there’s no genre I wouldn’t try, I’m classically trained, and I want to get out there.

JAMBASE: So I’m writing down that Allie Kral would be all about doing crazy, out there jazz fusion and death metal. Here I go.

AK: [Laughs] Yeah, yeah, well death metal would be really cool, especially if I had octave strings. I’m into it. Let’s do it.

JAMBASE: When you’re on Jam Cruise or an Artist at Large at a festival, how much planning goes into who you’re going to play with and what? Seventeen sit-ins don’t all just sort of happen.

AK: It depends, and always if there’s an actual part a band wants me to learn or just to come play with what they’re doing. The New Mastersounds have a song where they’ve told me, OK, we want you to learn this part, and they send it ahead so I know I can do it and I told them I’d learn it for Jam Cruise.

But we’re also going to be doing a picking session with Keller Williams and the Infamous Stringdusters and a few others from Greensky and that’s going to be on the fly: play, and pick, and have a good time. I can react well, and it’s more helpful if it’s one person to look at and guide solos versus, OK, you’re going to solo in this section and do this exact part.

JAMBASE: How will you spend most of your time in 2014? Will you be committing at length to some things?

AK: Other than a booking agent and a publicist, not really. I feel like I love the music side of things but it’s tough for me to do the business side, so I’ve put a team together to help with that. I really just want to play with a lot of new people, try a lot of new things. I’d love to do a bunch of festivals this summer and the Artist at Large thing there, but we’ll see where it takes me. It’s fun right now. I hope it doesn’t get old for the audience and they’re not saying, like, oh god, Allie again.

JAMBASE: Who’s top of your list of bands or musicians you’ve never played with but want to?

AK: The Avett Brothers. I want to play with them, they’re awesome. Music like that, where it’s upbeat and it’s high-energy on stage, I just love that, the personalities and jumping up and down and bouncing around the stage. That’s a band I’d love to play with, for sure.

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