Leftover Salmon’s Vince Herman On New Challenges & Reviving The Soul With Music [Interview] – Live for Live Music

For thirty years, Vince Herman and Leftover Salmon have roamed the world spreading their self-described brand of “polyethnic Cajun slamgrass” far and wide. Unfortunately, 2020 is the year during which spreading things far and wide is the worst move possible. This weekend, Leftover Salmon is playing their first run of shows since they were forced to suspend their tour at Buena Vista, Colorado’s newest outdoor venue, the Surf Hotel‘s Lawn. Though the shows are sold out, Nugs.net is helping folks get in on the fun by streaming the event for everyone around the world to enjoy. Ahead of the shows, we caught up with the patron saint of music festivals to hear stories of concerts and changing trajectories.

You can hear the entire interview on the latest episode of our own Rex Thomson‘s podcast, Rex-A-Vision, or scroll down to read some highlights from the conversation below. Enjoy!

Rex-A-Vision Ep. 73 – Vince Herman (Leftover Salmon) – Full Episode

Live For Live Music: It’s good to hear your voice, sir. In fact, after all this quarantine, it’s good to hear any voices outside of the ones in our own heads.

Vince Herman: I hear ya. I just took a trip around the country in a RV, that was my isolation pod. I got to go do a whole bunch of things. But, now that I’m back home and the fall is coming on, I’m about to re-hibernate. With this big push coming on [from the virus] in the fall, I think we all better climb back inside for a little while.

Live For Live Music: Let’s start with the really good news: Leftover Salmon is making up their canceled Broadmoor shows with the three night “Fall Maskerade” run at the Surf Hotel’s new outdoor performance space called The Lawn. From the name I’m guessing it’s just that… a giant lawn. 

Vince Herman: It is. The Surf Hotel is an amazing endeavor. A young guy who designed kayaks bought the old town dump in Buena Vista. It was a few blocks along the river before he bought it, cleaned up the river and made a kayaking course there that’s like none other in the world. He has been building a town based on biking, boating, skiing, music, and all that good stuff. He built this beautiful hotel in a New Orleans style with lots of wrought iron and big balconies. Outside of the hotel is a big town square kinda thing, and that’s The Lawn. We had to keep it really small on the number of tickets and we’re following all the guidelines to keep everyone safe and distant. That’s the main thing… keeping everyone safe while reviving the soul through music.

Live For Live Music: It’s been hard to “live for live music” lately. We need this. We need you back, sir. Can you give us any sneak peeks into this weekend fun? Are there any themes?

Vince Herman: The theme is, “Hey! Let’s play our first shows since March 11th.” That’s enough. There’ll be costumes but honestly, we’re just really happy to be playing music and just getting back to that is going to be enough. It’ll be enough to just feel good playing music again.

Live For Live Music: This has to be the weirdest break between shows of your entire career.

Vince Herman: It’s been an a pretty amazing journey. Like I said, our last gig was March 11th in Durango. It was the first night of a two week tour that ended on the first night. When this first started, I went into deep isolation for three or four months. I started getting into streaming and doing solo stuff live. It felt like addressing thirty years of technology that I’d ignored and trying to get caught up to it in one fell swoop.

Related: Leftover Salmon’s Vince Herman Performs Optimistic Solo Set At Quarantine Comes Alive [Watch]

Eventually, I just lost all my ability to even think about all that kinda stuff, so I had to get out of here. So I bought an RV and headed out to the west coast and saw some of my friends out there. It really brought me back into the world. The only one I had been interacting with was myself on my cell phone screen. I actually got a summer in… but now it’s time to go back. Back into the bubble.

Live For Live Music: Leftover Salmon is getting ready to drop a massive vinyl box set to help give us locked-down bubble-dwellers something to help keep the party going. 

Vince Herman: Yeah, from what I hear, those all got shipped out yesterday. What an adventure that’s been. Last fall there was a fire in one of the two places in the world that make vinyl for records, so the supply chain for vinyl got all convoluted. Then, Covid hit and the rest of the supply chain went out. The printing, all the insert and special treats… everything was thrown off. We’re incredibly late with delivering this but after thirty years, I guess another half year isn’t gonna hurt [laughs].

Live For Live Music: The cool people are never on time. Besides… it’s Covid Times. This is the perfect year for everything to get wrong. That said, we’ve got a chance to start fresh.

Vince Herman: We’ve had this big, giant pause and soon it’s gonna be time to start doing things again. And when we start doing again, it’ll be the perfect time to ask yourself “When I start doing again… what am I gonna do, why am I gonna do it, and to what end?” That’s been a fascinating proposition for me. It’s taking me down some pretty cool new roads.

Related: Quarantine Reads: ‘Leftover Salmon: 30 Years Of Festival!’

Live For Live Music: Anything you can share along that front?

Vince Herman: Well… I guess I can go ahead and talk about this. Like I said… I bought an RV and traveled cross-country. I played a couple of  gigs with The High Hawks. I went to West Virginia and dug into some pretty cool things with the Mountain Stage Radio Show. Then, I went on to Nashville for a couple weeks and I ended up getting a publishing deal as a songwriter. I also got a new personal agent and a booking agent for my solo stuff. Some pretty exciting things in the works!

Live For Live Music: Hot damn sir!

Vince Herman: …and you get the scoop. I was writing music in Nashville with a bunch of great folks who have done some really cool things. I’ve wondered for a long time whether my improv thing would be functional in a writing room with a bunch of other writer as a team. Apparently, it works.

Live For Live Music: So, it’s like a jam session without the instruments?

Vince Herman: Yeah, it’s a word jam… with some melodies involved.  I find that the songwriting process, on my own, was a bit of a struggle. I would get up to a certain point then I’d decide it was time to ride my bike [laughs]. The group writing process though, man… I’m just fascinated by it. I’m really inspired by it and I think I’m going do a lot of that in the days ahead. I don’t see Leftover being back… doing real shows and tours… for another year…maybe two. We’re all having to ask ourselves what we’re gonna do in that time. Writing is gonna be the thing that I do.

Live For Live Music: I hate to agree with that thought but, just from a logistical perspective, I don’t see how anyone can mount a full-scale tour for a year or so.

Vince Herman: It’s going to be a different music biz landscape when people can gather again in crowds. It’s gonna very interesting. I’m hoping that everybody can find something they’ve always wanted to do and that they have a chance to pursue it and see what happens. Life is short. Some of us get longer ones…some of us don’t. You gotta be really grateful for every minute you get and make the most of it. Sometimes that means getting beyond your comfort zone.

Live For Live Music: You mentioned the shows you played with The High Hawks, you most recent side gig. How were those?

Vince Herman: The High Hawks experience has just been great. They’re a really cool bunch of guys. Brian Adams (DeadPhish Orchestra), Will Trask, Adam Greuel (Horseshoes & Hand Grenades), Chad Staehly (Hard Working Americans) and Tim Carbone (Railroad Earth) …man… such a great bunch of characters and it’s so fun to play music with them. We’ve done a couple gigs during Covid… one at a drive-in and one at a private party on the river. Both of them were outside, socially distant, and safe. It’s just been a fantastic experience playing with those cats. We have a whole bunch of new material and that’s a good feel to have as a band. Deeply satisfying.

Live For Live Music: You’ve also been playing a bunch of shows with your son, mandolinist Silas Herman, haven’t you?

Vince Herman: Yeah, we’ve been doing a lot of The Herman Club. The “Herman Clan” is now “The Herman Club.” We thought it would be a good time to get rid of the clan [laughs]. Hanging with my son has been great. During the first onslaught of the pandemic, Silas was going out and getting my groceries for me and dropping them at the door. We’ve been getting in the family bubble, and that’s been really nice. Definitely a saving grace to the isolation, having my son here to hang and pick with. A real treat for me.

Live For Live Music: At this point, between The Herman Clan, The High Hawks, your friends like Andy Frasco and, of course, Leftover Salmon, is it time to consider an entire “Vince Herman & Friends” festival?

Vince Herman: I mean…maybe. That would be a pretty long day for me.

Live For Live Music: Sorry to burst your bubble, but a festival is three days sir. We would want the full experience.

Vince Herman: Yeah… I mean, sure… I could do that. As long as I get my strategic napping opportunities in there [laughs].

Live For Live Music: We’ll allow it. Before we go, I want to get serious for a moment. You’ve been one of the more outspoken artists in the festival scene on the subject of politics. Honestly, it has been inspiring to see someone take such a strong stand. I know doing so risks dividing your audience and I certainly don’t fault artists who don’t use their platform in that way, but I wanted to let you know it’s much appreciated.

Vince Herman: Absolutely, man. It’s really important to get to the core values of what we are as a country. Continuity, the peaceful transfer of power, all those things have been called into question. Even truth itself… that’s the biggest victim of all of this. Our social media feeds… the “Social Dilemma”… it’s all just designed to engage the listener or viewer in their pages to see more conflict and more ad dollars coming their way. That promoting of conflict as a basic model for Facebook is partially responsible for heading us down this road.  People have never been able to share divisiveness so readily for people to see before now.

That, combined with the fact that we live in zip codes that are more and more politically uniform. I live in a Democratic area code. There are Republican zones and there are people moving to their team’s zones. Our country is more and more divided. This past month, out on the road, I got to speak with a lot of Trumpers. I realized they’re wanting the same things. I believe we have a lot more in common than people think we do. Somehow, we have been manipulated to think we are on different sides.

That goes beyond platforms, beyond the candidates themselves. It’s our job to find that common ground in this era where we’re all so torn apart. The energy of people waving Trump flags—on their houses, on their boats, on their cars—if we could harvest that energy towards the good, all of us would be better off. That would be an achievement. We have to find a way to harness that energy into something more shared. I just read that Pope Francis came out in favor of same sex partners in a committed relationships. That’s beautiful. As a kid that grew up Catholic, I have a great respect for the Pope. For him to make that statement is a departure, but it’s loving, it’s a caring statement to make about the human beings we walk the Earth with.

Let’s hope some more of those kinds of statements can be made—accepting each other, loving each other just for the fact that we’re human and every human deserves respect and love. If we could use that to rebuild a sense of being in this together in this country… man, we’d all be in better shape.

Rex-A-Vision Ep. 73 – Vince Herman (Leftover Salmon) – Full Episode

There’s still time to grab your webcast pass for this weekend’s Leftover Salmon “Fall Maskerade” festivities on Nugs.TV. For more information or to purchase your stream now, head here.