Rothbury Interview with Drew Emmitt: My Favorite Buddhist Mandolinist.

Via Rachel Steele
on Jul 10, 2008
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The Emmitt Nershi Band at Rothbury.

I like the sound of that…Buddhist mandolinist. But I am getting ahead of myself. I had the opportunity to sit and chat with Drew Emmitt after the Emmitt-Nershi band’s Saturday afternoon set at Rothbury. Since elephant is Boulder-based, and Drew plays the mandolin in two Boulder based bands, Leftover Salmon and the Emmitt-Nershi Band, I am tempted to call Drew a Boulder Bluegrass celebrity. But he is way too nice and down-to-earth, so we’ll just stick with bluegrass/newgrass heavyweight. Both bands are touring this summer, and he has a new solo album, the Long Road, just out.

Traipsing around the country just as fast as his picking (he had just flown into Rothbury from the High Sierra Music Fest), you can catch the Emmitt-Nershi Band at the Boulder Theater on August 6th. If you’re a Leftover Salmon fan, they’ll be playing the Fillmore on Halloween. That show has not been announced yet, but Drew accidentally told me, and he was nice enough to give an intern a break and let me, um…break the story!

I asked Drew what he thought about Obama’s quotation about musicians and change  in this month’s Rolling Stone. Drew remarked how in a way he thought big organized religion has failed (amen), and while he is a big fan of reading religious writers and theorists from Tolle to Jesus, he thinks that “Music is the one thing now that can change the world,” uniting people the way nothing else can, creating “community with a universal language,” and allowing for a give-and-take energy exchange you cannot get anywhere else (and “what else is more fun in the summer?” Drew asked. And then he added “Almost too fun” with a grin and a chuckle that should be prerequisites for all bluegrass musicians). He also thinks the musical community is becoming more aware and conscious, and noted that the Telluride Bluegrass Festival gave artists metal reusable water bottles and like Rothbury (and the Boulder’s farmer’s market!), vendors use only compostable items.

As I alluded to earlier, Drew has been a practicing Buddhist for 30 years and finds “Buddhism similar to playing music.” Having just started meditating and being tone deaf myself, I asked him to elaborate. Drew explained: “When you’re playing well, you’re Zen, and in the moment, you’re letting the music come from you and you let go of your ego and get out of the mind; you calm the inner chatter, and you feel the energy, and you’re being one with the environment, one with body and mind.” Well since I doubt I am going to pick up the mandolin, I’ll be keeping up on my beginning meditation practice.

Drew thanked me, and I thanked him, and I said it was “my pleasure”…and I could not have meant it any more.


About Rachel Steele

Rachel Steele originally hails from Charleston, SC, but schlepped all the way to Boulder to play in the mountains and study at the University of Colorado. She graduated with a degree in in Political Geography in 2008 and then briefly traveled in India and was certified as a yoga teacher in 2009 at Holy Cow Yoga Studio. She has since returned to her mother's ancestral home of Brooklyn, NY and is proud to call the Williamsburg area home. Despite what her mother recently said, she doesn't think she's become a hipster. She does wears many hats, including a fedora with a pin of Lindsey Lohan on it, but the one that is most important to her is that of a feminist filmmaker. She also loves live music, enjoys cooking, and is happiest when rabble rousing. She does miss Colorado, but feels very connected to her college home when writing for elephant. Her personal blog can be found at and on imdb.


4 Responses to “Rothbury Interview with Drew Emmitt: My Favorite Buddhist Mandolinist.”

  1. […] is running an interview with Leftover Salmon singer and mandolin player Drew Emmitt titled “My Favorite Buddhist Mandolinist” in which he shares his thoughts about Buddhism and its similarities to making […]

  2. jonah says:

    I really enjoy the blogs written by Rachel. I wanted to let you guys know and maybe see if she has her own blog or contributes to other magazines…. Thanks

  3. […] Emmitt’s third solo effort, out earlier this summer, is titled Long Road. According to Emmitt (my favorite Buddhist mandolinist), the new album is “all about where I’ve been, what I’ve seen, where’ve I’ve ended up, […]

  4. […] the presence of players. Now, I am inviting the universe to help me decide between a guitar and a mandolin for my next […]