MM: Oh‚ it is a palindrome. Wow.
BN: So Ross was just out playing with Kyle in Kyle's band. And I think had a day off and got in the van with Drew and I‚ Matt Flinner‚ and Greg Garrison - who also played in Leftover Salmon. So now I have an opportunity to play music and hang out and ask these guys questions. Like this morning I was sitting with Matt Flinner and he plays with some great guitar players and great musicians. You know‚ Stuart Duncan‚ David Grier‚ people who are the upper echelon of Nashville players. I get to sit down with them and ask what it takes to break through to that kind of playing. I don't feel personally like I'm there. I get the opportunity to play with a lot of musicians who are there. I feel like my strength is my songwriting sometimes. But to have that opportunity to sit down and talk to him and talk about different players and himself and how he practices‚ what kind of stuff he works on‚ how much he worked at getting to that level of musician he is now. You know‚ that's the kind of opportunity you don't have unless you go out on the road with other musicians and try to change it up a little bit. And take yourself out of the comfort zone of playing with the same people that you play with all the time.
MM: It seems like you guys are doing that on both levels. Obviously‚ the live setting and then the last three albums you brought in different producers‚ having them as the sixth member. It's really necessary for growth as an artist.
BN: It is. The worst thing you can do is stagnate. Thinking that you have something that's working so you just continue it as it is. That's how things die‚ I think.
MM: Yeah. That's good-keeping a healthy tab on that. Continuous growth. You guys have a great organization‚ you have a great following‚ and all these things. Do you ever feel like you lose focus because of the bigness and having all these things involved? I imagine over these past ten years there had to be times where you were like‚ "What are we doing?"
BN: The thing that was difficult to get past was feeling like we're at a point where we've got a steady income‚ everything's OK. We got to this level where we wanted to get to and at that point it would be easy to coast and I think we did our fair share of coasting for a couple of years. And then we realized when you're coasting you're actually losing ground. And we had to very recently get together and reassess where we're at and what we want to try and accomplish and what we needed to focus on in order to keep moving forward and not just sitting back and feeling comfortable where we were.
MM: It must be an interesting thing. Because obviously life goes on. A lot of you guys have families and stuff like that. Priorities change and different things‚ and how to make it all work‚ and keep inspired and keep that creative fire burning.
BN: And also the realization that it's different than it was six years ago. And to actually talk about tangibly how it's different and if we have new goals. And obviously your goals change when you have families. And also‚ I think that musically the band has changed a lot in over the last several years and let's look at where we are as a band and do we have new roles as musicians in the band and things like that. My role‚ I know has changed a lot since the band started.
MM: How so?
BN: Well‚ when the band started I was the primary songwriter. Actually‚ the only songwriter (laughter). And since then‚ as you can see on this album‚ everybody is writing. Most of the people are writing a lot of stuff. So now my role has changed from being the main person to deliver the songs live and in a writing way‚ to being a part of a group of people that all are delivering songs live. And that was a hard thing for me to deal with. Going from the point where half the music in a given night was my material to a point where three or four songs a night are my material. So we had to talk about that. And I had to talk about how I felt about that and realize that it's a different band than it was then and look at and see what we're dealing with here and how we can make it work the best.
MM: And keep everybody happy and that kind of thing. Well‚ it's great. It's great that it's working. Definitely on this album‚ Travis has a couple tracks on there and everyone's writing good songs.
BN: Which I think is a really important thing.
MM: This group of songs is probably the most mature songwriting together on one album that you guys have had.
BN: Yeah‚ I think so.
MM: "Big Compromise." That's a good one.
BN: I've been writing a little bit with Jim Lauderdale. And that's produced some good results.
MM: How does that process work?
BN: Different on different songs‚ you know? A lot of times with Jim I have ideas or verses. I say‚ "This is what this song is kind of about and I have these verses. What do you think?" He might help with…he's kind of like lyric police a little bit. "Don't say that (laughter)." He'll say it a little different or come up with a chorus or come up with some melody parts or things like that. And we talk about it. Throw around ideas for a day or two and get done and have a good song.
MM: So yeah‚ he's on three tracks‚ too
BN: Three?
MM: Yeah‚ two are yours and then one with Keith-"Brand New Start."
BN: Ohhh‚ that's right. OK.