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Monday, September 19

Grateful Music's Own Sam Berenson sat down with Shawn Swain of the Kitchen Dwellers for a Short Interview.: Keep an Eye out for this Bozeman quartet on Tour with Twiddle coming soon.

 The Kitchen Dwellers gave an interview to our own Sam Berenson. This Bozeman bluegrass outfit is setting the festival circuit and venues across the west on fire and has their sights set firmly on the stars.


The Kitchen Dwellers are quickly becoming everyone’s favorite Montana-based band. Hailing from Bozeman, the bluegrass quartet is on the rise to the top of the scene, selling out shows throughout the northwest, playing at some of the nation’s favorite festivals, and gaining popularity on a larger scale, with fans eagerly awaiting shows throughout the country.

With an upcoming coast-to-coast fall tour alongside Twiddle, and an enormously successful last couple of years, the Kitchen Dweller’s mandolinist Shawn Swain was kind enough to sit down and talk about the current state of the Kitchen Dwellers, the significance of joining the Madison House family, musical inspirations, and life as a full-time touring musician. The Kitchen Dwellers headline the Fox Theatre in Boulder, Colorado, this Thursday, September 22nd.

Grateful Music: Shawn, I first and foremost wanted to thank you for putting some time aside to chat with me. We frequently see musicians joining and leaving up-and-coming bands these days, sometimes completely changing the dynamic of the music fans have learned to love. Tell me a bit about how the Kitchen Dwellers have solidified the current lineup?

Shawn Swain: Me, and Joe, and Torrin have been in the band the entire time. We met in 2010. Actually I met Joe in 2009 when I first moved up to Bozeman. Torrin then came along, so the three of us have been together for about 6 years now. This is Max Davies second year playing guitar with us. We’ve had a couple fiddle players come and go, but this is probably the lineup that will last and stay solid. Three fourths of our lineup has been the same for the past 6 years.

Grateful Music: What current touring band or musician do you guys look up to, or find inspirational to your musical progression, accompanied by the success you’ve had over the years you’ve been together?

Shawn: There are lots of bands that we’ve had the absolute pleasure for supporting or co-billing in the years we’ve toured across the country. The bands that inspire can come from all levels. They can be bands that are at our level, or some of these bands that are at much higher levels. You know bands like… Leftover Salmon has always been really good to us. Other bands we look up to; Greensky’s playing style is huge for us, I think we can draw a lot of influence there. And then you know like even further back, looking at a band like Yonder Mountain String Band, they were one of the hardest touring bands on the circuit for like 15 years straight. Those guys would play over 200 shows a year, and just kind of looking at how these guys have played before us, or are playing now beside us, how they’ve paid their dues over the years and gotten to the point they’re at is often pretty inspiring, because some of these bands like Leftover Salmon have been playing since 1988, and Yonder since 1998. Even Greensky is almost 20 years old now, and a lot of people don’t know that.

Grateful Music: Haha, I didn’t know that. You just taught me something new!

Shawn: Yeah. They won the Telluride Bluegrass Fest contest in 2005 I think, and they had already been around for a minute, but they’re really breaking out super hard right now. I think they’re probably one of the top bands, one of the ones I look up to most, as far as a string band, improvisational rock and roll and bluegrass.

Grateful Music: After an extremely successful summer, we saw the announcement of music moguls Madison House, signing the Kitchen Dwellers alongside the star-studded lineup they book. What can fans look forward to with this monumental achievement in the music world?

Shawn: Well thanks man, those are some kinds words, I appreciate that. This new signing with Madison House will open a lot of doors for us. I would say that fans can expect to see solid tours, since there are consistent markets now, steadily gaining speed. We also have some more major announcements coming; people should be able to see us now at more major festivals. Honestly, our touring is going to be much more accessible to people than it has been in the past, that have been reaching out, and have been interested in our music over the years. I know a lot comes with it, you know when you sign to a much larger agency like this, but also the next level of professionalism takes over, and the business side of things get more intense and then everyone needs to really stay on point. This has now become everybody’s full-time job. It’s really exciting, and I can’t wait to see where it takes us.  I wish I could talk more about some of the announcements we get to make in the future, but I think a lot of our fans will be very pleased where we’ll be playing in the next 12 months or so.

Grateful Music: You guys are opening for Twiddle for the majority of their shows through the New Year. Tell me a little bit about how your relationship with the Frendly Crew blossomed, and ended up turning into one of the most anticipated tours this fall.

Shawn: Well, our relationship with Twiddle has been founded now for quite a long time. We first met them when they first came through Bozeman in like 2011 I think. Just myself and a few other friends were actually some of the only people at the show (laughs). They put on a fantastic show for us that night, and they were looking for something to do after the show, and I naturally invited them over my house. We probably hungout until 4 or 5 in the morning, playing music in the kitchen. You know, we got like a Casio keyboard out of the closet or something for Dempsey to clack on. After that I kept in touch, and Ryan Dempsey became a really close friend of ours. He used to actually come out to Montana, visit, and hangout for a little while. He’d ride the Greyhound bus all the way out here. Finally, in 2014 we got the chance to play together. We opened for about 4 dates on their winter tour, and that’s when we were able to finally get in with the Frendly Crew. After those dates we actually gave our information over to Danny Davis and Jack Mitrani from Burton Snowboards, the organizers of Frendly Gathering, and they were more than willing to have us on board. We went to Frendly Gathering last year, and felt a serious connection and a serious love with the people and fans of ours in Vermont. Ever since then us and Twiddle… we’ve almost been able to inherit a lot of their fans through this, and now we’ll be joining them for 17 dates this fall mostly out west, and one date in Philly around Thanksgiving. It’s been a long time coming though and I’m very excited for the steam that’s building behind this tour on social media, and just seems like all across the country people are pretty excited about it.

Grateful Music: Do you mind touching on any recent musical collaborations that come to mind over the past year or two?

Shawn: Yeah, yeah. Some of the collaborations we’ve been able to do have been really exciting. One that really comes to mind is, at Twiddle’s Tumbledown Festival this summer we created something called the Kitchen-Cabinet, which was us and the band Cabinet together. We hadn’t even really met this band until we got there, we all had travel issues getting to Vermont, couldn’t rehearse anything, and basically went out with an 11 person bluegrass band and just winged it. Something about the energy with that band, and the vibe, it was kind of like a love at first site type situation. That was probably, almost, the most fun collaboration I’ve had on stage. The energy was raw, real, it was a packed crowd at Higher Ground in Burlington, and that’s some of the most fun I’ve ever had on stage. Also this past winter, we had the honor of being the backing band for Billy Strings at the Big Grass Festival, and he’s arguably one of the best flat-pickers on the scene right now, and he’s just in his early 20’s. He’s pretty much the next Tony Rice, so to be asked by him to join him was an unbelievable honor.

Grateful Music: I’ll wrap this up here with a one last question. With the strong music scene in Boulder, CO, and being a native raised in Telluride, what sort of significance does playing on the famed Fox Theatre stage mean to you?

Shawn: You know, it actually has a lot. Growing up in Telluride, which was one of the hometowns of the String Cheese Incident, one of the prime locations for Leftover Salmon, obviously you know one of the hot-spots for one of the world’s most prestigious bluegrass festivals, so I was kind of raised around it a lot, and I would say, just from the older days of seeing Yonder shows, and earlier String Cheese, and then Leftover Salmon shows, so The Fox Theatre has always been a legendary and welcoming spot to our genre. Being able to play there as a headliner makes us feel like we’re joining the club, and we finally feel like we’ve been entered into the system. It feels damn good!

Grateful Music: You guys totally deserve it and I can’t thank you enough for having this conversation with me. We can’t wait to see what’s to come this fall!

Interview by: Sam Berenson
Edited by: Greg Heffelfinger

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