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Apr 21 / Josh

Where There’s a Road

Sam Bush 1

Mandolin virtuoso, Sam Bush, offers many insights into living a culinary life as a touring musician. Sam shares stories of his life growing up on a farm, hilarious band stories, and his baseball feud with another famous mandolin player, Jeff Austin.

Growing Up

Sam: “I grew up on a 330 acre farm where beef cattle and tobacco were our main industries. There were 23 milk cows. Everyday my dad would put out these giant milk cans, they would weigh about 100 pounds each. His arms were like steel cables. He and my mom would milk 23 cows in the morning, then she’d go to work at Sears-Roebuck, and when she would come home, they’d milk them again.”

“We had a giant vegetable garden. Everything we ate was basically from our farm. Every Sunday we’d see our grandmother head to the chicken house with a wire and a stick, and we’d know we were having for supper.”

EM: “Was your grandmother a good cook?”

Sam: “You know, I’d like to say she was a great cook, but I just ain’t that great a liar. We loved her dearly, though.”

Keeping It Simple

“I’ve learned to enjoy cooking. Maybe because I grew up on good-time Southern cooking, I just don’t eat like that anymore as an adult. My specialty is brown rice, steamed vegetables, fish. That’s really what I’m interested in eating. I find that the things that are really good for me is what I crave. “

Favorite Restaurants

Durango, CO – “The Palace has excellent continental cuisine. Our friend is the chef there. We’ve known him for many years. We originally met him in Telluride.”

Nashville, TN – “One of our favorites is Koto Sushi Bar. Haji and his wife Sung-Lee. They will treat you right.”

Santa Rosa Beach, FL – Stinky’s Fish Camp – “I’m telling you, if you like fish you have to go to Stinky’s. It’s outside Destin, FL on the gulf coast, between Pensacola and Panama City. Jim Richard, originally from Louisiana, is the owner. They have the greatest oyster shooters… to die for!”

Lenox, MA – The Church Street Café – “One of my best friends in life is the chef, Clayton Hambrick. He and his two partners own it and the lobster pasta. “

After a few minutes of both EM and Sam Bush praising the Berkshires, he mentioned that he has played Tanglewood.

“I played there when I was a member of Emmylou Harris’s band, as a guest on the Prairie Home Companion radio show, and also as a guest to Lyle Lovett’s band. Anytime we’re around there, like when we recently played in Pittsfield, Clayton has us. He closes the restaurant in the winter, but he brought us pasta with lobster, scallops, giant prawns.”

Telluride’s #1 Fan

“We are very thankful when the festivals furnish a great meal. For one, sometimes you don’t have the time to go out and look around. The backstage food that Telluride provides the musicians is really wonderful. It all started when our friend Paul Gelose was the backstage chef. The carrot soup that he makes is incredible. Telluride really accommodates musicians. Paul became Oprah Winfrey’s cook for a year, moved to Chicago, but then moved back to Colorado.”

Favorite Breakfast

“My wife buys these really healthy frozen burritos. We thaw them out, put some eggs over them with hot sauce and avocados.”

Favorite Dessert

“I don’t eat dessert as much as I used to. Once were at the gig and desserts are furnished, I see the other guys eating them but I need to back off. But, my favorite dessert would be the peanut butter pie from Judy’s Castle.”

Late Night Snack

“Reese Cups. If I could just pass by the kitchen without stopping at the Reese’s sack, id probably weigh five pounds less.”

Stinky Bass

“Me and the band were on a plane maybe 5 years ago. Byron, our bass player, was trying to eat a healthy snack so he opened a sealed bag of tuna fish on the plane. You wouldn’t believe the reaction. All of a sudden, I think everyone on the plane knew what was opened. There was a kid in front of him that screamed, ‘Mommy! It stinks!’. I don’t think he’s opened a bag of tuna since.”

Songs About Food

One song that I’ve always enjoyed is by Guy Clarke. He wrote Home Grown Tomatoes.

Its In the Cards

“I was playing with Yonder Mountain during baseball season. I’m a huge St. Louis Cardinals fan and Jeff Austin is a huge Cubs fan. Traditionally these two teams are rivals. Jeff has his Cubs jerseys and I have a couple of Card jerseys. [We had a bet] that if the Cards win, he had to wear a Cards shirt that night. He didn’t want to be photographed wearing that! The game went to 12 innings and he was sweatin’ bullets! I’ll be damned if the Cubs didn’t pull it out after 12 innings. I had to wear a Jersey. I didn’t care too much, but it would’ve killed him to wear a Cards jersey! Jeff is my baseball buddy, a fine ally, and a fine mandolin player.”

Sam plays about 100 gigs a year, and while this sounds intense, Sam explains that it keeps him young. “The older I get, the more I love to play!” Sam is currently on tour and will hitting the festival circuit this summer, including New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival,  Telluride Bluegrass Festival and Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival. Check out his entire roster here.

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