Brian Lesh and Ross James © Stuart Levine

On January 27th, I dropped by Terrapin Crossroads for a good old-fashioned Hoedown with Phil, John Kadlecik, Jason Crosby and the Terrapin Family Band (Grahame Lesh, Brian Lesh, Ross James, Scott Padden and friends).

I caught up with Brian and Ross over a beer, and here’s what they had to say about life in the Family Band and what’s on Terrapin’s agenda for the first half of 2013.

SL: How did you hook up with Ross?Brian Lesh Phil Lesh, John Kadlecik, Alex Nelson © Stuart Levine
Brian Lesh: We actually found Ross through Craigslist about 4 years ago. I was playing in a band with a few friends and we posted an ad for a guitarist. He was in the Bay Area playing music, so we started playing together. We played for a couple of years — and then that band fell apart. Terrapin Crossroads was coming together around the same time and it just worked out. I was finishing up with school and Ross started playing here — it all kind of fell into place.

SL: So, is facial hair a requirement for the Family Band?
Ross James: LOL!
BL: It sure is! You have at least one week to grow some facial hair and everyone has to show they are trying.
RJ: Alex (Nelson) is trying…

SL: I was at the first gig, the soft opening, and it was pretty awesome. What was it like for you?
BL: Well, my first gig actually was on March 17th, not the soft opening. I was still in school during the soft opening. But, I was in town during Spring Break and my first show was on St. Patrick’s Day and it was just great – it was incredible. Until that point, I still didn’t know what it was like. I’d gotten phone calls and had seen pictures and heard stories about it, because everyone had been working on it for so long. Then I came in and it was pretty incredible; I had no idea what to expect. You know, it was hectic and kind of a mad house — but then everything magically came together — it was great.

© Stuart LevineSL: How do you guys come up with your set list? Is it collaborative?
RJ: It depends on the day…
BL: When we first started out, we were like “does anyone know any songs?” If you could sing it and you could play it, then you taught it to everyone else. But now we have a repertoire to draw from. Plus we go back to stuff we haven’t played for a while, or we listen to something we thought was really cool and want to try again. Usually though, everyone picks the songs they want to sing. Like, I’ll want to sing these two songs and Ross will want to sing those two songs and then we’ll put them into some kind of order. It also changes when we have guests coming in. For example, when Further was in town we leaned toward the Dead repertoire because it was that kind of scene – you know, people were in town to see them. So, it’s also situational.

SL: You’ve play with some amazing musicians — Tim Bluhm, Jackie Greene, Chris Robinson… Who would you like to play with next?
RJ: Justin Townes Earle and Steve Earle. Either one — or together!

SL: And do you think that could happen?
BL: Well, Justin was recently in town playing The Sweetwater and there was talk of playing together, but it just didn’t work-out. But hopefully — maybe in the future. Justin’s on the top of my list.

SL: So what’s it like playing with your Dad (Phil Lesh) and your brother (Grahame Lesh)?Alex Nelson Scott Padden Phil Lesh Brian Lesh and Ross James © Stuart Levine
BL: It’s incredible… Yeah, it’s pretty great. There’s no way to describe it other than it’s just really comfortable. I’ve played with him (Phil) for so long that I know what’s going to happen. You know it’s going to end up all right musically, so you can kind of let go. And then it’s just fun too — it’s cool to be up there doing it.

SL: Do feel added pressure because it’s your dad?
BL: No, not all (laughing). I feel more pressure when I’m up there and Jeff Chimenti takes a solo and throw’s it to me. I’m like “really?” But no, it’s all pretty low-key.

SL: So Ross, what’s the deal with the red pick-up truck on your amp? Any story behind that?
RJ: No. No real story there. It’s just a toy. I like old stuff, and I got that on EBay a while ago. I’d love the real thing — that would be cool. I’ll get one eventually.

Ross James © Stuart LevineSL: What other instruments do you play?
RJ: Anything I can get my hands on.

SL: What kind of music are you listening to these days?
RJ: Well, some Devendra Banhart. And an old Waylon record (Waylon Jennings Live’74). That’s what’s in my truck right now.

SL: You recently purchased as Leslie… How do you like that sound?
RJ: Oh, it’s the best. It’s awesome — I’m really diggin’ it.

SL: Has it changed your sound?
RJ: Oh yeah, yeah — it totally changed the way I play. It’s really fun.

SL: What’s in store for 2013?
BL: Oh, so much. It’s just more of everything. More music, more events, more parties, more of it all…. Our group, American Jubilee, which is made up of me, Ross, Alex Koford and Scott Padden are going to start doing a weekly thing at Terrapin. We’re going to bring more people into the Family Band, to make it an ensemble cast. Folks like Alex Nelson (Walking Spanish) and Emily Sunderland will sing and play with us. We’ll also have nights where we feature an outside player – like Mark Karan or Stu Allen. We’ve got some rambles coming up with Jackie Greene, which will be great. And then some fun things in March.

SL: Terrapin’s one year anniversary is coming up. Anything big planned?
BL: Yes, there will be something — it’s still in the working stages. But, it definitely will be something big. So look out for that.

SL: And what about Phil’s birthday?
BL: Yeah, it will all be rolled into one party. There will be a big birthday show, and a one year anniversary show and it’s also St. Patrick’s Day.
RJ: And it’s my birthday…
BL: And it’s Ross’ birthday. Which is the really big event — it will be just great!

January 27, 2013 Terrapin Crossroads Setlist

Hoedown with Phil, John Kadlecik, Jason Crosby and the Terrapin Family Band.
Terrapin Family Band consists of Ross James, Brian James Lesh, Scott Padden, and Alex Koford featuring Alex Nelson and Emily Sunderland

Deep Elem Blues (JK)
Tin Roof Shack (JK)
Apartment Song (RJ)
Friend of the Devil (BL, PL)
Ramshackle Shack on the Hill (AN)
One Too Many Mornings (JK)
She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain (PL, JK, BL)
Saint Dude (JC)
Jack-a-Roe (JK)
Big Railroad Blues (RJ)
Angel from Montgomery (ES)
Old Home Place (BL)
If You Got to Go, Go Now (RJ)
Peaceful Valley (JK)
Dire Wolf (JK)
Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms (BL)
Donor RapHappy Birthday, HarryI Know You Rider

Ed Note: Thanks for the interview Stuart!   Stuart is a contributor to Relix and, as well as a supporter and friend of DeadHeadLand!  You can view more of Stuarts great Bay Area rock concert photography here: Caught in the Act