Before Breckenridge Brewery's annual Hootenanny, we asked Leftover Salmon's Drew Emmitt for some advice on how to have a lengthy career.

Drink beer, listen to music and grow old with a smile on your face: Wouldn’t that be the greatest existence any one being could possibly comprehend? Maybe not all of those in debilitating excess, perhaps, because there are still those nagging adult issues like rent, taxes and the occasional “getting behind the wheel of a car” thing everyone worries about — but, hey, once in a while? Sure.

And in just a few weeks Breckenridge Brewery plans to deliver those greatest pleasures wrapped into one mega-event for the grand opening of its new 12 acre beer farm and to celebrate 25 years of being a brewery. The annual Hootenanny — a pig roast, beer tasting and music listening extravaganza — lands on July 18 and will be the lift-off point to transitioning everything from its current location to its newest in Littleton, CO.

Headlining the event is Leftover Salmon, a long-standing Colorado act with some of the jamiest, bluegrassiest, rockiest tunes the state has ever produced. With a successful career also spanning close to 25 years, the band has grown alongside Breckenridge Brewery, each chiseling its own niche over the years in the local culture. The band will be releasing a live album at the Hootenanny along with a collaborative beer they, and Breckenridge Brewery, have been developing recently.

We caught up with Leftover Salmon’s Drew Emmitt before the event to discuss the band’s lengthy career and asked him to throw down some first-hand knowledge on how the young whippersnappers out in the world can live a life drenched in the finer things in life ….

– photo: Jay Blakesberg

Congratulations on a solid twenty-five years! How did the matchup between you and Breckenridge Brewery begin?

We played Breckenridge Brewery way back in the day in Breckenridge. Probably when they were just starting out as well, so we have that small connection that started it.

And you both have watched each other grow and expand through the years?

Not so much until just a few years ago when we collaborated with them for the early release of an album. That was really the first time we really connected with them, but our manager had been in contact with them, and had them involved with some of the things we were doing. As far as direct involvement with the band, that was the first time we collaborated. Now we have our own beer with them, the Silver Salmon Lager. It’s exciting!

How did creating your own beer come up in conversation?

Well they offered it to us and we thought, ‘Ya, that’s a great idea, obviously.’ It’s a great mutual promotion. Our manager has been the brainchild behind a lot of this. We jumped at the chance, because we love beer, and we love the Breckenridge company — it just made sense.

It’s about the most Colorado-y thing anyone can do — combining a Colorado band with a Colorado beer …

[laughs] Right, absolutely.

But now getting into the success of the band: What do you see as the defining factor of having such a long career?

Probably … first off … we’re just crazy enough to keep touring. It is hard and it does break a lot of bands to tour. It’s challenging. It has not been easy. But we love the music and we have a good time playing together. We’ve been lucky enough to be on the festival circuit and have been really supported by our fans on festivals and with touring. It has everything to do with fans and them supporting us. We’ve been fortunate with a loyal base.

The last few years — after we had our break and got back together — we’ve had a resurgence of more and more younger people coming to see us who have never seen us before.

Do you see the folk explosion of the past 4 or 5 years helping you guys out, getting that younger crowd into other, similar genres that Leftover Salmon sometimes gets classified into?

Maybe. You know those bands are quite a bit different from us. It’s a different world that they’re in. I think a lot of the younger people come to see us because of the live recordings we have out there.

In the few years we took off, there was a lot of those recordings floating around, and I’ve talked to a lot of people that say, ‘Well, I’ve heard you, but I’ve never gotten to see you before.’ I’ve also talked to a lot of people who have never seen us before and it’s their first show — which is amazing to me after twenty-five years that people are first discovering us.

But ya, I think it all helps. That whole movement, with Mumford and Avett and all those guys, definitely helps the scene in general bringing in more and more people. The radio is a very powerful tool … one of which we haven’t really been able to take advantage of [laughs] …

No, I don’t see you guys being played on 93.3 or 106.7 anytime soon …

[laughs] Nope… nope.

But you guys have word of mouth, which is just as well!

You know, for longevity that’s probably the best way because when you have true fans coming back and telling their friends — it may not be as fast as radio, but it may last longer.

Do you pay attention to the industry drama at all, about the streaming and major label hate currently going on and dividing the business as a whole?

Oh yes. Oh ya [laughs] definitely. As long as we’ve been in this business we’ve watched it change. One thing that has been really interesting is the full circle back to vinyl. It’s gotten so much into the download thing, and iTunes, and people not really buying CDs anymore, but now people are really interested in vinyl. Personally I just bought a record played a couple of weeks ago, so I’m getting back into it.

But yes, it’s very interesting because there was a time when record labels were vital and really important in the progress of a band. We were on a major label for a while and had a couple records with them. But slowly they’ve been losing their power. Unless it’s a huge act like, Taylor Swift, or something like that that still sells records — but ya, we’re watching things change.

One thing we’re doing: we’re putting out this live record soon, but we probably won’t print it; it will just be a download. We’re gonna make one more record in the fall, down in New Orleans, and release that one, too. But that’s probably going to be the last one we do as a CD. I think CDs (will) be gone in the next five years or sooner. Which is sad. It may come back to that, but it’s looking like it’s all gonna be download. We’re going with it.

In closing do you have any advice for these young artists out there looking to have a long career doing something they love doing?

Practice makes perfect:  “Be patient and work on your craft as much as possible. Get as good as you can.“
Songs won't ever go out of style:  “Another thing is write songs: Songs are the key regardless of what the format is, regardless of how the industry is becoming. The songs remain. What people really remember about a band is the songs and what they take away from it. Writing songs is #1.”
Why so serious?  “Have fun. Don’t take yourself too seriously.”
Comparison is the devil in disguise: “Don’t let the competition get to you because it’s very competitive. Don’t let that bother you. Just keep doin’ it.”