Crying Uncle Interview

Mar 29, 2024 | Welcome Column

Our home grown California bluegrass band Crying Uncle generated a lot of buzz with their recent performance on The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. I figured it was time to do my first interview and they said yes!

Andrew Osborn and Miles Quayle kindly made use of their time during a busy weekend playing for fans at the Lake Havasu Festival in Arizona. Andrew even repeated our Zoom interview via text after I forgot to press record. He’s much more fun live on Zoom but at least we got the gist of it. I really enjoyed interacting with these young bluegrass virtuosos and becoming more familiar with their music.

My fellow welcome columnist Dave Berry did a great interview with Miles for Bluegrass Today recently (see link at bottom). Dave included a link of Andrew playing his trombone on stage with Marty Stuart. I was amazed that such a thing could happen in the bluegrass world. So one of my first questions for Andrew was about that.

Q: What was it like playing your trombone with bluegrass icons like Marty?

Andrew: I had a lot of fun playing with Marty Stuart. He and his band are very excellent musicians.

Q: Your dad is a well known fiddle contest competitor so I wondered if you guys might have met at a fiddle contest but actually it was through the late Frank Solivan and Kids on Bluegrass. You must have been to a lot of fiddle contests. The atmosphere seems stilted to me, at least on stage. Musicians seem to have more fun and play better when they can let it rip outside in informal jam sessions.

Andrew: I actually don’t enjoy contest music, though I love fiddle tunes. As you said, the contest itself can suck the fun out of the tunes.

Q: Bluegrass music is always evolving. What are your thoughts?

Andrew: I think the best way to evolve with bluegrass is to first know how to play in the classic bluegrass style, but also be willing to branch out and try different things with it.

Q: You guy’s homes are pretty close by in the bay area. That must have been a big plus in gelling the band.

Andrew: It was very helpful living close as the band was growing. We are farther now but it works okay since we are playing bigger shows where we need to travel anyways. With that we can go do music or do a more standard career path.

Q: Your band has been very successful. What are your plans?

Andrew: I think our goals (at least mine) is to graduate college.

I’m sad that my full Zoom interview with Andrew was lost. I was very impressed by this soft spoken but very focused young man. The music of Andrew’s band speaks volumes. As mentioned before, Miles had previous interview experience. Here is that interview:

Q: I didn’t get the whole story from Andrew about how the band got its name. What’s the real scoop?

Miles: The name has 2 origins:

a) There is a game in which two people try to hurt each other until one cries Uncle.  Some people have tried to connect this to our on-stage playing as some sort of metaphor for the internal musical competition between brothers.  This is false, we just fought a lot as kids haha.

b) In the cartoon Tom and Jerry, Uncle Pedro is Jerry’s uncle who plays music close adjacent to Bluegrass and the name of the episode is Cry Uncle

Q: Your band is playing up in BC over Father’s Day so I will miss you this time. (Darn! because I have become very fond of your band as a result of researching this article). Anyway you will be playing alongside the likes of Michael Cleveland and Caleb Klauder, two of my favorites. You and Teo sometimes do a duo act and I was interested to see that your duo act included mandolin with fiddle. I have the Foghorn Duo CD that Caleb did with Sammy. I expected to hear that combination on their CD since those two instruments are their respective fortes but they never went there. They always backed with a guitar or banjo. Do you and Teo worry about the duplication of range in your instruments? Obviously you made it work. It sounds great but I wonder if you thought about any adjustments to make the music sound fuller without a different range.

Miles: Our biggest inspiration for the Mandolin/Fiddle duo was definitely Mike Marshall and Darol Anger.  Due to the picking and bowing differences, the timbre of the instruments are different enough to have some sort of contrast.

Q: Tell  me a little about your band mates. I gather from Andrew that you guys met via KOB and not fiddle contests (which I assumed given the other indicators).

Miles: We met both Andrew and Ian at the CBA father’s day bluegrass festival actually.  We met Andrew maybe close to 10 years ago (if not longer), through the Kids on Bluegrass program.  He joined our Band at the time called Rambling Minors, and when that ended he eventually joined up with Crying Uncle Bluegrass Band.  He’s a mechanical engineering major at Cal Poly and also plays a number of brass instruments. We met Ian through Jams around the campsites over the years.  At this last Father Day fest, we needed a Guitar sub for our guitarist at the time, John Gooding, and I reached out to Ian and from there he started playing with us. He’s also the current National Flat picking Champion.

Q: I love how your band reaches for new horizons while staying true to the foundations of bluegrass. The title of one of your recordings mentions a Monroe bridge. Do you have some thoughts about where the music we call bluegrass is going and where it should go?

Miles: I think that all musics change over time in order to survive each generation.  It happened to Classical, Rock, Jazz, and every other.  A lot of people get nit-picky with Bluegrass and want it to stay trad, but I think that if the music is going to stay alive, it’s going to need to evolve.  That doesn’t mean that Trad grass has to go, it just means that there also needs to be room for new things to happen in the genre.  We like to push the boundaries on a fair number of our songs, while still keeping a solid bunch of classics in the repository.

Q: Your interview with my welcome column colleague Dave Berry was very interesting. What question might you have answered a bit differently after thinking about it and what question would you like to be asked?

Miles: The questions regarding how I settled musical disputes with my brothers growing up, as they’re both amazing musicians.  I answered this question somewhat satirically (fist fights), but in all honesty we haven’t had much controversy in our musical journey.  We get along really well, and Teo is still my favorite musician to play with.  Any fights we did have were settled with fist fights (hence the name crying uncle), and no grudges were left after.

A question I would’ve liked to have been asked was:  Top advice for getting better at your instrument? a) it might sound simple, but practice like you want to be the best.  b) don’t get lost in the academics of music and instead focus on what sounds good to you c) find your own sound, copying and learning from the masters is great, but at the end of the day really try to find your own musical identity

Q:The impetus for this discussion is the buzz generated from your recent performance on the Grand Old Opry. Any extra background and impressions you had at the time on would be great.

Miles: The Grand Ole Opry was amazing.  Teo and I were lucky enough to play on it back in 2019 as a duo when Marty Stuart and Ms Connie Smith invited us out, but it was very special getting to have the whole band up there.  I feel like the opry is something that most Bluegrass/Country folk aspire to (just even based on the number of songs written about it), so it was a huge honor getting to officially getting up there.  We got to stay in the same green room that all first timers get, and being backstage with acts such as the Old Crow Medicine Show was definitely a treat.  They also have the most buttery and best popcorn backstage.  Teo and I both started playing around 2 or 3, and we’ve been playing gigs since we were 7 years old, playing on the street and at farmers markets, so I think that the guys in the band really deserved this.  People ask how we’re able to play these prestigious venues at a somewhat young age, but I like to think that we’ve definitely put in a fair amount of time and work into this journey and the Opry is kind of like the culmination of more than a decade of building up the band. Also note that my mother was and is instrumental in the bands success and we would most certainly not be where we are today without her help.

Have fun at Lake Havasu! Thanks for helping me understand your band. I can’t get enough of you guys. Keep up the good work

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