Dave Bruzza of Greensky Bluegrass talks touring, songwriting and more in exclusive interview

Assistant Music Director Bailey Liverman sits down with Dave Bruzza of Greensky Bluegrass for an exclusive interview. Bruzza discusses songwriting, movies, favorite bands and performing at WinterWonderGrass.

Dave Bruzza of Greensky Bluegrass talks touring, songwriting and more in exclusive interview

Bailey Liverman, KCSU Music

In the beautiful mountains of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, hundreds of woodland dwellers gather once a year to celebrate one of the most good-timin’ music genres: bluegrass.

In anticipation of WinterWonderGrass 2023, I got the opportunity to interview Dave Bruzza, the guitarist of the not-quite bluegrass, not-quite jam band, not-quite rock band, Greensky Bluegrass, about selling out Red Rocks, finding inspiration and playing WinterWonderGrass.

Bailey: “What have y’all been up to lately as a band? What’s goin’ on?”

Dave: “Well, we just got home from winter tour. It was quite a great tour, really feels nice to be back out there, and really starting to feel more like it used to feel…it was excellent.”

Bailey: “I know that y’all sold out at Red Rocks three times this year, how was it to sell out those shows?”

Dave: “I don’t know that those shows were sold out. We’ve sold out Red Rocks before though, we’ve been playing there for many years. It’s quite an incredible venue. It’s known around the world – to be able to play there is such a special thing, and it’s something I don’t think any of us take for granted by any means. It’s also nice because for the past ten years I’ve been living in the Front Range of Colorado so it’s kind of a hometown show now. It’s just really special.”

Bailey: “I didn’t make it out to the shows this year, but my best friend’s mom was there, and I heard through the grapevine that it was an incredible show. Who have you been listening to lately? Who are some of your favorite artists who inspire y’all’s sound?”

Dave: “It’s quite a wide net, so to speak, because everyone has a little bit of this, a little bit of that. We draw from many different wells. For me lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of surf rock right now. That’s what I like right now, but that could change at any second. That’s what I’ve been listening to this morning, at least.”

Bailey: “What surf rock bands have you been listening to? What are some of your favorites?”

Dave: “There’s this band out of Toronto, they’re called the Surfrajettes. They’re so cool. I really, really like listening to them. I haven’t seen them live, but I have a lot of their singles they put out on 45 records, and they put out a full length record last year and I went and bought it. I like their vibe. I’ve seen photos and videos of them- they have the gogo boots, and the cool hair and amazing music. They’re pretty rad.”

Bailey: “Sweet, I haven’t actually heard of them, but I’ll have to check them out after this.”

Dave: “Yeah you should! They’re really fun.”

Bailey: “So I know bluegrass has changed a lot over the last few decades, with the confluence of traditional bluegrass with jam bands and stuff like that. How has that affected y’all, and what is it like seeing bluegrass become more and more popular over the years?”

Dave: “Hmm. I mean, it’s been an evolutionary music for so long, when you even think about the Dillards and John Hatford and stuff like that. It’s really nice to see. I guess in like 2000, 2001, when ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’ came out, there seemed to be a really good resurgence of the popularity [of bluegrass] and people were more aware of it. But then it kind of, of course, becomes a little more underground at some times, except for a lot of the heady music lovers. It’s really nice to see bluegrass on late night TV or be recognized on a larger scale as it is these days. Music is music, really, to me. I can’t speak for everyone else anywhere, but if it’s good music it’s good music. I don’t really care what it is. I do have a lot of love for bluegrass, obviously, and it’s nice to see it recognized.”

Bailey: “Absolutely! Me and some of my coworkers here at the station have been talking about that a lot. I don’t really like the idea of genre, I just separate music into music I like and music I don’t. What are some of your favorite of y’alls songs that you’ve ever put out?”

Dave: “Our newest record is great. I’m a big fan of ‘Stress Dreams’ that Mike Devol, our bass player, wrote and composed. I think it’s such a great step forward, a fresh thing, because it’s the first song Mike ever wrote, really. He’s such a talented musician, and we’ve always arranged together in the studio over the years. He’s not unaware of the process by any means. I really like what he did, and what he put together.”

Bailey: “One of my friends wanted to ask this question- What is the most inspirational environment you’ve ever created in?”

Dave: “Wow, that’s a great question. I’ve never really put much thought into that. Creativity can spark and happen anywhere. For example, I can wake up in my bed in the middle of the night- I used to keep a pen and paper by my bed, but now everything is so digital, I can say it into my phone. But, I’ve written songs on my sofa, I’ve written songs on the bus, I’ve written songs in the hotel. One of the studios we world in for the Stress Dreams record, Guilford Studios in Guilford, Vermont… was very very incredible. We were on a bunch of acres in southern Vermont, and it was a beautiful old building. We were secluded up there in the Green Mountains. That was just really serene, and very inspiring. I think it was two weeks solid, just messing around in the studio everyday with all these songs. Really great environment, really inspiring. Of course, it could be anywhere, anytime.”

Bailey: “Do you find that places with really beautiful outdoor spaces are more inspirational than others?”

Dave: “No. They can be, but every place has some kind of inspiration. You can find it anywhere. It’s more about the person than anything. You could be sitting at a junkyard. You could be anywhere, and inspiration strikes if you’re open to that experience and if you’re open to that hitting you, and just taking that and saying what you want to say. It could be any medium, it could be painting, could be music, could be writing, whatever…I find that I’m open to all spaces. You get a little bit of a different vibration from one thing to the next.”

Bailey: “Are there any spaces that you find yourself creating in more often than others?”

Dave: “Yeah. I’m sitting in my office, in my home, and I feel myself spending a couple hours a day here when I’m off the road and when I’m not doing shows and stuff. I’ve got it set up nice and comfortably, so I can just sit here and create. It’s a safe space, so that really helps too.”

Bailey: “Awesome. I’ve done a couple interviews with other artists playing WinterWonderGrass, is there something about WinterWonderGrass that you like in particular, as compared to other festivals?”

Dave: “Yeah! We’ve played at every one, pretty much, except for last year. We played the first one. It’s a pretty unique experience as musicians – especially for bluegrass – because cold weather doesn’t like acoustic instruments that much. It’s such a cool vibe to be able to ski all day and then come down and play for people when everyone’s still in their gear and having a good time. We’ve got a lot of love and respect for [the organizers] for doing what they’ve done for so long. We’re absolutely over the moon and happy to get back up to Steamboat. It’s such a beautiful town, and a great place to ski, and a cool, fun adventurous idea. I love the life that it’s taken on.”

Bailey: “Is there something specific that keeps you guys coming back to WinterWonderGrass? Any special winter magic or anything?”

Dave: “I mean, we’ve been lucky enough to play all of them, but it’s a pretty special event! It’s family-esque, we’re pretty tight with [everyone there]. I always look forward to it because there are so many people to say hello to…there are a lot of memories, and you get to talk with all your friends. Simple stuff like that really gets me going, especially for this event.”

Bailey: “Do you have any tips and tricks for someone for their first time attending WinterWonderGrass?”

Dave: “Yeah, layer up and drink lots of water. A lot of people come from out of Colorado and they don’t understand it, they come up there and it’s like, ‘Yeah, you’re in the mountains.’ As soon as that sun goes down it’s gonna get chilly and yeah, you need to drink water so you don’t pass out.”

Bailey: Yeah, that altitude can get ya.

Greensky Bluegrass perform at WinterWonderGrass 2023, which takes place in Steamboat, CO March 3-5. More information on Greensky Bluegrass can be found on their website.