Take Five with Molly Tuttle

Photo by Samantha Muljat
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As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 19 – Spring 2022

Award-winning guitarist and songwriter artist Molly Tuttle known in the Americana/bluegrass scene, hailing from Northern California and now residing in Nashville, is highly acclaimed in this genre and receives great praise from the many artists who have collaborated with her. 

On her upcoming album Crooked Tree, which was recorded live at Oceanway Studios in Nashville, set to release on April 1, 2022, via Nonesuch Records, with her bluegrass collective, Golden Highway, Tuttle and the band create a sound unlike any other — raw, soothing, and comforting, with a sonic quality that feels familiar, yet fresh. Golden Highways is made up of Bronwyn Keith-Hynes (fiddle), Dominick Leslie (mandolin), Shelby Means (bass), and Kyle Tuttle (banjo)

Tuttle and Golden Highway’s first single release from the album of the same name, “Crooked Tree,” came out on January 20, 2022. Each track from Crooked Tree showcases Tuttle’s incredible guitar skill, for which she was the first woman ever named Guitar Player of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association. When asked about her favorite guitar to play, Tuttle responded that she’s “been playing her Prewar Guitar 28 model with Brazilian Rosewood back and sides.”

Photo by Samantha Muljat

Crooked Tree is comprised of 13 tracks produced by Tuttle and Jerry Douglas. Collaborations on the album included the likes of Sierra Hull, Old Crow Medicine Show, Margo Price, Billy Strings, Dan Tyminski, and Gillian Welch, and Tuttle said of working with these artists, “It was amazing! I’m a huge fan of all of them, and each special guest brought so much to these songs.”

In the press release announcing the album, it was stated that all of the tracks were co-written by Tuttle and that the album “explores Tuttle’s love of bluegrass, which she discovered through her father, a music teacher and multi-instrumentalist, and her grandfather, a banjo player.” 

“I always knew I wanted to make a bluegrass record someday,” Tuttle says. “Once I started writing, everything flowed so easily: sometimes I’ve felt an internal pressure to come up with a sound no one’s heard before, but this time my intention was just to make an album that reflected the music that’s been passed down through generations in my family. I found a way to do that while writing songs that feel true to who I am, and it really helped me to grow as a songwriter.”

As a solo artist, Tuttle has released two full-length albums. These include her 2019 debut, When You’re Ready, and, …but i’d rather be with you, a covers album released in 2020. Both albums were received incredibly well and garnered Tuttle a lot of well-earned success.

What do you want listeners to take away from Crooked Tree?
I would love for listeners to connect with the songs and maybe even try to learn them! I imagined these songs played under the trees late at night around a campfire.  

How has the response to the single “Crooked Tree” made you feel? It’s an incredible special song – congratulations! 
Thank you! The response has been really validating. I knew that “Crooked Tree” had a special meaning to me when I wrote it, and I’m happy to know that it has resonated with others in the same way.

How did your new bluegrass collective Golden Highway come to be? 
I wanted a project where I could express my love and respect for the bluegrass music I grew up with and play with my friends and heroes within the genre. I named my bluegrass band “Golden Highway” after Highway 49, which leads to Grass Valley, CA, where I first went to a bluegrass festival when I was 10 years old. I hope to grow this project for many years to come!  

What was the major source of inspiration for this project? 
Playing music with my dad when I was growing up. My dad grew up on a farm in Illinois and learned to play bluegrass from my grandfather, who played the banjo. Those early musical memories inspired this record.  

What has being a woman in the music industry been like for you? It is not always as easy to pave your way in a male-led industry — tell us about that. 
It’s been discouraging at times, and I’ve had to get used to being the only woman on stage or at the jam session much of the time. I’ve felt underestimated and taken advantage of at times. There is so much joy in making music with other women, though. I think the shared experience of being in a male-led industry brings a lot of solidarity and mutual support.

Crooked Tree Tracklist

  1. She’ll Change
  2. Flatland Girl feat. Margo Price
  3. Dooley’s Farm feat. Billy Strings
  4. Big Backyard feat. Old Crow Medicine Show
  5. Crooked Tree
  6. Castilleja
  7. The River Knows
  8. Over the Line feat. Sierra Hull
  9. Nashville Mess Around
  10. San Francisco Blues feat. Dan Tyminski
  11. Goodbye Girl
  12. Side Saddle feat. Gillian Welch
  13. Grass Valley

Crooked Tree also features musicians Darol Anger (fiddle), Ron Block (banjo), Mike Bub (upright bass), Jason Carter (fiddle), Viktor Krauss (upright bass), Todd Phillips (upright bass), and Christian Sedelmyer (fiddle) with additional harmony vocals from Tina Adair, Lindsay Lou, and Melody Walker.

Bluegrass collective Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway present the exquisite album Crooked Tree for country and blues lovers everywhere. The Northern California native displays her generational history of musical talents along with a tremendous troupe of troubadours. One amazing single is the nostalgic “Flatland Girl” about Tuttle’s longing for country roads and the Southern lifestyle. The title track “Crooked Tree” stands out as a swinging anthem with attitude and a gorgeous story that demonstrates the artists’ songwriting skills. “Grass Valley” rounds out this emotional album about Tuttle’s upbringing and family values. 

Full of spirit and wonder, Crooked Tree stands out as a classic bluegrass album with much deserving award-winning musicians front and center. With banjos and multiple fiddle players, this record has the timeless appeal of the Americana genre. Listeners can expect to love each song that stays in the memory for an album to listen to over and over. Even if you can’t make it to an upcoming Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway show, you can still have fun dancing and singing along to this record from your speakers. 

From the opening notes of track one, “She’ll Change,” Tuttle and band showcase their diverse talents as a collective should — with harmony, grace, and great melodies that bring out an energetic feel. The Golden Highway collective is set to embark on a headlining tour this year, so audiences should be prepared for a great bluegrass show of a lifetime! Molly Tuttle and band perform as a family and tight-knit friend group to complement each other’s sounds. Crooked Tree is remarkable in its relatable appeal while also standing out in the bluegrass music scene.

The sweet sounds of this album bring back childhood wonder and a love for music as a family. Crooked Tree is a must-have for your record collection.

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Gabbi Calvert is a writer, publicist, and artist from Findlay, Ohio who now resides in Nashville, TN. Gabbi is incredibly passionate about all things pop culture, but her forever love is music. Following her passion for entertainment and music, she graduated from Belmont University in April of 2021 with a B.S. in Creative and Entertainment Industries with a minor in music business. Her academic endeavors led her to find a home working in music public relations and she is now a senior publicist at Publicity Nation PR. Not only does Gabbi work and thrive in the music industry, she is also a musical artist herself. She began singing and playing gigs at the age of 12 in her hometown and has an extensive background in performance. Under her stage name Gabrielle Vaughn, she has released two singles. Gabbi is also a member of the all-female cross-genre supergroup The Highway Women. In her free time, Gabbi loves spending time with friends and family, attending drag shows, and bonding with her two guinea pigs Queenie and Peach, and her cat Mitzi.