Ride and Roll: A Conversation With Travis Book of the Infamous Stringdusters

Two years ago, a friend handed me a copy of “Let it Go,” the fifth album from the Grammy-nominated bluegrass band The Infamous Stringdusters.

“Just watch,” he said. “These guys will be playing Red Rocks in the next couple of years.”

He was right. The progressive acoustic quintet will officially have the honors of taking the stage at the legendary amphitheater on May 6 along with PDX-based Fruition and Southern infusion jam band—JJ Grey & Mofro.

This year marks the 10-year anniversary of the band’s inception as well as the launch of the group’s sixth full-length studio album, “Ladies & Gentleman,” a collection of tunes highlighting The Infamous Stringdusters’ artful composition skills and transcendental instrumentals as well as the group’s knack for orchestrating exciting collaborations. We recently caught up with Travis Book, upright base player for the ‘Dusters and aficionado of two-wheeled transportation, to chat about the band’s latest album release, his love of mountain towns and his favorite places to ride in his free time.

As a band, you guys tour—a lot. But you make just as many stops in small mountain towns as you do big city venues. Why?

Those are our people in a lot of ways. There’s so much energy in mountain towns. They want to get out and party and have a great time. You go to Jackson, Wyoming, and people are there because they’re trying to have an amazing experience every day of their lives. The other side of the coin is that we love going to these towns ourselves. We definitely use the band as a driver to experience things outside of just playing shows.

You’re an avid cyclist and mountain biker. Where’s your favorite place to ride?

I ride as much as possible. I live in Brevard, North Carolina, and there’s a great riding community there. Mountain bikes, riding gravel, riding road—I love all of it. But I really love riding mountain bikes in DuPont State Forest. A day in the Pisgah is really great, too. I’m from Colorado and I would also take riding from town in Durango any day of the year. There are five different trail systems and you can ride them all from town. Palmer Lake, where I grew up, also has some hidden gems. There’s a lot of horse trails there and a lot of old mining roads. It’s a really sweet spot.

You recently started a program called Bluegrass, Bikes, & Beers. Tell us more…

I got inspired to put together those three things because I love music, and riding bikes and drinking beer. We do a group ride during the day and then we play bluegrass and serve beer at a free event that night to help raise money for local bike clubs. We’re doing a six-show tour through the Blue Ridge Mountains this April, May and June. People can visit bikesbluegrassbeer.com for the official dates.

You recently released “Ladies & Gentleman,” the ‘Duster’s sixth full-length studio album and the band’s first album that features a different female guest singer on lead vocals on each song. What inspired the direction of this album?

FrontCover_CMYK cover image

In our band, we have lots of singers, but one thing that we definitely don’t have is … any estrogen. For the most part all of the guest vocalists we have on this album are our friends and contemporaries in our little corner of this musical world. We started making lists and matching names to songs—everything came together really organically. We just knew that taking this approach to this album would be really challenging and really interesting. Bluegrass has always been a really prime place for evolution and exploration.

Playing Red Rocks is one of the top goals for any band. Since you guys are set to accomplish that goal this year, what’s next?

We hadn’t really thought much past 10 years, past playing places like Red Rocks and the Fillmore in San Francisco. I don’t really know what’s next. I think we’re just going to continue to explore the music and try to reach more and more people. We’re already working on our next record. We’re hoping to have that out in February of next year. We really believe that our music has good effect on the world and on the people that are part of it. Hopefully, that continues to grow because if you can be a force for good in this world, that’s a gift.

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