If you’re savvy to Minnesota music, chances are you’ve heard of Trampled by Turtles. Hailing from Duluth, this blue-grass and folk band has released 8 albums and 7 music videos. They’ve played countless festivals, performed on David Letterman (twice), and held a Top 10 spot on the bluegrass charts for 52 weeks. David Simonett, guitarist and vocalist for the group, visited MSU Mankato and sat down with some classes.
I hadn’t heard of Martin Zellar before he came to school, but I’ve been a Trampled by Turtles fan for awhile now. I forget when I first came across them, but I remember “Wait So Long” being their smash at the time, so it was after 2010. I’m mostly familiar with their work after Palomino, my favorite album being Stars and Satellites.
I was fortunate to get one of my songs played for Simonett. This version is pretty bare, but I’m planning on adding more instrumentation.
Simonett liked it! He said I have a “beautiful, unique voice.” I could hardly believe getting that kind of praise from someone who’s made multiple albums that I own. It felt great. He had kind things to say about my classmates, too. I guess we’re a pretty talented bunch.
Unfortunately, Dave Simonett’s concert for the Minnesota Story Tellers Series sold out, so I wasn’t able to attend, but I can offer some insights he shared in class. One thing I found interesting was what he said about collaboration: “I’m limited by my own imagination… Get someone else in there.” I’ve talked about the importance of collaboration before, but I never thought of myself as being restricted when I write alone. He talked a lot about the importance of other people’s input.
When asked how often he plays shows with bluegrass bands, he said, “Almost never.” That came as a surprise. I assumed that most shows or festivals they play would be very genre-specific. He said, “We spent most of our time touring with friends, because we have more fun with friends.” That ties in well with the theme of community championed by my teachers. Who do people want to work with? Not the most talented or the most similar, but people they get along with.
Although I only saw him for the one class, Dave Simonett attended several, played a show at the performing arts building, and was part of Minnesota Story Tellers where he spoke about his songwriting process. This was really cool and informative. I hope we host more artists in the future.