Interview: Molly Tuttle Expands Her ‘Rock Edge’ on ‘When You’re Ready’
Rising performer Molly Tuttle may be releasing her first full-length studio project in 2019, but she has already established herself as a mainstay of the Americana community. A seasoned instrumentalist, she became the first woman in history to win the IBMA's Guitar Player of the Year Award in 2017. Things didn't slow down the following year, either: In 2018, she took home the title of Instrumentalist of the Year at the Americana Honors & Awards.
On her new album, When You're Ready, Tuttle introduces listeners to some aspects of her musical personality that they haven't seen before -- and that might surprise them. For one thing, though many have come to know Tuttle as a musician first, she is also an equally adept songwriter, who sees the two crafts as different sides of the same coin.
"It all really entwines together, the music and the songwriting," Tuttle explained in a recent interview, adding that, for her, the songwriting aspect of her work is often the most creative part of the process.
"I've always loved writing. And reading. I just love working with words," she goes on to say. "It's kind of always been my thing to pursue songwriting, and being a guitar player, too. But that's what makes me the most inspired, I think, is writing a song."
Perhaps the biggest surprise to listeners with only a passing familiarity with Tuttle's music, however, will be the rock inclinations that inform When You're Ready. Tuttle has a strong and well-established foundation in bluegrass, but as she worked on the album, she wanted to cultivate the side of her musical personality that grew up surrounded by rock influences, too. That's part of the reason she was initially drawn to working with producer Ryan Hewitt, who has a background in the genre.
"He's worked with a lot of band that I loved as a kid, that are rock bands -- like Blink 182 and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. And the Avett Brothers, who -- they definitely have rock elements in their music, but they're also an acoustic band," Tuttle relates. "I've always loved indie rock, and I listened to punk rock when I was in middle school, and was in rock bands with my friends. So I thought it was just a cool idea to bring some of that into the new album."
In fact, she points out, rock and punk rock aren't as different from bluegrass as they seem at first glance. When she set about making her record, Tuttle hoped to find common ground between the different musical styles.
"[Hewitt and I] talked a lot about trying to frame what I do in a way that kind of joins Ryan's background of working with rock and punk bands, trying to find ways to show the similarities of what I do to that," she adds. "There's a crossover with bluegrass. I just think there's a cool common ground to be found there."
"I just love working with words ... That's what makes me the most inspired, I think, is writing a song."
Tuttle says that she decided to share "Take the Journey" as the first taste of her new music to showcase that musical transition: "It kind of has a more traditional sound than some of the other stuff on the album," she explains. "It seemed like a good bridge from what I've done in the past, and my bluegrass background. I thought that it could be a nice place to start, as a first single. Something that wasn't too far removed from what I've done in the past, but it's definitely representative of the new sound I was going for."
As her sound evolves, Tuttle finds that the way she plays the songs live is evolving, too. "I'm fully plugging in, because I kind of have to. It's a lot louder," she explains. "It's definitely changed the live show a lot, and that's been really fun, just to play new songs and play with a new band.
"I feel really grateful that I've gotten to play with amazing bluegrass musicians," she adds, "but it's also fun to have a change, and something new."
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