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root salad Molly Tuttle


American women: 2 – Cara Gibney talks to an award-winning singer/guitarist.


I


s Molly Tuttle an old soul? She may be in her twenties but the award- winning singer, songwriter and banjo-playing guitarist has been making music since she was eight. Her recording career started at the age of thir- teen, and by fifteen she was performing with her family band, The Tuttles. So, it makes sense that she has since gone on to win the 2018 Folk Alliance Song Of The Year award for her track You Didn’t Call My Name, from her debut solo Rise EP. Before that she won last year’s Interna- tional Bluegrass Music Association's award for Guitar Player Of The Year; indeed, she was the first female artist in the IBMA’s entire history ever to do so.


With all of this buzz around her, it looks


like Molly Tuttle is on the ascendancy, but she can remember those formative years, and how important it was to have a role model. “I remember growing up and it was hard to find other women who played gui- tar, women to look up to who played lead guitar.” The ones she did find are still mak- ing an impact. “So yeah, I hope I can be a role model for girls who might want to play guitar, that was really special to me.”


Growing up in the San Francisco Bay area, it was her father who first took Molly under his wing, tutoring her on how to play. “He was my main teacher growing up,” she explained of her dad, Jack Tuttle, the multi- instrumentalist bluegrass instructor. “He taught me guitar and banjo.”


It paid off. Her masterful clawhammer, flatpicking and cross picking flourished under watchful paternal tutelage that spans generations. After her initial performance on stage at eleven years old, the die was cast, and there was basically no stopping her. “Gradually through high school I just got more and more obsessed with music and I realised I wanted to do that [as a career],” she went on to explain of her early days. “I guess I just performed more and more as a teenager. I loved performing. I really looked forward to it and it would kind of push me to work on music if I knew I had a show coming up.”


It wasn’t until she was fifteen that she joined the family band, but her musicianship and vocal ability had already come to the fore a couple of years before that when she recorded her first album, The Old Apple Tree, a collection of duets with her father. A few years later the family band self-released Introducing The Tuttles, and this was fol- lowed with their Endless Ocean album in 2013. “Every recording experience I've done is so different,” she told me of how all this


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has ultimately helped her navigate a bur- geoning music career. “Growing up, I always just recorded at my house … It's always such a big learning experience … It would have been harder if I was just going into the stu- dio recording for the first time ever.”


A


ll of this led to her winning schol- arships for the renowned Berklee College of Music. This created its own new horizons, not least hav- ing “a couple of years to just completely immerse myself and practise and learn music … figure out what I wanted to do.” It was here she joined the Goodbye Girls, a string- band combining Swedish folk, bluegrass, and jazz, and with whom she still tours.


There is a proud bluegrass heritage informing Molly Tuttle’s music, and with all the above, this is mixed with the interests and influences that have entered her life over the intervening years – from Gillian Welch, to The Smiths, Bob Dylan, to blue- grass musician Kathy Kallick. Now based in Nashville, in June 2017 she released her seven-track solo EP, Rise, which was picked up a few months later by Compass Records. Produced by Kai Welch (Rayna Gellert), the


EP features contributions from artists including the Milk Carton Kids, Nathaniel Smith (Sarah Jarosz), and that very same Kathy Kallick, who happens to be one of those important female role models that Tuttle searched out all those years back.


“I started working on it in 2015,” she recalled. “It took quite a while to get it the way we wanted it to sound, and then just figuring out how we wanted to release it … I think the earliest song [on the album] I wrote when I was seventeen or eighteen, and the rest of them I wrote like a couple of years before recording. So yeah, it kind of took a while.”


At time of writing, Molly Tuttle was touring Ireland and the UK with singer/multi-instrumentalist Rachael Baiman (fR409), playing to sold-out shows and festivals. “It’s looking like a fun year,” she told me happily down the phone, Nashville to Belfast, as she listed tours and plans for the coming months. Amongst all this, she is working on more original mate- rial – we just need to keep our eyes peeled for the new stuff.


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Photo: Kaitlyn Raitz


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