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Q&A with The Mountain Grass Unit

Q&A with The Mountain Grass Unit

The Mountain Grass Unit is a bluegrass band of three Mountain Brook High School students — plus anyone else who would like to join, hence the “Unit” part of their name. Here’s a little background on Luke Black, Drury Anderson and Sam Wilson.

How did you get started in music?

Luke: I was in first grade, and I started taking banjo lessons at Fretted Instruments. My mom wanted me to pick an instrument, and I just chose the banjo. Our family had no history in bluegrass music whatsoever. I just fell in love with the sound.

Drury: I started playing mandolin at Fretted Instruments when I was seven. My dad is a bluegrass fan, so I would listen to it sometimes. But once I started playing mandolin, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I thought it was “just an instrument,” nothing to do with bluegrass, and then I kind of figured out later on that it all connects to bluegrass.

Sam: Luke taught me how to play, actually. My dad had this old Ibanez electric bass in his study, and Luke knew that. He wanted to start a little band in 6th grade, so he said, “Get that and come over here,” and he taught me how to play bass. And I honestly had no interest in bluegrass at all until I started playing it. I’d listen to it, and I was like, “Oh, that’s just that redneck stuff.” Once Luke and Drury dragged me into this, I really started to enjoy it and got a better understanding of the music and how complex it really is.

What has been your favorite moment as a band so far?

Luke: Definitely Horse Pens, a festival we played at. We rented a cabin, which was really fun, so we got to play in there all night long.

Drury: That was like the ideal day. We woke up, ate breakfast, went back to the cabin, practiced, did a gig, felt good about the gig, then got to go back and jam all night.

Sam: Honestly, the best part about Horse Pens — playing on stage was great and everything — but one of my favorite moments from that was . . . all three of us crammed in this tiny cabin, and we just spent hours playing in there.

Who is someone that inspires your music?

Luke: Billy Strings. Genre-wise, I can do anything. I’m a big jazz guy, I love funk, I love bluegrass, I love metal, I love reggae. Billy Strings is my main guy, because he’s kind of like me. His influences are from bluegrass roots, and he has the metal influences too. Also Tony Rice — he’s what started it for me in bluegrass.

Drury: I got into Billy Strings around the same time Luke did, so [he’s] a main influence. I’m big on Sam Bush; I feel like that’s kind of my style. Grateful Dead is also a huge influence. I’ve been listening to them my whole life.

Sam: For bass in general, I grew up, especially in the summer, listening to a lot of Bob Marley and stuff, and I just really liked the bass lines in there. That’s what made me want to start playing bass and start enjoying it.

To keep up with The Mountain Grass Unit and where they’re playing next, follow them on Instagram @the_mountain_grass_unit.

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