Interview with Blueground Undergrass

Blueground Undergrass was originally formed in 1998 by Reverend Jeff Mosier. While breaking up in 2002, the band came back together with a multifacet music mix and some new faces. The band is composed of Mosier (vocals, banjo), David Blackmon (mandolin, fiddle), Matthew Williams (guitar, vocals), Seth Hendersot (drums, percussion, vocals), and A.J. Adams (4 string and 5 string Fretless Electric Bass Guitar). The sound of Blueground Undergrass brings audiences to their feet. Their new album Faces combines an energetic bluegrass sound with the freedom for improvisational mastery. When I caught up to the Reverend Jeff Mosier he was able to speak about his upcoming festivals, his views on animal rights, influences in his music and the composition of the new Blueground Undergrass.
Interview by - Erin Wheeler Wesner

HGMN: What future projects are you going to be doing, if any?

Rev. Jeff Mosier: Not really sure. We are talking about a DVD and I personally want to work on a pod cast about music and the mind. There are a lot of new shows up on of the line-up we have now with Seth Hendershot on drums and A.J. Adams on bass. David Blackmon and Matthew Williams and Myself remain on the front line so to speak. We would love to do something visual that would allow us some footage to talk about what we do and the process of BGUG.

HGMN: What category would you put your music style into and why?

Rev. Jeff Mosier:
Experimental on many levels. We are bending genres and trying styles and instruments that have never worked together in music. Banjo and fiddle driven rock hasn't been done that much in the past. We are song driven roots rock with bluegrass sensibilities at the end of the day. Sometimes I honestly don't really know how to describe what we do. What we do is more like watching a cooking show than watching a band. The process is more interesting live then what ends up on tape at times. We urbanize rural ideas and ruralize urban ideas.

HGMN: Who is your biggest musical influence?

Rev. Jeff Mosier:
Col. Bruce Hampton. Ret. nobody else comes close for me. The band would list also Vassar Clements, Bob Dylan, Wilco, Jay Farrar, Gram Parsons, Ween, Grateful Dead, New Grass Revival and Bill Monroe, and many more

Who is the person in your life that impacts you the most outside of music?

Rev. Jeff Mosier:
My wife Kathleen and my children. Col. Bruce Hampton, Eckhart Tolles the philosopher, Writer Kurt Vonnegut, Jon Stewart host of "The Daily Show", Bill Moyer, Jazz pianist Kenny Werner's book "Effortless Mastery", The book "The Four Agreements" by Daniel Ruiz, Various fans of the band that have become my friends over the years, Books on tape, My personal trainer at the YMCA whenever I get off my ass and go see him and stick to the program. Dr. Andrew Weil and his books on health and nutrition, PBS and NPR. Fred Rogers when he was alive. Movies like "What the Bleep do we know" and the "The Secret" and all great independent films that try to document human existence with a bent towards changing it for the better. Bloggers. Comedians George Carlin, Dave Chapelle, Lewis Black and Bob Newhart.

HGMN: Blueground Undergrass has made many transitions since first beginning, how do you think these changes have impacted your fans?

Rev. Jeff Mosier: I'm not really sure. Our real fans talk to us and understand the changes. I never have thought that we were popular enough to make that big of an impact on many people. The band has always hovered in a small cult like status and never "broke" out in the true sense of popularity. If I had ever measured our success that way it would not have lasted as long as it has. I always tried to get the music right and the line-up stable without worrying about "making it". "Making it", to me, is simply making music that you are happy with and that challenges you. Obviously line-up stability has been a struggle for the band since the beginning. Some of it was directly my decision and some was just a function of life changes and circumstances in the lives of some of the early members. The biggest struggle I think for people was the abrupt nature of the break-up, which was sad but necessary at the time. We were all done on some level with various aspects of BGUG. They were mostly done with me. I get that now, I didn't then. Life is all about learning from life itself. I hope I have done that. Having regrets is an exercise of futility and forgiveness is a gift you give yourself as a good friend once told me right after the band broke down. Seth and AJ in my mind and in the mind of many if the first truly suited bass and drummer for BGUG. They hold the music up without stylistically coloring everything with a specific sound. They are great players, but they also can play simple and yet they bring their own ideas to the table since they have known each other since high school. They are also curious and interested in BGUG's music, which has not always been the case with all players. I think their agenda is simply to be the best they can be for the music and that's hard to find sometimes in drummers and bass players. If you haven't heard us live lately you would probably be really surprised and no one is harder on BGUG then I am. We are really having fun and the shows have been everything I ever wanted in my vision of Blueground Undergrass.

The addition of Matt Williams has brought a new flavor and sound to the band. What is Matt's background and how did you begin working with him?

Rev. Jeff Mosier:
I produced a record for "Captain Soularcat" when he was in that band. That is where we met. He had had several bands mainly based out of Carrollton, Ga. And the only one I had heard of was "Dysfunction Junction" back during the days of "The Dunham's" when they had played a radio event. He's great and he sings and he writes and he's nothing like me which is great. His heroes are many of mine and I really liked his songs and mostly loved his drive and his pure intent for being on stage. He needed a band that would showcase his material and put him under the kind of performance pressure that everyone needs to get that edge that only comes from playing all the time. He immediately rose to the occasion and gets better and better at his craft as time goes on as we all hopefully do. It reminds me of what happened to my playing when I joined ARU, it was do or die for me back then. His songs are great, his voice is great and he loves people and he's not only easy to work with but he is a pleasure to be around which is hard to find when you lead a band and you're looking for people. Bruce used to say "you have to be a person first and player second." So many people come to bands with so much to prove and with a chip on their shoulder. Matthew just wants to play and learn and be, he's great that way and teachable on many other levels as well. I've never enjoyed being on stage with anybody as much as I do him. If nothing else ever comes out of BGUG, I will be proud of having at least had a small part in revealing to the world the talent of Matthew Williams.

Many fans certainly want to know, what is going on with the bass player situation and why hasn't there been consistency?

Rev. Jeff Mosier: There is consistency now. You have to find a "rhythm section" not just a bass player and drummer. They have to want to work together or the music sucks. People forget that the first rhythm section I played with in rock was Jeff Sipe and Oteil Burbridge. My standard is high and if it's not right, meaning the feel and the improvisational pairing of skills, BGUG can't do the thing that we do best which is improvise through songs and inside of songs. Fans often project way to much on the situation as if it were always personal. Don't get me wrong business is personal, but like in any business you have to have the right person for the job. Just because someone is nice and the fans like him or her doesn't mean they are right for the band and the music of the band. Many bands in my opinion let their music suffer in order to avoid conflict. The jam band community is often guilty of thinking that if everybody just loves each other the music will be great. Chemistry often happens between people who struggle to get along. The music must come first. The ultimate way to cheat yourself, your music and ultimately your fans is to compromise the music itself. I do yearn sometimes to hear a fan say, "Hey I appreciate all that you have gone through as a band to find the right player and boy I can hear the difference". But fans don't know music like we do. They may never hear the difference, but we do. Also fans forget that people's wants and needs change and people leave bands for many reasons. Not everyone that has left BGUG has been fired. Usually people in this culture imagine the worse because that is how the media programs us. I can tolerate all kinds of bullshit, but being on stage with someone who doesn't want to be there doesn't last long for me. Nothing kills music faster than that. Everybody has got to be comfortable with things, not just me. That's just how making music together works. I see bands all the time and I can look up there on stage while they are playing and see the conflict and for me it's so distracting. You can't hide it if you're like me. I'm way to sensitive and vulnerable to try and hide my feelings. It's just not worth it to me if the music doesn't fire on all cylinders and work on every level. Fans have supported line-ups of this band that could barely get through the tunes and we sucked at the time, so I learned long ago to never let fans dictate musical standards. It has to be right for the band. It's music, not hamburgers!!

HGMN: David Blackmon has been playing with you for years even throughout your own projects, do you feel that you and David speak your own language on stage at times?

Rev. Jeff Mosier: We met on stage with WSP at the Fox NYE 1998 and we played our first BGUG gig 2/20/98 at Smith's Olde Bar in Atlanta opening for Col. Bruce and the Fiji Mariners. He was the first person I hired because he was like a musical soul mate in that he had been in rock and other music like me, but at his core he was a real bluegrasser. With the exception of my brother Johnny, we play better together than anybody I have ever been on stage with. We are born the same year 2 1/2 months apart and our musical journey has been almost identical. I'm an air sign and he's earth and we get along great. People wouldn't believe it but we have never had a blowout or conflict of any kind or a cross word. Everybody should be blessed to have a friend like that. Even when we had to let him go in 1999 we didn't argue or let it cause us conflict. I think we have the healthiest respect for one another and that is at the core of our success as friends. He trusts my intentions and my sensibilities as a bandleader and if he has questions he talks with me. David is also a genius on many levels and he keeps my music mind going and my other mind going. I get bored with most people really fast but he is an explosion of knowledge and surprises always. He is a computer wiz, amp repairmen, studio equipment junkie, loves comedy, loves old instruments and the list goes on. He has tons of road and studio experience and in the true sense of the word is a veteran of stage and craft. He has been through a lot and recovered from a lot and plays better than ever and is happier than ever. Getting him back out playing is a gift that most fans have yet to appreciate. He is a legend, that is not just something I say on stage to be cute. His rants and discourses on life and music in the van could be a movie. Most people have no idea what an incredibly amazing human he is. He sits there in that chair and just blows all of our minds on stage. His ear is always in the past and in the future at the same time. David and Bruce Hampton are no doubt my two best friends. In the early days of the band David really helped me figure out how to rock without killing the bluegrass, which was my greatest challenge since I had never had a band with drums and electric guitar. He knew, along with my brother Johnny Mosier where I was trying to go with the music. Not everyone who has been in the band has really believed that a band with banjo and fiddle could or even should rock. David has rocked and is one of the best guitar players ever. He's a wizard player and knows electronics and effects and amps. He has helped many of the players including me try to get the sound we were going for. He reads all the latest magazines and knows more than most 20-year-old kids about modern music technology. He's always been to many of the players like a "Yoda", and all with no ego, imagine that. He's great and I consider myself one of his biggest fans.

What is your philosophy on music and how it represents you as a person?

Rev. Jeff Mosier: Music should be true and should communicate all aspects of human existence. It should be presented with playful reverence, gratefulness for one's talent and sensitivity to those who are within earshot. I hate selling it and making money on it, but we have to support ourselves. I wish culture would support music for its value. I think more people love music now then we realize. However, I wish live music wasn't so connected to the beer, pot and pussy vibe of the American bar scene. Playing to people who have drunk themselves back to fourth grade loses its charm, as you get older. You know they don't hear what you are doing. They can't. I try to find the real listeners and play to them.
   Cover bands, tribute bands, and rave sounding bands are really taking up a lot of space now. Lights shows and grooves are like the latest ride at Six Flags. It's almost like they are saying, you bring the drugs and we will supply the proper sensory stimulation. There's really nothing wrong with that but I wouldn't call it music as much as I would call it disco or rave. "Jamming" can't be planned or it's not jamming. If the lighting guy knows what is going to happen next then it has been done before. Imagine 200 cars planning a traffic jam. A Jam is something you "get out of " and not something you plan to "get into". The momentary confusion during a real "jam" on stage and the dependence you have to on each other skills in that moment is what makes for interesting sound, not lights and orgasmic solo explosions happening on cue. If you jam you're a jam band and if you don't you are something else. ARU is my template. We played for hours and never discussed anything. It may have sounded crazy but it was jamming. I wish more original bands would emerge. It's hard when bands are doing other people's music and playing for nothing at a lot of these festivals just for the exposure. I've seen it for years. They last for a while, run out of dad's money and then get out., which I love, has created a lot of opportunity for all music to be quickly promoted, even badly played music. By "bad" I mean not musically good, out of tune, out in time, not artistically original, not well thought out or presented with seriousness of intent that would assure longevity. Imagine if filmmakers put out work as fast and with as little experience as most bands nowadays are popping up. The desire to feel important, meet chicks, get laid or have drug connections is undoubtedly still the driving force behind many bands. I know I listen to hundreds of backstage conversations all over the country. The craft of playing live music has been replaced by almost a karaoke kind of vide from bands that feel good about doing music somebody else has already done and done much better at that. Music deserves better, but it's all just an extension of our culture. I want people to say that we "sound a lot like Blueground Undergrass", not some other band. The book "The New Earth" by Eckhart Tolles is helping me try to let go of so much of what I thought was important about being a musician. We should all take music more serious and not ourselves as much. We have dummied it down a lot over time in this culture. Festivals like Magnolia and Springfest revive the power and importance of music. I wish more evolved promoters would emerge like Beth and Randy Judy and more online music pod-casting and ways to get more into what is behind the music and it's power and meaning. It's all getting better, but the way for the bar to be raised in music lies directly with the musicians. If we cheapen it we hurt only ourselves and diminish music's future value in society.

HGMN: What is your favorite musical venue and why?

Rev. Jeff Mosier: Festivals and theatres are the best. We want to do more of that.

HGMN: Dogstock is such a unique festival because of the purpose it is serving. What is your view on animal rights and how do you think music plays a part in it?

Rev. Jeff Mosier:
I was a vet tech for 14 years. I was going to be a vet. I have nine cats, two Chihuahuas and a Jack Russell terrier. David Blackmon's dad was the president of the UGA VET School for years and David himself has worked with livestock all of his life as a vet tech and developing feed programs for cattle, a skill most people don't know he has. Musicians should do anything to bring about any change towards more civilized human behavior. Live music is powerful that way I think.

To find out more information about tour dates for Blueground Undergrass, visit Tickets for Dogstock Music Festival are on sale now. Check out the artist lineup at