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    I should have known by the band name — Greensky Bluegrass — that upright bassist and vocalist Mike Devol would already know a thing or two about Kentucky. Devol even stumps me, a Louisville native, at one point in our phone interview. See our conversation below. Then check out Greensky at Mercury Ballroom Oct. 18.

     

    Louisville Magazine: How do you pronounce the name of the city?

    Mike Devol: Loo-a-vul.

     

    Oh, good. OK.

    None of that Lewis-ville stuff. I cheat though, ‘cause I got a cousin who lives there and I’m from the Midwest originally — Ohio — so we’re not that far away from Kentucky.

     

    What comes to mind when you think of Kentucky?

    Well, horses and whiskey, I guess?

     

    Do you like bourbon?

    Yes, I do very much.

     

    Do you have a favorite?

    Man, I wont be able to name them all. I like lots of bourbons. I like Bookers. I like Basil Hayden’s. We drink a lot of Bulleit. I know now that the laws have changed so that you can make bourbon in places outside of Kentucky but it’s not bonded or some — bourbon’s complicated.

     

    You’ve played in Louisville many times before. Is there a particular show that you remember fondly?

    We played in some old — the lobby of what used to be a bank? The Actors Theatre or something downtown? And we played at maybe the smallest venue we’ve ever played at, the Hideaway, on I forget what that road is called that has all kinds of cool shops.

     

    Bardstown Road.

    Do you remember that place?

     

    I do. And unfortunately I think they stopped having live shows there.

    It’s tiny. Like, it’s a tiny, tiny bar in the first place and then the idea of having live music there… I remember walking in and being like, We’re playing here? Like I said, I have a cousin there, and I have a lot of family in Indianapolis and Ohio who made the trip, and I remember I had 10 relatives maybe and there wasn’t room for anybody else at the gig almost. That was kind of the most memorable Louisville play just because it was… so weird. That must have been like 2006 or 7. Who knows.

    (A baby starts crying in the background.)

    Do you hear a baby crying?

     

    Yeah, is that your kid?

    Yeah, I’m in my car. My wife and I are running some errands and our three-month-old is just waking up from his nap. We’ll have to bear with the sweet sound of him crying for a few minutes.

    (The wailing intensifies.)

     

    Who’s your favorite Kentucky bluegrass musician?

    The clear answer is Sam Bush. He’s from Bowling Green. He used to just be kind of our hero, ‘cause, well, I didn’t really “come up” listening to bluegrass, but when you’re learning about real bluegrass you start learning about all those recordings from the ’70s, J.D. Crowe & The New South and, when you find out about Sam Bush and his people that kind of becomes your standard listening in bluegrass. Now he’s our buddy. We’ve done a lot of shows with him. It’s an easy answer because a lot of the bluegrass guys I don’t know who’s from where, but he makes it clear that he’s Kentucky.

     

    Do you know where the International Bluegrass Music Museum is located?

    Uh, is it in Louisville?

     

    Nope.

    Is it in Bowling Green? I don’t know.

     

    It’s in Owensboro.

    I’ve never been to Owensboro. I’ve heard of it. I know that you guys in Kentucky used to host the International Bluegrass Music Awards. I know that it used to be in Louisville in an old hotel and I know that only recently has it moved to — I guess it’s in Raleigh now, right?

     

    Uhhh, now you’re asking the wrong person. (It was in Louisville from 1997-2005 and has since taken place in Nashville and Raleigh.) Does anywhere else remind you of Louisville?

    This interview’s much more about Louisville than it is about Greensky, isn’t it? Um, no not really. When you’re in a touring van like I am, we see a lot of the inside of the venue and the parking lot outside.

     

    Let me ask you some food questions. What is a hot brown?

    Ooaf. I sorta know. I don’t know, is this some kind of breakfast thing? Is there gravy involved? I’ve heard the phrase. I’ve seen a picture of one before, maybe on the wall in the basement of the Mercury Ballroom, actually. I seem to remember that downstairs they have some like Louisville-centric-type art that sort of showcases things that Louisville could be famous for. Maybe to educate people like me who don’t know. Why don’t you tell me? What is a hot brown?

     

    It’s an open-face sandwich with turkey, bacon, tomatoes and Mornay sauce.

    Is that a Louisville invention?

     

    Yeah. Have you ever eaten at KFC?

    Uhh, unfortunately I have.

     

    So you didn’t like it?

    Uh, I mean, how could you? When I was a kid I used to think it was delicious, but as an adult, knowing and caring about what I put into my body, I don’t think I could bring myself to consume KFC. Sorry! Nothing against Kentucky or friend chicken, but that’s probably the last place I’d go looking for fried chicken.

     

    Can you name a Derby winner?

    Sunday Silence? We used to watch the Derby when I was a kid growing up in Ohio. We’d, like, pick horses based on their names. It seems like my sister’s horse always won. I remember one horse named Sunday Silence, or I just made that up on the spot. But that would have been in the late ’80s or early ’90s. (1989)

     

    I’m impressed. If you were to name a Derby horse, what would you name it?

    Hey Jude.

     

    Why?

    Because I have a three-month-old son named Jude.

     

    Aww. Do you know what a foal is?

    A foal is a young horse?

     

    Correct. Do you know what a gelding is?

    A gelding is a horse that maybe is… something about the mating or reproduction, either it can or it can’t, or is or isn’t. I don’t know.

     

    You’re close. It’s a castrated male horse.

    You know, I was gonna say that and I didn’t want to get graphic. How do I know that? Gelded. Probably from reading medieval fantasy novels.

    Cover photo courtesy of Greensky Bluegrass

    Mary Chellis Nelson's picture

    About Mary Chellis Nelson

    Mary Chellis Nelson is the managing editor of Louisville Magazine.

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