Episode 69: Jeff Coffin

Seth and Rob sit down with Jeff Coffin backstage at The Tabernacle in Atlanta just before Jeff was going to join Umphrey’s McGee for portions of the final two shows of that band’s New Year’s run there. Coffin delights the hosts by talking about how hearing Colonel Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit on the way to the grocery store one afternoon completely changed his view of music. Jeff relates how after a chance encounter with Victor Wooten, Jeff ended up going to see Bela Fleck and The Flecktones in Aspen. Jeff would learn at setbreak that thanks to drummer Tom Pollard, Bela was already, “Coffin aware.” A relationship developed quickly and soon Coffin found himself playing a gig with The Flecktones in Vermont, after which Bela surprised Jeff by asking him to join the band on a more permanent basis. We learn about how Coffin began sitting in with Dave Matthews Band, and then how at one point he had to scramble to help them out when tragedy hit the band just hours before tour. Jeff effusively reports about how consistently welcoming the entire band was to him, and we learn of (and hear) how years later the band negotiated their way through the beginning of “Ants Marching” the first time they played it after losing another key band member. Coffin elaborates on other awkward on-stage moments that have happened with DMB, although on balance the band is of course doing quite well. In fact, DMB had an incredibly strong 2018 with the release of its 7th consecutive #1-debuting record the (the first band to EVER pull that off) and their ability to continue to hit new peaks as a live act after all of these years. A discussion of “The Space Between” leads to Coffin elaborating on the importance of listening….in music….and in life. We also learn about how teaching as changed him as a musician and as a person and he talks about the thought process early this decade that lead to him starting his label, Ear Up Records. As Turner elaborated upon in the intro, this label brings forth a variety of records featuring brilliant, and in some cases lesser-known musicians, aeach schemed in very clever and unique fashion. Jeff goes into detail about a few of these – including how he brought the legendary Dave Liebman down to Nashville for a bunch of gigs, one of which would lead to the superb “On The Corner Live: The Music of Miles Davis” release. Jeff reveals how this was essentially recorded surreptitiously. The episode outtro includes Seth’s reports from some of the destination festivals he has been working, and Rob talks about the music-packed weekend he had just had including a fantastic triple bill of Liz Cooper + The Stampede/New Madrid/The Artisanals.

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