Music Preview: Remember, there’s no ‘in’ in Fire the Saddle

After speaking with some members of Fire the Saddle about their “final show,” I find it difficult to call it the end, or even a hiatus. Rumors of their demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Louisville’s homegrown bluegrass/folk darlings will play Headliners this Saturday, capping off five years of fun for everyone involved, band and fans alike. Tory Fisher (guitar, vocals), Mick Sullivan (guitar, banjo, vocals), Rob Collier (bass), Joe Burchett (fiddle, mandolin) and Jason Lawrence (drums) will join forces one last time, playing songs both old and brand new, including some from their newest album Roll Back the Rug. But it certainly won’t be your last chance to see the musicians in action.

“Because we’re such good friends, I know we’ll all play in some form or fashion with other people in the band; we already do for a lot of things,” Sullivan says. “Joe and I play in a bluegrass band together, I’m sure Tory and I will play shows together. Rob’s got Century of Aeroplanes, I play in Squeezebot, and there’s other stuff in the works. We’re not gonna disappear.”

Says Burchett: “There was a period of time where it took us more time to put out an album than it did for us to write a new batch of songs for the next album. We haven’t written any original songs in over a year, and I mean, that’s probably the biggest strain, when you go from producing like crazy, and you have a never-ending flow of ideas and newness and then it stops. It’s pretty jarring.”

Rather than being deterred by the diminished pace of creativity, the band seems excited by the opportunity to branch out and try something new. The decision to end the band as it is was certainly not based upon “creative differences,” (i.e. someone’s being a bigger, louder douche bag than the rest), but rather because they believed they’d explored every niche of their sound, and over time they have become restless.

“I think we all have to see this as an opportunity to see things as new beginnings in terms of creative energy. Personally, it gives me a chance to just be an instrumentalist and have a certain role to play with this project, and it’s also a little bit refreshing for me to think of being able to write in different directions and maybe have a different sort of ensemble,” Burchett says.

“It gets very tiring playing those same songs over and over again, with an audience that has been with us for years, and has heard all these songs before, and they want to hear new stuff, and we can’t deliver that to them,” Fisher adds. “Our audience would eventually start dwindling and we figure that it’s just better to stop while we’re ahead while we really enjoy it. That’s the way we want to remember it.”

Here’s Sullivan again: “It gets to a point where you’re definitely pigeonholed with what you can do, especially in a group like this. We did really grow. The third record sounds completely different from the other two. The first one is really raw and unsteady, and the third one is a lot more adventurous, and both are cool, but we weren’t looking to just have that high lonesome sound. Louisville’s already produced Freakwater. We don’t need to duplicate that.”

Although they are parting ways, there is not one apparent shred of displeasure from the band mates. They leave Fire the Saddle behind on the highest of notes, still united by friendship and a common love for music of all sorts, and a desire to explore new sounds.

“I’ve learned so much from everybody else. We’ve certainly become more than the sum of our parts. It’s made me better, and given me a much different perspective than I’d have ever had,” Burchett says.

“This is the most perfect way for our band to do this — to go out positively, and looking toward something new, and say, ‘This was a great experience.’ But it’ll be really sad when we play our last song,” Sullivan says.

“Actually,” Burchett adds with a laugh, “I think the best way would probably be if we were all in individual capsules that would be simultaneously shot into space at the end of our last show. I can’t think of anything better.”

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