Biography

Old Salt Union has the groove and the chops of a great string band, balanced with infectious rock and roll energy. Their music occupies that sweet space between Old Crow folk and Yonder Mountain jam --
not a bad place to be for a band about to break.”
— No Depression

 

A great band is more than the proverbial sum of its parts, and in the pursuit of becoming something that can cut through the clutter of YouTube stars and contest show runner-ups, a great roots music band must become a way of life. Less likely to rely on production or image, they’ve got to connect with their audience only through the craftsmanship of their songs, the energy they channel on the stage and the story that brings them together.

 

Old Salt Union is a string band founded by a horticulturist, cultivated by classically trained musicians, and fueled by a vocalist/bass player who is also a hip-hop producer with a fondness for the Four Freshmen. It is this collision of styles and musical vocabularies that informs their fresh approach to bluegrass and gives them an electric live performance vibe that seems to pull more from Vaudeville than the front porch.

 

In 2015 they won the FreshGrass Band contest and found the perfect collaborator in Compass Records co-founder and GRAMMY winning banjoist and composer, Alison Brown, whose attention to detail and high standards pushed the group to develop their influences from beyond a vocabulary to pull from during improvisation and into the foundation of something truly compelling in the roots music landscape.

 

Violinist John Brighton mentions some names familiar to the Compass roster as key influences, musicians like Darol Anger, Edgar Meyer, Mike Marshall and Mark O’Connor, all of whom have collaborated with Brown in the past. Primary vocalist and bassist, Jesse Farrar (for the indie rock heads - yes, he’s related – Son Volt front man Jay Farrar is Jesse’s uncle) brings an alternative rock spirit as well as his unique formative experiences as a hip hop producer and bass player for a national tour of The Four Freshmen. The band’s self-titled Compass debut combines these instrumental proclivities with pop melodies and harmonies into a coherent piece of work that carves out a road-less-travelled for the band in the now crowded roots music genre.

 

The album kicks off with a nod to alternative rock sensibilities – a deconstructed symphonic drone creeps in slowly, while Farrar emerges through the atmospherics to deliver the first lines “Stranded on a lonely road/Trying to find my way back home/A dollar and a broken heart/Didn’t seem to get me very far”. His words are followed by a dramatic moment of silence (a trick often used in hip hop) that quickly launches into “Where I Stand”, a hard-driving bluegrass track that gets moving so powerfully you almost don’t notice the layer of angelic harmonies flowing consistently underneath.

 

Mandolinist Justin Wallace takes over lead vocal duties for the second track “Feel My Love” as well as a version of Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al”. He pops up again on his composition “On My Way” and his no-frills, approachable voice is the perfect complement to Farrar’s more gymnastic style. The two work together beautifully on the Wallace-penned, “Hard Line”. Wallace is further showcased on the disc’s lone instrumental “Flatt Baroque”, composed by Brighton, who joins him in some twin mandolin, and it’s this more contemplative moment on the album where the listener hears him reaching to be in perfect sync with his bandmate, that best reflects Wallace’s role in the evolution story of the band. If Farrar has emerged as the heartbeat, then Wallace is the soul.

 

Perhaps most surprisingly, the band was founded by banjoist Ryan Murphey, the aforementioned horticulturist who came to bluegrass music and the banjo later in life. Finding a kindred spirit in Dustin Eiskant, the band’s former guitarist and Farrar’s cousin, the pair started the band in 2012 and Murphey played the banjo and led the band’s business through its early incarnations, including the recruitment of Farrar in 2014.

  

Though the band had established themselves as a growing festival act with performances at LouFest, Stagecoach Festival, Bluegrass Underground, Winter Wondergrass, Freshgrass, Wakarusa, Yonder Mountain String Band's Harvest Festival, and the 2014 Daytona 500, it was their breakout track on Spotify, “Madam Plum” that seemed to amplify awareness of the band beyond the bluegrass bubble.

 

Of working with the band in the studio, producer Brown says, “These post modern bluegrassers are true renegades. While they look like a bluegrass band, their musical sensibilities run much deeper and broader, borrowing as much from indie rock and jazz fusion as from Bill Monroe. And, even more exciting to me, they know no fear! They are wide open musical adventurers and we had a great time experimenting in the studio at the crossroads of these disparate influences.”

 

The most unexpected but possibly most fascinating song on the album is a ballad entitled “Bought and Sold”. Its earnest beauty is balanced with a youthful inventiveness that leaves a solemn mark on the listener who might wake up at the end of it thinking, “What just happened?”.

 

At this point, the future of the band seems marvelously unclear. The album closes with “Here and Off My Mind” which seems like the bluegrass song that Conor Oberst never wrote featuring a lyric that ends with the promise of “a better life” though from the all-hands-on-deck jam session that breaks out in the middle (is that a kazoo?) one gets the sense that the band can’t imagine a better one than they have in the beat up Winnebago they currently call home.

 

Contact Information

Management -


Bryan Lipman
Bryan@OldSaltUnion.com


 

Booking Inquiries -

Patrick May

Crossover Touring

404-793-7023 x105

booking@oldsaltunion.com

 


 

Publicist -


Christina Dunkley - Compass Records
615-320-7672
Christina@CompassRecords.com


 


General Information


Old Salt Union LLC
OldSaltUnion@oldsaltunion.com

Technical Info

Press Photo Downloads

/
  1. 1 On My Way 04:55 Free
    /
  2. 2 Feel My Love 03:34
    In cart Not available Out of stock
    /
  3. 3 Here and Off My Mind 04:54
    In cart Not available Out of stock
    /
  4. 4 Devil's Got Friends 04:07
    In cart Not available Out of stock
    /
  5. 5 Still Baroque 04:47
    In cart Not available Out of stock
    /
  6. 6 Madam Plum 04:04
    In cart Not available Out of stock
    /
  7. 7 Hard Line 05:50
    In cart Not available Out of stock
    /

Videos

Upcoming Performances

Date Event Location
Old Salt Union @ Porcupines Mountains Music Festival Porcupines Mountains Music Festival, Ontonagon, MI Porcupines Mountains Music Festival, Ontonagon, MI
Old Salt Union @ Porcupine Mountains Music Festival Porcupine Mountains Music Festival, Ontonagon, MI Porcupine Mountains Music Festival, Ontonagon, MI
Old Salt Union @ Knuckleheads - Co-Bill with Jon Stickley Trio Knuckleheads - Co-Bill with Jon Stickley Trio, Kansas City, MO Knuckleheads - Co-Bill with Jon Stickley Trio, Kansas City, MO
Old Salt Union @ Rose Music Hall w/ Jon Stickley Trio Rose Music Hall w/ Jon Stickley Trio, Columbia, MO Rose Music Hall w/ Jon Stickley Trio, Columbia, MO
Old Salt Union @ Old Rock House w/ Jon Stickley Trio Old Rock House w/ Jon Stickley Trio, St. Louis, MO Old Rock House w/ Jon Stickley Trio, St. Louis, MO
Old Salt Union @ Gabe's Gabe's, Iowa City, IA Gabe's, Iowa City, IA
Old Salt Union @ Lamasco's Lamasco's, Evansville, IN Lamasco's, Evansville, IN
Old Salt Union @ Gas Lamp w/ Izabel Crane Gas Lamp w/ Izabel Crane, Des Moines, IA Gas Lamp w/ Izabel Crane, Des Moines, IA
Old Salt Union @ Tie & Timber Beer Co Tie & Timber Beer Co, Springfield, MO Tie & Timber Beer Co, Springfield, MO
Old Salt Union @ Huck Finn Jubilee Huck Finn Jubilee, Ontario, CA Huck Finn Jubilee, Ontario, CA
Old Salt Union @ Huck Finn Jubilee Huck Finn Jubilee, Ontario, CA Huck Finn Jubilee, Ontario, CA
Old Salt Union @ Huck Finn Jubilee Huck Finn Jubilee, Ontario, CA Huck Finn Jubilee, Ontario, CA
Old Salt Union @ Miner Brewing Miner Brewing, Hill City, SD Miner Brewing, Hill City, SD
Old Salt Union @ Back Porch B&B w/ Six Mile Road Back Porch B&B w/ Six Mile Road, Spearfish, SD Back Porch B&B w/ Six Mile Road, Spearfish, SD
Old Salt Union @ Filling Station Filling Station, Bozeman, MT Filling Station, Bozeman, MT
Old Salt Union @ John's Alley John's Alley, Moscow, ID John's Alley, Moscow, ID
Old Salt Union @ Windfall Ciderfest Windfall Ciderfest, Ellensburg, WA Windfall Ciderfest, Ellensburg, WA
Old Salt Union @ Firefly Lounge Firefly Lounge, Bellingham, WA Firefly Lounge, Bellingham, WA
Old Salt Union @ Sunset Tavern w/ Special Guests Sunset Tavern w/ Special Guests, Seattle, WA Sunset Tavern w/ Special Guests, Seattle, WA
Old Salt Union @ Domino Room Domino Room, Bend, OR Domino Room, Bend, OR