"People ask me what my hobby is, and I tell them, well, I like to cook and hang out at home or read history, but really it's music," says Tim O'Brien with a smile.
So what if that's what he's done for a living for going on three decades? And what if he became regarded as a pre-eminent Americana and bluegrass musician by doing so? "It's my hobby. And everything the hobby does feeds the repertoire," O'Brien, who will be at this year's Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, says.
At this point in his career, nearly thirty years after moving to Colorado where he would form his landmark band Hot Rize, repertoire is a major part of the Tim O'Brien story. For in addition to his own prolific and successful songwriting, this child of West Virginia and the WWVA Jamboree has never stopped mining the American music canon for great material. He's a song sponge.
Songs collect and abide in Tim O'Brien's world as comfortably as family heirlooms. They come from around the world, particularly the American South and Ireland. They morph into new ideas and new songs that update old truths about the human condition. They find expression in O'Brien's clear-as-ice voice on stages, in recording studios and at home with circles of gifted musical friends. O'Brien's relationship with songs embodies the very essence of the folk music tradition, always aware that the branches of the musical tree need sap from the roots.
O'Brien was so full of songs when he approached his latest phase of recording that they overwhelmed one album and became two. And yet with Fiddler's Green and Cornbread Nation, his original intent has remained intact.