In the lead up to our upcoming Colorado Carbon Fundraiser, Tory Pittarelli of The Mischief Collective sat down with Anders Beck from Greensky Bluegrass to dive into why he's so excited about this event.
We already knew that a big part of it was getting the chance to play a rare duo show with his best friend of many years, Travis Book of The Infamous Stringdusters. We were surprised to learn that Anders has strong non-profit roots within his family and a big heart for the environment.
TP: Many of your fans might not know about your history working with non-profits, but we love that about you. Where did this all begin for you?
AB: Well, it really all began with my parents. Both my Mom and Dad have been deeply involved in non-profit work for as long as I can remember. They were both professional tennis players and ending up using that sport as a way to help less fortunate inner-city kids break the mold of gangs and drugs. They founded the Philadelphia chapter of The National Junior Tennis League (with their buddy Arthur Ashe) and that became a model for a lot of the cities across the country to help kids through sports, I believe.
Amazingly enough, that was just the first step for them in the realm of non-profit work. They both went on to create, mentor and build lots of other non for profit charitable organizations; most of which centered around kids who have the odds stacked against them.
Therefore, growing up, it was always instilled upon me that it's all well and good to be happy and comfortable, but if you're not thinking of those who are less fortunate or having a harder time or discriminated against, well then, you're not doing your part. I'm really proud of them, and it's cool to get to talk about it.
As I grew up, the causes that particularly interested me were environmental in nature... I went to Colorado College and that's just sort of the direction I took. I studied Environmental Economics and Political Science because I thought that that would be the way to save the world. I eventually ended up in Durango working as the Executive Director of a non profit environmental group called Friends of The Animas River.
TP: What made you choose Friends of the Animas River?
AB: I'm not sure if I really chose them or if they took pity on me.... no, just kidding. Sorry. That's my sense of humor. I was working with some folks on other issues and they happened to be the founders of Friends of The Animas River (FOAR) and needed someone to work full time. I really liked the focus of FOAR as it was watershed based. It’s a really interesting unit of measure, in a lot of ways... everything flows downstream, you know?
I like to think that I had a positive impact on the organization, Durango and the river that we were charged with protecting... I certainly learned a lot about the pace of bureaucracy and being the little guy in the David vs Goliath scenario.
TP: So it was in Durango that you met many of the people you still get to play with to this day?
AB: Yup... as I was trying to save the world, one small watershed at a time, I was also playing music with a bunch of amazing musicians, songwriters and bluegrass pickers. Durango is where I met Travis Book and we're playing THIS event together that I'm supposed to be talking about... if I weren't blabbing so much about other stuff! I also met Benny "Burle" Galloway there and he mentored a whole bunch of us in how to write songs and especially also how not to write songs.
Thats where Broke Mountain came together... a band that was made up of myself, Travis Book, Andy Thorn, Robin Davis, Jon Stickley (and Rick Hauchman in the early days, too). It's crazy for me to see where all of us are nowadays! It's like we were a minor league farm team for future jam-grass bands. We're hoping to play some Broke Mountain reunion shows very soon... it's just hard for all of us to clear our schedules.
TP: What role do you think that music has and should have in the non-profit world?
AB: I'm not totally sure, honestly. I really like the idea that through the power of my music or notoriety, or whatever it is, that I can turn people on to organizations that are doing great things and making positive impacts in the world.
I really don't like the idea that because I have a microphone in front of a thousand people I can tell them what to do... that feels weird and doesn't interest me. You come to a Greensky Bluegrass show to hear our music, not to hear us preach (unless its Casual Wednesday, of course).
So, for me, I'm still trying to figure out the way to best use my talents for the better good. That's why events like The Colorado Carbon Fundraiser are so cool to me... music is a part of it, I get to play with one of my best friends in the world, and we get to turn people onto a great cause as well as great organizations which are doing amazing and positive things.
TP: We love that you two get to play together again, we know it will be super special. Tell us a funny tale from the Beck and Book crypt?
AB: Oh man... there are just too many and most of them are equally incriminating. I plead the Fifth.
TP: Guess we'll have to try and unearth some of these tales at the VIP After Party, maybe with a little help from our friend whiskey. Anyways, what can we expect musically from you two love birds at the Colorado Carbon Fund?
AB: We've been playing music together for over 15 years... so there is clearly good chemistry. Travis is an amazing songwriter and I like to think that since we sort of learned how to do this together, I fit pretty well into his head. It's hard to put into words, but when he plays guitar and sings while I play dobro, it just has a certain flow to it that I love... at least it did when we were playing regularly, years and years ago. I'm assuming that it's just like riding a bike...a really cool tandem bike.
TP: What do you hope people walk away from this event with?
AB: Icelantic Skis... haha! (that's a raffle pun, everybody).
My hope would be that people walk away from this event having been reminded about how it great it feels to be a part of something bigger than just yourself, your music scene, friend group, or whatever. Events like this are so cool in that they encourage you to branch out a bit.