It’s been a little over a year since I touched base with Tim Sullivan of the band The Maine Dead Project, and when I learned that he and his group were heading over to the Somerset Abbey in Madison for a January gig, I decided it was high time to get an update from the talented guitarist/vocalist. I called him at his home in Hallowell on Nov. 30 to confirm the date and place of the show.

Sullivan: Yeah, we are on Jan. 5.

Q: Have you ever played there before?

Sullivan: We played at their outside stage this past summer, but we’ve not played the inside venue yet.

Q: Now, I’ve read that you do re-creations of classic Grateful Dead shows, is that correct?

Sullivan: We do re-creations of full-length Grateful Dead concerts as well as doing a full show of set-list songs.


Q: So what is this show at the Abbey going to be like?

Sullivan: At the Abbey, I believe we’re going to do a three-hour set show, which is usually the typical length of a Grateful Dead concert, give or take. And we will be doing a selection of songs from the entire history of the Grateful Dead from the ’60s right up through the ’90s.

Q: How many of their songs do you cover?

Sullivan: We usually have between 125 and 150 songs.

Q: That’s a lot of material to memorize, that’s for sure. Is this gig the only one coming up for you?

Sullivan: No, we’re playing Portland House of Music on New Year’s Eve.


Q: Now you are involved with some other groups in addition to the Maine Dead Project, are you not?

Sullivan: Yes, I also am a guitar player for The Shakes, and I also do my own group where I’m currently in the process of recording an album under my own name.

Q: Wow, you really are busy. But back to the Madison show, how do you go about picking the songs that you’re going to do because you have so much material to draw upon?

Sullivan: There are different factors. Often it is that we’re rotating songs so that we are spacing out the length of time in between songs that we play so we don’t do the same songs from show to show. We might be doing songs we haven’t played in a while, we might be playing newer material that we want to get into the group, and we’re also pacing the night dynamically and sonically. And also, if we are making up our own set list, we might pick different sections of Grateful Dead concerts — how the songs may have gone in sequence for them. We might do a run of four or five songs that they did at a certain concert, as well.

Q: How many are involved in the band?

Sullivan: There are five or six depending on whether or not we use one or two drummers.


Q: So it will be yourself, Doug Emery, Josh Robbins, Justin Maxwell, Christopher Sweet and Ryan Benoit?

Sullivan: Ryan Benoit is not with us and Doug Emery moved. So it’s now Tom Faunc playing guitar — and he sings, too — for that show at the Abbey. And we will be doing a five-piece for that show, as well.

Q: How busy does the Project keep you guys?

Sullivan: We do between 40 and 50 shows a year. Half of those are our residency at Portland House of Music, which is every Wednesday night from May through October. That’s actually where we’re playing New Year’s Eve, as well.

Q: How does what you do go over with the Dead Heads around here?

Sullivan: Grateful Dead fans are very enthusiastic about that music, and we feel like we’ve been well-received by the Grateful Dead community. We tend to play the songs with our own twist on them, and we feel that the fans of (that) music have been very accepting of our own personal style.


Q: I would imagine that festivals are a good thing for your band, as well?

Sullivan: Yeah, we usually do play a couple of festivals a summer, and they’re a lot of fun, a great chance to meet other musicians. It’s just a really nice circuit.

Q: How far afield does the band get, or are you pretty much just a Maine act?

Sullivan: We do get out of state. We’ve been playing over in New Hampshire fairly regularly lately; we played in Manchester a couple of weeks ago.

Q: Do you have any aspirations to head further west?

Sullivan: Oh, if the right opportunity presented itself.


Q: I imagine word-of-mouth helps an awful lot, as well.

Sullivan: Absolutely, yeah.

Q: When you go into a jam, do you follow how the Dead did it or do you go your own way?

Sullivan: Both. We pay attention to the direction they go with the jamming, and we also go in our own direction at times. And we don’t really know until it happens (chuckle).

Q: Ah, that’s the joy of the genre.

Sullivan: Yeah.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the readers of this article?

Sullivan: Just that we appreciate everybody’s continued support, and we’re very much enjoying playing this music.

Lucky Clark has spent 45 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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