The subject of today’s interview, Pete Sutherland, happens to have a musical history that goes back to the 70s, which includes teaching, producing, songwriting and playing a plethora of instruments (including fiddle, guitar, banjo, piano and mandolin). He’s been in varying bands of different genres, but his current musical configuration is a string trio made up of Oliver Scanlon (fiddle), Tristen Henderson (guitar) and, of course, Mr. Sutherland himself.

I was sent a link to his website where I got a chance to listen to an assorted collection of tracks from different releases, and what I heard right off the bat spurred my opening observation when I reached him on his cellphone in Cabot, Vermont.

Q: Upon listening to the music, I was reminded of my fondness for the artists on the Windham Hill Records label. And then on another track I discovered fantastic three-part harmonies which is my favorite aspect of music, whether it’s speed metal or Gregorian chant, vocal harmonies always grab me.
Sutherland: Well, thank you — same here. Not having gotten together as a vocal group by goal, we’re working hard (at it). It’s particularly energizing to put the work in and see what happens.

Q: How long have you guys been going at it?
Sutherland: Well, this particular trio has been going for six years or so. The youngest member, Oliver and myself, have been associated since he was 10 years old. He was part of an after-school group I was running in his school and he started gigging with me when he was 14. We met Tristen a few years later after we had just played various combinations loosely with a whole bunch of different people.

Q: I’ve just have to ask, how many albums do you have out as Pete’s Posse?
Sutherland: As the Posse, five, five in five years, and we’ve kind of quit for the moment because that’s a lot of plastic out there, and there are so many other ways to manifest your creative endeavors and put content out there that is doesn’t have to be a CD, which has become a “take-yourself-seriously-and-hope-the-world-does-too” kind of thing.

Q: What makes up those five releases?
Sutherland: We have three full-length ones, we have one that’s a comedy CD because I write a lot of parodies which is kind of a fun thing to do — and the most recent one is almost a full-length: it’s a Southern Appalachian old-time collection, which is like an homage to my roots.

Q: What I’ve heard so far is delightful. Is it fairly representational of what you guys are like in concert?
Sutherland: I would say any one album has at least a couple of chunks of it. We’re definitely what used to be called a “what’s it” band, that’s not very descriptive, but definitely a string band, a folk band, and fiddle-driven. We did get together, to start with, as a contra dance band. And when you mentioned Windham Hill, I thought you were talking about Metamora, a group that I joined that made a couple of albums for that label.

Q: Are you out on tour with the Posse now?
Sutherland: No, I’m on a creative retreat with these guys right now for three days, and we’re actually trying out some new tunes, some of our own and a couple of other things, as well as devoting quite a lot of time to singing, as you mentioned.

Q: I understand that there’s a Farmington connection in this concert, correct?
Sutherland: There is a Farmington connection, man. So my grandparents, the Taylors lived on Perham Street there. They’re pretty much Mainers. My granddad, Claude Taylor, was a Mainer and I forget where my grandmother, Florence Taylor, was born, but their roots are basically Maine; there’s just a little bit of Vermont in there, too. So, all the time I was a teenager and up they were there, and we visited quite a lot. We went there at least once or twice a year until my granddad passed. That’s my Farmington memory.

Q: I understand, too, that the place you’re going to be performing is right around the corner from your grandparent’s home.
Sutherland: It is, I can picture that.

Q: Have you performed there before?
Sutherland: I have not. I was getting into music while they were still alive, so I would have had my nose in the wind, as gig hunters do. And I don’t recall anything at that time, at least not like anything that’s happening right now these days at the North Church concert series.

Q: Could you share some thoughts about your bandmates?
Sutherland: I never get tired of saying, without it being asked, that being a band guy with these two young bucks is just an amazing experience, and they are definitely the wind beneath my wings. There’s so much energy and a lot of mutual respect across the generation gap, and the fact that the band was born out a long, solid association with one of my mentees. I always thought the force was strong in him, as they say, and that was a pretty solid basis for dusting off the band thing and conducting business and just having a new lease on that kind of musical life.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Sutherland: Well, it sounds like you cast a pretty wide net as far as subjects and styles go, so not everybody might be as familiar with folk roots music. It’s a lot of fun; it can be pretty energizing stuff that we’re doing. I’m plugging the concert, if I may here, why not, that’s kind of the point.

Q: By all means, go for it!
Sutherland: We really love singing; it’s not all fiddle music, and the topics are all over the place. I’m pretty serious about my writing craft and we also do some fun, energized folk songs. There are also some instrumental pieces that are like movie scores to us.

Lucky Clark has spent 50 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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