Casey Driessen

Invited by Rob Ickes
NC

Casey Driessen is a restless explorer, a bold boundary crosser who listens for inspiration from Tennessee to Tibet.  An early diet of Bluegrass, Jazz, and Western Swing grounded him with a respect for tradition while Berklee College of Music burst open the door to technology, music from around the globe, and introduced him to The Funk.  This diversity has created a distinct and soulful approach to the fiddle and led to collaborations with artists such as Béla Fleck, Bassekou Kouyate, Tim O'Brien, Darrell Scott, Steve Earle, & Zac Brown Band. Casey's signature style of funky fiddle rhythm is quickly earning him the reputation as the leader of "The Chop," a new percussive bow technique permeating every corner of the fiddle/violin world.  A choptastic interpretation of Jerusalem Ridge on his debut record, 3D, earned him a Grammy nomination and was hailed a "tour de force" (New York Times).  Driessen's "monster chops and imagination to match" (Downbeat) bring an electric energy to his live performances and solo recordings where this worldly instrumentalist and composer is able to show off a little, not merely as a fast and inventive fiddler, but as a visionary who translates his passion for tradition and improvisation into important new American music.  And although you can't hear them (or can you?), you know he's wearing red shoes.

 

"KICK IT OFF: A FIDDLER'S BACKSTORY"


On a blustery cold morning in December of 1978, in the small southern Minnesota town of Owatonna, a fiddler was born.  His father played banjo and pedal steel guitar in a band called Everybody & His Brother while his mother gardened and painted with watercolors.  The first fiddle he ever held was a cardboard box with paint stirrer taped on for a neck and a wooden dowel used for a bow.  As soon as he learned to respect his "instrument", the child was given his first real fiddle.

The boy grew up healthy and strong on two different diets ... tater tot hot dish and popsicles for physical nourishment, and bluegrass, western swing, and jazz for his ears.  His parents used to say the song Roly Poly was written about him.  There had also been passing mention that he had been found under a rock -- a theory that has yet to be disproved.

This young boy learned the value of hard work and practice by being bribed with baseball cards.  He grew and grew and practiced and practiced...and then grew some more...stopping just a hair short of 5'7".  It's been said that summers full of bluegrass festival campfire jam sessions and fiddle camps, years of public school orchestra, and a couple of seasons on the diving team may have prevented him from reaching 6'0".  However he did reach his goal of growing a goatee by the end of high school . . . if you could call it a goatee.

Goatee was accepted to Berklee College of Music, along with many other goatees, and swiftly left his then home of Chicago.  The following three years taught him about life on his own, parking in Boston, and all the other wonderful "lessons" you learn in those "college years."

With diploma in hand, this young man -- really a big kid at heart -- moved to Music City USA, home of the Grand Old Opry, the Station Inn, George Jones, the Wooten brothers, and hot chicken, Nashville TN.  Goatee already owned a pickup truck but felt life could be more fully realized if he changed his name to Mustache.

Harnessing the power of red shoes, Mustache and his trusty sidekick, 5-String Fiddle, have spent the last decade in studios, on stages, and crammed into various forms of transportation, traveling across the North American continent and over the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans - not only as a sideman for Béla Fleck, The Sparrow Quartet, Tim O'Brien, Darrell Scott, Steve Earle, and Frank Vignola, but also as a solo artist with his band, a drums/bass/fiddle power trio called The Colorfools - fighting evil music, toppling language barriers, and sharing his view of the world through a camera lens.

In 2006, Mustache and 5-String Fiddle made their debut record entitled 3D (Sugar Hill Records).  On the morning of his birthday, what at first seemed like prank phone call turned out to be the honest truth -- 3D, more specifically the track Jerusalem Ridge, was nominated for a GRAMMY.  Hailed as a "tour de force" (New York Times), this choptastic interpretation of a Bill Monroe bluegrass fiddle tune helped to establish Mustache as the leader of "The Chop," a new percussive bowing technique permeating every corner of the fiddle/violin world.

Two years, thousands of frequent flyer miles, and even more thousands of notes later, the time had come to return to the studio.  Genre lines were smeared; sounds and colors from beautiful to ugly and everywhere in between were explored; drums & loops (Matt Chamberlain), bass (Viktor Krauss), electric guitar & pedal steel (Darrell Scott), fiddle & voice (midwest boy) grooved through twists and turns; new melodies were born while old ones were de'rranged.  Life's most recent adventures of sight and sound were sonically summed up in less than an hour on a record named after an M.C. Escher work, Oog (Red Shoe Records).

Since then, Mustache and 5-String Fiddle have rarely slept a full 8hr night. Our fearless fiddler and his feared sidekick have been making countless special guest appearances on stages and in studios for all manner of eclectic and innovative artists – including performances for their largest audiences to date with the Zac Brown Band, and the honor of melodically dueling with the Fantastic Four of the acoustic/electric/bluegrass/jazz/fusion world, Béla Fleck and the Flecktones. There've even been collaborations with musicians from the Republic of Tuva and four African countries.  Through it all, 5-String Fiddle remains unchanged, with the exception of road wear and strangs.  Mustache, however, has stepped out of the (cell)phone booth with a blazing monochromatic new identity . . . Red Suit. 

No new solo record? (you say!) Patience, music lover.  Midwest Boy has also been tinkering steadily deep under ground in his top secret fiddle lab, experimenting with ground breaking Chop techniques and solo solo real-time looping capabilities full of pedal board tones brimming with electricity.  Patience, music lover.

That midwest boy hopes to see you out on the road somewhere.  Look for him using the alias Casey Driessen.  And although you can't hear them (or can you?), you know he's wearing red shoes.

Enjoy music.