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Chris Thile

A new description of Chris Thile would be hard to come by, especially since all the good superlatives have already been used. They called him a child prodigy when he was 12 years old and making his first solo album, 1994's Leading Off..., and a virtuoso when he was 20 and putting out his third solo effort, 2001's Not All Who Wander Are Lost. On the heels of those descriptions came effusive adjectives for his talent with a mandolin, words like "brilliant," "bold," "utterly fantastic," and "staggering." Heady stuff for someone who was barely out of his teens. But to hear Thile's joyful playing, or to see his fingers fly with easy speed and agility over his mandolin as they did when he appeared with his bandmates from Nickel Creek on the 35th CMA Awards Show in 2001, is to learn firsthand that the enthusiastic praise aimed at the young mandolin player wasn't just hype.

In addition to his work as a solo artist, Thile has been part of Nickel Creek, with siblings Sara Watkins and Sean Watkins, for more than ten years. He helped Nickel Creek earn a pair of Grammy nominations for a self-titled debut album, which was released by Sugar Hill in 2000 and claimed a niche in Billboard's country Top 20. Their sophomore effort, 2002's This Side, later nabbed the group's first Grammy win for Best Contemporary Folk Album. In 2001, Thile took home the title of Mandolin Player of the Year from the Instrumental Bluegrass Music Association, while the band was honored as Instrumental Group of the Year. He and his bandmates were nominated that same year for the CMA's Vocal Group of the Year and the Horizon Award.

Thile started earning awards and championships years ago. He took home top honors in mandolin competitions in both Arizona and Kansas when he was 13, a time when he also received a nod from the International Bluegrass Music Association with a nomination for Player of the Year. He and Nickel Creek played during a Grammy Awards ceremony while backing country superstar Dolly Parton, and Thile and Sara Watkins made appearances in a Parton music video. Country Music Television also took notice of Thile and his fellow bandmembers, airing videos of the band's "When You Come Back Down" and "Reasons Why."

Initially, Nickel Creek also included Scott Thile, the mandolinist's bass-playing father. The elder Thile bowed out after the group launched its first album. The younger Thile acted as producer on Not All Who Wander Are Lost. Among the album's guest artists were the other two-thirds of Nickel Creek, Edgar Meyer, Jeff Coffin, Union Station's Jerry Douglas, and Béla Fleck. One of Thile's enduring influences, John Moore, was one of his first mandolin instructors during Thile's childhood in California and plays in the band Bluegrass Etc. Moore was formerly a member of California, a first-rate bluegrass band, along with Dan Crary and Byron Berline. (The trio Thile formed with the Watkins siblings borrows its name from a song written by Berline.)

Through this flurry of activity, Thile continued to record on his own, releasing Deceiver in the fall of 2004. The album showed him exploring a more progressive and experimental side of bluegrass music, instead of just the hotshot mandolin playing that marked his prior albums. The more organic-sounding but still eclectic How to Grow a Woman from the Ground followed in 2006 and earned Thile a Grammy nomination for Best Country Instrumental Performance. He recorded the album with the backing band the How to Grow a Band (with whom he later toured), which comprised Noam Pikelny, Gabe Witcher, Chris Eldridge, and Greg Garrison. The group officially changed its name to the Punch Brothers in 2007 and debuted Thile's ambitious 40-minute, four-movement suite, "The Blind Leaving the Blind," at Carnegie Hall. The entire suite, along with a handful of other tracks, appeared on 2008’s Punch.

The year 2008 also saw the release of a collaboration for Nonesuch with Edgar Meyer titled Edgar Meyer & Chris Thile. A new Punch Brothers collection, Antifogmatic, arrived in 2010, followed by 2011's Sleep with One Eye Open, a collaboration with bluegrass guitarist Michael Daves. Another collaboration with Meyer, Bass & Mandolin, appeared in 2014. ~ Linda Seida
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: How To Grow A Woman From The Ground

1. Watch 'at Breakdown

2. Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground

3. Stay Away

4. O Santo De Polvora

5. Wayside (Back In Time)

6. You're An Angel, And I'm Gonna Cry

7. How To Grow A Woman From The Ground

8. The Beekeeper

9. Brakeman's Blues

10. If The Sea Was Whiskey

11. Cazadero

12. Heart In A Cage

13. I'm Yours If You Want Me

14. The Eleventh Reel

x

Track List: Deceiver

1. The Wrong Idea

2. On Ice

3. Locking Doors

4. Waltz For Dewayne Pomeroy

5. Empire Falls

6. I'm Nowhere And You're Everything

7. Jessamyn's Reel

8. The Believer

9. This Is All Real

10. Ready For Anything

x

Track List: Not All Who Wander Are Lost

1. Song For A Young Queen

2. Wolfcreek Pass

3. Raining At Sunset

4. Riddles In The Dark

5. Sinai To Canaan I

6. Sinai To Canaan Ii

7. Club G.R.O.S.S.

8. You Deserve Flowers

9. Eureka!

10. Big Sam Thompson

11. Bridal Veil Falls

12. Laurie De' Tullins

x

Track List: Stealing Second

1. Ah Spring

2. Stealing Second

3. Kneel Before Him

4. Bittersweet Reel

5. Alderaanian Melody

6. Hyperdrive

7. Leaves Fall

8. A Night In Mos Eisley

9. Hop The Fence

10. The Game Is Afoot

11. Clear The Tracks

12. Golden Pond

13. Road To Wrigley

14. Ryno's Lament

Comments

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Looking forward to hearing Chris Thile host Prairie Home Companion!
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Let it rip Chris!!!
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ebamboostage
I detect a bit of Louisiana Cajun, at least it would fit right in.
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Not bad this guy is talented!!
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+4 :P
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ee there are now 1000 e's on the page.
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@John Jay are you saying what kind of animal he is? If so, I heartily agree!!
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dfbishop1
Saw him in concert at Goshen College. The last encore played without amplificatio n made ones hairs stand up. What an artist!!
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saw him with Edgar Meyer at the Chicago symphony center. yes, bragging.
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saw him in concert The Best Awesome Badass
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Grey fox
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YES to Chris Thile!
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Cut music
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Saw Chris live, that's some hot stuff!
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This guy is cool.
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Thile's no slouch.
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What pickin'!
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I absolutely LOVE the Mandolin and Banjo. Of course Bluegrass music.
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Very good music
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This man blows me away! And nickel creek! Saw them in Philly Friday! I can't stop listening to these extremely talented folks!
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catchilupi
Saw Nickel Creek this past Saturday in Charlottesvi l l e . Blew.Me.Away . Hayloft, performed live, was a standout from their new work and should be what they're promoting on the late night circuit.

Thile is on a completely different plane as his accomplished bandmates, but his voice works so well with Sara Watkins and the synergy between his Sara and Sean is better than any of his other endeavors. So glad to see Nickel Creek back.
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lymant2
I believe nickel creek has a new album out...they were on Jimmy Fallon I was told

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Chris Thile is simply one of the best musicians alive. I saw him on the Michael Dave's tour and they put on an epic performance for like 200 people.
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He just came out with the first of his volumes of Bach Partitas and Sonatas. Those pieces were written for solo violin, and he took them as the were with no arranging to play on the mandolin. It is truly incredible to witness. I can't wait til Pandora can play them.
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Of all the bands that are no longer. I miss Nickel Creek the most...
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love me some chris thile!!!! i wish he could teach me how he does it!
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All that is gold does not glitter. Not all who wander are lost, the old that is strong does not whither. Deep roots are not reached by the frost. That was what I thought about when I saw the title of the album
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Amen to your comment Sarah Beautiful Fingers, what a great asset to have the ability to make music like this.
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Sweet on the ears :)! Relaxing too:)
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rh132868
Dont forget the collaboratio n with yo-yo ma, stuart duncan, and edgar meyer: The Goat Rodeo Sessions.
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cowboy4576
Punch Brothers?
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derek.e.cole
Surprised they didn't mention his crazy head banging when he plays
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he is good
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melodyeducat e
I'm proud to say I'm a Murray State alum and that while I didn't have any classes with Chris, I fondly remember sitting on the steps of Lovett listening to him mess around on several different instruments. Way to go, Chris!
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I saw that concert! In LA? The concerto was all right, the covers he did afterward were amazing!
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theatrething
Saw him in concert a couple of years ago! Incredible! Wasn't thrilled with the concerto, but the folk work is really exciting!
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im new to listening instrumental music and when i created a baroque station, this turned to be a real head turner. true master piece. treasure of music.
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i can't wait to see him play
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scuderi65
Big Fan of Thile he really rekindeled my love of Bluegrass.
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jensarem107
I met thile and spoke with him twice after concerts, and he is a really nice guy. very cheerful and attentive. lots of humble and little ego
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jensarem107
hmmm. no mention of glen philips in thile's bio. hmmmm
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just the greatest use of the mandolin on all aspects of playing from rhythm to melody.
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npr.com/ tiny desk concert w/ Michael Daves. Truly mind blowing!
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Saw him in richmond va a couple a years ago the koolest show ever ALL HAIL TO THE MAGIC BUNNY .
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lachurches
seeing him tonight! can't wait
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I recently had the good fortune and pleasure to see Chris live for the first time. (What can I say? I'm a busy guy.) This will not be the last time. His inventive sense of melody blew me away in a way few other performers have (and I've seen everybody who's anybody in jazz, newgrass and progressive acoustic music).
I was a fan after hearing his discs, but seeing Chris live is a whole different thing. He just walks out on stage, smiles, and proceeds to burn the house down. Play on, dude!
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tammyfsmall
He is as amazing to watch as to listen to.. wonder what he is up to now? Nickel Creek long gone - seen him solo with a lot of the greats... but now new album since how to grow a woman..
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List of things to do before I die: #1 -See Chris Thile play at least one song.
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Wow...what a great artist!
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westjd10
I went to Murray State at the same time Chris did and was often in the music department with him. He is one of the most versitile musicians I have ever met and he never stops amazing me with his music. From sitting in my kitchen at parties, to the hoemcoming parade, to the several concerts I've seen he ALWAYS puts on a great show.
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