News/Thoughts

Jeff Scroggins and Colorado

Jeff Scroggins grew up in a very small farming town in Dibble Oklahoma, milking cows on a dairy farm. Like many teenage boys in the 70s and 80s, Jeff dabbled in rock and roll music in high school. “They found a picture of him in a Kiss cover band,” his son Tristan told me. “He played a lot of electric guitar. His grandfather played guitar and a bunch of other instruments so he kind of was tangentially aware of the music.”

But when Jeff was 19, he bought a banjo at a yardsale. He was so taken by the instrument he eventually sold his Les Paul guitar and amp so he could buy a nicer banjo. He started taking lessons with Alan Munde who came from that same area in Oklahoma. That was the turning point for Jeff and he shifted his focused entirely on the banjo.

On The Move
Jeff moved to Texas not long after that and immersed himself in that music scene for a few years. He spent a few years in Dallas, which was a big bluegrass scene in Texas at the time. “He found himself playing in TV commercials for companies like KFC. And he was good friends with both the band that would become the Dixie Chicks and the Dixie Chicks and they were like kids. He used to give banjo lessons to Emily Robison,” Tristan told me.

Jeff got married and had a son, (Tristan), and more or less quit playing in order the give his family a stable home life. “We moved to New Mexico where my mom’s family was from,” Tristan said. “My brother was born in New Mexico.”

The music bug got the best of him and Jeff joined a band called Big Twang based out of Kansas, “that almost made it big,” Tristan recalled. The band eventually disbanded and Jeff and his now family of five moved to Albuquerque where they lived for eight years until the family seperated. Jeff started playing full time again, and at the age of 14, Tristan moved to Colorado with his dad where they started Jeff Scroggins and Colorado.

Tristan Gets The Bug
Tristan said he’s always been around music, but didn’t initially find interest in it. “I remember going to festivals with dad as a kid and having no interest in the music,” he said. “It wasn’t really that I was into other music. I listened to the radio just vaguely as a kid, although I did listen to a lot of Bela Fleck. But when I was eight, my dad was playing in this local band in Albuquerque. They were playing a festival that Southwest pickers put on there. I was playing around in the fairgrounds. Dad was playing this tune that he wrote called “Jalapeño Flashback.” It was one of the songs that he won the national championship with. It was an original song that I’d heard a bunch of times, but I had this very strange moment of sitting in the bleachers really far away and watching him play, and becoming extremely overwhelmed with emotion. It was very alarming at the time. I was eight and had no idea how to deal with it. I figured out much later that it was really just pride that my dad was so good at something,” he recalled.

Tristan asked Jeff to teach him to play the banjo. “Which really took them off guard,” Tristan said. “There was no pushing us to play music in any way as kids.”

“I wasn’t very good at the banjo. I just didn’t understand the banjo at the time so I switched to the mandolin. It just made more sense to me and it’s also easier to play. In the beginning, I really just played like a kid would play, just for fun. It was just like a thing to do. But when I was twelve, dad picked up this weird job. He was essentially hired by this guy to follow his son around to mandolin contests and play rhythm banjo for him in these mandolin contests. Dad would then go enter the banjo contest, and he’d make some extra money that way.”

Tristan recalled a trip driving from Albuquerque to Houston. Someone had given his dad a bunch of CDs to listen to, and one of them was the New Grass Revival. “I was twelve or thirteen at the time, listening to my iPod, probably some sort of angsty teenager music like Green Day or something,” he quipped. “I fell asleep and I remember waking up and that CD was on. Accidentally hearing it, I was trying to not listen. I made him play that CD the rest of the way to Houston, and the entire weekend that we were there, and when we were driving back. By the time we got to Dallas, he made a stop at a Best Buy so we could buy a different CD – so I bought a Sam Bush CD,” he laughed. That was what made me start to actually focus on training and having a goal.”

Joining Forces
As a way to play music together, Jeff and Tristan put the band together. “Dad had met Greg Blake at a wedding in the mountains that some mutual friends were having. They had a jam for their reception and my dad and Greg ended up staying there until 4:00 AM jamming with each other. Greg, from West Virginia, had been a preacher for 33 years. He went to seminary in Missouri and lived in Kansas City for most of that time until he moved to Colorado a couple years before we did. He previously played in a regional band in Kansas City called the Bluegrass Missourians.”

Greg and Jeff clicked immediately, and he became the lead singer of the band. Their hard driving sound has resonated with audiences everywhere they go. Jeff Scroggins & Colorado is now an IBMA award nominated band that’s multi-generational, multi-coastal, and tours internationally. Nine years later, the five members of the band live in five different states, but they still manage to travel nearly 300 days a year, traveling thousands of miles in the process. According to a recent press release, “Their shows are a mixture of full-tilt personality, energy, and dynamic subtlety, with the comfortable self-effacing intimacy you would have around a generous fan’s campfire. The band is comprised of five could-be-frontmen/women, who have each dedicated their lives to the traditions and evolution of bluegrass music. Despite their individual star power, they present a coherent show which at no point focuses too heavily on any one member. Rather, much like your favorite cult classic film, there is more to notice every time you watch this unassuming but undeniable super group.”

Awards
2018 International Bluegrass Music Association Emerging Artist of the Year Nominee

2016 California Bluegrass Association Emerging Artist of the Year

Jeff Scroggins | Banjo
Two-Time National Banjo Champion

Greg Blake | Guitar & Vocals
Five-Time Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America Guitar Player of the Year

Tristan Scroggins | Mandolin & Vocals
2017 International Bluegrass Music Association Instrumentalist of the year Momentum Award Recipient

Ellie Hakanson | Fiddle & Vocals
2018, 2017 International Bluegrass Music Association Momentum Award Nominee

Mark Schatz | Bass // Album Producer
Two-Time International Bluegrass Music Association Bass Player of the Year

The latest studio project for Jeff Sroggins and Colorado is called, Over The Line, now available.

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