Telluride Bluegrass: Molly Tuttle Is Ready, Main Stage Friday & Sunday

Telluride Bluegrass: Molly Tuttle Is Ready, Main Stage Friday & Sunday

The 46th Annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival takes place June 20-June 23. The event is sold out, except for a few single-day tickets on Thursday. But tune in to the live Festival stream at And learn more about other Planet Bluegrass festivals at

Please scroll down to listen to a podcast with Molly Tuttle. She performs solo on Friday, June 21, 1:30 p.m., then again with the First Ladies of Bluegrass on Sunday, 3:30 p.m., all on the Main Stage in Telluride Town Park.

Molly Tuttle, photo, Alyssa Gafkjen.

“She made history as the first woman ever to win the ‘Guitar Player of the Year’ at the International Bluegrass Music Association in 2017. In 2018, she won the title ‘Instrumentalist of the Year’ at the 2018 Americana Awards. But her singing and confessional songwriting style are just as powerful as her pickin’, and she has an innovative way of playing ‘clawhammer guitar’ like nothing I have ever heard before. Mostly, her new (and debut full-length) album of Americana, folk and country, When You Are Ready, is causing quite a stir,” said Bryan Eyster, marketing guru (and accomplished musician),Telluride Bluegrass Festival.

And while her fans know her first as a guitar and singer-songwriting whiz, Nashville native (since 2015) Molly Tuttle also picks a pretty mean banjo.

To recap: In 2017, Molly Tuttle was honored by IBMA as “Guitar Player of the Year.” In 2018, she won IBMA’s “Song of the Year”; IBMA “Emerging Artist of the Year”; and Americana Music Honors & Award’s “Instrumentalist of the Year.”

And Molly Tuttle only just released her freshman album this year, 2019, When You Are Ready.

A star is already born.

And still rising.

Today the virtuosic, award-­winning guitarist with a gift for insightful songwriting, Molly grew up California in a musical family, performing at festivals with her father, Jack Tuttle, (a multi-instrumentalist and noted Bay Area teacher), and two brothers. As a young girl of four, she took violin lessons, but soon became way more interested in playing guitar.

“My dad brought me home a little guitar and he would sit with me whenever I wanted to play it and show me something,” she recalls. “He was really encouraging, and I think that’s what made me stick with the guitar. I liked having a fun thing to do with my dad and practicing didn’t feel like a chore.”

By age 11, while attending bluegrass jams, Molly decided she wanted to do more singing, so she took voice lessons from one of her neighbors, a classical vocal coach, who taught her proper technique without sacrificing phrasing.

As a young woman interested in bluegrass, Molly admired bold songwriters like Hazel Dickens. She also looked up to Bay Area bluegrass musicians such as Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick.

Over the years, Molly’s musical tastes evolved, ranging, in her more mature years, from Bob Dylan and Gillian Welch to The Smiths and Neko Case. Because she kept seeing references to Townes Van Zandt by songwriters she admired, Molly dug into his catalog and found “White Freightliner Blues.” Her own exceptional rendition has become a showcase for her nimble playing, as well as a graceful nod to her musical heroes.

And the circle continues. Molly’s own instructional videos of the song online have already been discovered by the next generation of pickers, who look to her as a role model and for inspiration.

“I love seeing any young person trying to play one of my songs or just learning something from me,” she says. “One of my goals is to inspire the next generation, especially young girls, to play guitar. I think if girls see a woman doing something, it helps them think, ‘I can do that, too.’”

Molly Tuttle, image, Alyssa Gafkjen.

After graduating high school in Palo Alto, she enrolled in Berklee College of Music in Boston, where Molly studied in the American Roots Music Program, focusing on guitar performance and songwriting.

“In my time at Berklee,” she says, “I developed a much better understanding the fingerboard, so that gave me the freedom to play more of what I heard in my head and to try to play something that was meaningful to me.”

That sense of freedom and accomplishment carried over to making When You’re Ready, which marks a true progression of the young woman’s distinctive talent and musical ambition. The release is infused with an intoxicating mix of drums and electric guitar, while still keeping Molly front and center.

“I wanted to keep the focus on the songs,” she says, “but also make an interesting guitar record.”

In Nashville, Molly wound her way through bluegrass, progressive acoustic, Americana, singer-songwriter, and folk-pop circles, picking up collaborators and recognition in each.

“This album feels like more of a collaboration with new people I’ve met since moving to Nashville, which is really cool,” she says.“I love so many types of music, and it’s exciting to be a part of and embraced by different musical worlds, but when I’m creating I don’t think about genres or how it will fit into any particular format, it’s just music.”

Here’s what critics have to say:

“…handsomely crafted melodies that gently insinuate themselves into the memory…,” NPR.

 “Tuttle effortlessly delivers a mélange of styles to accompany her powerful guitar licks throughout…,” Rolling Stone.

“The result is an album that’s bigger, brighter and more expressive than her past work while still leaving room to appreciate the incredible individual talent at the core of the songs…,” PASTE.

“…delightfully dissonant combination of sweet singing and
monster-shredder guitar playing…,” EXCLAIM.

Graced with a clear, true voice and a keen melodic sense, the 26-year-old seems poised for a long and exciting career.

For more, listen to this podcast featuring Molly Tuttle.


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