Telluride Bluegrass: Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway, 6/17, Noon!

Telluride Bluegrass: Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway, 6/17, Noon!

The 49th Annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival takes place June 16 – June 19. The event is sold out. There is no waitlist. If you are looking for tickets, use the Festivarian Forum to connect with other festival goers. However, you can buy NightGrass tickets here.

Learn more about other Planet Bluegrass festivals at

Please scroll down to listen to a podcast with Molly Tuttle. She performs with Golden Highway at noon on Friday, June 17.

Go here for more on Telluride Bluegrass. (Podcasts with Bluegrass legends and legends-in-the-making back to 2009.)

Molly Tuttle, image, Alyssa Gafkjen

“Molly Tuttle has put together a fantastic crew in Golden Highway. It’s a powerhouse of master musicians with unmatched chemistry on stage. With one album release under their belt, they’re just getting started. This is definitely one you don’t want to miss,” says Grace Barrett, Director of Communications & Partnerships, Planet Bluegrass.

The last time Molly performed in town was 2019, when she delivered bravura performances solo and with the First Ladies of Bluegrass (helmed by Alison Brown of Compass Records).

The “First Ladies” were so named because each member was the “First Lady” to win an International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) award in their instrument category.

“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.. ,” said Bryan Eyster, former marketing guru (and accomplished musician), Planet Bluegrass.

A star was born.

And is still rising.

Molly Tuttle grew up California in a musical family, performing at festivals with her two brothers and father, Jack Tuttle, a multi-instrumentalist and noted Bay Area teacher. As a young girl of four, Molly 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 one of 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 explained. “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.’”

After graduating high school in Palo Alto, Molly 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 explained to TIO in a 2019 interview. “I developed a much better understanding of 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.”

A recent New York Times article about Molly confirms the lessons learned stuck.

“The singer, songwriter and guitarist Molly Tuttle’s fingers move so quickly, she could pick your pocket without breaking stride. Though she’s only been releasing albums for three years, but the sharpest ears in Americana music have taken notice…”

“I’ve never heard Molly Tuttle strike a single note that wasn’t completely self-assured. Molly plays with a confidence and command that only the very best guitarists ever achieve. If that could be bottled, I’d take two,” roots music guitar master David Rawlings, half of Gillian Welch’s legendary duo, told The New York Times.

Since moving to Nashville in 2015, Molly has worked with many of her peers and heroes in the Americana, folk, and bluegrass communities, winning (as noted above) Instrumentalist of the Year at the 2018 Americana Music Awards. Tuttle’s 2019 debut album, When You’re Ready, received critical acclaim, with NPR Music praising its “handsomely crafted melodies that gently insinuate themselves into the memory,” and The Wall Street Journal lauding Tuttle’s “genre-boundary-crossing comfort and emotional preparedness,” describing the record as an “invigorating, mature and attention-grabbing first album.”

Molly’s accolades also include Folk Alliance International’s honor for Song of the Year for “You Didn’t Call My Name,” from her 2017 Rise EP, and, as mentioned above, consecutive trophies for the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Guitar Player of the Year, the first woman in the history of the IBMA to win that honor.

During the pandemic, Molly recorded a covers album, …but i’d rather be with you, released in August 2020. The record, which features guest vocals from Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith and Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor, includes songs by musicians ranging from FKA Twigs to Cat Stevens, Rancid to Karen Dalton, and The National to The Rolling Stones.

The New Yorker’s Jay Ruttenberg, in praising her rendition of the Stones’ “She’s a Rainbow,” said: “In Tuttle’s reading, the song uses a bluegrass spirit to look to the past—and a feminist allegiance to peek at the future.”

With the release of Crooked Tree, the award-winning guitarist, vocalist and songwriter continues to push her songwriting in new directions, transcending musical boundaries – and, in the title song, “Crooked Tree,” Molly also openly addresses a life-changing hurdle she has had to overcome, alopecia areata, an incurable autoimmune disease she contracted when she was just three years old that results in partial, or, as in Molly’s case, total body hair loss.

“Writing and performing Crooked Tree — giving it pride of place as the album’s title — is, for Tuttle, an act of self-acceptance and affirmation,” explained The New York Times.

“Between her expressive, crystalline voice and astounding flat picking guitar skills, Tuttle has made history…,” raved Rolling Stone Country.

“[Molly Tuttle] sings with the gentle authority of Gillian Welch, yet plays astoundingly fleet flat-picking guitar like Chet Atkins on superdrive,” said American Songwriter Magazine.

“Her songs, singing and solos, much like her demeanor, tend to have an inward-looking elegance to them; they’re the outward expressions of a searching mind and a longtime dedication to cultivating her craft,” added NPR.

Golden Highway is Molly’s brand new band of bluegrass virtuosos. The ensemble features mandolinist Dominick Leslie; banjoist Kyle Tuttle; fiddle player Bronwyn Keith-Hynes; and bassist Shelby Means. The group is touring the US this year in support of Molly’s aforementioned Nonesuch Records debut, Crooked Tree, co-produced with dobro virtuoso and Telluride Bluegrass regular Jerry Douglas.

Solo or with Golden Highway, Molly will continue to push her sound and her songwriting in new directions, ultimately transcending musical boundaries.

For more on her life and work, please listen to Molly Tuttle’s podcast:

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