On His New Album, Bow Thayer Plays Bojotar, An Instrument He Invented
Vermont musician Bow Thayer is a busy guy. He has a new album coming out that he recorded and produced in his self-built solar-powered studios, he’s invented a new instrument and he’s cofounder of the Tweed River Music Festival.
He joined VPR to chat about coming to Vermont and his recent musical endeavors.
On what brought him to Vermont
“The whole romantic aspect of moving up to a little cabin in the woods, in the mountains, making music – that’s pretty much what I do anyways. My plans are working out great … I knew instantly I should be here and I haven’t left since.”
On his musical influences
"Everything. I listened to a lot of blues, delta blues, a lot of punk rock. I listened to the classic rock, Neil Young, the [Grateful] Dead, the [Rolling] Stones, [Led] Zeppelin, all that stuff. Also reggae, jazz – I kind of dabbled in everything."
On the new instrument he invented, the Bojotar
“I love to pick banjo, I love to play the electric guitar and I love to play the slide guitar. Out of necessity of trying to play banjo, dobro and electric guitar in shows, in a lot of situations, I had to hike around all this gear, all these different instruments, so I kind of meshed them all into one.
"Out of necessity of trying to play banjo, dobro and electric guitar in shows, in a lot of situations, I had to hike around all this gear, all these different instruments, so I kind of meshed them all into one."
“It’s being called the Bojotar because it’s part banjo, part dobro and part electric, kind of like I took a low string off the guitar and replaced it with a high one like a banjo has. But I’ve also kept the next lower string … which is not on a five-string banjo, so essentially it’s a six-string banjo neck.”
On his new record, Sundowser
“The record is called Sundowser and it’s a theme based on the sun, how we’re all blanketed by the same source of energy. It was done in the studio that I built when I moved up here 17 years ago, so it’s really exciting for me to finally make a record in the studio I’ve been making for 12 years. It’s a timber frame and I did it traditionally, piece-by-piece, all salvaged parts. I was finally able to get solar paneling on the roof. It is kind of a dream come true to be recording in my own church."
On the Tweed River Music Festival
“It’s not a big cookie-cutter kind of festival, it’s a very boutique festival created by musicians. Kind of a great musical community and every year we get more folks. We have like 30 bands up there [this year] and the Mad River is right there, which is a beautiful swimming hole.”
On playing with Levon Helm
“We became really good friends right off the bat. That was just kind of fate and he agreed to do a record with me and we did. My studio, which I’m calling The Woodshed, was very inspired by what Levon did in Woodstock [New York] … we really bonded over the fact that to move out of town, you make yourself a barn and you get to work.”