Talking with Frank Solivan: All Grass Says it All
Frank Solivan calls his music “all grass.” I kind of like that term—it gets to the bluegrass core of the music but it also embraces any other number of musical influences from various other acoustic genres. Frank’s fingers fly all over his mandolin and the results are impressive. Franks’ precise and clear picking makes your heart sing and your ears extremely happy … add the members of Dirty Kitchen and you’ve got an exceptional musical experience. Mike Munford on banjo, Jerry Middleton on upright bass and multi-instrumentalist, Chris Luquette comprise one of the finest ensembles you’ll ever have the pleasure to hear.
I understand that you lived in Alaska for some time. How much of your life was spent there and what was it like?
I was born in California. Central Valley to be exact. Then I moved to Alaska when I was 18 years old. Drove my 1963 GMC pickup north through Canada on the ALCAN highway. Spent the better part of a decade in Alaska.
What inspired you to take up the mandolin? Did you start on other instruments first?
I started playing guitar and violin when I was a kid. Played the banjo a bunch when I was a teenager. I was closing in on 20 years old when I started to play the mandolin. My friend Ginger Boatwright asked if I could play the mandolin in her band. I responded in jest, “Sure, it’s my main instrument.” I had only messed around with a mandolin in years past. She loaned me a fine mandolin and that was the beginning of the end. HA! I now gravitate more to the mandolin than any other instrument.
Did you play in any bands when you were young? If so, was it a bluegrass band?
I played in many bands. When I was in high school, I played in a number of country bands that opened up for top 40 artists and after moving to Alaska, I played in many bands… country, swing, bluegrass, etc etc.
What is it about bluegrass music that does it for you?
Acoustic music is honest. Wood, wires and voices is all there is to hear. There’s no place to hide. There is a large umbrella that covers all the styles of bluegrass music. We even lean to blues, jazz, country and rock with our acoustic instruments, so I think we play “all-grass”.
Have you studied the bluegrass masters of the past? Do you have any mandolin heroes?
Of course! From Bill Monroe to Flatt and Scruggs, from Jim and Jesse to The Osborne Brothers, from The Johnson Mountain Boys to New Grass Revival, from Ray Charles to Stevie Wonder and from Little Milton to Prince. There are too many mandolin heroes of mine to write, but to name a few… David Grisman, Sam Bush, Bill Monroe, Ronnie McCoury, Jesse McReynolds, Bobby Osborne, Mike Marshall, Adam Steffey and the list goes on and on.
How did Dirty Kitchen come about?
The band name stems from the name of an instrumental I composed, “Dirty Kitchen" and is the first track on my very first solo project called, I Am A Rambler. My love of cooking was the fodder that inspired the name of the tune and the branding possibilities with my band.
How would you compare your new CD, Family, Friends & Heroes to your other recordings?
This new project was recorded differently. Lots less separation. At times, there was only air and mics between us. Some tunes were completely off the cuff with very little rehearsal and others were more arranged, but they all were recorded with very little to no overdubbing. There are a number of first takes that made it onto the final product. The honest and organic vibes definitely come through.
I don't get to ask this too often, but what does it feel like to be nominated for a Grammy like you were in 2015? Did you get to go to the award ceremony and walk the red carpet and all that?
It’s been a year and I am still in shock! We went to The Grammys. We walked the red carpet and when we walked in the door to find our seats, our music was being played. That could have been the coolest part!
Word has it that you're a fine chef. When did you get into cooking? What's your favorite meal to prepare?
I love to cook and don’t really call myself a chef. Possibly a self-taught chef. My mom showed me how to cook at an early age. She was in the restaurant biz for many years. I love to cook food that makes you smile and feel comforted. The kind that leaves you wanting to go back for a second helping.
What do you do when you're not in the studio or on tour?
Hanging with my family is paramount, I try and write new music, expand my cooking repertoire, expand my musical repertoire, I love to go fishing, I love target practice and I love to practice Jiujitsu when I can.