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Jam-band is our cup of

Before Tea Leaf Green hits the Mall Feb. 19, meet band member Trevor Garrod

Tea Leaf Green has been playing by its own set of rules for nearly 15 years. Largely through word of mouth, the independent jam band has garnered a strong grassroots fanbase, bolstered by a tireless tour schedule and reputation for energetic live shows. Now touring with material from its seventh studio album, Radio Tragedy, the five-piece group stops at the Jefferson Theater Feb. 19 to give Charlottesville a taste of free-wheeling prog-rock at its finest. tableau caught up with Trevor Garrod (keyboard, vocals) in anticipation of the show.

tableau: It seems like you guys have been touring nonstop for years. How do you stay sane while on the road for so long?

Garrod: We actually don't - we've given up on sanity... There is a level of insanity that you kind of come to expect, and then it becomes normal, and when you go home you think, "This is boring!" I need the craziness to give me purpose in my life.

t: How have you managed to create such a large fanbase while remaining an independent group, and why have you refrained from signing with a label?

G: We've been on labels in the past, and it's kind of like, in modern times, we just don't see the need for a label. We decided that there isn't much that a record label can do for us at this point, and that's kind of what we were getting at with the title of our new album, Radio Tragedy.

t: How would you describe the songs on this album compared to your previous albums?

G: Radio Tragedy is definitely a departure point for us from where we were originally. I don't know how it looks to the outside world, but to me, every album we've put out has represented a new phase of the band. Radio Tragedy came at a transition for us. We've got five members in the band now, and we started working with a producer by the name of Jerry Black, and it was the longest time we've ever spent on a record.

It's also the most egalitarian product we've made. It has the most songs written by not just me, but by everybody in the band. Everybody had a say in how it came through. It's not like we were trying to get away from our jam band thing - we still have the same love of music, but it represents a more modern take on where music can go.

t: Who are some of your musical influences?

G: I would be lying to say we weren't fundamentally influenced by Phish. When I was in high school, they saved rock and roll for me. They were playing it, but they were also adding this element of improvisation that didn't exist in modern music at the time.

I've always tried to think of it as my goal as a writer and a musician to bridge this gap between American folk music and American jazz ... You have folk music, where people have been singing the same songs for generations, but jazz music is produced by people hearing cars on the street - the sounds of the Industrial Revolution. I've always tried to find a bridge between those two things.

t: What is your favorite part about making a living as a musician?

G: Well, it's a really difficult time, and you pretty much have to face a daily existential crisis. You ask yourself, "Am I just a hobo? Am I just a bum singing for my supper?"

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