Eric 2010/07/06 8:48am

We quit writing set lists several years ago. Leigh, Mike, and I have been playing together now for seventeen years. Mike can remember the key of every song we've ever done. I think Joe was nervous at first and we had to remember to give him a heads up here and there at first, but now he's comfortable with our way of doing things. Clayton's been with us for six years, so it's hard to surprise him as well. I like the spontaneity of it all. I like to read a crowd. If we do an old country number and the audience really responds, well, we'll make sure to do another one later in the set. If hard-driving stuff is tearing them up, we'll give them more. Sometimes we'll finish a song, and Leigh and I will turn to each other and suggest the exact same song as a follow-up. Sometimes it's a song we haven't done in ages, but something will make us think of it at the same time. Scary. A few months back we did a radio show where we had to write a set list in advance. I wrote what I thought was a solid set, but it didn't translate the way I thought it would. The folks at the show were in a rowdy way, and my list was too subdued. Set lists! 

Leigh is so witty that people have asked before how he comes up with what he does. I swear, it's off the top of his head. He scripts very little. Oh, he has a couple intros for songs that he may lean on in a pinch, but very seldom. Leigh could have been an actor. He does impressions in the van that kill us. I love the nights when he feels comfortable to let himself go onstage. At OATS, he announced before "Blue Yodel #4" that his yodel has really impressed the ladies down through the years. A female friend picked a spot in the song and surprised us by doing a ridiculous dance in front of the stage. Leigh spoke into the mic mid-song with a low Barry White-type voice. "Hey, Mama." We don't yuk it up too much, because the music is first and foremost, but we want to have fun. We will never have a Vegas-type show with all kinds of lights and gimmickry. I like to think of our show as having a livingroom-feel to it. 

The only downfall I can see of not writing a list is that from time to time we forget to do a request. One time I was half-way home from Lodi, NY, and it hit me that I'd forgotten to sing "Beautiful Brown Eyes" for a little girl. It really bothered me, and still does. Maybe we lost a fan there. Requests can be tough, too. We go back quite a ways now. People will ask for songs from the mid-90s that we haven't done in ages. You can tell they really want to hear it, and you want to make them happy because they paid to see you. Sometimes we'll get brave and try something we have no business doing. When it works, you feel like a champ. When you have a trainwreck due to the unfamiliarity, you're mad at yourself that you didn't play something you really wanted to play. Another problem is when you get asked to play a ton of ballads. We can't be a bluegrass band and play an entire set of ballads (my dad would prefer that!). We'd put ourselves to sleep. We just do the best we can and hope folks leave happy. When they quit asking for songs, we're in trouble, so we're glad to get requests and will try to do as many as we can.