Chris Thile was born in Santa Mónica (California) on February 2, 1981. He’s a renowned mandolin virtuoso who has performed since a very young age with some of the biggest names in contemporary bluegrass. Chris was a founding member of The Grass is Greener with Richard Greene and David Grier and also a member of Nickel Creek together with Sara Watkins and Sean Watkins.
Thile began playing the mandolin at the age of 5 and started performing at California bluegrass festivals. At the age of 12 he won the prestigious national mandolin championship at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas in 1993. That same year Thile began recording his first solo album with mostly self-penned songs.
His third solo album Not All Who Wander Are Lost featured guest appearances by Dolly Parton, The Dixie Chicks and Edgar Meyer. Later, Thile teamed with mandolin master Mike Marshall for an album of duets called Into the Cauldron that included jazz, world music and the music of Bach.
“When you grow up with something you can become so familiar with it that you start to take it for granted ” Chris Thile said about his 2006 album How to Grow a Woman from the Ground. “And especially when you grow up playing it at a time when quite frankly you have nothing to express it’s easy to ignore as a more mature musician the expressive possibilities of that particular musical aesthetic—and they are great they are many. So I came to see that bluegrass was something that I was unfairly dismissing about my musicianship.
“Part of it was getting divorced and realizing that I was singing bluegrass heartbreak songs. That’s what would really resonate with me; those were the songs I was singing—’Bury Me Beneath The Willow ‘ ‘More Pretty Girls Than One.’ And another part of it was living in New York because for me at least New York demands that you find what it is about you that’s unique. There are so many talented people—exceptional people—that to stand out you either have to be completely average or really really different. And having been trained in the ways of bluegrass as a kid I realized how much that meant to me. I felt you can’t fight yourself—any time you’re fighting yourself you might not lose but you just can’t win. And I realized I do that well because that’s what I grew up with. So it signifies a return of sorts; I’m realizing what a meaningful part of my life that music is.”
How to Grow a Woman from the Ground included young musicians with a great reputation in bluegrass music, including fiddler Gabe Witcher whom Thile had met at the Follows Camp festival; banjo virtuoso Noam Pikelny; guitarist and singer Chris “Critter” Eldridge; and bassist Greg Garrison.
In the following years, Chris Thile collaborated with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, bassist Edgar Meyer, guitarist Michael Daves, Stuart Duncan and many other musicians. He also started a new band called The Punch Brothers.
In late 2016, Chris Thile became the new host of A Prairie Home Companion, a popular radio theater show featuring music, humor and storytelling that is broadcast by public radio stations across the United States.
Little Cowpoke, with Nickel Creek (1993)
Leading Off… (Sugar Hill Records, 1994)
Here to There, with Nickel Creek (1997)
Stealing Second (Sugar Hill Records, 1997)
Nickel Creek (Sugar Hill Records, 2000)
Not All Who Wander Are Lost (Sugar Hill Records, 2001)
This Side, with Nickel Creek (Sugar Hill, 2002)
Into the Cauldron, with Mike Marshall (Sugar Hill Records, 2003)
Deceiver (Sugar Hill Records, 2004)
Why Should the Fire Die?, with Nickel Creek (Sugar Hill, 2005)
How to Grow a Woman from the Ground (Sugar Hill Records, 2006)
Live: Duets, with Mike Marshall (Sugar Hill Records, 2006)
Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile (Nonesuch Records, 2008)
Punch, with Punch Brothers (Nonesuch Records, 2008)
Antifogmatic, with Punch Brothers (Nonesuch Records, 2010)
Sleep with One Eye Open, with Michael Daves (Nonesuch Records, 2011)
The Goat Rodeo Sessions, with Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer and Stuart Duncan (Sony Masterworks, 2011)
Who’s Feeling Young Now?, with Punch Brothers (Nonesuch Records, 2012)
Ahoy!, with Punch Brothers (Nonesuch Records, 2012)
Bach: Sonatas & Partitas 1 (Nonesuch, 2013)
A Dotted Line, with Nickel Creek (Nonesuch Records, 2014)
Bass & Mandolin, with Edgar Meyer (Nonesuch Records, 2014)
The Wireless, with Punch Brothers (Nonesuch Records, 2015)
The Phosphorescent Blues, with Punch Brothers (Nonesuch Records, 2015)
Bach Trios, with Edgar Meyer and Yo-Yo Ma (Nonesuch Records, 2017)
Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau (Nonesuch Records, 2017)
Essential Techniques for Mandolin (Hal Leonard 2005) 85 Minute DVD or VHS plus music and tab booklet
Bluegrass Journey documentary (Blue Stores, 2005)
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.