Three Rivers Commercial News | Robert Tomlinson, Staff Writer
THREE RIVERS — Andrew Collins, the band leader for the Andrew Collins Trio, said he didn’t start playing music until “late in his life” — at age 23.
“It just called me,” Collins said. “I started playing at age 23, which is actually 23 years ago, so I’ve been playing exactly half of my life. I fell in love with bluegrass music, I was exposed to it through a friend in high school, and I never thought that I was going to do this for a living.”
Collins said he was “compelled” by the mandolin and wanted to play it for a number of years, but hesitated and resisted for a while.
“I didn’t think I’d put in the work to get where I wanted to get with the instrument,” Collins said. “Then I finally broke down and got one. Next thing you know, it took over my life, and 23 years later, I’m still at it.”
Collins and his trio will be at it at the Riviera Theatre in Three Rivers on Saturday, Sept. 21. The Toronto native will be joined by Mike Mezzatesta and James McEleney, who are very versatile musicians in their own right. Collins plays mandolin, fiddle, guitar, mandola and mandocello, Mezzatesta plays guitar, mandolin, fiddle and mandola, while McEleney plays bass, mandocello and vocals.
“We play an eclectic array of instruments and a wide array of music all mashed into one show,” Collins said.
Collins said his musical inspiration, at least for the mandolin, came from listening to the San Francisco-based bluegrass/acoustic jazz band David Grisman Quintet for the first time. At the time, he said he “hated” the mandolin and preferred the banjo, because he “didn’t recognize what [the mandolin] was doing.”
“When I heard their first album, in the first minute of hearing the first song, I converted to the mandolin becoming my favorite instrument,” Collins said. “I didn’t start playing it until about five years after I discovered how much I loved it, and then once I started playing, it just took over my life. I started practicing five, six hours a day, and I thought I was just going to take a year to see how far I could get on the instrument, but within six months, I knew that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, so I dedicated the rest of my life to it.”
Collins said the trio has a lot of influences with their music.
“The foundation for it is bluegrass, string band music, because there’s no rhythm section per se; everyone is responsible for the time and groove. It’s very intricate, so you’re playing high tempos and a lot of improvising is involved in the music,” Collins said. “Then the bluegrass musicians started to explore jazz music and Celtic music and classical music and taking their ability on the instruments and starting to explore other styles of music and writing original music that stems from these influences. There’s no limit t the influences other than your own imagination. We have all these influences, and it draws from all these different worlds we’re all involved in.”
The trio has won two Canadian Folk Music Awards for Instrumental Group of the Year for their albums “A Play On Words” and “And It Was Good.” Collins said it feels great to be recognized for their work.
“A lot of musicians who are instrumentalists are playing as backup musicians behind singing and stuff, but we’re getting to play our own experimental stuff as our livelihood, which feels really great,” Collins said. “So to be recognized for it gives you that extra boost that you’re doing something that people appreciate.”
Collins said this will be the first time he’ll be performing in Three Rivers, and is looking forward to bringing “lot of eclecticism and a lot of humor” to the Riviera Theatre stage.
“I’ve heard the Riviera is a beautiful venue, and in the last couple of years, we’ve been touring in the U.S. for the first time with this band,” Collins said. “I’ve heard Three Rivers is beautiful and I can’t wait to go.”
The Andrew Collins Trio’s performance is at 9 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 the day of the show. Tickets can be purchased on the Riviera Theatre’s website.