Singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Molly Tuttle was absorbed in the music world from a young age, thanks to her dad, noted local musician and teacher Jack Tuttle, who along with Molly and her two brothers (plus vocalist AJ Lee) formed the bluegrass band The Tuttles with AJ Lee. The Palo Alto-raised musician headed east to study at Berklee College of Music and now calls Nashville, Tennessee, home, when she's not touring the world in support of her career.
Lauded with numerous honors for her playing, singing and writing, she was named "Instrumentalist of the Year" at the 2018 Americana Music Awards and was the first woman ever named International Bluegrass Music Association's "Guitar Player of the Year" -- which she won a second time soon after. Her full-length solo album "When You're Ready" was released by Compass Records in April of this year. Tuttle was back in her old hometown to help fete Gryphon Stringed Instruments on Sunday, Sept. 29, as well as to perform at Mitchell Park Community Center on Monday, Sept. 30.
Q: How did growing up in Palo Alto shape who you are as a person and as a musician?
A: I was surrounded by such a supportive music community in Palo Alto. The people at Gryphon Stringed Instruments helped me buy my first guitar and they did everything they could to encourage me as a young musician. I've always been treated with so much respect there. I also met a lot of friends my age around the area through my dad's group classes at Gryphon and through attending Peninsula School in Menlo Park for middle school. John Fuller, who teaches music there, opened my ears to so many different styles of music and encouraged me to explore playing different genres.
Q: How does living in Nashville compare to living on the Peninsula?
A: It's a lot different. The Bay Area still feels like home to me. There is a more casual, laid-back vibe in the bay that I resonate with. I also really miss the ocean and all the incredible nature in California. Nashville has a bigger music scene for the type of music that I play, though, and the cost of living is a lot lower. Everyone is really friendly and down-to-earth here. There is definitely a southern hospitality thing going on. I would love to move back to the Peninsula someday, but it's hard to know if I could afford it. I feel sad knowing that a lot of artists have had to leave the area because of cost of living.
Q: I know you're in the midst of a lot of touring. What are your favorite and least-favorite aspects of being on the road and playing gigs?
A: My favorite aspects are playing with my band and seeing how our sound and dynamics evolve. I love working up new music with them and feeling the show get tighter over time. I love getting to connect with fans and feel the audience respond to my music. I also love when I get to play a festival where I can meet other musicians and do some collaboration. It's really hard for me not to have a normal routine though. Every day is different so it's hard to establish healthy habits like exercising and eating well. I also miss my friends and family a lot and don't get to see them as often as I'd like to because I'm traveling so much.
Q: As a songwriter, how do you find inspiration and how and when do you go about choosing collaborators?
A: I keep my ears open to all different styles of music and I go out to see live music pretty often. I also try to do other creatively stimulating things like going to an art museum or writing in my journal. With collaborators it really just has to feel right and there has to be a certain chemistry there. Maybe you connect over shared musical interests or you play together and interact in a way that is super fun. Collaborations that happen naturally usually feel the best to me.
Q: Can you please tell me a bit about your work with National Alopecia Areata Foundation?
A: The National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF) helps people who have lost their hair because of Alopecia Areata, which is an autoimmune condition that causes your white blood cells to attack your hair and make it fall out. I lost all my hair when I was 3 and I try to give back to the foundation because they have helped and continue to help me make sense of living with total hair loss. They connect me and so many others with a community of people who understand, they provide information on research developments, and recently they have started a youth mentorship program where they pair young adults with children who have Alopecia. I'm a mentor in the program, which has been really rewarding. I also raise money for them each year and play at their annual conference.
Q: When you're not focused on music, what else do you like to do, and what career or studies might you have chosen if not music?
A: I like to go on bike rides and write in my journal. I like to read. I think I would have loved to go into anything that has to do with literature, like being an English teacher.