Minnesota’s Trampled by Turtles will perform at Deer Valley’s Snow Park Amphitheater on Tuesday, Aug. 19. The evening will also feature
Minnesota's Trampled by Turtles will perform at Deer Valley's Snow Park Amphitheater on Tuesday, Aug. 19. The evening will also feature Elephant Revival and Amy Helm. Trampled by Turtles is touring in support of its new album, "Wild Animals," which was released last month. (Zoran Orlic)
When Minnesota's Trampled by Turtles performs at Deer Valley on Tuesday, Aug. 19, the set will include songs from the band's distant past as well as the most recent album, "Wild Animals," which was released last month.

"We write the set lists for every show right before the show," said the band's fiddle player Ryan Young. "We don't know what we're going to play, but almost everything is on the table, except for songs we haven't played in years."

Even then, if he and his bandmates — mandolin player Erik Berry, guitarist Dave Simonett, bassist Tim Saxhaug and banjoist Dave Carroll — decide to play an old, obscure tune, they will rehearse it until it's right, because that's how they work.

In fact, it's the hard work that has gotten the band to where it is today, Young said.

"It started out as a duo with a guitarist and mandolnist," he said. "They played that way for a while and added a banjo and then a bassist. I was the last to join."

That gradual process laid the foundation of the band, which has appeared on "The Late Show with David Letterman," "Conan" with Conan O'Brien and "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson."

"From our perspective, the success has been a gradual increase," Young said. "From an outside perspective, it may seem like it happened suddenly.

"Usually most people first heard us when 'Palomino' came out or the one after that, 'Stars and Satellites,'" he said.


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"So from that perspective, suddenly there was a band called Trampled by Turtles, and they had never heard of us before, but that's not the case with us. Because every record we have released has done better before the last."

Although the band has no game plan, per se, its members are continually trying to improve their playing and musicality.

"We always had high hopes that the albums would do well, but there was no discussion or preplanning to make the next ones better," Young said. "We just become better musicians and we play better with each other. We've improved in songwriting and arrangements. So, I think that's what's making each record sound better. However, as far as success it's just luck."

Still, the band knows that there are times when it needs to become a facilitator for the luck. That's why the group decided to work with a producer, Alan Sparhawk, for the new album.

Sparhawk, who is the guitarist for the band's Low and Retribution Gospel Choir, hails from Duluth, Minnesota.

"We all respect Alan and his music quite a bit, so he was a good person to have in the studio, especially for the first time having a producer," Young said. "We look up to him and when he had ideas, most of the time we were excited to try them. If we didn't have someone who was a friend or someone who we didn't respect, the sessions might not have worked out."

The main thing Sparhawk taught the musicians was how to serve the song instead of show off, according to Young.

"Some musicians' natural inclination is to play a lot, especially when they're learning a song for the first time," Young explained. "We wrote, arranged and learned the songs in the studio. We didn't practice them ahead of time. In that situation, the first thing we wanted to do is play and play and play, and that wasn't the best thing for the songs."

So, Sparhawk used his outsider's perspective to help Trampled by Turtles tighten up the arrangements.

"He was able to get a grasp on the song as a whole before we did and he would come up to us individually and give us suggestions, such as not to play so much," Young said. "He would be very specific and would say, 'I just want you to play only on beat three, not on one and four, but when you play on beat three, you can play anything you want."

One incident has stuck with Young throughout the months.

"I remember that he wanted me to play one song as if my name wasn't Ryan, but Trevor," Young said with a laugh. "He said, 'You're a different fiddle player. You respect Ryan, but are sometimes a little leery on his note choices — Go.'"

That exercise helped the fiddle player perform in a different way.

"I didn't play what I felt should be played and wound up playing something I had never done before," Young said. "A lot of times when we'd listen to the playback I found that suggestion worked out pretty well."

Young began playing violin after years of playing the guitar.

"Even when I was a really little kid I was way into music and I actually learned guitar because my uncle is a guitar player," Young said. "Then in my school, they had an orchestra that started in fourth grade and I said, 'Alright, I'll play violin, too.'"

Since Young loved music so much, he would have played anything, he said.

"So, that's how I got started on the fiddle," Young said. "I'm a huge proponent for school music programs because it really changed my life."

Young is ready to share his love of music with Park City.

"I'm excited to go out there," he said. "It's a beautiful part of the country. We'll see you guys soon."

The Park City Institute will present Trample by Turtles as the St. Regis Big Stars, Bright Nights concert at Deer Valley on Tuesday, Aug. 19. The concert will begin at 7 p.m. The night will also feature Elephant Revival and Amy Helm. Tickets range from $40 to $75 and are available by visiting www.bigstarsbrightnightsconcerts.org.