Barefoot, sleeveless and sweaty, Whiskey Shivers frontman and fiddle master Bobby Fitzgerald never stops smiling on stage. It's almost impossible to watch him perform more than a song or two without cracking a smile yourself. His exuberance is contagious, and it bleeds through into the music. Whether they're playing at a backyard house party in Texas, a punk-rock dive bar or a sprawling country music festival, crowds take notice. People put down their phones, pick up their drinks and start dancing.
Despite their joyful demeanor, the guys in Whiskey Shivers aren't pretending that life is always easy. Far from it, Fitzgerald explains. Their new self-titled album, out September 23 and produced by fellow roots music boundary-pusher Robert Ellis, is heavy with traditional bluegrass themes and imagery lamenting universal struggles - work, pain, sin, regret and death.
It's in the contrast where Whiskey Shivers' music shines. They infuse their songs with punk rock energy and a darkly comical light-heartedness, stretching the bluegrass genre to fit whatever they feel is right. For them, being happy is a conscious choice, and making fun of life's struggles is part of their philosophy.
Witness the joy on September 5th at The Southgate House Revival with The Legendary Shack Shakers, and Whiskey Bent Valley Boys! We caught up with Jeff “Horti" Hortillosa of Whiskey Shivers prior to the show Friday!
CP: How did Whiskey Shivers come to be?
JH: Well, Bob and Andrew met each other on craigslist, I'm not quite sure if they found what they were looking for, but they found something in each other and they seem to be happy about it. Joe was Bob's next door neighbor. I met them at a party the day their old guitarist left. Last but not least, James met some random hippy girl at a bar who informed him we were looking for a banjo player. He has never seen or heard from her since.
CP: How do you find the bright side in dark times with your music?
JH: At heart, Whiskey Shivers an improv comedy troop: actors, dancers, jugglers, acrobats and fire breathers. However, fate would have it we're better at our instruments than any of those skills aforementioned. We're constantly entertaining each other, and the joy of playing music is an extension of that. That's not to say every song has to be happy to make one feel happy through playing it, though.
CP: What is your favorite part of a show? Anticipation…performing or completion?
JH: Nothing beats an energetic and excitable crowd. When we bring the energy, and they reciprocate the energy, it stops being a show where it's us on stage and them in the crowd, it becomes a party snowball rolling down the hill.
CP: What can one expect at a live Whiskey Shivers show?
JH: A party snowball, rolling down the hill!
CP: What is next for Whiskey Shivers?
JH: Well, the plan is to drop the record in September, then keep hitting the road to promote it until festival season rolls around, which is when we will continue to hit the road and promote the album. We're constantly writing new stuff, and playing around with covers and traditional songs we like (perhaps even, an all-traditional record!?) Then we'll make another record, and keep hitting the road to promote that one!