Tell us about your tour vehicle. Any notable break-down stories?
These days I usually fly to gigs or drive my own van if the town isn’t too far. The Mother Hips owned an airport shuttle for a while in the mid 90’s. One time one of the air conditioners caught on fire and we had to pull over and hit it with the fire extinguisher. Luckily it survived that.
How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?
How many strings do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?
I don’t break many strings any more but I used to break one every show pretty much. I guess a pack of strings is like $8. I usually change my strings about every 3 shows. Maybe 20 packs a year for electric strings and 15 for acoustic.
Where do you rehearse?
Never had one oddly.
What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?
I think it was called “Lighter Than Air.”
“My head used to spin with the helium from my own dreams.”
Describe your first gig.
It was in an underground pub in downtown Chico called the Sherwood Forest. We were too young to be allowed in there so we had to wait outside until it was our turn to play. As we were walking out after our set, a guy told us we sounded like the Meat Puppets. We thought we sounded like Crosby, Stills and Nash.
What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?
The last job I had was working as a mountain guide. The band took a break for a bit and I always kind of wanted to be a guide. It was good work but ultimately didn’t pay enough to really justify the amount of work it took. I prefer being in the mountains when I don’t have to take care of other people.
How has your music-related income changed over the past 5-10 years? What do you expect it to look like 5-10 years from now?
It hasn’t changed that much in a consistent way. If I need more money I can usually play more gigs and produce more albums. I don’t have many expectations about the future beyond what’s on the calendar.
What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?
Read the contract.
Ever curious and wildly prolific, Tim Bluhm simultaneously released a slew of his own solo and collaborative projects throughout his time with the Mother Hips, a band he co-founded while still a student at Cal State Chico. In 2013, he helped launch Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers, serving as both mentor and music director for the group, which was fronted by his then-wife. The band performed on national TV, racked up millions of views on YouTube, and played festivals from Bonnaroo and Newport Folk to Hangout and Mountain Jam before Tim and Nicki ultimately parted ways in 2015.
Outside of The Gramblers, Bluhm also collaborated with The Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann among others and opened up Mission Bells Studio in San Francisco with fellow California favorite Jackie Greene and engineer Dave Simon-Baker. There, he produced albums for a wide variety of bands and welcomed luminaries like Phil Lesh, Josh Ritter, Los Lobos, and Jonathan Richman for recording sessions.
As if that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, Bluhm and the Hips also launched the Hipnic, an intimate and immaculately-curated music festival that’s been held annually amongst the towering redwoods of Big Sur for more than a decade.
Sorta Surviving, Bluhm’s latest album, was released in March.