I grew up in rural Iowa, majored in English and Music at Grinnell College, focused on music performance for 3 years in Madison, Wisconsin, and spent 11 years in the big city of Chicago. I now live in Portland, Oregon, where I produce jug band events, play with a couple bands and practice as much as I can.
My musical interests have migrated to increasingly old and obscure music: from the top 40 music of my childhood, I discovered the Beatles and Bob Dylan on the oldies station, then Dylan led me to Harry Smith, and Smith led me to the Carter Family, Dave Macon and the Memphis Jug Band. After several years dedicated to writing and performing original songs, the Harry Smith experience reoriented me toward discovering and reviving treasures from the past.
Beyond learning to play old songs, I've taken an interest in researching pre-war blues musicians, especially those that seem underrated relative to their contributions. This has led me to organize gravestone benefit projects for Will Shade, Joe and Charlie McCoy and Charlie Burse, and to help with a similar project for Earl McDonald.
My main instrument is guitar, but I can pluck out some tunes on banjo, mandolin and fiddle and won the jug playing contest at the 2012 Jugapalooza. I've been dabbling with piano, occasionally get out my old trumpet and need to become a better bass player. So many instruments, so little time!
By day, I run BandHelper, hang out with my family, and occasionally sneak away for a hike or bike ride. You can learn more about my other activities at arloleach.com.