Jordan Brandenburg is the literal son of a preacher man. The singer and mandolin player for Denver's Turkeyfoot is also a devout believer in the gospel of pickin' and grinnin'.
"I tell people that if they have a creative bent or a form of art that they really like, then I would really encourage them to pursue it," says the 35-year-old songwriter and part-time bluegrass picker, who works in the gas and energy business by day and who rediscovered his passion for musical performance after moving to Colorado.
"I was first exposed to music in church, I guess," explains Brandenburg, who grew up in Tyler, Texas. "I played throughout high school and college, and then I quit for several years when I started working full-time. I moved here for my job in 2014, and not too long after that, I came across a really nice mandolin at Tejon Street Music in Colorado Springs. I was with my parents, who were visiting at the time. It caught my eye, and I loved the sound of the instrument, so I bought it and started taking some lessons. Soon after that, I got involved with the Denver bluegrass community."
Brandenburg, who says he also takes inspiration from Texas songwriters including Guy Clarke, Townes Van Zandt and Robert Earl Keen, still plays the beautiful Collings mandolin that he bought that fateful day. He says acquiring the instrument helped rekindle his interest in playing music, but it wasn't until he attended the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 2015 that his passion fully caught flame.
"I'd always wanted to go to Telluride for the bluegrass fest, " he recalls. "I was particularly blown away by Sam Bush's performance there. I kind of had this conversation with myself in which I decided I needed to get back into music. 'Why am I not playing?' I asked. I ended up getting lessons from Jordan Ramsey, who is an award-winning and nationally known mandolin player who teaches here in Denver. He lit a fire under me, and he also recommended getting into the local bluegrass scene. Getting back into music was fun for the sake of doing it, but it was also a great way to meet people, and the bluegrass community has been very welcoming. The music is the unifying factor, but the different walks of life that people come from in the picking scene is amazing. You meet all kinds of people, young and old."
Turkeyfoot, which launched in 2016, takes some of its creative cues from groups including Hot Rize and the Del McCoury Band. The group placed second in the band competition at RockyGrass in Lyons this past July, and plans to demonstrate its high, lonesome sound at the Gold Hill Inn this Friday night.
"We competed against about ten bands from across the country at RockyGrass," explains Brandenburg. "We were the top Colorado band to win, and so we're trying to ride that wave a little bit. We also hope to compete next year at Telluride."
Brandenburg formed the group with bass player Michael Rudolf, who grew up on the Front Range and has deep roots in the local bluegrass scene. The group has had various members come and go; it solidified the current five-person lineup last December.
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"When it comes to songwriting and playing, we'll just toss stuff out there and see what sticks," Brandenburg says.
In June, Turkeyfoot released a self-titled EP and is dreaming up a full-length album and a music video.
"We're very collaborative and community-focused," says Brandenburg. "We appreciate the bluegrass world here and beyond."