Published on February 19th, 2020 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
Lettuce’s Ryan Zoidis On Studying At Berklee, Side Hustles, Jam Bands & Lettuce’s Future Plans
Lettuce, whose latest album Elevate was nominated for “Best Contemporary Instrumental Album” at this year’s GRAMMY Awards, is a genre-defying, funk-jazz-soul-hip-hop-psychedelic-jam-art-rock-experimental-avant-garde band. Comprised of drummer and percussionist Adam Deitch, guitarist Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff, bassist Erick “Jesus” Coomes, keyboardist and vocalist Nigel Hall, saxophonist Ryan Zoidis and trumpet player Eric “Benny” Bloom, the roots of Lettuce go back to its members attending the Boston, Massachusetts-based the Berklee College Of Music.
But before Lettuce became a full-time act, its members were all world-class master musicians who often performed as sidemen for some of the world’s biggest artists. In turn, the collective credits of Lettuce’s members include Kanye West, Lady Gaga, Stevie Wonder, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Justin Timberlake, The Fugees, Eminem, Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, Britney Spears, DJ Quik, Gary Clark Jr., Skrillex, The Game, Talib Kweli, Anthony Hamilton, Solange, Chaka Khan, Redman & Method Man, Robin Thicke, Preservation Hall, Dave Matthews Band, Bob Weir, John Mayer, and Aaron Neville.
While Lettuce is currently on tour in Europe, looking ahead a bit, North American touring will resume on April 24th with an appearance at SweetWater 420 Fest. And just announced from Lettuce HQ is the release of its new single “Checker Wrecker,” which will be featuring on the band’s next studio album Resonate, which is due for a May 8, 2020 release. Resonate is currently available for pre-order.
I had the pleasure of doing Q&A with saxophonist Ryan Zoidis about the fascinating past, present and future of Lettuce. More on the Colorado-rooted group can be found online at www.lettucefunk.com.
With most of your band having attended Berklee, yet playing a form of music that one would not normally study at Berklee, how was Lettuce initially received by Berklee faculty?
Ryan Zoidis: I don’t think that’s necessarily true. At Berklee, they teach a funk ensemble that studies James Brown and Earth Wind & Fire. They’ve also been teaching our music. Before we got there, there was a lot of funk/jazz fusion being played and taught within the curriculum. As soon as Lettuce became an entity we were invited back for a show at the Performance center.
Is it true that your band took on the name Lettuce based on you guys constantly asking people to “let us up” on-stage?
Ryan Zoidis: It wasn’t “Let us up on your stage,” it was “Let us use your gear” so we can show you what we got. A friend of us dubbed us Lettuce after we did that a handful of times.
Does being named Lettuce lead to people presenting you with lettuce-related memorabilia or people wanting to talk to you endlessly about salad? And feel free to tell me that’s a stupid question!
Ryan Zoidis: Surprisingly, no. Great question!
At what point in Lettuce’s history did its members begin taking on sideman and producer gigs with other artists?
Ryan Zoidis: Before Lettuce became our full-time focus. Before 2010.
The lineup of Lettuce has generally stayed the same since 1992. How is it that you guys are so easily able to stay together?
Ryan Zoidis: Who said it was easy? The constant I think we all share is a deep belief in the magic and chemistry of this band. We realized it in ‘92 and we managed to stick together through many different phases of our personal careers. Now, we get to really enjoy what we do to the fullest and share the magic with the world. The idea that we get to do what we do deepens our connection daily.
Was there ever pressure for Lettuce to add on a vocalist?
Ryan Zoidis: We always wanted the right vocalist but never thought it was possible without sacrificing the instrumental side. Nigel came out of nowhere and I can’t think of anyone who could ever do what he does not only vocally but he’s also an incredible keyboard player.
Elevate came out last year, but is there another album from Lettuce currently in the works?
Ryan Zoidis: Yes, there is. That’s all I can say.
When people lump Lettuce in with the “jam band” scene, is that something that you’re generally okay with?
Ryan Zoidis: Lettuce is more universal than any scene, but the jam band scene has embraced us and we love it.
With your 30th anniversary as a band coming up in the near-future are there any special plans anticipated to celebrate that milestone?
Ryan Zoidis: Just keep doing what we’re doing. Make as much music as possible while we have this golden opportunity.
When you are not busy with touring or recording, what do you like to do with yourself?
Ryan Zoidis: I’m a father to my 9-year-old daughter Ila. We jam together. I like to cook. I recently got a 1970’s manual espresso machine so I’ve been working on my espresso game. I also share a wine biz with our trumpet player Eric “Benny” Bloom. We distribute natural wines in Colorado.
Finally, Ryan, any last words for the kids?
Ryan Zoidis: Believe in your dreams. That’s what we did and now we’re living them!Tweet