Grateful Music LLC talks to Otiel Burbridge about Skull & Roses Festival, Mental Health, and more.

Published on February 12, 2020
All photos by Ron Adelberg Photography

Skull & Roses, among many things, is a festival determined to keep the Grateful Dead spirit alive. Considering where we are as a people in 2020- why is that mission important to you?

Well, I want to help keep live music being played by actual people on actual instruments in general. I hope younger people will see us and feel inspired to pick up an instrument themselves. I hope it’s something that we never lose as a society. But also because I was tapped by the original guys to help them keep it alive and because the music is so good, so timeless. As long as the fans want to hear it I will probably play it since I don’t seem to tire of it myself. It’s great music.

No one would accuse Dead and Co or the Allman Brothers of not continuously exploring new musical space. That being said, I would assume there are musical bounds there. Can you talk about some times you feel musically limited by playing in these groups?

Definitely. Every style of music has some philosophy and some sort of boundaries. Obviously in my own bands I’ve been able to tailor make the game for myself. But I enjoy playing in many different musical worlds and so I don’t worry about limitations. I focus more on intent. The intent for the day is what it is and I align myself with that and joyfully move forward. Whatever I don’t get out of my system on one gig, I will get the chance to on another. The key is having the most peak experience that we can with whoever is together at that moment.

Jerry Garcia unwillingly had the burden of not just being a band leader but the figurehead of this societal behemoth that is the Grateful Dead. And while that community has spread out over the last 25 years- do you ever feel the weight of what the Dead is or was? Musically, or personally, do you ever think a situation needs to be handled with care due to now being a big part of this whole thing?

Definitely. It can be a burden but it is also a great opportunity at the same time. You don’t really get to spend just one side of a coin. So you do the best you can. I can spend the entire time not trusting myself. But I counteract that feeling in two ways. One, by accepting the approval, love and encouragement of the band members and long time fans, and also by letting the music sweep you away. If you are blissed out and having a transcendent experience with the music you’re not really concerned in that moment if you are “doing it right.” As far as the behemoth that it has become I don’t worry about it because things like that have a life of their own. and I cannot predict when it will finally pass anymore than I can with a specific person or relationship.

Mental health has, rather unfortunately, weighed heavy over this music scene in the past couple years. What do you do to stay grounded during the rigors of touring, and do you consciously make decisions based on what would be good/bad for your personal mental health?

Oh man I have to be constantly wary of all the bad things that can tip the scales too far when it comes to life on the road. It’s not easy for me. I don’t really like the road after all these years. But seeing one person after another die because of it reminds me how thin a line it is. The whole game for me is getting back home. That’s winning the race for me. When I walk back through my front door and Jess, Nigel and Kavi all give me big hugs and kisses I win again. Having that happy place at home is the entire key for me. It keeps me reminded of all that I have to lose if I didn’t take great care. This lifestyle is so weird. It seems so cool from the outside but I see the loneliness, the confusion and contradiction, the restlessness and anxiety that most don’t see. When you’re not sure if you’re running to something or from it. When I get home, I stop running in either direction. Or even wanting to. I’ve made it to the finish line one more time. I win again!

Thank you!

Interview by Grateful Music LLC’s Ron Adelberg and Jarod Gregory.

Photos by Ron Adelberg.

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