Chris “Critter” Eldridge is a flatpicking guitarist and member of barrier-blurring outfit Punch Brothers . Diversions Editor Allison Hussey talked to Eldridge about working with the Coen Brothers and Tony Rice .
DIVERSIONS: How was it recording “The Auld Triangle” for “Inside Llewyn Davis” ?
CHRIS ELDRIDGE: Completely surreal. It was bizarre. We recorded that. We showed up at the studio to sing that song, and it was going to be me, (Chris) Thile and Gabe Witcher . And T-Bone Burnett said, “Bring your instruments, too, I might get y’all to play a song.” But really, we showed up to play that song, we got there, and as far as I knew, that was all the agenda was. Just sing “The Auld Triangle,” a song we’d kind of learned, and hang, and that was that, the three of us.
We got there and Marcus Mumford and Justin Timberlake were at the studio recording other music, which was just kind of a strange thing to behold. But, that’s cool, that sort of thing — that’s sort of par for the course. When the Coen Brothers are around, things get surreal. We sang the song a few times, and Marcus and Justin had the idea that it would be cool to have a bass part on that song.
So they kind of just hopped in there. And those guys, who knew that they could sing really low in addition to their other amazing normal range singing? It was a very surreal experience. But it was great.
DIVE: You were the face of Llewyn’s partner in the movie, how did that happen?
CE: Well, it was that same day at the studio. The Coen Brothers were there, and they just kind of — they sent an email to our manager, Punch Brothers’ manager and said, “We want to take a picture of Critter. Do you think that’s something that could happen?”
And Jason forwarded it to me, and I said sure. I had no idea why they wanted this picture, or what the picture even was or how it fit with anything.
But, you know, the Coen brothers ask to take your picture, you say yes. It just kind of got further, and I just kind of learned I was to be the face of Llewyn Davis’ deceased partner, Mike Timlin . It actually was a big character in the movie.
DIVE: What artists would you say have made the biggest impact on your musical development?
CE: In a way, that is hard to answer because I’ve got 31 years of being alive. Over the course of that time, I think everything that I’ve ever paid attention to has crept in.
At different phases, different people are definitely important. All that said, one of my kind of eternal heroes, a guy who will always be a hero to me, is the great bluegrass guitarist Tony Rice. Because he, to me, is the model of a certain kind of integrity that I think never goes out of style.
It’s not that the style of his music that I continue to be inspired by changes, it’s because there’s such an integrity to his musicianship that really speaks to my soul and that I really still can be affected by that.