"It's been pretty amazing," is Molly Tuttle's first-cut, four-word summary of the past two years. She's an artist who emerged out of a bluegrass upbringing on the west coast, got formal musical schooling at Berklee in Boston and came to Nashville in 2015 to put a career together, something she's done more completely than most Americana musicians under 30. It was in 2017 that things really accelerated.
"Two years ago, my EP would have come out. After that it all went really quickly," she says in the new episode of The String. She recounts (with humility) her two groundbreaking IBMA awards as Guitar Player of the Year (she was the first woman to even be nominated for that prize), an Americana Instrumentalist of the Year award and a Folk Alliance International award for Song of the Year. "I was getting booked at festivals I always wanted to play and getting to meet people that I'd always wanted to meet," she continues. "So that was really cool, and it felt like all these dreams I had since I was a kid were coming true all of a sudden. So, it was a matter of what do I want to do next?"
The obvious goal was a debut full length album, something she and her label Compass Records took time and care with. She took stock of all the styles she's loved in her life, hooked up with producer Ryan Hewitt whose history included Blink 182 and Red Hot Chili Peppers albums Tuttle loved as a kid, and made an atmospheric songwriter album that showcases her velvet voice and her observations about being a young woman in the world, not some archetype in a cabin. When You're Ready came out in April, and the title proved a self-fulfilling prophecy.
That title is also perhaps a challenge to the audience that spent years bonding with Tuttle at bluegrass events, who may have looked forward to a project with banjos and her fleet flatpicking way up front. "I think I just focused on the music and was like I'm not going to think about that right now," she says. "And (since) it came out, I've just been king of winging it I guess with what I say. Because my feelings have changed about it. On one hand I'm a bluegrass fan and I love traditional bluegrass, so I understand where people are coming from who might not resonate with my new album as much. My favorite bluegrass was made before 1960, so I understand. But it's not going to stop me from doing whatever music I want to do. I'm sure I'll make bluegrass records in the future."
Tuttle made her Grand Ole Opry debut in June of 2018. She played her first Telluride Bluegrass Festival this past June. And she got on national network television for the first time this weekend with three songs on the music-friendly CBS Saturday Morning (performance below). She'll play a showcase at AmericanaFest on Sept. 12 at the City Winery, the Pilgrimage Festival in Franklin on Sept. 22 and the Wide Open Bluegrass Festival in Raleigh, NC on Sept. 27.