Umphrey’s McGee Interview with Brendan Bayliss

Brendan Bayliss (far right) Jamming Away with Umphrey's Mcgee

This past week Mountain Weekly News had a chance to catch up with Umphrey’s McGee frontman, Brendan Bayliss over the phone. We had a conversation about what to expect with the upcoming Red Rocks show and the technical process of performing improvised music.

MWN: What’s your approach for creating setlists for each night?
Brendan Bayliss: What we factor in is what we played at that venue the last time, or what we played in that city the last two or three times. If we only come to a city once a year, we don’t want to play the same stuff every time, cause we have a big enough catalog.

MWN: Do you guys have a team that picks the openers?
Brendan Bayliss: We usually get some suggestions thrown at us, and then we talk about it. A lot of the behind the scenes work includes the UM team looking at a longer list that the band doesn’t get to see.

MWN: This year, the band is playing the Boulder theater before Red Rocks, how do you guys choose nights?
Brendan Bayliss: I think it lined up with Red Rocks falling on Saturday the 5th, and we kinda plan around that. Also we were looking at doing a night on Sunday that was gonna be a fly date in California, but we just ended up not doing it.

MWN: Do you have any special equipment that you’re bringing for this upcoming weekend?
Brendan Bayliss: Last year we did pyro stuff at Red Rocks, and so this year we talked about going back to the basics and just leave the show, ya know, as is.

MWN: How do you guys prepare for your Jimmy Stewart improvisations? What’s your basis for the lyrical stews?
Brendan Bayliss: We really don’t prepare for it. That’s why sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes some of it is, maybe lyrics from a song that I’m working on at home, or lyrics to a song that I showed the band that didn’t necessarily work the way they present at that time. So they’re still in my head, and when I hear something in an improv that sounds similar, I can kind of pull from that. But also its spontaneous, something that’s in the mood or something that happened that day…I try not to think about it.

MWN: Any venues in Colorado or the US you haven’t played that you strive for?
Brendan Bayliss: The Gorge, in Washington.

MWN: Is there any chance you guys will bring UM Bowl to Colorado?
Brendan Bayliss: Uh, there’s a good chance, I mean now that we moved it from Chicago, to the East Coast, we’ve kind of made it fair game to go anywhere, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we went west of the mississippi next time.

MWN: Who is the party responsible for (the song) Mamu being retired?
Brendan Bayliss: Ya know, I think that was a collective band decision. Its not permanently retired, its still on the shelf. We know where she is, its just…no one called her back, that’s all

MWN: The Summer Campers are wondering if Joel could rep his keyboard wizard status, and wear more capes on stage.
Brendan Bayliss: Ya know, I think the quality of the music skyrockets in relation to the amount of capes we have on stage, so I’ll tell him, I mean he loves it.

MWN: You occasionally enjoy a glass of red with you on stage…. What’s your favorite wine?
Brendan Bayliss: Lately I’ve been drinking Cabernet Sauvignon. A good one is Silver Oak, I like that.

When I called Brendan for the interview, he was attending his 3 year old son’s soccer game. It’s moments like these when we realize that musicians are more than just that. Brendan has a life outside of the band, and is always balancing family time with his work.

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