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Collaboration remains key to Pert Near Sandstone

Bluegrass band Pert Near Sandstone. The four members stand facing the camera.
Tony Nelson
Pert Near Sandstone released their new album Waiting Days on Oct. 20, 2023.

The St. Paul-based bluegrass group released their eighth album in October.

ST. PAUL — In many bands there is one primary songwriter. Less common is the tandem approach, where usually two members co-write together. Even more rare is the way Pert Near Sandstone does it.

On their new album Waiting Days, as they have done on previous albums, all four members of the longtime Minnesota string band contributed songs and lead vocals.

A drawing of of train tracks, a tree, and powerlines. Written near the top is "Pert Near Sandstone" and "Waiting Days." This is the album art for the bluegrass band Pert Near Sandstone's album "Waiting Days."
Pert Near Sandstone
Waiting Days is Pert Near Sandstone's 8th studio album.

“We all kind of write from different influences and perspectives,” band member Nate Sipe said. “But also, all that is responding to each other.”

Sipe, the mandolin player, joined Centerstage Minnesota on Friday, Nov. 3, to talk about the new album. He wrote four songs, Kevin Kniebel (banjo) added three, and J Lenz (guitar) and Justin Bruhn (upright bass) each contributed two.

Despite those different influences and perspectives, Sipe believes the group struck the right balance between showcasing variety and having a unifying sound as a band.

“It all comes out in the wash as consistently Pert Near music,” he said. “There’s a little bit for everybody to grab on to. If you don’t like one song, just keep on moving and you’ll find something you like.”

One of Sipe’s tunes “Waiting Days,” was picked by the band as representing a unifying theme of the album.

“It ended up really tying a lot of the material together,” Sipe said, “from that ‘Waiting Days’ perspective, COVID was two years of everyone sitting around.”

Listen above for the complete conversation.

“There’s a little bit for everybody to grab on to. If you don’t like one song, just keep on moving and you’ll find something you like.”
Nate Sipe

Centerstage Minnesota, Fridays at 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. on KAXE/KBXE, is made possible by the citizens of Minnesota through the Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund. 

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Malachy started his radio career at a college radio station, where he played weird music in the middle of the night to possibly no one. On a good night maybe his parents were listening. Nonetheless, he was hooked on public radio and is still doing it today. He joined Northern Community Radio in 2022, where he gets to share his passion for local music as Producer of Centerstage Minnesota, an all Minnesota music show airing Fridays at 2pm.