Growing up bluegrass: Molly Tuttle & Lindsay Lou at WinterWonderGrass

Molly Tuttle | Molly Tuttle

WinterWonderGrass | March 30-April 2 | Palisades Tahoe | Olympic Valley

A bluegrass festival is all about connection — a place where the lines between artist and audience blur and musical legends can be found jamming in the parking lot with their friends.

Flatpicking guitarist Molly Tuttle knows this well. She grew up in Palo Alto, the daughter of a traditional, old-time music teacher, Jack Tuttle. Every year, father and daughter visited bluegrass festivals such as California Bluegrass Association Father’s Day Festival, Strawberry Music Festival and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass.

“The other part of the festival is about jamming with your friends,” she says. “I know some people who go to bluegrass festivals and never see the stage. They stay in the campground all weekend and play music.”

The roots of the Tuttle family musical heritage can be traced to her grandfather, Gerald Tuttle, a farmer and banjo player from Yorkville, Ill.

“He loved Earl Scruggs,” says Tuttle. “My dad’s two sisters also played music and they listened to the Grand Old Opry.”

Tuttle started learning bluegrass guitar at age 8. She later attended the American Roots Music program at Berklee College of Music where she explored jazz, composition and clawhammer banjo. She moved to Nashville in 2015 and is now at the top of her craft. Tuttle was the first woman to win the International Bluegrass Music Association Guitar Player of the Year award in 2017 and she earned the Female Vocalist of the Year award in 2022.

“Bluegrass music is one of smallest genres recognized by the Grammys. It’s thought of by the general population as a niche genre. To be recognized in a general category, I could see this meaning my music could reach more people, not just people who listen to bluegrass.”     –Molly Tuttle

Her debut album on Nonesuch Records, “Crooked Tree,” recently won a Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album. The captivating LP is an imaginative journey through a fictional world of characters and memories with special guests including Billy Strings, Gillian Welch, Margo Price and Dan Tyminski.

“It feels amazing,” says Tuttle. “It’s pretty surreal and just a huge honor. I guess it’s something really affirming that I’m on the right path with my music. I’m someone who can get a little doubtful of myself when I’m writing a song. I felt like my record was special, but it does help to feel that external validation, too. It helps me gain confidence and feel excitement for what’s to come.”

Tuttle was also nominated in the Best New Artist category, a rare distinction for a bluegrass musician.

“Bluegrass music is one of smallest genres recognized by the Grammys,” she says. “It’s thought of by the general population as a niche genre. To be recognized in a general category, I could see this meaning my music could reach more people, not just people who listen to bluegrass.”

Tuttle and her band Golden Highway perform on March 31 at WinterWonderGrass. |

A home within myself

Another artist who knows a thing or two about connection is Lindsay Lou, a talented vocalist and songwriter who is a regular guest with many jamgrass bands in the scene.

“I love singing with people and I’m lucky people like singing with me,” she says. “I think about connecting to my voice very deeply and almost having a visual, physical connection between my voice and my mind when I sing. It’s like an all-encapsulating experience. Everything falls away and I become my voice.”

Lou was born in Butler, Mo., where her father was a coal miner. At age 3, she moved to the small town of Kingsford in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where the bluegrass community holds strong. Her mother was one of 12 in a musical family. She sang lullabies to Lou at bedtime. As she got older, Lou and her Uncle Stuckey would play Stone Temple Pilots and Indigo Girls on guitar.

“Being around the jam as a kid felt like a big part of my identity,” says Lou. “As an adult, finding people who I can sing with feels like my sense of home within myself.”

Lou performs on April 1 with WinterWonderWomen and leads the WinterWonderGrass All-Stars for Grass After Dark on April 2 at Olympic Valley Lodge. She is also sure to appear as a special guest with many acts throughout the weekend.

“I love the festival for the fact that a lot of the people in the audience work 9 to 5 and this is their opportunity to let their freak flag fly,” she says. “They put on their unicorn onesie and dive into a more celebratory part of the human experience. The festival fills that role of creating the carnival side of life.” |,