As a child, Molly Tuttle spent countless hours in Palo Alto’s Gryphon Stringed Instruments, where her father taught guitar, banjo and mandolin. A bluegrass enthusiast, Jack Tuttle shepherded groups of Bay Area youths—including his daughter—through frequent kids’ bluegrass jams.
This February, Jack got to watch his daughter win a Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album, for 2022’s Crooked Tree. While her two previous albums saw her crisscrossing pop, folk and rock, Crooked Tree found Tuttle fully embracing the sound and spirit of bluegrass. The album’s festive tone and thematic celebration of imperfection has led to a zealous reception, exemplified by the Grammy win.
This weekend, Molly Tuttle returns to the peninsula for two nights at the Guild Theatre. A second was added after the first quickly sold out.
Tuttle still remembers the morning of her Grammy nomination clearly.
“I was at home in Nashville. I was on the phone with my manager [and] I got a flood of text messages,” she says. “Then we hung up the phone, and I started getting more text messages that were, like, in all caps.”
She learned she had secured the Best New Artist nomination on top of the Bluegrass Album nomination, rocketing her name into the brightest lights possible for a contemporary musician.
“It was a crazy surprise,” she says. “It was really great. I knew I was in the first round for [Best New Artist], but you know the first round is a lot of people included, and of course for the general fields, there are so many big names. You’re in a much bigger pool than for the bluegrass category.”
As a nominee in two very different categories, she found herself navigating both the familiar world of bluegrass and the glitz of the mainstream throughout the experience. Her Best Bluegrass Album win took place in a smaller ceremony, but by evening, she was seated in LA’s gigantic Crypto.com Arena for a telecast with the likes of Harry Styles, Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Lizzo and thousands of others—not to mention the 12.4 million viewers at home.
Tuttle had taken the chance to wear a more elaborate style than the denim and flannel often found on the rootsy bluegrass scene, donning a black, custom Winnie Couture gown with intricate lace appliqués and tulle cape sleeves.
“[The ceremonies] are in two different buildings, which I didn’t realize,” she says, laughing. “I was wearing this dress that was hard to walk in. Next time I’ll probably wear, like, running shoes and a shorter dress—if I get nominated again.”
For those watching Tuttle’s trajectory, the question isn’t if but when. Though she didn’t win Best New Artist, the 65th Grammys cemented Tuttle’s steady ascendance as a musical force to be reckoned with. A skilled songwriter, nimble singer and virtuosic guitar player (known for lightning-fast flatpicking), she is poised to ride this next wave of her career to thrilling heights.
“And after winning the award, it really has made a difference in the kind of shows we’re being offered,” she says.
In recent weeks, the Folk Alliance named Crooked Tree Album of the Year, and the Country Music Hall of Fame chose to feature Tuttle alongside Rhiannon Giddens in their American Currents: State of the Music display.
“I don’t know…I felt like it all sort of aligned,” she says. “When I was making the album, I felt really confident that people would enjoy it, and I hadn’t always felt confident about that.”
But Tuttle is not an artist to sit still or accept boundaries. Less than two months after the Grammys, she’s already working on new music. Though she is mum on details, she says the songs are “a celebration of the community I’ve built with my music.”
Her belief in community seems to be key to her triumphs so far. Crooked Tree is dedicated to her paternal grandfather, a farmer and banjo player who taught her father to play bluegrass in rural Illinois.
“I think people have a narrow view of what bluegrass is and who helped create it, and that could really expand,” she says. The lesser-known men and women who passed down their love and knowledge of the genre remain close to her heart.
Sat-Sun, 8pm, $48
Guild Theatre, Menlo Park