We called up Tim Carbone of the New Jersey-based jam/folk/bluegrass band Railroad Earth before their upcoming show at The Kent Stage. Tim is one of the band’s founding members and their resident violinist; he chatted with us about his early start in music, the band’s roots and how Railroad Earth got its Jack Kerouac-inspired name. Buzzbin: What initiated your love for music? Tim Carbone: I was lucky because my parents were music lovers. My mom was a trombone player back in the late ‘30s and ‘40s. My dad was a dance instructor at the Brooklyn in New York City and that’s how they met. So music has always been in the family. My dad liked the old R&B like Lewis Jordan and Winona Harris, all those old, great R&B singers and players. Plus, I saw The Beatles on “Ed Sullivan” and that was it. BB: You play multiple instruments. Which was the first you picked up? When did you know that you wanted to spend the rest of your life making music? TC: Well, the first instrument I played was drums. I had a friend who got my brother and me into a local drum and bugle corps. So my brother played the bugle and I played the drums and they literally gave you formal lessons while you were learning how to do that. So I learned a lot of stuff and I eventually bought a small drum set. I was in a band playing drums and at that point I switched to keyboards — to organ, actually. A guy moved up the block who had a bigger and better drumset, so I was no longer the drummer — I had to figure out something. I took my mom’s organ out of the living room and said, “I’m now the organ player!” BB: That works! TC: Yeah, and then I took violin lessons in grade school. When I was in fourth grade I started playing violin and then I picked up the guitar. I just found that I’m a lucky person. I’m able to do things kind of naturally and I know when it’s not natural and I won’t really pursue it if it’s not something I don’t feel comfortable with. I play three or four different instruments. BB: So what brought Railroad Earth together and when did that happen? TC: It happened in 2000. It started kind of as an idea. Like, wouldn’t it be great if we could get a group of players together and play some bluegrass? It started as simple as that. Then our banjo player, mandolin player and dobro player — he plays it all — Andy Goessling started having these jam sessions at his house in the summer of 2000. That lasted throughout the summer, and by the fall whoever was left standing wound up being Railroad Earth. It started out as a concept and an idea. It came down to being random. The last little piece of the puzzle was our singer and songwriter, Todd Sheaffer. He decided that we wanted to transition some of his songs into the acoustic style. When we started playing some of his songs we’re like, “Wow, this sounds pretty good. Maybe we should make a recording”. So we did. BB: And that became The Black Bear Sessions? TC : That wound up being The Black Bear Sessions, yeah. BB: So who is the Jack Kerouac fan? [“October in the Railroad Earth” is a Kerouac short story.] TC: I am. BB: Whose idea was the name Railroad Earth? TC: That actually came from me. The title came from our manager. He and I were both the initial ones with the idea. He just asked, “Why don’t you guys just call the band Railroad Earth? That’s a cool title,” and I was like, “Hey, yeah, it is!” BB: Do you guys have any other literary or music influences that drive you guys? TC: Todd is an avid reader. I’m like, everything I read, see, all of it — I’ve told my friends to not say anything clever around me, because I will use it. BB: Have you guys ever been to Kent before? TC: Nope. We’re excited about it though. Lots of history there. BB: What can the audience expect? How would you describe your live show? TC: What you can expect is some stuff from our new album and pretty much a healthy dose of some of our favorite songs from the older albums. BB: Can we expect to see you at any festivals this summer? TC: I really like playing festivals because I like playing outside. Also there’s a sense of community. And when you play a festival you get to see some of the other bands. We’re playing various festivals. I don’t really have the list in front of me right now, but we’ll be out there. BB: Audiences are gravitating towards bluegrass, jam and folk music right now. Why do you think that is? What turned it around for folk music and bluegrass in particular in the last ten or 15 years? TC: Some of us have been around long enough to know that bluegrass’s popularity comes and goes in waves. The last time I counted there was like five or six waves. And now a ton of new people are discovering it. And now it’s also a big melting pot; now you have jamgrass and all the other little subgroups of music. It’s appealing to a wider group because now we’re incorporating many other kinds of music as well. Railroad Earth will be performing on February 10 at The Kent Stage (175 E. Main St., Kent; 330-677-5005). Tickets are $21, and the show starts at 8.