Chris Thile

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Chris Thile
Thile 2012 hi-res-download 2.jpg
Thile in 2012
Background information
Born (1981-02-20) February 20, 1981 (age 34)
Oceanside, California, United States[1][2]
Origin United States
Genres Bluegrass, progressive bluegrass, folk, country, classical, jazz
Occupation(s) Musician, singer-songwriter
Instruments Mandolin, bouzouki, mandola, banjo, guitar, tenor guitar, drums, sitar, piano, violin, viola, cello, double bass, vocals
Years active 1989–present
Associated acts Nickel Creek, Punch Brothers, Mutual Admiration Society, Mike Marshall, Edgar Meyer, The Goat Rodeo Sessions
Notable instruments

Christopher Scott "Chris" Thile (/ˈθl/ THEE-lee; born February 20, 1981) is an American virtuoso mandolinist, best known as the mandolinist and a singer for the progressive acoustic trio Nickel Creek[5][6] and the acoustic folk/progressive bluegrass quintet Punch Brothers. He is a 2012 MacArthur Fellow.[7]


The three members of Nickel Creek met in 1989 at Carlsbad, California's That Pizza Place, listening to weekly bluegrass shows with their parents. Soon they were taking lessons and then playing festivals and recording albums. Their first, Little Cowpoke, was released in 1994. Later albums included Nickel Creek and This Side, which went platinum and won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album. In 2005, Nickel Creek released Why Should the Fire Die?, which received massive critical acclaim and sold 250,000 units.

In 2003, Thile married fashion designer Jesse Meighan. The couple divorced in 2004, after 18 months of marriage.[8]

Thile has also released solo albums, including Not All Who Wander Are Lost (2001) and 2004's Deceiver, on which he wrote, composed, sang, and played every part. In 2008, Thile released a collaboration album with bassist Edgar Meyer, and he also plans to release a collaborative album with Hilary Hahn.[9][10]

Thile married actress Claire Coffee on December 23, 2013.[11] Coffee and Thile are expecting their first child, a boy, in May.[12]

Thile's great-great-great-great-uncle is Baseball Hall of Fame member Sam Thompson.[13]


1981-1999: Early life and career[edit]

Thile was born in Oceanside, California in 1981. His earliest memories of music are listening to Stan Getz's recording of "The Girl from Ipanema" before he even turned one year old. When he was two, his family started going to That Pizza Place, where he listened to John Moore's band Bluegrass Etc. When Thile was four, his family moved to Idyllwild, California.

Thile began playing the mandolin at the age of five, taking occasional lessons from John Moore. At age eight, Thile's family and the Watkins family formed Nickel Creek. The band performed at many California bluegrass festivals, and as a result Chris had to be home-schooled. At age twelve, he won the national mandolin championship at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas.

That same year, 1993, Thile made a demo tape and sent it to the Sugar Hill and Rounder record labels. Both labels showed interest, but the Thiles went with Sugar Hill.[14] The next year Chris Thile released his first solo album, Leading Off, featuring mostly original compositions.

In 1995, the Thile family moved to Murray, Kentucky where Chris' father Scott Thile accepted a position at Murray State University as a musical instrument technician.[15][16] In 1997, Chris released Stealing Second and Nickel Creek released Here to There. Chris went on to attend Murray State University for a few semesters, where he was a music major.[1]

2000-2005: Wander and Deceiver[edit]

Following the major success and platinum accreditation of the album Nickel Creek, Thile released Not All Who Wander Are Lost in 2001. The album featured guest appearances from several well-known instrumentalists such as Stuart Duncan, Béla Fleck, Edgar Meyer, Jerry Douglas, and Bryan Sutton.

In 2003, Thile teamed up with mandolinist Mike Marshall for the duet album Into the Cauldron, which included original pieces as well as pieces by Charlie Parker and J. S. Bach. Also in 2003, Thile joined Mark O'Connor for his double CD set "Thirty-Year Retrospective" which was nominated for a Grammy. In 2004, Thile released Deceiver, an experimental album on which he recorded every track himself. This included electric guitar, piano, drums, violin, viola, cello, and bass. Deceiver demonstrated some pop/rock songwriting in addition to "newgrass."

2006-present: Punch Brothers and Edgar Meyer project[edit]

Chris Thile with Punch Brothers at Wintergrass, 2008

In August 2006, Nickel Creek announced that at the end of the year they would no longer be recording together as a group, and their tour scheduled through 2007 would be their last for an indefinite period of time. In February 2014, the group announced that it would be releasing another album.

Thile was a judge for the fifth annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists' careers.[17]

In 2006, Thile formed How to Grow a Band, with whom he recorded How to Grow a Woman from the Ground, Thile's fifth album. In an interview with the Nashville City Paper, Thile described the band's formation:

We got together one night just to drop a ton of money, drink too much wine, eat steaks, and commiserate about our failed relationships. We had gotten to play together a few days before and we had said that we needed to do something musical together. With our hearts smashed to pieces, it became more urgent — our lives had gone the same way for so long. I knew I wanted to have a band with Gabe [Witcher], but I didn't know if it would be a rock ensemble, an ambitious acoustic classical thing or a bluegrass group. We played, and there was a serious, instantaneous connection. Then I knew I wanted to put together a bluegrass band — one with a lot of range, but aesthetically a bluegrass band.[18]

The band consisted of Chris Thile (mandolin), Gabe Witcher (fiddle/violin), Chris Eldridge (guitar), Greg Garrison (bass), and Noam Pikelny (banjo). Bryan Sutton has also filled in on guitar when necessary while Eldridge played out commitments to The Infamous Stringdusters. In 2007, the band officially changed its name first to "The Tensions Mountain Boys" and then "Punch Brothers."

On March 17, 2007, at Carnegie Hall, this group debuted Thile's ambitious "The Blind Leaving the Blind", a 40-minute suite in four movements that Thile told NPR was written in part to deal with his 2004 divorce.[19]

Chris Thile with Punch Brothers at Wintergrass, 2008

Punch Brothers released its first album, Punch, February 26, 2008, on Nonesuch Records. The album featured Thile's suite "The Blind Leaving the Blind", as well as other original songs.[10]

To promote Punch, Thile and Punch Brothers planned a year-long tour in 2008, as well as a February 29 appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.[20] In late 2008, Paul Kowert replaced Garrison on bass. Punch Brothers released Antifogmatic on February 15, 2010, and continued to tour. On November 5, 2010, the band performed "Rye Whiskey" on the Late Show with David Letterman with Steve Martin guesting on banjo.

The Punch Brothers released their newest album, Who's Feeling Young Now?, in early 2012.

In August 2008, Thile and bassist Edgar Meyer announced the release date of the duo's planned debut album. The album was released on Thile's label Nonesuch Records on September 23, 2008.[21] Commenting on the collaboration, Thile said "Edgar is one of the biggest influences on my musical life, and now I'm in a duo with him and writing songs with him. This was my dream. I always wondered what it would be like to be playing music this hard."[22] The duo toured in September and October 2008 to promote the album.

In 2012, Thile won a MacArthur Fellowship.[23]

In 2014, Thile recorded a new collaborative album with Edgar Meyer entitled Bass & Mandolin and embarked on a tour with Meyer to support the album.[24]

Side projects[edit]

Thile is featured in the documentary Bluegrass Journey, along with the rest of Nickel Creek. He has also appeared on a number of other artists' recordings, including Béla Fleck's Perpetual Motion, playing arrangements of Baroque, Impressionist, Classical and other styles of music with Fleck and Edgar Meyer; Jam Session, with Mark O'Connor, Frank Vignola, Bryan Sutton, and Jon Burr; the Dixie Chicks' Home, Kate Rusby's Awkward Annie, Julie Fowlis's Cuilidh, Dolly Parton's Little Sparrow, Dierks Bentley's Up on the Ridge, and Sarah Jarosz's Song Up in Her Head and Follow Me Down.

Thile has performed as a duo with guitarist and vocalist Michael Daves since 2005.[25] They released their debut album, Sleep With One Eye Open, on May 10, 2011. Recorded at Jack White's studio, the album consists of 16 classic bluegrass duets. Jack White also produced and played on the duo's 7" vinyl record Man in the Middle on Third Man Records. Thile and Daves met in 2005 at a bluegrass jam at NYC's Baggot Inn.

In 2009 Thile completed a mandolin concerto entitled Ad astra per alas porci. The work was commissioned by a consortium of orchestras including the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Oregon Symphony, Alabama Symphony Orchestra, Winston-Salem Symphony, Delaware Symphony Orchestra, Portland Symphony Orchestra, and Interlochen Center for the Arts. Thile performed the world premiere of the first movement with the Interlochen Arts Camp World Youth Symphony Orchestra under director Jung-Ho Pak, and premiered his entire concerto with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra on Sept. 17, 2009.[26][27][28][29]

In 2011, he recorded The Goat Rodeo Sessions with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, bassist Edgar Meyer and fiddle player Stuart Duncan.[30] On October 25, 2011 he appeared on the Tonight Show as a member of the Yo-Yo Ma and Friends musical act.[31]

On February 7th and 14th in 2015, he was the guest host on the radio show A Prairie Home Companion. [32]

Awards and nominations[edit]



Title Album details Peak chart positions
US Grass US Country US US Indie US Heat US Classic
Leading Off
Stealing Second
  • Release date: March 18, 1997
  • Label: Sugar Hill Records
Not All Who Wander Are Lost
  • Release date: October 9, 2001
  • Label: Sugar Hill Records
  • Release date: October 12, 2004
  • Label: Sugar Hill Records
How to Grow a Woman from the Ground
  • Release date: September 12, 2006
  • Label: Sugar Hill Records
2 46 27 28
Bach: Sonatas and Partitas, Vol. 1[34] 72 1
"—" denotes releases that did not chart


Title Album details Peak chart positions
US Grass US Country US US Heat US Classic
Into the Cauldron
(with Mike Marshall)
  • Release date: May 13, 2003
  • Label: Sugar Hill Records
6 71
Live: Duets
(with Mike Marshall)
  • Release date: January 24, 2006
  • Label: Sugar Hill Records
Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile
(with Edgar Meyer)
  • Release date: September 23, 2008
  • Label: Nonesuch Records
Sleep with One Eye Open[35]
(with Michael Daves)
  • Release date: May 10, 2011
  • Label: Nonesuch Records
3 34 3
The Goat Rodeo Sessions[36]
(with Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer and Stuart Duncan)
1 18 1
The Goat Rodeo Sessions: Live EP
  • Release date: February 7, 2012
  • Label: Sony Masterworks
4 8
Bass & Mandolin
(with Edgar Meyer)
  • Release date: September 9, 2014
  • Label: Nonesuch Records
2 2
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Nickel Creek[edit]

Punch Brothers[edit]

Mutual Admiration Society[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Chris Thile". Archived from the original on 2008-01-05. 
  2. ^ "AETN Presents: Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile". Archived from the original on 14 May 2005. Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  3. ^ "The Mandolin Archive: Gibson F5 Mandolin #75316 Signed by Lloyd Loar February 18, 1924". Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c "Interviews - The Chris Thile Interview". Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  5. ^ Linda Seida. "Chris Thile - Biography - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  6. ^ "Bluegrass Bios". Archived from the original on 2009-03-21. 
  7. ^ "2012 MacArthur Foundation 'Genius Grant' Winners". 1 October 2012. AP. Retrieved 1 October 2012. 
  8. ^ "Film Review: How to Grow a Band". Film Journal. 10 January 2008. Retrieved 15 November 2014. 
  9. ^ "Tensions Mountain Boys at Carnegie Hall". Carnegie Hall. 2007-03-17. Retrieved 2007-08-30. 
  10. ^ a b "Nonesuch Records Signs Singer/Composer/Mandolinist Chris Thile and His New Band, Punch Brothers". All About Jazz. 2007-10-09. Retrieved 2007-10-10. 
  11. ^ "Mandolinist Chris Thile and Actress Claire Coffee Wed". Cybergrass. 25 December 2013. Retrieved 25 December 2013. 
  12. ^ Gomez, Patrick. "(2015-01-21) Claire Coffee Expecting First Child – a Boy!". Retrieved 2015-02-07. 
  13. ^ Chris Thile Tweet on Twitter
  14. ^ "Chris Thile: Covering the Bases". 1999-05-20. Retrieved 2007-08-30. 
  15. ^ "N". Archived from the original on 2014-12-14. 
  16. ^ "Scott E. Thile". Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  17. ^ "Past Judges For The Independent Music Awards Include". Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  18. ^ "Nickel Creek's Thile 'grows' a new band". Nashville City Paper. 2006-08-23. Archived from the original on 2006-08-26. Retrieved 2007-10-13. 
  19. ^ "Bluegrass Suite Packs a Progressive 'Punch'". 29 February 2008. Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  20. ^ "Show Calendar". Archived from the original on 2009-03-31. 
  21. ^ "Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer Preview New Album at Aspen". Nonesuch Records Official Website. Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  22. ^ "Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile". Nonesuch Records Official Website. Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  23. ^ Rao, Mallika. "Chris Thile, Youngest MacArthur Genius Of 2012, On His 'Dauntingly Lofty' New Status". Retrieved 1 September 2014. 
  24. ^ "Nonesuch Releases Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer's "Bass & Mandolin" on September 9". Retrieved 1 September 2014. 
  25. ^ Klein, Bradley. "Chris Thile and Michael Daves Interview". Mandolin Cafe. Retrieved May 9, 2011. 
  26. ^ "Chris Thile Premieres His Mandolin Concerto with Colorado Symphony". Nonesuch Records Official Website. Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  27. ^ "Oregonian: Chris Thile Reinvents His Instrument with Mandolin Concerto". Nonesuch Records Official Website. Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  28. ^ Tackett, Dan (September 1, 2009). "Chris Thile composes Mandolin Concerto". Archived from the original on 2012-02-19. 
  29. ^ "Reviews of Chris Thile's Mandolin Concerto". Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  30. ^ "The Goat Rodeo Sessions". The Official Yo-Yo Ma Site. Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  31. ^ [1][dead link]
  32. ^ "Special Guest Host Chris Thile — February 7 & 14, 2015". 2015-02-03. Retrieved 2015-04-03. 
  33. ^ "Grammys 2015: Complete list of winners and nominees". Los Angeles Times.
  34. ^ "Chris Thile's "Bach: Sonatas and Partitas, Vol. 1" Out Now; Watch Thile Feature on PBS "NewsHour"". Nonesuch Records Official Website. Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  35. ^ "Mandolinist Chris Thile Teams Up with Bluegrass Guitarist Michael Daves for Nonesuch Release "Sleep with One Eye Open" May 10". Nonesuch Records Official Website. Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  36. ^ " Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile: The Goat Rodeo Sessions: Music". Retrieved 13 February 2015. 

External links[edit]