Greensky Bluegrass has built its career on live performances, with energy flowing back and forth with audiences. But for its new EP, the Americana band changed tack and isolated themselves in Iceland.

“The sun doesn’t go down, it’s kind of surreal. There’s nothing to hide behind,” says Greensky mandolinist and vocalist Paul Hoffman. “I could jump in the water at 2 a.m. It was also liberating to record something that was so casual. Throwaway is the wrong word, but we weren’t worried about marketing a release for it. We were kind of unsure of how the songs were going and if they were finished yet but we decided that whatever we recoded, that would be what it was — if they change later, so be it. We were just kind of committed to the time of being in a place that was beautiful and cool.

Released last month, “The Iceland Sessions featuring Holly Bowling,” includes the pianist. Hoffman estimates that Bowling has played more than 100 shows with Greensky, to the point that the band has alternative arrangements for their songs when she sits in, and playing without her can be a strange experience, as she is an avid notetaker and is able to direct the band to an extent.

For the EP, the band and Bowling met up in an Airbnb in North Carolina to work on some songs in advance of the sessions, which occurred after a gig in Reykjavik.

The band has been together for more than 20 years. The current lineup of Anders Beck (dobro), Michael Arlen Bont (banjo), Dave Bruzza (guitar), Mike Devol (upright bass) and Hoffman, has changed over the years — but not too much.

“I think we’ve evolved and matured. We’re probably writing less bluegrassy songs than we used to, which pushes us to try new things,” Hoffman says. “The easiest answer is that we just got better at what we do and at being ourselves. With every direction we take, whether it’s rock ‘n’ roll, psychedelic or circusy, we take steps a little further from our center. Because we’re a band that always plays all of our material, we never really evolve away from where we started because we’re always honoring that whole catalog.”

For years the primary songwriter in the band, Hoffman is pleased that his bandmates are contributing more material. He explains that it’s a challenge to let your guard down when bringing a new creation to your bandmates: “We’ve been a band for 24 years and we still get nervous.”

The writing and collaborative spirit has grown from a mutual appreciation for several genres when the band first met.

“We all kind of shared a love for the Grateful Dead. Equally, I think we all had an appreciation for rock ‘n’ roll and improvisational music and bluegrass music,” Hoffman explains. “Learning a lot of bluegrass music is how we grew and matured. We learned how to incorporate more of ourselves and our creative passion into the genre that we love. I think that we’re still very much a bluegrass band even though it’s an edgy rock ‘n’ roll version of bluegrass.”

In addition to Bowling, Greensky has collaborated extensively with Billy Strings, the guitarist and vocalist who has found mass success as an arena-filling live act, media exposure including a lengthy New York Times feature and acceptance from jam band gods like Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann and Trey Anastasio. He sat in with Greensky for six songs in Michigan last week.

“He’s incredible. He cares a whole hell of a lot. He’s do damn good,” Hoffman says when asked about Strings’s ascendancy. “Maybe it’s a guitar thing. Maybe it’s because he’s so genuine. I think about it a lot. He’s gained an hysterical fan base. He’s really transparent and I think people really love that.”

While there might not be room in the market for two arena-sized bluegrass acts, Hoffman believes Strings’s success is good for the genre.

“Absolutely. Rising tide lifts all ships, I think is the expression. He plays with us, he covers a few of our tunes, and we’ve done a little more writing again. I think that awareness is definitely good.”

Greensky Bluegrass will perform at the Rooftop at Pier 17 in New York on Friday June 14


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