Drew Emmitt has found a way to keep Leftover Salmon fresh for almost 20 years.

Drew Emmitt has found a way to keep Leftover Salmon fresh for almost 20 years.

And no, it's no some revolutionary safety-seal freezer pouch - although it does involve periods of putting it on ice, starting about five years ago.

"We had been touring like madmen for 15 years," Emmitt said of his Boulder, Colorado-based jazz-jam-grass outfit. "We needed a chance but we weren't sure how to do it. When (banjo player) Noam Pikelny said he was going to quit, we just decided to take a break."

Emmitt said it has been "a really cool way of keeping Salmon alive," adding that "now our 'other' projects are our main projects, and Salmon is a cool side thing for all of us."

This new working arrangement also means more time off the road, and more time playing traditional bluegrass for Emmitt, who maintains the Drew Emmitt Band and the Emmit-Nershi Band (with Bill Nershi of The String Cheese Incident.)

"This is the best part of my career," Emmitt concluded.

Raised in Nashville but a Colorado resident since 1973, Emmitt was influenced by both musical cultures. Bluegrass and country were well-steeped in Tennessee, but there was a new music emerging in Colorado in the '70s, thanks to bands like New Grass Revival.

"The festivals, like Telluride (Bluegrass festival), create that sort of climate," Emmitt said of the impact of Colorado-based bands on modern acoustic and "jam-band" music, but added that the kind of music made in Colorado's mountains might be due as much to a more traditional understanding of "climate."

"When you're in a beautiful place, you tend to be happier," he said. "And right now, I'm looking at a mountain and the bluest sky you've ever seen."

It was in Colorado that Emmitt first picked up a mandolin, having been an acoustic and electric guitar player since his teens.

"It spoke to me," he said. "I took right to it."

Leftover Salmon takes right to it, too, when gathering to prepare for a performance or series of gigs.

"These are songs we've been playing, some of them for 20 years," he explained. "We do sit down and go over stuff that might be in a set, but Salmon has never been much for planning and arranging, but about spontaneity and improvisation."