By DJ Dave Hoffenberg
Krishna Guthrie has played all over the world with his famous grandfather, Arlo, but now feels right at home in the Killington and Rutland region. You can catch Guthrie at the Hide-A-Way Tavern on Tuesday nights where he runs an open mic. He also can be seen at the Killington Resort base lodges and the Wobbly Barn Apres Ski on Fridays with Jenny Porter and Saturdays with his old friend Tony Lee Thomas. He has a new band, AKA, that is playing March 8 at the Wobbly Barn and March 9 at The Venue in Rutland. I had the pleasure of speaking to him to learn about that famous upbringing and his music of today.
Guthrie (age 26) grew up in Washington, Mass., a town so tiny that people nearby don’t even know of it. Twenty minutes away is Pittsfield, Mass. where his good friend Tony Lee Thomas is from. This is Guthrie’s fifth season in Killington, and that is thanks to Thomas. These two played in bands together as kids.
Guthrie is playing guitar in most of his gigs around here, but that is his second instrument. He started on the drums when he was 2 years old and picked up the guitar when he was 15. He said, laughing, “I don’t know why my parents decided to do this, they might be a little bit crazy, but they got me a drum set when I was 2.” He is self-taught on both instruments.
Guthrie and his best friend started their first band when he was 11. Although, he said, “We didn’t do any gigs or anything. I played drums and he played guitar pretty horribly and he sang pretty
horribly. But, we had a lot of fun writing songs.” His first real band was two years later, named Bogey, named after his best friend’s uncle’s dog.
When he was little, Guthrie used to run around the house saying, “I wanna be a rock star.” That dream became a reality right before he came to Killington. He worked at a Radio Shack full-time and played music on the side, part-time. Thomas gave him a call, and asked if he wanted to play drums on a bunch of Killington gigs. It worked out financially that he was able to drop to part-time at Radio Shack and work with Thomas in the winter. After that, in 2014, he knew he could quit his job and move up here for the winter. He said, “That’s when I started taking it really seriously and it was no longer just a dream to do that.”
Krishna’s great-grandfather is Woody Guthrie, who wrote “This Land is Your Land,” and his grandfather is Arlo Guthrie, who is famous for “Alice’s Restaurant.” I’ve seen Krishna perform “This Land is Your Land” and it’s my favorite song he does and definitely in my Top Ten songs by local musicians. That song is really special to him, and he said, “It’s one of those songs that even if he wasn’t my great-grandfather, it’s one I would want to play. It’s so cool to know that comes from my family and I’m able to carry it on a little bit. It’s a powerful song and I feel we’re needing it more and more these days because the country is so divided.”
Woody died 25 years before Krishna was born, but he has done a few tours with Arlo’s band which he calls The Family Band. When he was little they would bring him on stage as a gimmicky thing to sing “This Land is Your Land.” Not many children get to tour Europe, but he did, and did it playing in a band at age 15 on a month-long tour. He talked about that and said, “That was a really awesome experience for me at that age. It was a huge eye opener. Just traveling through another country was amazing. Technically, this was my first job, so it was cool to make my own money and be responsible for it.”
This past November, Guthrie played with the band at Carnegie Hall, which was an interesting experience for him. He said,”For as long as I can remember, and pretty sure even years before I was born, my grandpa has played there just about every year at Thanksgiving. It was always a family tradition that we would go to New York, see the show and have fun. It was really neat for me this year, because when I moved to Vermont, I stopped playing with The Family for a little while because I wanted to build up my own thing. Going back to play with them now, I feel I’ve gotten a lot better and can contribute more. Playing this year was a lot cooler and a really neat experience to see all those people. It was a different perspective on it when you get away from it for a couple years. I almost took it for granted because this is what my family does every year.”
At the Carnegie show, there were 13 family members on stage. Some of those members are in Guthrie’s immediate family. His father, Abe, plays keyboards with Arlo full-time and has a side local cover band, which Krishna says is fun. His sister Serena, who is six years younger, has always played instruments, but could not find what was good for her. About three years ago, she started singing and blew everyone away. Krishna said, “I think she finally found what she wants to do.” His mom does not play music at all.
Guthrie always knew all of his grandfather’s songs growing up but didn’t realize who he was to the rest of the world until he was 17. He said, “I started going back and looking at some old videos to see where he fit in the picture. I knew my grandpa was a famous folk singer but I didn’t know what that meant.”
Guthrie has been writing his own songs since he was 11, but said, “When were kids, we were writing silly songs, so I don’t count those. I have about 20 that I like and would still play now.” His writing covers whatever comes to mind but lately he’s been trying to delve deeper into more meaningful stuff, like how the world should work. “Use your voice to say something,” said Guthrie.
His musical influence as a kid was everything metal. He liked Iron Maiden, Megadeth and Metallica when he was playing drums. After he switched to guitar, his influences changed, too. He got a big appreciation for Pink Floyd, Allman Brothers and jam bands like Umphrey’s McGee.
Guthrie really likes the open mic and said, “It’s really good. It’s so fun and a great excuse to play with other people. I don’t get the chance to do that all that often, outside of groups that I already play with. It’s fun to have a night where people come in that I’ve never met before and I get to jam with.”
AKA is short for Alex, Krishna and Alex. As Guthrie put it, “I have both Alex Abrahams in my band.” One Alex (we’ll call him A1) has been playing with Guthrie the past few years in Sonic Malfunktion and Oak Totem. The other Alex (A2) is from Hamjob. This past fall when Oak Totem stopped playing, Guthrie and A1 wanted to continue playing so they grabbed A2 and formed a new group — AKA. Guthrie described them: “We do a lot of the old classic rock like Neil Young, Pink Floyd, Allman Brothers and some stuff like Nirvana. We like to put a heavier rock vibe on everything we do. It’s pretty neat to rearrange those older songs and make them a little more rockin’.” A1 plays the bass, A2 plays the drums and Guthrie is on guitar and vocals. A1 has a six-string bass that he plays on the original tunes. The Wobbly show will be mainly those originals with some rockin’ covers mixed in.
Besides playing with his family, Guthrie gets to play with his friends regularly and he said, “It’s great to be able to play with a bunch of different groups of my friends. It’s a lot of fun. They all play different styles of music, too so I get my fix of just about anything.”
Guthrie has had an amazing musical career growing up and what’s more amazing is that he’s so young, that he has so much more to give. “What I love best is the transfer of energy from whoever is on stage with me, to the audience, and then them giving it back. It’s a really rewarding experience to make a room full of people happy, and then it gets amplified, because they give you that happiness right back. It gets exponentially bigger and better and it’s an amazing feeling,” he said.