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Chris Thile

MIO - Chris Thile

For the first ever live recording of Music Inside Out, Gwen caught up with the prodigious and prolific Chris Thile at the George and Joyce Wein Jazz and Heritage Center. He’s barely 36 years-old, but already boasts a lifetime’s worth of achievements. He started learning mandolin as a kindergartener. Three years later, he co-founded the platinum-selling Nickel Creek with his friends Sara and Sean Watkins. The band would become a groundbreaking force in acoustic music. He’s gone on to record with Edgar Meyerthe Punch BrothersBrad Meldhau, and Yo-Yo Ma, and most recently he’s taken over as host of A Prairie Home Companion.

While Thile is most recognized for his technical virtuosity in playing and composing, he’s not content to simply be what he calls a “finger-waggler.” Instead, he sees virtuosity as “a tool that can be used in the service of good music-making”

Thile’s head is like a sponge – not just because of his fluffy hair-do – but because he absorbs every sound that he comes comes across. His musical guests on Prairie Home have included people like Jack White, Steve Martin, the Shins, Regina Spektor, and Esperanza Spalding. He’s played tributes to Led Zeppelin and David Bowie, and he can draw seamless connections between Kendrick Lamar, Igor Stravinsky, J.R.R. Tolkien, Radiohead, and video games Mario 64 and the Legend of Zelda. As Thile says, “liking things is what I like the most.”

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Gwen Thompkins is a New Orleans native, NPR veteran and host of WWNO's Music Inside Out, where she brings to bear the knowledge and experience she amassed as senior editor of Weekend Edition, an East Africa correspondent, the holder of Nieman and Watson Fellowships, and as a longtime student of music from around the world.