Mandolin Virtuoso Chris Thile Takes Over As 'A Prairie Home Companion' Host

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Chris Thile at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minn. Thile is replacing Garrison Keillor as host of "A Prairie Home Companion" after Keillor retired this summer. (Ann Heisenfelt/AP)
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When Garrison Keillor, the creator of the popular public radio program, “A Prairie Home Companion,” announced his retirement, some wondered whether the show could go on without him. This weekend Prairie Home Companion comes back to radio, with Keillor’s handpicked successor at the helm.

Chris Thile is a four-time Grammy Award winner, and a 2012 MacArthur Fellow. He’s a mandolin virtuoso, and a member of Nickel Creek and the Punch Brothers.

Here & Now‘s Robin Young talks with Thile about where he’s taking the show.

Interview Highlights: Chris Thile

On what he likes about performing

“There’s always, for me… I love putting on shows. I absolutely adore it — that’s why I’ve been doing it now for so long. But part of what I love about it are those butterflies I get, whether I’m hosting the show or about to try out something new in a coffeehouse for 20 people. They’re always there, and if they ever leave, I’ll probably be look into doing something else where I can find them again.”

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On how the show will be different

“It has to be different. It will necessarily be different, because I’m a very different person from Garrison. No one wants to hear me doing my best Garrison Keillor… I think that he’s inimitable; he’s one in a billion. He created this incredible show — the actual format of the show, there’s no call to change that, there’s no reason to change that.

I liken it to a string quartet, two violins, viola and cello. What a profound music-making machine the string quartet is. And what a profound way to organize two hours of variety, is ‘Prairie Home Companion.’ I look at it that way. And so if you’ll follow the analogy, then Garrison is kind of like Hayden in that situation, kind of having developed the string quartet. And I want to write for that string quartet. I can’t wait to get my grubby mitts on that string quartet, and do some creating and curating…”

On the kind of guests and music that will be on the show

“The premiere is coming right up. That’s gonna be Jack White, a hero of mine, and Lake Street Dive is gonna be on. I think the sonic palette of the show will expand a little bit, hopefully to include the width and breadth of the good things going on in the world. And it will continue, of course, to be a home for organically made roots music. But I do think it’s important to be a soundboard for all of the lovely things that are happening.”

Guest

Chris Thile, musician, composer and new host of “A Prairie Home Companion.” He’s also a four-time Grammy Award winner, and a 2012 MacArthur Fellow. He tweets @christhile.

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