Trey Anastasio

Trey Anastasio

Anastasio at Red Rocks Amphitheater
July 30, 2009
Background information
Birth name Ernest Joseph Anastasio
Born (1964-09-30) September 30, 1964
Fort Worth, Texas, U.S.
Genres Alternative rock, rock, jazz fusion, progressive rock, classical, funk, blues, bluegrass
Instruments Vocals, guitar, keyboards, drums, Marimba Lumina
Years active 1982–present
Labels Elektra, Sony, Rubber Jungle, Sony BMG, JEMP, MapleMusic Recordings (Canada)
Associated acts Phish, Trey Anastasio Band, Oysterhead, Dave Matthews and Friends, Phil Lesh and Friends, Surrender to the Air, Eight Foot Fluorescent Tubes, Space Antelope, SerialPod, Bivouac Jaun, Bad Hat, New York Philharmonic, Orchestra Nashville, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, The Grateful Dead
Notable instruments
Languedoc Guitars

Ernest Joseph "Trey" Anastasio III[1] (/ˌɑːnəˈstɑːzi/, born September 30, 1964[2]) is an American guitarist, composer, and vocalist noted for his work with the rock band Phish, and his solo career, including the Trey Anastasio Band and the orchestral "Evenings with Trey Anastasio" performed with the New York Philharmonic,[3] the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony, the Pittsburgh Symphony, and the Colorado Symphony.[4]

Anastasio was a 2013 best score Tony award nominee for the Broadway musical Hands on a Hardbody. He received the 2013 Dramatist Guild Frederick Loewe award for Dramatic Composition.[5][6]

In addition to his orchestral compositions, he is credited by name as composer of 152 Phish original songs, 140 of them as a solo credit, in addition to 41 credits attributed to the band as a whole.[7]


Anastasio was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and moved to Princeton, New Jersey, when he was three. His father, Ernest Anastasio Jr., was an executive vice president at the Educational Testing Service. His mother, Dina, was a children's book author and editor of Sesame Street Magazine. He grew up with his sister Kristy.[8]

Anastasio attended Princeton public schools through the fourth grade, then transferred to Princeton Day School. He graduated from the Taft School along with the Dude of Life, who helped pen such Phish compositions as "Suzy Greenberg", "Fluffhead", "Run Like An Antelope", "Slave to the Traffic Light", and "Dinner and a Movie". At Taft, he created his first two bands, Red Tide and Space Antelope.

Anastasio attended the University of Vermont (UVM) and Goddard College.

Anastasio enrolled at UVM as a philosophy major, where he met original Phish bandmates Jon Fishman, Mike Gordon, and Jeff Holdsworth. On December 2, 1983 the group played their first gig in the Harris-Millis Cafeteria at UVM. Although frequently referred to as an ROTC dance, this information is incorrect - it was in fact a Christmas semi-formal for Mike's dorm, which happened to house many ROTC students at the time.[9] The setlist consisted of cover songs, including "Long Cool Woman" and "Proud Mary" which was performed twice. The band was very primitive at this time and used hockey sticks as mic stands. After performing one set, Michael Jackson's Thriller album was put on by a party-goer to drown out the band. The band would not return to play but were still paid for the performance. At UVM, he hosted an early morning radio program, Ambient Alarm Clock.

While living at home for a semester, Anastasio met up with childhood friends Tom Marshall, his future writing partner, and Marc Daubert who would officially join Phish as percussionist from September 1984 to February 1985. After seeing a Phish show, pianist Page McConnell joined Phish in the autumn of 1985. Anastasio, along with Jon Fishman, transferred to Goddard College.[8]

During this time he began a musical association and close friendship with composer Ernie Stires, who taught him composition, theory, and arranging.[10] While at Goddard, he composed the song cycle The Man Who Stepped into Yesterday as his senior project. These songs would become mainstays of the Phish catalog. He graduated from Goddard in 1988.


Main article: Phish

Anastasio is a founding member of the rock band Phish, serving as lead guitarist and vocalist since their inception. Phish is noted for their musical improvisation, extended jams, exploration of a broad range of genres, and original live performances. Formed at the University of Vermont in 1983 (with the current line up solidifying in 1985), the band includes bassist and vocalist Mike Gordon, percussionist, vacuum player, and vocalist Jon Fishman, and keyboardist and vocalist Page McConnell. Phish performed together for over 20 years, releasing 10 studio albums, before breaking up in August 2004. They reunited in March 2009 for a corresponding tour, released a reunion album Joy and have since resumed performing regularly.

The group performed two concerts at the New York City Arts Academy in April 1996 and disbanded shortly thereafter. The concerts, like the group's sole album, consisted of completely improvised music.

Trey Anastasio Band

Main article: Trey Anastasio (band)

Trey Anastasio Band debuted in 1998 as Eight Foot Fluorescent Tubes as a local band in Vermont fronted by Anastasio on April 17 of that year at the nightclub Higher Ground, co-owned by his brother-in-law. The band debuted a number of songs heard in Anastasio's live performances today, including "First Tube", "Last Tube", and "Mozambique". The Trio in 1999 was an evolution of Eight Foot Fluorescent Tubes. Anastasio's first solo tour was with the trio, which included himself, Russ Lawton, and Tony Markellis. The trio reunited in late 2008 (along with keyboardist Ray Packowski) for a tour of the Northeast United States. The band expanded to a sextet in 2000 with three horn players added to the band (Dave Grippo on alto sax, Jennifer Hartswick on trumpet and tuba, and Andy Moroz on trombone). Some of the music originally performed by the sextet was later seen on his 2002 release, Trey Anastasio. A year later they evolved into The Octet which added Ray Paczkowski on keyboards and Russell Remington on tenor sax and flute; and The Dectet in 2002 through 2004 explored complex arrangements and changes of some songs included on Trey Anastasio, and was an evolved version of the octet, now a ten-piece band with the addition of Peter Apfelbaum on barritone sax and percussion, and Cyro Baptista on percussion.

On August 10, 2008, Trey Anastasio and Classic TAB played a set at the All Points West Music & Arts Festival at Liberty State Park in New Jersey. They opened with "Sand" and played a few other classic Anastasio/Markellis/Lawton compositions (songs that were also later recorded by Phish) including "Gotta Jibboo" and "Heavy Things".[11]

Solo work

Anastasio was featured on the album True Love by Toots and the Maytals, which won the Grammy Award in 2004 for Best Reggae Album, and showcased many notable musicians including Willie Nelson, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Gwen Stefani / No Doubt, Ben Harper, Bonnie Raitt, Manu Chao, The Roots, Ryan Adams, Keith Richards, Toots Hibbert, Paul Douglas, Jackie Jackson, Ken Boothe, and The Skatalites.[12] Anastasio can be heard playing guitar on the song "Sweet and Dandy".

In September 2004, he performed with the Vermont Youth Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.[13]

In July 2007, he released another instrumental album, The Horseshoe Curve, via his own Rubber Jungle Records. On August 14, he made a surprise guest appearance in Saratoga Springs, New York during Dave Matthews Band's performance at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. He sat in and jammed with the band during "Lie in Our Graves".

In June 2008, Trey guested on the Robert Randolph Band's set, who opened for an Eric Clapton concert.

On August 7, 2008, he played his first post-rehab electric show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY debuting: "Alaska" (electric version; the song was debuted acoustic at Rothbury), "Peggy", "Gone", "Backwards Down the Number Line" (electric version; the song was debuted acoustic at Rothbury), "Valentine", "Greyhound Rising", and "Light". Four of these seven songs have found their way into the Phish live repertoire and on official studio releases.

On September 27, 2008 Anastasio debuted Time Turns Elastic, an orchestral epic co-created with composer Don Hart, at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville Tennessee. The east coast premier of "Time Turns Elastic" was performed on May 21, 2009 with conductor Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore, Maryland. The performance also included the debut of the orchestral version of Anastasio's "First Tube".

On September 12, 2009 Trey performed "An Evening with Trey Anastasio and the New York Philharmonic" at Carnegie Hall in Manhattan with the New York Philharmonic, playing various compositions including "Divided Sky","You Enjoy Myself", and "Time Turns Elastic". This concert was a benefit for his sister, through the Kristy Anastasio Manning Memorial Fund and the New York Philharmonic.[3]

Other projects

Guitar playing style and stage equipment

Anastasio has employed the services of his friend, luthier and audio-technician Paul Languedoc (Phish's soundman from 1986–2004) throughout his career. The highly resonant hollow-body electric guitars built by Languedoc for Anastasio, his Ibanez Tube Screamers, and Ross Compressors are key to his signature tone. Anastasio has several custom Languedoc hollow-body electric guitars, which make use of set maple necks with 24-fret ebony fretboards and dual Seymour Duncan SH-1 '59 humbucker pickups.

Anastasio's electric guitar technique is largely conventional; he does not typically make use of tapping techniques and does not usually play slide guitar (an example of when he does is in the Oysterhead section of Les Claypool's 5 Gallons of Diesel) but is known to be competent at both techniques. He normally uses a 2.0mm Adamas graphite guitar pick, but does not always do so. Melodically, he often incorporates modes, notably the dorian, mixolydian, and locrian, as well as pentatonic scales. In addition to scales, Anastasio makes abundant use of arpeggios while improvising as well as in his compositional material.

Effects processors play a crucial role in achieving Anastasio's guitar tone. He uses effects such as two Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamers (with Analogman's Silver Mod) in sequence, the famous Univibe clone the Black Cat Vibe, and a Ross compressor. He switched to Analogman's Bicompressor around 1998, dropped the compressor from his rig in 2002, and resumed use the Ross Compressor in 2008 when a group of fans who desired the return of Anastasio's "signature" Ross compressor sound pooled their resources to obtain a vintage Ross Compressor and sent it to Anastasio in an attempt to compel him to return the vintage effect pedal to his rig.[15][16] Anastasio responded through friend and longtime collaborator Tom Marshall's website explaining that he had lost his original Ross Compressor and that he was so touched that people cared about his effects and guitar tone that he would add the gift to his rig in the original configuration where it has remained ever since.[17] He also uses a wah wah pedal (usually a Real McCoy Custom 3 by Geoffrey Teese), a Boomerang phrase sampler, Custom Audio Electronics Super Tremolo, Ibanez DM2000 delay, Alesis Microverb II (set to reverse), Whammy II pitch shifter, as well as a Leslie rotating speaker horn. In 2009, Anastasio added a Nova Repeater (delay). He controls these devices singularly or in batch with a Custom Audio Electronics RS-10 footpedal bank.

In the early 1990s, Anastasio employed a custom 2x12 speaker cabinet powered by either a 100W Mesa/Boogie Mark III head or, later, a Custom Audio Electronics 3-channel preamp and Groove Tubes power amp. In mid-1997, he switched to a pair of modified 1965 Fender Deluxe Reverb amps, one serving as a backup. When Phish returned in 2009, Anastasio was back to using the Mesa Boogie MKIII. In 2013 he added a Bogner Shiva amp to his arsenal, which can still be seen on stage as recently as Summer Tour '14, though has not been used much during this tour.

Anastasio currently plays three different acoustic guitars by Martin. The first is a D-45E which has East Indian Rosewood sides and back and a solid Sitka Spruce top. In 2005, Martin released a Trey Anastasio signature model acoustic guitar, with a dreadnought body with a curved Venetian cutaway. The guitar also has an Italian alpine spruce top, mahogany sides and a three-piece back with "wings" of mahogany and a center wedge of flame-figured Hawaiian koa (similar to a D-35). The guitar is finished with a flamed koa headplate and snowflake fingerboard inlays. Martin built only 141 of these guitars, which quickly sold out.

Composition work

In college, Anastasio studied composition under composer and arranger Ernie Stires. "Guelah Papyrus", featured on Phish's major label debut A Picture of Nectar, includes a Stires-influenced fugue instrumental section called "The Asse Festival" as a bridge between verses. In the early years of Phish, many of Anastasio's compositions were through-composed, intricate and detailed in conception (for example, "The Divided Sky", "You Enjoy Myself", "The Asse Festival", "Reba", "Fluff's Travels"). Anastasio has used improvisation as the driving force behind simplified songwriting, particularly in the music he has written for his touring and recording projects apart from Phish. Tom Marshall, a New Jersey computer systems professional and friend of Anastasio since his Princeton childhood, has been his primary songwriting collaborator, acting as lyricist. Anastasio has often pulled lyrics for his music from large notebooks of poems and prose kept by Marshall, and the pair have taken working retreats during which they wrote and/or recorded demos of new material. One such demo, Trampled By Lambs and Pecked by the Dove, has been commercially released, and many of the songs included on this release were reincarnated into Phish's 1998 album The Story of the Ghost. Anastasio also writes a number of his own lyrics, including all of the lyrics on his first release with Columbia Records, 2005's Shine.

One of Anastasio’s signature compositional techniques is the use of episodic (or organic) form. “Fluff’s Travels” and “You Enjoy Myself” are good examples of through-composed pieces which evolve from one musical idea to the other, never returning to a previous musical statement. This technique had been used in a rock music setting by relatively few before Phish (Frank Zappa and the Grateful Dead are two such examples).

Anastasio employs modal improvisation, first made popular by Miles Davis in the late 50’s/early 60’s.

Anastasio has also demonstrated skill at composing chamber music and music for orchestra, most notably on Seis De Mayo, his second solo album, and in his collaborations with the Vermont Youth Orchestra.

On September 27, 2008, Anastasio and Orchestra Nashville premiered a new work titled Time Turns Elastic, an original long-form piece that was orchestrated by composer and arranger Don Hart, and featured Anastasio on lead guitar and vocals. Anastasio previously collaborated with Hart and Orchestra Nashville in his orchestral performance of "Guyute" at Bonnaroo 2004. He performed the same composition at Carnegie Hall with the Vermont Youth Orchestra on September 14, 2004 and with the New York Philharmonic on September 12, 2009. Trey played the Walt Disney Concert Hall accompanied by the Los Angeles Philharmonic on March 10, 2012.

Trey was nominated for a 2013 Best Original score Tony Award, an Outstanding New Score Drama Desk Award, and Outstanding Music and Outstanding Orchestrations Outer Critics Circle Awards for the musical Hands on a Hardbody.[18]

Hands on a Hardbody received nine 2012-2013 Drama Desk Awards, tying for most nominations.[19]

Anastasio co-wrote the music for Hands on a Hardbody (along with Amanda Green) for a Broadway opening in March 2013. After only 56 performances, the show closed on April 13, making it the "fastest closing new musical of the season."[20]

Media appearances

On March 15, 2010, Anastasio inducted one of his favorite bands, Genesis, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, claiming it was "impossible to overstate what impact this band and musical philosophy had on me as a young musician. I'm forever in their debt."[21] In addition to Anastasio's speech, Phish appeared and performed two Genesis songs, "Watcher of the Skies" and "No Reply At All". Genesis did not perform.

In June 2010, Anastasio appeared as a surprise musical guest on Conan O'Brien's "The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour" stop at the Tower Theater where he performed "Alaska."

Personal life

On August 13, 1994, Anastasio married Susan Eliza Statesir. They have two daughters.

On December 15, 2006, Anastasio was stopped by a Whitehall patrolman in Upstate New York for failure to keep right of the center line.[22] He failed a field sobriety test, and was subsequently arrested for possession of heroin, possession of prescriptions not prescribed to him (including Percocet, Xanax, and Vicodin), and driving while intoxicated (DWI). Anastasio would later plead guilty to a reduced felony drug charge and spent fourteen months participating in daily meetings, drug testing, and performing community service in the Saratoga County, New York drug court program. On June 2008, after completing all phases of the New York State drug court, Anastasio graduated in good standing. His conviction was reduced to a misdemeanor. He has publicly thanked the officer who arrested him for turning his life around.[23][24] Following this experience, he became an active participant in the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP), sharing his story on Capitol Hill, and working to help raise awareness and money, for a National Drug Court.[25]

The Barn

"The Barn", also known as "The Farmhouse", is the name given to Anastasio's rehearsal and recording facility in the countryside near Westford, Vermont in the state's Lamoille Valley region. It was reconstructed between 1996 and 1998 from an existing structure, the Alan Irish Barn. The Barn has been used by Phish and most of Anastasio's projects since 1999. The cover photo of the Phish album Farmhouse is of the outhouse located right next to The Barn.

Other artists who have recorded or performed at The Barn include Gordon Stone Band, Herbie Hancock, Béla Fleck, Swampadelica, John Patitucci, DJ Logic, Toots & the Maytals, Tony Levin, The Slip, RAQ, John Medeski, Jerry Douglas, Nicholas Cassarino, Van Ghost and Addison Groove Project, among others.

Beginning in 2006, The Barn was transformed from a commercial recording facility into a studio environment providing accommodations and work space for artists participating in the Seven Below residency program.


Studio albums

Live albums






  1. The Phish Companion: A Guide to the Band and Their Music, Second Edition.
  2. The Phish Companion: A Guide to the Band and Their Music, Second Edition. Confusion regarding date of birth was clarified by the Albany Times Union on 12/16/2006. See Times Union archives.
  3. 1 2 Smith, Steve (2009-09-14). "A Lesson in Jamming for the Philharmonic. New York Times Music Review". Retrieved 2012-02-27.
  4. Getches, Catherine (2012-03-10). "Philharmonic in the Phish-Bowl: Trey Anastasio Hosts in L.A. : San Francisco Classical Voice". Retrieved 2012-10-17.
  5. "Hope Is a Thing With Tires 'Hands on a Hardbody,' at the Brooks Atkinson Theater". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-10-30.
  6. "Book |". Retrieved 2015-10-30.
  7. 1 2 The Phish Companion: A Guide to the Band and Their Music, Second Edition
  8. "December 02, 1983 Setlist >". Retrieved 2015-10-30.
  9. ""Vermont's Phinest Composer – Take it from Trey, he owes it all to Ernie Stires", article by Ruth Horowitz". Retrieved 2012-02-27.
  10. "Setlist for TAB, 8/10/08, at". Retrieved 2012-02-27.
  11. “True Love - Linear CD Notes." Toots and the Maytals. Web. <>. Retrieved 9 November 2016.
  12. "Setlist for Trey & VYO, 9/14/04, at". Retrieved 2012-02-27.
  13. "Setlist for 2000-05-04". Retrieved 2014-03-04.
  14. "PT | Phish | FINAL Ross Compressor Thread". 2009-01-06. Retrieved 2012-02-27.
  15. "Ross Compressor 2 – TMarsh – Picasa Web Albums". 2009-01-06. Retrieved 2012-02-27.
  16. John Vilanova (2009-01-07). "PT Phish FINAL Ross Compressor Thread". Retrieved 2012-02-27.
  17. "The Tony Award Nominees - - The American Theatre Wing's Tony Awards® - Official Website by IBM". 2013-05-21. Retrieved 2014-03-04.
  18. Gordon Cox (2013-04-29). "'Hands on a Hardbody' Goes the Distance With Drama Desk". Variety. Retrieved 2015-10-30.
  19. Rothman, Lily (2013-04-09). "Fastest-Closing New Broadway Musical of the Year: Hands on a Hardbody". New York City: Retrieved 2013-04-23.
  20. "Abba receive Hall of Fame honour". BBC News. March 16, 2010.
  21. "Trey Anastasio Arrested Dec 15, 2006". Retrieved 2012-02-27.
  22. "Anastasio Arrested For DWI In Upstate N.Y.". Billboard. Retrieved 8 November 2013.
  23. "Anastasio Avoids Jail On Drug Charges". Billboard. Retrieved 8 November 2013.
  24. NADCP. "Trey Anastasio shares his Drug Court experience on Capital Hill". Retrieved 2012-02-27.
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