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Chris Thile
Thile hosting A Prairie Home Companion in 2016
Background information
Birth name Christopher Scott Thile
Born February 20, 1981
Oceanside, California
Genres Bluegrass, Progressive bluegrass, Folk, Country, Classical, Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician, Songwriter, Singer-songwriter
Instruments Mandolin, Bouzouki, Mandola, Banjo, Guitar, Tenor Guitar, drums
Years active 1994–Present
Labels Sugar Hill Records (19942007)
Nonesuch Records (2007–)
Associated acts Nickel Creek, Punch Brothers, Mutual Admiration Society, Mike Marshall, Edgar Meyer, Hilary Hahn

Chris Thile (born February 20, 1981) is an American musician, best known as a member of acoustic band Nickel Creek. He has made six albums as a solo artist and with his band, Punch Brothers. His first, Leading Off, was released in 1994 when Thile was 13. Thile has also played and recorded with artists like Mike Marshall, Béla Fleck, Glen Phillips, and Edgar Meyer.

Thile's third album, Not All Who Wander Are Lost, was released in 2001. His fourth, Deceiver had all songs written and performed by Thile alone. His most recent solo work was 2006's How to Grow a Woman from the Ground, and Thile released Punch in 2008 with the band Punch Brothers. Also in 2008, Thile will make an album with Edgar Meyer, which will come out in the fall.


1981–1999: Early life and career

Thile was born in Oceanside, California in 1981. When he was two, his family started going to That Pizza Place, where he listened to John Moore's band Bluegrass Etc. When Thile was four, his family moved to Idyllwild, California.

He started playing mandolin at the age of five. He took lessons from John Moore. When Thile was eight, Nickel Creek was formed. After playing many music festivals with Nickel Creek, he won the national mandolin contest at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas at age twelve.

In 1993, Thile was signed to the bluegrass record label Sugar Hill. The next year, he released his first album, Leading Off, and most of the songs were written by Thile. In 1997, Thile released Stealing Second and Nickel Creek released Here to There.

2000–2005: Wander and Deceiver

After Nickel Creek sold 500,000 copies, Thile released Not All Who Wander Are Lost in 2001. The name of the album comes from a quote in J. R. R. Tolkien's book The Lord of the Rings. The album had guest appearances from his Nickel Creek bandmates as well as Stuart Duncan, Béla Fleck, Edgar Meyer, Jerry Douglas, and Bryan Sutton.

In 2003, Thile and mandolinist Mike Marshall made a duet album called Into the Cauldron, which had covers by artists from Charlie Parker to Bach. The next year, Thile released Deceiver, a pop album on which he played and wrote every song himself. He mainly played his mandolin on the album, but also played electric guitar, piano, drums, violin, viola, cello, and bass.

2006–present: Punch Brothers

In August 2006, Nickel Creek announced in Billboard and on their official website that they would take an indefinite hiatus, which means a break for an unknown amount of time.

Just before this, Thile formed the How to Grow a Band. He made How to Grow a Woman from the Ground, with them. This was Thile's fifth album. In an interview with the Nashville City Paper, Thile talked about the band's start:

"We got together one night just to drop a ton of money, drink too much wine, eat steaks, and commiserate about our failed relationships. We had gotten to play together a few days before and we had said that we needed to do something musical together. With our hearts smashed to pieces, it became more urgent—our lives had gone the same way for so long. I knew I wanted to have a band with Gabe [Witcher], but I didn’t know if it would be a rock ensemble, an ambitious acoustic classical thing or a bluegrass group. We played, and there was a serious, instantaneous connection. Then I knew I wanted to put together a bluegrass band—one with a lot of range, but aesthetically a bluegrass band."

The band's members are Thile (mandolin), Gabe Witcher (fiddle), Chris Eldridge (guitar), Greg Garrison (bass), and Noam Pikelny (banjo). Bryan Sutton also played guitar for the band when Chris Eldridge could not. In 2007, the band changed its name twice: first to "The Tensions Mountain Boys" and then "Punch Brothers."

Punch Brothers released their first album, Punch, on the Nonesuch Records on February 26, 2008. The album has Thile's four piece song "The Blind Leaving the Blind", along with other original songs.

Awards and nominations

  • 2001 – IBMA award for Mandolinist of the Year
  • 2005Grammy Award for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical for Deceiver (Nominated)
  • 2006 – Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance for "The Eleventh Reel" (Nominated)
  • 2007BBC's Folk Musician of the Year
  • 2007 – IBMA Mandolinist of the Year (Nominated)



  • Leading Off (1994)
  • Stealing Second (1997)
  • Not All Who Wander Are Lost (2001)
  • Deceiver (2004)
  • How to Grow a Woman from the Ground (2006)
  • Punch (2008)


Year Song Album
  • "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground"
How to Grow a Woman from the Ground

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