It wasn't really a matter of if but when Duluth's ramped-up bluegrass group Trampled by Turtles would get a slot on "Letterman."
The Turtles will take the Ed Sullivan Theater stage in New York today for the "Late Show with David Letterman," the group's first time on a national television stage.
"It'll sink in once we see the sign," lead singer Dave Simonett said of packing up from a show in North Carolina and driving overnight to Broadway and the theater marquee.
Simonett said the band had been in negotiations to play on the show sometime this summer. But a recent cancellation led to a call to see if they could fill in today.
"At least we were in the right part of the country," Simonett said.
They moved their scheduled Tuesday show at the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, N.C., to Monday night to make room for the New York appearance.
With the band on tour promoting its latest album, "Stars and Satellites," travel logistics in getting to New York were the bigger concern over facing a national audience, Simonett said. The band is playing most of the major outdoor festivals this summer from Oregon to Massachusetts.
The band will arrive this morning and run through music to give producers a sense of the time they'll need. Simonett said the February appearance on radio's "A Prairie Home Companion" in Duluth was good practice for getting the timing right.
"The good thing is that it isn't live," he said of the taped Letterman show. "It gives us some leeway."
Simonett said the band hasn't had time to nail down what song they might play. If they get just one, it'll be off the new album, Simonett said, and likely the current Billboard Top 40 song "Alone."
Video for the song "Alone":
Geoff Harrison will be at the theater cheering the band on. He represents Trampled by Turtles through the Thirty Tigers management company that also has Duluth-origin bands Low and the TBT spinoff Dead Man Winter.
This is Harrison's first national talk show as well.
"I'm going to be just like those guys," he said.
Harrison said the band's new album and its continuing "organic" rise in popularity made them a good draw for the show.
"It's definitely an advantage having that buzz," he said.
Guests on the show tonight are Amy Poehler, a "Saturday Night Live" alum and star of "Parks and Recreation" on NBC, and talk show host Wendy Williams.
After the "Late Night" performance, it's back to North Carolina for a show Wednesday and the rest of a tour that stretches into the fall. The band will play May 2 in Duluth as part of the Homegrown Music Festival before continuing west.
Harrison, who is based in New York, said he remembers seeing the band at New York City's popular Mercury Lounge three years ago. It holds about 200 people and 100 were at the show.
"It looked like less than that because they were all crammed at the stage," he said.
That's when Harrison learned the "undeniable enthusiasm" of TBT's fans. At that time, they only had an agent.
The "Late Show" appearance confirms an appetite for real musicians and not just a "shiny New York-L.A. image thing," Harrison said.
"There's a resurgence in popularity for music played with instruments," he said.
Popular roots music acts Bon Iver, the Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons and now Trampled by Turtles confirm the appeal, Harrison said.
"It's about the songs."