The Mallett Brothers Band. Photo courtesy of the Mallett Brothers Band

The members of the Mallett Brothers Band had a simple goal when they got together: Try to get on stage as much as possible and scrape out a meager living doing what they love.

Ten years later they’ve done that and more. The roots rock outfit has become one of Maine’s best-known and most popular bands, headlining at home and playing across the country. Last year the band expanded its audience around the country by touring with Jon Fishman, the drummer for the legendary jam band Phish and a Lincolnville resident.

On Saturday, the band will celebrate its longevity with a 10th-anniversary show at the 1,900-seat State Theatre in Portland. The Boston-based Adam Ezra Group will open, and the Portland singer Kenya Hall will be among several guests playing with the band. The band just re-recorded the title track of their 2011 album “Low Down” with Hall on lead vocals and will be performing it on Saturday with her.

“Time just kind of crept up on us and we started thinking about what we can do to celebrate a little bit,” said Luke Mallett, 36, who sings, and plays acoustic and electric guitar in the band. “We’ve done a lot of different music over the years and we’ll try to do a little bit of everything.”

The six-piece Mallett Brothers Band includes two actual brothers, Luke and Will, who are the sons of legendary Maine singer-songwriter David Mallett. Will Mallett, 34, also plays acoustic and electric guitar, and sings. The other members include Wally Wenzel on electric guitar, dobro and vocals; Nick Leen on bass; Andrew Martelle on fiddle, mandolin, guitar and vocals; and Brian Higgins on drums.

The Mallett Brothers Band is celebrating 10 years together. Photo courtesy of the Mallett Brothers Band

Will and Luke Mallett grew up thinking playing music for a living was normal. David Mallett has written songs recorded by Pete Seeger, Alison Krauss, Liam Clancy and many others. They lived in Nashville for a while, when their father was playing and working there, and got used to watching him write songs. The brothers grew up mostly in the Dover-Foxcroft area, where not a lot of people talked about becoming professional musicians.

“In rural Maine, you say you want to be a musician, people will say, ‘Yeah, but what about money?’ But we never thought like that because we saw our dad working and recording. It was just reality for us,” said Luke Mallett.

Luke Mallett began playing in bands around Portland about 15 years ago. His band formed after Will Mallett graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont and came back to Maine. The band started with a “very strong country string band vibe,” said Luke Mallett, but over the years melded elements of rock and jam bands, with roots music always at the core.

In 2017 the band came out with an album of old Maine folk songs set to new music called “The Falling of the Pine: Songs from the Maine Woods.” In 2018 the band released “Vive L’Acadie,” a nod to the Acadian and French heritage found in many parts of Maine. The title track is a high-energy Cajun and zydeco-flavored tune that celebrates memeres (grandmothers), poutine and other Franco-flavored slices of Maine life.

Also last year, the band toured the Northeast with Fishman, drummer for Phish, a jam band that built a fanatical following over more than 30 years of touring.  Fishman met the Mallett Brothers Band in 2016 when he came to Portland to stump for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. The day he was in town, the Mallett Brothers Band played at The Landing at Pine Point in Scarborough, so he went to check them out. Fishman asked if he could sit in with the band, on drums, and say a few words on Sanders’ behalf. The band said yes.

A few months later, when Fishman and his wife reopened their renovated Lincolnville Center General Store, the Mallett Brothers band was invited to play the opening. Again, Fishman sat in. After the show, Fishman said he thought he and the band should play some gigs together, go on tour.

Band members didn’t think much of Fishman’s remark. But then they got a call from his agent and a tour was set up with Fishman as the drummer.

“That helped get us into some rooms we wouldn’t have played and expand our audience,” Luke Mallett said. “It was a pretty fun time.”

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