Punch Brothers' Chris Thile Wins MacArthur 'Genius' Grant
Punch Brothers' Chris Thile Wins MacArthur 'Genius' Grant

Musician Chris Thile has fretted his way to a MacArthur "genius" grant.

The mandolinist is best known for his work with the Punch Brothers and Nickel Creek. He told the Associated Press he thought the foundation's calls were a political robocall before his tour manager looked up the number.

"I think I must have turned white," Thile told the AP. "I've never felt so internally warm. My heart was racing. All of a sudden, I felt very askew physically. I was trying to catch my breath. ...I thought, 'Oh my God, did I win a MacArthur?'"

The annual honor -- which awards $500,000 over five years -- was also received by scientists, writers and other notables including the author Junot Diaz and mathematician Maria Chudnovsky.

Thile was one of two musicians awarded in this year's batch, with classical flutist Claire Chase also earning the honor. He's released three albums with progressive bluegrass outfit the Punch Brothers, most recently February's "Who's Feeling Young Now?" The band's "Dark Days" also appeared on "The Hunger Games" soundtrack. Thile has been a frequent player at L.A.'s Largo, leading the club's resident performer-producer, Jon Brion (Kanye West, Fiona Apple), to produce the band's 2010 effort, "Antifogmatic."

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