I have mentioned here and there that one of the things I like about the particular types of music I follow is the accessibility of the musicians and the ability to ask them questions, understand their music better and learn how they came to create the sounds I enjoy so very much. Now getting access means you have to actually go and see them, and of course, I do that whenever I can. However, there is a limit to how much one (especially me) can get around, funding being the big limiting factor and proximity (how often are they in my area) is another. In these cases it is very nice to have other resources that allow me to learn more about these folks.
One of my best resources for this is a friend I met a year or more ago named Steve Martin. Now this is not the guy you will think of first, this is a DIFFERENT Steve Martin. This one (my friend) doesn’t play banjo with an arrow through his head. He does play banjo, but sans arrow. He is a trail attorney by day, a banjo player in the evenings and on Wednesday night and Saturday afternoon he is a DJ. His Saturday afternoon show is on World Wide Bluegrass.com and obviously goes worldwide (hence the name, catchy, right?) over the internet. It is predominantly a bluegrass show but Stev plays anything he thinks is relevant and good.. His Wednesday night show is on terrestrial (broadcast) radio station WOBO and is a Jazz centered show. How Steve maintains such a high level of focus in both genres is beyond me, but he knows his stuff, the Artists, and the music.
I have been a steady listener of Steve’s Saturday show for over a year now, having tripped over it by accident and catching a show here and there when I was around, mostly in the winter months. Sometime last year I dropped into the chat room that is companion to all the WorldWide Bluegrass shows. In there are a few dedicated folks who like to chat about the music being played, pass comments to the DJ and generally enjoy each other. Now the big attraction for me in Steve’s show is that he tries to do at least one live interview on each show, sometimes he does as many as three.
We’ve all heard the typical radio interview for touring artists that are promoting their new CD, event, or upcoming tour, which usually last 2-10 minutes and hits on the quick sell points. These aren’t those interviews. Steve’s interviews run from 15 minutes to over an hour and allow the Artist to speak on whatever subject they choose, with just a couple of leading or clarifying questions from Steve. These interviews are usually a pure joy to listen to and frequently reveal things most of us never heard or knew about before. These little cherries of information are not secrets, they come out because nobody ever asked the question before or allowed the subject to fully tell their story before now.
Steve has had all manner of folks on the show, some are touring musicians, some left the road years ago, some are right in the middle of it. Some are not even musicians, they are builders or work in other parts of the business. Many do not have access to the ‘big publicity bus’ and are happy to have a chance to speak to the public about their music.
An incomplete list of past interviews would include Allison Brown, Bill Keith, Ryan Cavanaugh, Marc Horowitz, Matthew Goins (Blue Chip Picks), Tom Nechville (Nechville Banjos), Eric Weissberg, John McEuen, Rhonda Vincent, Sonny Osborne (a regular visitor), Tony Trischka, Bela Fleck, Kimber Ludiker, Eric Gibson, Steve Martin (the guy with the arrow through his head), and Rushad Eggleston, just to pick a few off the top of my head. Steve digs most of these folks up himself through industry contacts, publicity agents, face to face meetings (at concerts or festivals), or other prior connections. On occasion, a friend will intervene to help out and that is where my face enters the story briefly. I got to know Steve because I asked him if he could arrange to have one person or another on the show. Steve countered that although he would love to, he had no way of contacting them. Not being discouraged by a lack of knowledge or connections, I offered, a time or two, to get things rolling. This turned out much better than I had a right to expect and I believe I have hooked him up with 6 or 7 interviews to date (with one pending). Once or twice, I ‘forced’ a person on Steve that he didn’t really know, so he had to do some homework and it always worked out to be a winner for everyone. Every person that I have connected with Steve has told me afterward that they enjoyed the interview and would be happy to do it again.
I found these interviews to be of such value that I began to pester Steve to get them up on the web in an archive so that we could listen to them again. This was something Steve and his devoted friends had already been working on, but I think I may have gotten them to move ahead on it, just to shut me up. Many, but not all of the interviews are up at the web now and can be found here. Steve’s crew is working to get them all up soon. If you want to hear some good stuff, I suggest you go check them out. You can find those interviews here. One of my favorites is the Eric Weissberg interview wherein Eric reveals who the ‘Dueling Banjo’ gig was offered to before it was given to Eric. This little revelation blew me away.
Steve is also known to take his act on the road on rare occasions and last summer he made the plunge and drove 13 hours from Kentucky with all his gear, a little knowledge, and a huge, yet remote, support team to broadcast live from the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in Oak Hill, NY. Doing remotes is no easy thing even when you are a tech junkie who can control your own fate. When the temps approach 100 degrees for 3 days straight, it becomes quite challenging. Steve fought admirably to get all his equipment to work without success. Fortunately after several early morning Skype calls with his guru Mike in Australia, some hardware loans and tech support from the local crew, it all came together just precious minutes before show time. Steve gallantly manned his board for up to 10 or more hours a day, alone, to bring the music, LIVE, out over the interwebs. It was epic and had never been done before from Grey Fox. Steve will be the first to tell you that he learned a lot that week, but he is planning on doing it again in 2014 anyway. I am so looking forward to hearing how it comes out. As an example of what a nice guy Steve is, even though I was the one that talked him into coming to Grey Fox, he is still nice to me ( and I think he really has fogiven me), he even plans on coming back next July to do it again.
|Steve madly at work trying to clean out the bugs just minutes before showtime. That's Bill Keith off to his left offering experience, support and sympathy.|
If you haven’t figured it out by now (even though I mentioned it up front) I should be clear that Steve and I are friends who met entirely through music. He has introduced me to things I would never have known about otherwise, and I believe I have done the same for him once or twice. We share a campsite and coffee pot at Grey Fox and trade barbs on a pretty regular basis the rest of the year. You should check his shows out. Here’s all the details:
Steve Martin’s Unreal Bluegrass, Saturday, 2:00-5:00 EDT on WWW.WORLDWIDEBLUEGRASS.COM (Click On ‘LISTEN’, also on “Chat”)
UNREALBLUEGRASS.COM is Steve’s interview archive as well as upcoming show information.
Keep The Beat,