Playing banjo with Steve Martin
Cris Cohen: And also, in terms of collaboration, you occasionally have a second banjo player that sits in with you, named Steve Martin. Rumor has it he has a successful career as an actor as well.
What I’m wondering… the banjo, especially the way you guys play, is a busy instrument. It’s not just three chords here and there. How do you guys work out how to have two banjos going simultaneously, and not step on each other?
Graham Sharp of Steep Canyon Rangers: A lot of it has been an education for me in how to play the banjo when I’m not playing the banjo, how I’m used to playing the banjo. I don’t want to double what the guitars do. And I don’t want to double what the mandolins do. I want to do something in-between. A lot of the times on the banjo, it’s almost like an accompaniment, like a piano would do. And there are times when I would play harmony when he’s playing a melody.
But a lot of times it’s just kind of recognizing that there does need to be some space in the music, and two banjos firing at once is, in general, too much. It’s been an education for me in how to build some space into my playing. Steve’s compositions are just fantastic. He writes songs like nobody else does. He’s got a very unique voice on the instrument, so it’s been a neat body of music to learn, especially as another banjo player, watching where all this stuff comes from in his unbelievable imagination.
Cris Cohen: What’s also interesting is, it’s one of those things where you realize, oh, two people playing the same instrument, you can definitely hear the different personalities in each person’s playing. Even if they're tuned the same and all that. I guess, in that way, it is kind of fascinating to hear. It does sound like two different people playing at the same time, and not like it’s double-tracked or something.
Graham Sharp: Steve has so much personality in his playing. Among a lot of really great banjo players in the world, Steve’s a player who you hear and go, yeah, that's Steve playing. It’s neat to work with somebody like that. And he has a very different approach to it than I do, so it works.
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