A lot of people don’t realize that the Flecktones initially formed for a one-night-only performance for PBS. Do you remember there immediately being sparks on stage?

It was ridiculous, in fact there is a YouTube of it.

It’s the Lonesome Pines Special. You can see us playing the first song together and we all sound skinny and young. And the audience is going crazy for it and we’re all looking kind of surprised or stunned. It’s not something you expect people to go crazy for and there they are.

What I was going to say was even though we aren’t doing new music, I think the band really is just as aggressively creative playing our old music right now as we’ve ever been. In that everybody has just gotten so much better as musicians, or I hope that I have. I feel that I have.

Whether it’s music or sports or anything, with a great team you can anticipate what the other person is going to do before they do it. Obviously, the Flecktones have that in spades.

There is nothing like hitting some of the tunes that we’ve been playing since 1988. It’s crazy. “Sinister Minister” or “Sunset Road” or “Sex in a Pan”—It’s like we own these tunes. They are so deep in our DNA at this point that we can abstract them if we like or get right down in the middle of them. It’s a celebration of what we’ve achieved over the years.

I’ve had this experience a few times now with the record companies and the Jazz festivals. When it started out nobody wanted us at a jazz festival. We did all we could do to get booked on a jazz festival. But now it seems like we are one of the last remaining groups of a certain era. And they all want us.

They’d say “Well you can play once in a while here,” but they would never accept us whole heartedly. But nowadays I run into some of those people and they’ll say “Oh man when we first had you on that festival it was so great, it was the beginning of this great thing and I’m so proud of that time.” And I am thinking like, “Wait a second you’re the gatekeeper who didn’t let us in.”

But it is interesting how hindsight is for everybody and I am thankful for all of those people for the part that they did play.

Are there any younger players that you’re kind of reaching back and trying to give a little limelight?

Oh yeah I mean there are so many great players in bluegrass. That’s another project I’m finishing up right now that I am really excited about. I am playing with a lot of great bluegrass musicians that are here today. Some of the older guys: David Grisman, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, those cats. But also younger guys, and of course Chris Thile isn’t one of the younger guys but he is an important guy on the scene he turned it upside down. But there’s also a whole bunch of other guys like Michael Cleveland on the fiddle and Billy Contreras on the fiddle. Cody Kilby on the guitar and Sierra Hall on the mandolin, Molly Tuttle.

It used to be that I really did not want to play that kind of music unless I could play with Sam Bush and Jerry Douglas and these other guys. But times have moved on and there are some astonishing players that really get me fired up to play that music again. Of course I want to do my own weird take on it, but it’s still a bluegrass ensemble.

It’s funny you’re saying you want to play with Sam Bush or Jerry Douglas, but those younger musicians are probably thinking, “Man, I want to play with Béla Fleck!”

That’s what I am discovering. When you’re the leader of a bunch of younger folks they kinda go, “Why don’t you show us how you want us to be?” I get much more confident about asking for what I want to hear. But they also surprise me a lot with their ideas and their playing. A lot of these people grew up listening to the music I made with my peer group and so it’s in their DNA too. It’s a very curious and interesting time.

It’s been two years since Echo in the Valley. Do you and Abigail Washburn have plans for another record?

We have a couple of really interesting projects planned. Not just creating another record but something a bit more unusual than that. I’m not quite ready to say what it is because we are working towards it.

Ever since our son Juno was born we have been touring together quite a bit. Now that we have two kids, now we have a one and a half year old, named Theodor Wilder Washburn Fleck it’s harder for us to travel with the whole family. We’re still doing it but instead of doing it constantly we’re doing it with months in between. We’ve got a nice set of shows through the winter but we’re doing the right amount for the situation we’re in.

We’ve been asked to write a song cycle for an orchestra and we are really excited about that idea because we have a couple of charts we’ve done where Abigail sings and I play that we were able to do with the great Colorado Orchestra. And it’s really something interesting and special: the idea of telling a story that takes a whole set to tell. And having all of the colors of the orchestra to do it.

Then also we’ve been collaborating with this amazing dance company called Pilobolus. They’ve always done really interesting unusual things with bodies and the movement and the music. So I think we are thinking more in creating a unique live experience that we could do. So, we’ll do another record but it’ll probably be built around some unique concept. Also, we’d love to do something with children as thats a big part of our life now. Doing a children’s CD together, we’ve talked about that.

I know you have a concerto named after Juno does this mean there is a Theo one in the works?

Well there is another concerto I haven’t named yet and I’ve been trying to think how that could be for Theo, his other name is Wilder. Juno just sounds like an interesting name for a concerto and that’s why it works so well. Theo, I don’t know. His other name is Wilder, it could be the Wilder Concerto. Or the Wild Concerto. But it’s not that wild of a concerto. It was written for the New Orleans or Louisiana symphony. So it has a lot of New Orleans influences in it. That doesn’t necessarily go with Wilder to me, but it could.

Well if you don’t name it after him, Theo might get jealous…

By the time he notices, I’ll have something locked up for him.

Pages:« Previous Page