Amazon Although he's a gifted multi-instrumentalist, Jerry Douglas has become…
- Posted on May 13th 2010 2:00PM by Pat Pemberton
"At that time there wasn't really much," he tells Spinner. "Occasionally, you'd hear a mandolin. Rod Stewart had a mandolin song and Led Zeppelin had a song with mandocello on it. But as far as banjo, [the Eagles'] 'Take It Easy' was sort of the main thing I can think of that was popular when I was learning that wasn't country, so I didn't really have that kind of role model."
Still, he knew that there could be a place for the banjo in rock music.
"It can really fit like a glove; it doesn't even have to sound Southern," says Fleck, an 11-time Grammy winner who's worked with acts like Phish, Shawn Colvin and the Dave Matthews Band.
Currently performing world music on tour with bassist Edgar Meyer and tabla player Zakir Hussain, Fleck, who started out on guitar, said the key to putting banjo in rock songs is to accentuate -- not dominate -- the tune, as he did on 'Before These Crowded Streets," the No. 1 album by Dave Matthews and company.
"I really pride myself on finding a role on the songs where I become a part of them rather than sticking out," says Fleck, who recently released 'The Melody of Rhythm' with Meyer and Hussain. "I look for the place where I can enhance the groove. I think of myself as a percussionist, almost. That's the part I'm usually the most excited about -- if I can find a place to lay the banjo where it makes the whole groove percolate even more."
Of course, Fleck isn't limited to rock music, having also delved into bluegrass, jazz, pop and folk. In fact, he's been nominated for Grammys in more categories -- nine -- than any other musician, which begs the question: Could he pull off a hip-hop banjo piece?
"I'd love to do a hip-hop record, but the doors haven't opened yet," he says. "And I haven't gone looking yet because I have so many other things to do. But I think it'd be a really fun record to do. Whenever I hear a good hip-hop beat, I think, 'God, banjo would sound good in this music!'"