An Interview with Steve Martin’s Back-up Band the Steep Canyon Rangers

The Steep Canyon Rangers have just embarked on a tour with the wildest, craziest guy ever – Steve Martin. Martin, who is best known for his stand-up comedy and super great movies like “Roxanne,” “The Jerk,” and “Three Amigos,” has taken the Rangers on the road to promote his new album, “Rare Bird Alert.” I recently sat down with Woody Platt of Steep Canyon Rangers to talk about the tour, Steve Martin, and what it is like working with the legendary comedian.

Real quick, tell me how you got involved in bluegrass music?

Well, I grew up in a bluegrass rich area (western NC) but really did not become fully interested in trying to play the music until Graham Sharp, our banjo player, and Charles Humphrey, our bass player, got their instruments. That’s when it all started.

Congrats on the tour with Steve Martin. How did this come about?

We met Steve through his wife, Anne. She has been a friend of the band’s for several years. She and Steve met and started vacationing in NC so we were invited to come to dinner and jam with Steve. One thing led to the next. He sat in with us at our festival (mountain song festival) in Brevard, NC and then at Joe’s Pub in NYC after he released the Crow record and decided to tour. We were lucky enough to get the job as the touring band. It has been a very wonderful experience.

By touring with Steve Martin in 2010, the Steep Canyon Rangers (SCR) reached a milestone by performing in front of the largest audience ever as a bluegrass band. What does something like this do for a band whose genre is anything but typical of what’s going on today?

It is true that Steve can draw a very large audience for a live show and the fact that the show is a bluegrass show is such a great thing for the music. Playing nearly 60 sold out shows last year and a few very large festivals really helps put bluegrass in front of a large number of folks and many of the folks are hearing it for the first time. We are proud to be involved in sharing the music to such a large amount of people.

Have you noticed the band’s popularity growing by virtue of playing in front of larger audiences?

Yes, we have been able to play larger shows when we are on our own. The TV shows we have done and the touring with Steve really has helped our career! “Thanks Steve!!”

When you’re on tour with the wildest, craziest guy, there has to be great tour stories. What is it like touring with a comedic legend?

Steve is such a creative guy. Of course he is funny and a true pleasure to travel and play shows with. We learn so much every time we take the stage together. He has such a great skill at working a crowd. We are constantly creating new material with Steve on the road.

SCR does a remake of Martin’s “King Tut” for his new album, “Rare Bird Alert.” Why did you decide to remake this song?

We learned the song in the RV at a gig down in Alabama one night (some of us had not even heard it. We found a Saturday Night Live video on YouTube). Then we pitched it to Steve, telling him we had learned the song. With a little prodding we got him to do it and it has been a big hit on the road. We caught such a good live version from the last tour we decided to put it on the record.

Good luck with the tour. Is there anything you wanted to add?

Thanks! Come see the show!!!

Steep Canyon Rangers and Steve Martin are touring throughout the Spring. For more information on the band and the tour, visit SCR’s website.

Sources:

Steep Canyon Rangers Official Site
Steve Martin Official Site