7 Questions: Graham Sharp of Steep Canyon Rangers

by Christopher Snyder

You have a new album “Out In The Open” out. How did the recording process go? Are there any tracks that really speak to your heart?

The process was really quick and simple. There was no dead time but no one was really waiting around for someone to get something done. We would run through a song a dozen times, lay down a few recordings of it until we felt [good] and our producer, Joe Henry, thought we had something. If not, we would go back in and record a little bit. When one would wrap up we would start working on pieces of the next song. In about an hour we would then be ready to ready to record another song. It was a really organic, not rushed process. It was probably the most natural feeling recording that we have ever done.

You have a show with the Asheville Symphony? Will this be your first time with the symphony?

A lot of the show will be a “normal show.” Will be playing ton of new material and we have about five or six songs scored out for the symphony. It just adds a whole new element, we got to work with the arranger for a couple years now.

Are there any musicians you would like to collaborate with in the future?

I really like when people in our band are paired up with some of their idols. I love to see Mike (Guggino) squared off with Sam Bush. It’s great to hear them go back and forth. I would like to see Woody (Platt) and Dwight Yoakum singing together. Our fiddle player, Nicky (Sanders) and Stuart Duncan and Mark O’Connor, one of those superlative fiddle players. For me, it would be great to sit down with John Prine, and work a few songs of his with the bluegrass band.

Your just released an album with Steve Martin. How did you guys originally connect?

We met Steve by chance. We knew Steve’s wife before they were married. She was a friend of friend of the bands.

Then her and Steve met, which was right around the time that he was putting out “The Crow.” He was just dipping his toes in the water to see if the live concert scene was something he wanted to do. He didn’t really do the live thing since the eighties with his stand up. It ended up being one show there and a couple shows there. It grew into something much larger. The shows started to bring in more elements, first it was music and then it was comedy. “The Long Awaited Album” come about from spending a bunch of time together over the years. Steve is always coming up with new ideas.

Did you have any other careers that you wanted to do before becoming a musician?

I came into college as a soccer player. I played for about a year. It was just one of those things that takes up all of your time. When I got burnt out from that, the banjo came along. After college I taught for a year, and I really respect anyone in the teaching profession. It just wasn’t jiving with me trying to get a band together. It’s a strange place to find yourself but it’s a great place to find yourself. It wasn’t a place I saw myself until it was happening.

Are there any bluegrass bands that you like to listen to that you feel that are on the “cusp” of having a breakout year?

We came up with the traditional and classic bands, moved out of that world a little bit. So I’m not quite as familiar with that world. River Whyless are a great band out of Asheville. A really inventive band. I wouldn’t call them bluegrass but they have acoustic guitar and fiddle. There’s a bluegrass band from Asheville called The Fireside Collective. I see a lot similarities to a young Steep Canyon Rangers. There is a lot of talent out there. The last twenty or thirty years as bluegrass has gone into the mainstream, a lot f the younger kids who would be playing in a rock or jazz band are coming into the bluegrass side or things. There is a just a huge pool of talent out there.

What advice would you give to young musicians that want make music a career?

Find people you love to do it with. For me and for us, that’s the whole emphasis, the whole beginning of the band. Find a group of people that you enjoy making music along with their company. I think that’s our secret to success, with keeping everyone together and on the same page. Love what you’re doing and grow.

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