When I was a college student at Columbia University in New York in the ‘60s, I hosted a bluegrass radio show on my widely-heard college station, WKCR-FM. Radio shows, spinning records as well as interviewing musicians and commenting on the music, has for decades helped to promote bluegrass and traditional music to listeners within signal range. After becoming a performer, I continued to record backstage interviews with musicians I’d see on the road (like my interview with Tony Rice), and eventually became an interview subject myself.
I’m pleased to see the art of a well-crafted interview reemerge in the form of podcasts, and this new/old medium seems to be thriving. It’s an effective way for an artist to talk about what drives them and what they care about, and works especially well when the music itself can be woven into the program.
I was honored to be featured in two podcasts in the spring of 2021 and I’m pleased with how they turned out. In April, Bluegrass Unlimited’s podcast featured me as part of their April Learn to Play themed issue, and in May, the Picky Fingers Banjo Podcast interviewed me for almost two hours!
The Bluegrass Unlimited podcast focuses on my teaching experiences that led to the creation of the Wernick Method and the Method’s focus on ear training and playing with others. I talk about the evolution of my Jam Camps and what students can expect at these camps, and there are also stories along the way from my life as a performer and an advocate for bluegrass. I enjoyed my interview with Dan Miller, editor of Bluegrass Unlimited, and I’m happy with the podcast.
The Picky Fingers Podcast is more focused on my career as a banjo player and performer. Keith Billik, the host, steered our conversation to a number of topics not normally covered in interviews. We talked about my playing style and how I developed it, and then how that style continued to evolve as part of Hot Rize.
Among the other topics I discussed with Keith: writing Masters of the 5-String Banjo, how the phase-shifted banjo sound came about, my instruments, and why and how Hot Rize chose to remain a 4-piece band. It was a wide-ranging conversation!
I like how these podcasts turned out — and unlike a radio interview that may only be accessible later if recorded by a listener, I’m glad these interviews will stay available to anyone who wants to listen down the line. You can listen by clicking the links provided, or via your favorite podcast platform.