(Left to right) Abigail Washburn and Béla Fleck, photo by Jim McGuire
Everybody likes their own ideas – that’s one of the diseases you can get, as a musical disease. It hurts your musical health – the need to attach to your own ideas.
Abigail Washburn and Béla Fleck, photo by Jim McGuire
And who do you want to play with? People that are fun to be around. That’s right up there with how good they play. It’s really interesting.
Probably going to go with the guy that maybe doesn’t do everything that great but is really good at a few things
Left to right) Abigail Washburn and Béla Fleck, photo by Jim McGuire
What are you cultivating in your musical ability... your musical garden? ... Feeling everything. Not suppressing stuff. Letting it move through, so there’s space for other things. Getting in touch with my insecurities and my fears and the things that taint and make me afraid to in touch with that space and time within me. Working on that.
Abigail Washburn and fellow artists on 2016's Silkroad tour, photo courtesy of Abigail Washburn management
I just have to play it out. Abby does a lot of her stuff in her head or unconsciously, which that’s another part of the musical health: encouraging your unconscious side. That’s really interesting. But Abby does a lot of unconscious stuff because she’s the kind of person who, if she has a deadline, in some part of mind, she’s not worried about getting to it to soon. And then down there, near the end, she’s into this, ‘Oh my god! It’s tomorrow!’ And then something comes out that’s evolved and well thought out and really cool. If I see a deadline three months down the line, I’m working on it the first day I can, and I’m trying to get it done a few weeks early so I can rewrite it a few times. We’re very different that way. But I’ve learned that she comes up with things in that last minute. Part of it’s like fight-or-flight kicking in, but she does some amazing stuff. And she’s actually processing and creating it the whole time, but it comes out at the last minute—
(Left to right) Abigail Washburn, their child, Juno Fleck and Béla Fleck, photo by Jim McGuire
Repetition makes all the difference, to me, in the world. Like with ‘Sala.’ It’s the simplest little tune, but we did it like 20 times or something just yesterday. For me, that was so I didn’t have to think when I got on stage. That when I got on stage it was like, ‘This is what it is.’
With the Flecktones, I always tried to get everybody to play the song – I wouldn’t tell them anything I was thinking. I would just let them play it from complete scratch before I said anything because once you have somebody telling you stuff, you can’t think of anything yourself anymore. Now you’re stuck trying to get their vision out, and it wipes your vision out. So, you have to start out by letting people have their own ideas, and then after they’ve had their fresh run of it, and have been creative with it, then you can say, “I really think that’s an F chord.” Then it doesn’t take away their freedom at that point. At that point, they’ve had their fresh run with it and have their reaction to which they’ll never lose, either. That works pretty good.
Béla Fleck & the Flecktones at Radnor Lake in Nashville, TN, photo courtesy of Béla Fleck & the Flecktones management
For me, it was just the music, in general – an escape from my parents’ split up ... I wasn’t a super-happy kid, and something about where... my family’s great, but I was very oppressed by everyone’s energy. But when I found the banjo, it became my hiding place, and then I put all this energy into it that actually freed me up to go away from situations that made me feel kind of oppressed. And a lot of it might have been in my head in the first place ... I was very sensitive, and I felt traumatized by things when I was a kid, even though nobody was doing anything wrong. But when I got into the music, I just found – I would just play all the time – eight hours a day – as much as I could play, and it gave me some place to put my energy – whatever you want to call it. So, for mental health-wise, having that focus point brought me out of all of that, and I grew up through high school playing in bands. I think what I’ve discovered currently, is that if I don’t play for a while, I get a little bit weird. I get a little bit – I don’t like myself very much. I tend to start not being very happy. And then if I go play, go out for a weekend and play some shows, and then I come back, it lets this energy off of me that’s negative energy that goes away. I can be normal, and I can be a human being. But if it goes too long without that outlet, I can get kind of dark and negative. It’s weird. I think it’s letting the hot air out of the kettle before that thing explodes. Not that I’m an explosive personality ... (M)usically ... I feel healthy as a human being.