"It’s the best record we’ve made. It’s adult without being too serious, fun but not trite" We chat with Steep Canyon Rangers
Well known for their collaborations with Steve Martin, Steep Canyon Rangers returned with their third release of a busy 2020 (Following a live record and an album with Asheville Symphony). Arm In Arm is the kind of record that 2020 needs, full of warmth and up-tempo fiddle. We spoke to Graham Sharp about the album, who has their Grammy, and 2020.
Hey Graham, how the heck are you?
It kinda changes hour by hour; it’s hard to be out of work and feel like you can’t contribute like you want, but it’s great to be home and reconnect here over a long period of time.
Where are you right now? And what have you been up to today?
I’m home in Asheville, North Carolina. So far today I’ve sent 1,000 texts/emails, written half a song, and worked on the short term rental we’re building in the basement....and I’ve had lots of coffee.
What’s been keeping you busy in 2020?
Staying sane, trying to get out in the woods a lot, staying creative, trying to keep the lights on for the band, driving the kids around. Most of the band has taken the opportunity to focus on their “B gig” which has never happened, since we’ve worked almost constantly for the last 20 years.
What can you tell us about Arm In Arm in two sentences?
I think it’s the best record we’ve made. It’s adult without being too serious, fun but not trite, and the tones from the studio are glorious.
OK, you’ve got a bit more time, tell me the most interesting thing that happened during the recording of the album.
Michael Bearden (musical director for Madonna, MJ, Lady Gaga etc) walked into the studio one morning, just to say hi and hang out. But he’s too creative to just sit there, so he started poking around, looking for the piano. Our buddy M. Selverne was with him and said to, Brandon Bell, the engineer, ”Don’t let him play one #%@& note on that piano without a mic on it!” We all kinda slid behind our mics and the result was what you hear on the record as 'Take My Mind'.
I also wanted to ask about ‘Honey On My Tongue’, a really terrific song, what’s the background to that song?
I wrote that one about/for my daughter, when we were far from home on the west coast of Canada. There’s a wonderful Japanese garden in Vancouver that really spurred that song, the idea of balance in everything.
‘Sunny Day’ sounds like the uptempo song we need right now, what’s it about?
It's about that friend that you just wanna take in, let’em catch their breath and warm their feet by the fire. And also wanting to be part of their life when they’re in need of nothing.
How did you go about writing, and then choosing, which songs to record and put on the album?
I just write and write and really depend on the band to glean what’s good/bad/ugly. When you’re too close to something it’s always helpful to have the perspective of people you trust and who trust each other. A lot of it gets stored in the band’s collective memory, so some songs resurface years after they’re written.
You won a Grammy a few years ago, who’s door is it holding open?
Everybody gets one! I’ve always wanted to mount mine as a belt buckle or hood ornament.
For a layman can you explain the relationship between bluegrass and country?
Originally, they were one and the same. Bluegrass is a traditional form of country music, based on acoustic instruments and virtuosity. Both have expanded their boundaries dramatically since the 1940’s. And no matter which genre you’re operating in someone will say, “that’s not how Hank/Bill done it.”
Who’s your most famous friend? And what story can you tell me about them?
Steve Martin is my most famousest friend. I recently did an interview and told him, ‘I hope I didn’t share too much about you.’ He replied, “I can never be overmentioned.”