"Jerry's my favorite musician, and I'm including Otis Redding and Elvis in that." John Fogerty

MIM to Host Renowned Dobro Master Jerry Douglas June 12th

An Interview with Dobro Master, Jerry Douglas
By Mariah Fleming and Ken Skaggs

What's a Dobro? you might be asking yourself. '"Have I ever heard one played?" The answer is, undoubtedly, YES. Jerry Douglas is internationally recognized as the most renowned Dobro player in the world. His playing graces a head spinning 2000-plus albums. Jerry Douglas in studioHis fourteenth and newest release, "Traveler" features, among others, Eric Clapton, Bela Fleck, Dr. John, Paul Simon, Mumford & Sons, Keb' Mo', Sam Bush, Marc Cohn and Del McCoury, as well as Alison Krauss & Union Station. Douglas is a musical force of nature. And he's bringing his mojo to the MIM on June 12th at 7:00 p.m. accompanied by Viktor Krauss on bass, Gabe Witcher on fiddle and Doug Belote on drums.

In addition to his thirteen Grammy Awards and three Country Music Association Musician of the Year awards, Douglas received the prestigious Annual Americana Honors and Awards Lifetime Achievement Award for Instrumentalist in 2011, a coveted honor awarded in previous years to such luminaries as Ry Cooder, Sam Bush and Larry Campbell. "From regal restraint to reckless abandon, Douglas is never anything less than astonishing!" exclaims Billboard. The intimate MIM theatre is a superb venue for this one of a kind concert. So snap up your tickets now at MIM.org or call the box office at 480 478 6000.

In the midst of his non-stop schedule, Douglas was kind enough to give MusicAndMoreAZ a fascinating, close up look into his musical world. Among other things, Douglas talks about why 2012's 'Traveler' is a record of 'firsts' for him, shares stories about working with his world class featured musicians on "Traveler" and reflects on his friendship with the beloved John Hartford, whose inimitable music and engaging life left a deep imprint on the Nashville music community.

Q. Your 14th and latest release "Traveler" (June 2012) orbits a broad spectrum of material and styles. The album showcases your stirring lap steel guitar work alongside your Dobro work. What can we expect to hear from you at your Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) performance?
A. Yes there will be many songs from "Traveler" in the show there. We have been playing them for almost a year now and some of them are blossoming into areas I didn’t see them going when I recorded them.

Q. You've said about "Traveler" that you originally wanted to call the album "Firsts" because that's what it felt like to you. Among other 'firsts'' It's your first 'outside produced" album, produced by Russ Titelman. In what ways did working with an outside producer change the recording experience? Would you do it again?
A. I would do it again. It freed me to focus more on what I was doing at the moment instead of, as a producer has to do, casting about the entire room to make sure the whole piece was working as it was supposed to. In many situations Russ and I had already discussed what the finished picture should look like. He directed, I acted.

Q. You brought together a world-class array of talent for "Traveler." The short list includes Paul Simon, Dr. John, Eric Clapton, Keb Mo, Mumford and Sons and Bela Fleck and Sam Bush Jerry Douglas and Paul Simon (with whom you recorded the seminal "Strength in Numbers" along with Mark O'Connor and Edgar Meyer) Had you decided before choosing an outside producer with whom you wanted to work on this release, or did you and Titelman together choose your featured musicians?
A. I knew this record would encompass a lot of people before I brought Russ in. We tried to tie down a direction, which began in New Orleans, and work from there first, then bring on Eric, Keb Mo, and Mark Cohn for those songs.

Q. You recorded it in New Orleans, New York, Montreal, England and Nashville. Did your featured musicians mostly record live with you in the studio (and if so, specifically where) or were some tracks recorded in separate locations and sent to you?
A. I recorded live with everyone except Mark. I wasn’t able to be there for his vocal overdub. He was chosen for that song, “Right On Time". I love his voice, and that song is very close to my heart. It was written by my friend Al Anderson who some may remember as the wild guitar player for NRBQ. I didn’t want a 'phoned In' record.

Q. Those sessions are each in very different settings. What did each location bring to the experience? And how does recording in Nashville compare to recording elsewhere?
A. Recording in New Orleans is very different from Nashville. No timecards, no particular recording hours. Those guys sound like New Orleans because they breathe that damp air and eat that wonderful food and are just a special vibe from a special town. I couldn’t get that piano or horn sound from anyone in Nashville. It just doesn’t exist. You have to go to the source.

I went to the UK for a tour with Alison Krauss and when that was finished, I had the good fortune and timing to catch Mumford and Sons on a break from writing for their new record. We had talked about my record way out in advance, and the song “The Boxer” was equally enamored by all of us, so it was an easy choice. We hired a beautiful studio in the countryside out West of London where no one would bother us and worked non-stop until we had it all finished…until I played it for Paul Simon. We changed the ending slightly so Paul and I could finish it like we had on a tour we did together a couple of years earlier.

Q.In 2010 you produced and recorded "Southern Filibuster" as a surprise tribute to Tut Taylor, one of the early Dobro innovators who reached some notoriety playing with John Hartford. John HartfordI interviewed Bela Fleck a few weeks ago in support of his MIM solo show and he talked about John Hartford. At his show, he mentioned the wonderful Nashville jam sessions John Hartford hosted at his home for years that continued during Hartford's illness. Did you ever participate in any of those jam sessions?
A. For years John Hartford had a huge Christmas party and invited all his friends. The jam would go late into the night and everyone would go away with a good feeling that really represented the closeness of the Nashville community of musicians. During his last days, folks like Bela, Earl Scruggs, Sam Bush, myself, and anyone who wanted to be with John would drop by the house to help him walk the yard or finally just play requests for him. I still think this was an amazing way to pass on to after this life. I’ll never forget him or the times I spent with him. He truly was a Renaissance man and was loved by all. Maybe our Mark Twain.

Q. What are some of your favorite tunings? Do you ever use a dobro capo?
A.I have two favorite tunings. G(top to bottom/DBGDBG) and D(DAF#DAD). Capos are OK with me.

Q. Do you ever play pedal steel or the Pedabro? And have you ever worked with Paul Franklin?
A. I did play steel for awhile, but when it started to interfere with my Dobro playing I gave it up. If I want to hear pedal steel, I will call Lloyd Green, Buddy Emmons, or Paul. They know what they’re doing.

Q. Is there anyone you'd like to work with you haven't worked with yet…or anyone you would have liked to work with?
A. My children keep me listening to new bands and artists that I might not hear otherwise. So there will be many more that I want to play with. Right now, I am staying current with Dawes, Mumford and Sons, Sarah Jarosz, Amos Lee, and whoever I might cross paths with along the road.

Contact the author of this article at Editor@MusicAndMoreAZ.com.