Steve Martin Takes His Music Seriously

Share this:

Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers will be at Segerstrom Hall on Thursday, performing bluegrass and country music, with a few laughs thrown in to be sure.

Martin and the band are on tour to support their newest album,”Rare Bird Alert,” containing songs written or co-written by Martin. He sat down with reporters at the beginning of the month to discuss the album, the tour, and whatever else came up. Here are a few excerpts:

On audience expectations:

Well, let’s put it this way: We can live up to any musical demands. And so we have not encountered any kind of resistance or show-me attitudes. And you know our records precede us … and we can duplicate exactly the music on the record on stage. So we have not had any problems with that.

We also haven’t had any problems with the expectations of the audience towards comedy because there’s a lot of comedy in the show. And especially now that I’ve been doing this for almost two years, I think we’ve found exactly the right balance to meet whatever expectations the audience might have.

… I really put (“King Tut”) on the record because I wanted the audience to know that our show was fun.

On his career:

I have a lot of beginner’s luck. You know the first play I wrote was a success and is still on going, and the first screenplay I wrote, “The Jerk” – I mean with two other people, Carl Gottlieb and Michael Elias – was a success. And the first screenplay I wrote alone, “Roxanne,” was a success. And the first music album I did was a success.

And then you know it’s always necessary to do it again to prove it’s wasn’t beginners’ luck. I kind of get stuck in these traps. Not traps because it’s really fun. And right now, I’m really deeply enjoying going around, playing music and also doing a show. And talking to the audience and refining it. And working with these guys, the Steve Canyon Rangers, who are fantastic and have – have really outdone themselves I think on this tour musically and comedically and professionally.

On how he came to play the banjo:

It was just like love at first site as soon as I heard it. It was starting to appear – there was a folk music craze in the ’60s lead by the Kingston Trio and I can just hear the banjo in the background. And it just attracted me. And I – and then I started hearing people like Pete Seeger and Earl Scruggs and I just went crazy for it.

And it almost seemed impossible to learn from listening to it because it can be played very fast. And it just doesn’t seem possible. But you know there’s a way in and I borrowed my high school girlfriend’s father had a banjo. … And I bought some books and I was off. I just fell in love with it.

On “funny mishaps” on stage:

Well anytime something musically happens that’s a mishap is rarely funny to me. You know, because it usually generally wrecks the song. … I’m a musician.

On working with Paul McCartney:

He was so charming and he was funny. He was at the highest level of what you’d want not only a celebrity to be, but a person to be. H he’s probably one of the most famous people in the world, and people who are famous are impressed to be around him. So he’s the kind of elephant-in-the-room guy. And he knows that. And he’s lived that life for so long. And yet, he couldn’t have been more humble. S said hello to the cook and the sound guy, everybody. He was just a complete thrill.

We did you know several takes on the song. … and then finally we said, “I think we got it.” And he says, “Oh no, let me now go through it from the beginning.” Over and over he did – he went over it. That’s why he’s so great. He wasn’t there just to do a quick job and get out. He was there to do the best job he possibly could.

Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers will perform in Segerstrom Hall on Aug. 18, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $46. For details and tickets, call 714-556-ARTS or visit

Share this: