Bela Fleck invests in his music
Banjoist Bela Fleck started his musical journey at the age of 15.
His influences included Flatt & Scruggs, bebop and pop. In 1982,
he joined New Grass Revival, helping the progressive bluegrass band
break through to the mainstream.
In 1989, Fleck formed his own band, the Flecktones, with bass player
Victor Wooten and percussionist Future Man. The Flecktones still
play more than 200 concert dates a year. Their live albums feature
contributions from such notables as Amy Grant, Dave Matthews and
Shawn Colvin. In addition to more popular forms of music, Fleck
has also done groundbreaking work in the field of classical music,
transposing such virtuosic pieces as Bach's "Well Tempered
Clavier" to the banjo. His latest classical and crossover collaboration
is with bassist Edgar Meyer, on the album "Music for Two."
Fleck is so versatile that he's received Grammy nominations
in a breathtaking number of categories: bluegrass album, contemporary
jazz album, pop instrumental performance, country instrumental performance,
spoken word recording, gospel album, contemporary folk album and
world music. He won Grammys in the categories of best contemporary
jazz instrumental, best classical crossover album and best instrumental
Bankrate.com: What are your latest
Bela Fleck: Besides my work with
Edgar Meyer and my triple album, "Little Worlds," I've
been touring -- a lot of touring. I was up in the Northeast, but
then I went with the Flecktones to Florida. In the winter, that's
where you want to be!
Bankrate.com: You changed labels
to Sony. What kind of changes in recordings or marketing did you
expect to see?
Bela Fleck: To tell the truth, there's
not that big a difference between the labels. The key is, whether
they are excited in you or not. They know they're not going to clean
up with me, but we do hold our own. We're not a big money pit. They
do hope that there'll be some hits in a strong catalogue of our
Bankrate.com: You've had to create
much of the music you perform. Do you think there is an entrepreneurial
side to you?
Bela Fleck: I have ambition, but
mostly a deep love of music. It's self-preservation, really; I have
to figure out how to make a living for myself. I have friends in
the business who aren't doing so well. They say I have a great marketing
sense, but I don't see it. I'm really not into marketing. But I'm
always thinking how to package myself, how to connect. It's a lot
Bankrate.com: Do you think that
your broad repertoire in several genres may be the key to bringing
classical music to the younger generation?
Bela Fleck: My record "Perpetual
Motion" sold a lot more than most classical records do. Now,
people who listen to a lot of jazz usually listen to classical,
too. But, people who listen to bluegrass don't listen to classical
music, but they listened to me. They usually listen to bluegrass,
country or folk. I've had bluegrass people come up to me, thanking
me for opening them up to another world.