If would be a hard task to find a musician as talented as Béla Fleck. A good place to look would be his performance at Red Rocks on May 30, where Fleck is slated to perform with The Flecktones in celebration of their thirty years as a band. Also in tow will be Fleck’s very talented wife, Abigail Washburn, as well as longtime Fleck collaborators Jerry Douglas and Sam Bush.
We caught up with Fleck to talk about what the journey to this point in his career has been like and what to expect at the festival-like lineup coming up at Red Rocks.
303 Magazine: You are returning to Red Rocks and are bringing a gaggle of friends and family. How often would you say you have shared the stage with the likes of your wife, (Abigail Washburn) Sam Bush and Jerry Douglas? What can you say about collaborating after all these years?
Béla Fleck: I’ve logged many happy shows with all of these folks but never with all of these folks together, not to mention the dang symphony!
I think Sam sat in once on an Abby/Béla show in Kentucky. And Sam and Jerry have played with the Flecktones at various jams throughout the years. But this one is truly epic.
303: Do you have a favorite memory performing in Colorado?
BF: I’ve had so many wonderful gigs in Colorado starting with New Grass Revival in the early ’80s. Telluride has always been a highlight, and more recently I’ve enjoyed a sweet relationship in Denver with the symphony. It seems like folks really get me in Colorado.
303: Even though you are not from Colorado, your contribution to the bluegrass community makes you an honorary member of the scene. How does performing at Red Rocks and with the likes of the Colorado Symphony compare to your many performances around the world?
BF: Love Colorado, please let me come back!
303: 2019 marks a 30th-year celebration for The Flecktones. How would you compare the creative process from then to now? What changed for the better, and what do you look back at fondly?
BF: I’m thrilled that we still love each other, and certainly still love to play together. Back when this crazy ride started it was hard to see how far it could go.
There are ways that we complete each other; we are each somewhat defined by this group, no matter how many other special things we each get to do. In recent years we’ve enjoyed playing our catalog and have not attempted to create new material constantly, the way we did for so many years.
It takes a self-imposed pressure out of things, and we get to celebrate our musical bond and enjoy what we’ve managed to create. It feels right for now, amidst all the other things we all do. Every time we reconvene, we have made it a brief Flecktone party, played for a few weeks a year as a special event.
303: The May 30th show will be your first festival. What inspired the event? What are you most looking forward to?
BF: I guess you could call it a Béla festival, although it hadn’t occurred to me [un]til you mentioned it.
The symphony was the catalyst for this event, they invited me to collaborate with them at Red Rocks and grow it into something unique. I thought the Symphony with Flecktones would be quite an event on its own, but they encouraged me to open it up even more, and I’m very thankful that so many of my worlds can come together in this one magnificent place.
303: Being nominated for more Grammy categories than any other instrumental musician to date, how do you keep your goals fresh and focused? Are such accolades part of your vision or do they simply serve as positive reinforcement to your ultimate goal of creating well-received music?
BF: Way back I had some kind of wish list of things I’d like to accomplish. Then they started to all happen, and I had nothing left on the list. I’ve had to redefine my goals several times. Nowadays I feel fortunate to continue to play idealistic music that I love, and I’m thankful to have an audience that enjoys what I do so I can keep on with it.
This interview has been condensed and edited. You can check out Béla Fleck’s music here and get tickets to the Red Rocks show here.