If you’ve never seen the Steep Canyon Rangers perform live, I highly recommend you do. Their genre? Bluegrass at it’s finest, and with over 10 years of performing together, the Rangers not only know how to play and sing, they know how to entertain and put on a great show of all original acoustic music. The band consists of Mike Guggino (mandolin), Charles Humphrey III (bass), Woody Platt (guitar), Nicky Sanders (fiddle), and Graham Sharp (banjo). The following is taken from a 20-minute phone interview with Woody from their home base in North Carolina.
Q: You guys just started picking together at college in Chapel Hill?
A: Graham Sharp, our banjo player, and Charles Humphrey, our bass player, and myself, we were just college buddies for several years and then Graham got a banjo and Charles got a bass. The next thing you know we’re playing music. Instead of just hanging out, we’re hanging out playing music. It just kind of unfolded real naturally. We started gigging our senior year, just around town in Chapel Hill just for fun, and when we finished school—we all graduated ’99, 2000—the band was pretty much going and we decided to move in together in Asheville and see if we could make a run at playing more shows. We were really having a good time. It was so fun, we wanted to give it a shot and as it is, it worked out well.
Q: You’ve had a wild last couple of years; you guys are all over the world.
A: We were having a good run anyway, we were getting a lot of good bookings, enjoying ourselves, proud of what we were doing and making records. We felt like everything was on a good pace and then we got hooked up with Steve Martin a couple of years ago, and it’s kinda added a new aspect and some real excitement to the whole thing. We recently went into the studio with Steve and did a record for Rounder (Records) which comes out March 15th, called Rare Bird Alert, and that’s a Rounder release, and then we are in the process of finalizing our contract for a solo project with Rounder to be recorded this fall.
Q: You’re getting ready to go to New York to do Late Night with David Letterman, The View, The Colbert Report?
A: Yes, all that stuff is just a real treat. Working with Steve is already a treat and then the TV shows, such a wonderful tool to promote a record and for a band like us to get exposure and experience that we don’t normally get. We might deserve to get it, but we just don’t normally get that level of exposure, so yes, it’s exciting. It’s real exciting.
Q: Do you get to spend some time with Steve away from the limelight?
A: Yes, he’s such a great person, you know, just a great person and a great hang and we’re lucky. Just that experience, to be around someone with his experience as an entertainer and his knowledge of the business, and also his unique musical skills are startlingly good, he’s really good. It’s important I think, anybody that you play music with, to have a relationship outside of the music. I think it connects you in a deeper way and comes through in your music when you’re truly having fun.
Q: Have you got any advice for other bands out there that are trying to get their music heard?
A: The most important thing is to try to find a band and a group of friends. Try to let a friendship bring you together and not necessarily like who’s the best at what. There’s a million guitar players better than me, a million singers better than me, and you can say that about each of our band members, but we put it together as friends in our musical puzzle. I think another important thing to think about is trying to get a band that everybody comes in with the same goals and interests so you can stay together. It’s really important to find people that you’re compatible with for the long run that you can communicate with and share the same goals and interests.
You can visit www.steepcanyon.com to follow the band and go to www.bronsonsmusic.com/steep_canyon_rangers.html to read/listen to this entire interview.
©2011 by Bronson Herrmuth