Q&A: Steve Martin and Edie Brickell
The comedy legend, 67, and the former New Bohemians frontwoman, 47, talk to EW about their new bluegrass collaboration, ''Love Has Come for You,'' conquering performance nerves, and playing banjos in cars.
When did you two first meet?
STEVE MARTIN: It goes back to Paul [Simon] and Edie’s marriage. How long have you been married, Edie?
EDIE BRICKELL: We met in ’88, but as far as we were concerned, we were as good as married then. And I think I met you in ’90.
When did you actually start talking about making music together?
MARTIN: It only came up about a year ago.
BRICKELL: Steve played me the music for what became ”Sun’s Gonna Shine.” I started to sing a little bit, and he said, ”What are you singing?” And I was too embarrassed. I said, ”I don’t want to tell you, you might think it’s stupid.” And he said, ”No, I won’t think it’s stupid!” But I still couldn’t tell him. Then he played me the bridge and I was crazy about it, so I asked him if I could work on it at home and send him the idea.
MARTIN: We divided up the chores — I started writing banjo melodies, and she started writing lyrics.
Did you do the whole album that way?
BRICKELL: We were only together for ”Sun’s Gonna Shine.”
MARTIN: I work in kind of a strange way and I just kind of feel my way around the banjo neck, so I don’t want somebody sitting there tolerating all the missteps. It’s horrible for someone to listen to someone learning any instrument — when I was first learning the banjo, I used to have to go out and sit in the car, and even in the summertime I’d have to roll up the windows. Because you just couldn’t practice a banjo or a fiddle with other people around. Unless they’re being paid.
Steve, what do you get out of playing banjo, compared with acting or writing?
MARTIN: It’s a way for me to perform live without performing alone. At first I was a very nervous player on stage because I hadn’t done it for 35 years. There’s no better way to learn something than to learn it in front of an audience. Your terror drives you.
Folk and bluegrass are suddenly all over rock radio — what do you think of that?
BRICKELL: There’s a warmth in hearing the acoustic sound of good players and those instruments.
MARTIN: First of all, I’m guessing that the audience can only take so much volume. I think that’s what’s really been extant for the last 25 years. Second, it’s like when Jimi Hendrix made the electric guitar sound a certain way; that made music take a certain form for a long time. Now you’ve got some great musicians making a certain acoustic sound that hasn’t been heard for a long time. It’s familiar and augmented, but it’s almost new again.
You’ll be going on tour soon; what should fans expect?
MARTIN: Well, the record is only 35 minutes, so we’ll probably do some of our songs with [my other band] the Steep Canyon Rangers, then material from the record with Edie in the middle, and then try to bring her back. We haven’t really worked that out yet, though we probably should pretty soon. [Laughs]