Blue Yodel #35 – The Crash Davis Guide to Bluegrass Interviews

You may remember a scene from perhaps the best baseball movie ever made, Bull Durham. (Come on, Field of Dreams? Not even top ten.)

Crash Davis, played by Kevin Costner, is the aging catcher who gives advice to the rookie phenom, Ebby Calvin LaLoosh, played by Tim Robbins:

Crash Davis: It’s time to work on your interviews.

Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: My interviews? What do I gotta do?

Crash Davis: You’re gonna have to learn your clichés. You’re gonna have to study them. You’re gonna have to know them. They’re your friends. Write this down: We gotta play ‘em one day at a time.

Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: [writing] Got . . . to . . . play . . . its pretty boring.

Crash Davis: ‘Course it’s boring. That’s the point. Write it down!

Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: [writing] one. . . day. . . at . . . a . . . time.

Crash Davis: I’m just happy to be here. Hope I can help the ball club . . .

Granted, bluegrass artists don’t have to answer interview questions as much as ballplayers, but if you’re a bluegrass artist you’ll eventually be bothered for an interview by someone writing a story about you or the band you play in.

So, as an aging, minor league utility banjo player, and interviewer, I give the following advice for answering questions from the bluegrass media.

Interview responses can be broken down into three categories: traditional, edgy, and honest. So, depending on what kind of artist you are, answer accordingly:


Question 1: How did you start playing bluegrass music?

Traditional Answer: We couldn’t afford a radio, but we had this old tin can that Uncle Hiram would hold up with the arm that got so much shrapnel from World War I and on a good night we could pick up WSM and the Grand Ole Opry. I made a fiddle out of a cigar box and a cat and I played that thing until I left home and got a job with the Squirrel Stompers making 50 cents a week, which was five times what I was making selling medicinal herbs.

Edgy Answer: I was, like, 16 and my parents sent me out to Burning Man because I was kind of around the house too much, but then one night it was my turn to make music at the bonfire and I said I didn’t know how to play anything and then this guy handed me a banjo and it was like I already knew how to play, everybody said so. So, then I got a job with the Starving Squirrels making 50 dollars a week, which was five times what I was making selling medicinal herbs.

Honest Answer: I don’t really play bluegrass.


Question 2: How did the band get together?

Traditional Answer: After a combined 135 years with Doyle, we all decided it was time to move on, I mean, carry on the tradition with IVth Tymes a Charm, which of course was this year’s Kentucky Derby winner.

Edgy Answer: Four of us met at an IBMA seminar on pentatonic scales and their use in bus driving. The other six we’re not sure where they came from or what they do. The didgeridoo player just happened.

Honest Answer: Craigslist.


Question 3: Who were your biggest influences? 

Traditional Answer: Bill, Earl, Lester, Ralph, Carter, and Jimmy for setting the standard.

Edgy Answer: Sam, Jerry, Bela, David, Tony, and Clarence for pushing the envelope.

Honest Answer: Cher, for showing there’s no such thing as too much pitch control.


Question 4: How would you describe your music? 

Traditional Answer: We’re all about playing real bluegrass, but we don’t sound like anybody else.

Edgy Answer: We’re all about playing real jamgrass, but we don’t sound like anybody else.

Honest Answer: We sound like everybody else.


Question 5: What was it like recording your latest album?

Traditional Answer: It was great. We decided not to use electricity because we wanted to be more traditional than anybody else. Unfortunately, the wax disks are starting to melt in the van. But I think we’re a shoe-in for IBMA Most Traditional Recording award. Willie Nelson was really easy to work with.

Edgy Answer: It was great. We decided not to place the sound waves on any physical medium. The songs are out there on the Internet somewhere, but we seem to have lost them. If anybody hears us anywhere, could you let us know? Willie Nelson was really easy to work with.

Honest Answer: Next time we won’t let Uncle Shooby produce.


Question 6: How would you describe your fan base?

Traditional Answer: They have a lot of questions about who’s playing on the CD and why we didn’t use electricity and how do you play wax platters. Some of them have $15.

Edgy Answer: Kind of fuzzy. Those lights are bright on stage and I can barely make any of them out. T-shirts. An endless sea of humanity roaring their approval and throwing money. Then I wake up.

Honest Answer: Empty lawn chairs.


Question 6: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Traditional Answer: Let’s see, in five years we should be up to 1951.

Edgy Answer: Dude, I don’t even know where I am in five minutes.

Honest Answer: Paralegal school.


Question 7: Would you like to thank anybody? 

Traditional Answer: We’d like to thank the DJs and promoters and all our fans.

Edgy Answer: We’d like to thank the DJs and promoters and all our fans.

Honest Answer: Uncle Shooby for paying for everything. And Cher.

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About the Author

Chris Stuart

Chris Stuart is a writer and songwriter living in San Diego. He was the 2008 recipient of the IBMA Print Media Person of the Year award, co-writer of the 2009 IBMA Song of the Year, and past winner of the Merlefest Chris Austin Songwriting contest in bluegrass and gospel categories. You can follow him on Twitter @cvstuart, on Facebook, and at On Tuesdays you can find him having fish tacos at Roberto’s in Del Mar.