Fayetteville Roots Festival Profile: Jerry Douglas

Jerry Douglas


Producer, songwriter, singer, and multi-instrumentalist Jerry Douglas has played on over 2,000 records over his more than 30 year career, including fourteen solo albums.

He has collaborated with Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, Mumford & Sons, Keb’ Mo’, Marc Cohn, Dr. John, Del McCoury, Bela Fleck, Sam Bush, and of course, Alison Krauss & Union Station, of which Douglas has been a member since 1998.

He’s won 13 Grammys. He is one of the most sought after musicians in the country, and next week, he’s coming to town to perform at the fourth annual Fayetteville Roots Festival, set for Aug. 22-25 at various locations around Fayetteville.

Douglas will headline on the main stage at the Walton Arts Center at 9 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 24 just after John Fullbright, Elephant Revival, and Mary Gauthier.

We got in touch with him recently, and he was gracious enough to answer some questions for us.

What have you been listening to lately?
Lately when I’m not watching “Breaking Bad”, I’ve been listening to the new Civil Wars record, which I played on. A Turkish trio called Taksim Trio that blows my mind. They have clarinet, guitar oriented instruments and and another zither-like instrument called a Kanun. Very exciting! Then there’s a young Irish cat that I’m into named John Smith. He says his name is un-Google-able. But his songs are very good.

Music has taken you all over the world. What are some of your favorite places to travel?
I have traveled the world except for Russia and the Icy Poles. I would like to visit the Poles. I love Scotland, India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Portugal and Turkey. The music and food rule and seem to make the people very enjoyable, even though they sometimes have their own internal strife. That said though, you’ll kiss the tarmac every time you get back to the USA!

Have you ever been to Fayetteville before? What’s your impression of the place?
Yes I have visited before. I’m thinking Fayetteville, Fall, Football and BBQ. Razorback helmets and beer. Did I miss anything?

You’re played on literally hundreds of recordings over your career. Can you tell us about one or two sessions that stick out in your mind as being particularly special?
That one is a little difficult. It would seem to most people that the most famous person would bring the most interesting challenges, but that isn’t always the case. I can remember having some of my most memorable times in the studio with Lynyrd Skynrd, James Taylor, Ray Charles, Waylon Jennings, and Dolly and Emmylou too. These folks are pros and keep it exciting the whole way through. But some of the most meaningful musical sessions I have had are with folks who aren’t necessarily household names. Like Jesse Winchester, Sarah Jarosz, Declan O’Rourke, Paul Brady, and others like them.

Along those lines, you’ve collaborated with, well, seemingly everyone. Is there a musician or group of musicians that you feel like you’ve connected with on maybe a higher level than the others?
Playing with some groups of musicians bring out more inspiration than others. The band I have right now is one of those situations. We listen to one another and improvise on the themes we are handed. for many years I have been part of a genre of players that have almost created our own niche in the music world. Those musicians are Sam Bush, Edgar Meyer, and Bela Fleck. We come together sometimes after playing with people on our individual tangents. Bela may be fresh off a Chick Corea tour, Edgar with Joshua Bell, and me from Alison Krauss or Elvis Costello. That makes for some outside ideas flying around the stage. The magic comes from finding common ground within those tangents.

Some musicians live to make records, and others love the energy of performing for an audience. Obviously, you’ve done your share of both. Do you prefer one to the other?
I would say I am a 60% live to 40% studio kind of person. I love the studio where you can improve on a piece both organically and technologically, but there is nothing that will give you more satisfaction than a good solo meeting in the cool night air, where there is only one shot at it and you’re successful on your one and only try.

Tell us about the craziest thing that ever happened to you on tour. Any rockstar moments?
Well I’ve signed some crazy things for people. Hung out with Bill Murray during his mc’ing of Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Festival, and jumped out of a limo to hand Bruce Springsteen John Fogerty’s birthday present from me, a dobro. Some things you just don’t talk about.

We’re thrilled that you’re coming to town to play the Fayetteville Roots Festival. Have you had a chance to look at the rest of the lineup? Any acts you plan on checking out?
I really love hearing the local bands if I can. Sort of like sandlot baseball, that’s where the tough guys are. Wish I was going to be around to see Joe Pug, sorry to miss that one. Iris DeMent is a good friend of mine, I’ll be sorry to miss her. But on the day we’ll be there Nora Jane will be one I’ll try my best to see. John Fullbright is brilliant and should be a must for everyone. I have to say though, anyplace named KingFish Dive Bar has my interest piqued and has to be worth a visit.

Jerry Douglas – Little Medley