FAIRfest at the Sondheim Series will continue Saturday with the King of Kentucky Bluegrass, 15-time Grammy Award winner, Ricky Skaggs and his band Kentucky Thunder.
The opening act will be Lori King and Junction 63 beginning at 7:30 p.m. Ricky talked to The Ledger from the road Monday to give us an idea of what to expect during one of his final shows of the year.
Ledger: You have a show Friday night before you join us Saturday night. Talk about criss-crossing the country in a day to perform.
Well, thank God for airlines. When I saw the offers come in, we knew that was the only way we could do it and sometimes the schedule gives you tough back-to-backs like that.
How many dates a year are you performing?
We?re pretty much finishing up until January, I?ve got a couple of dates that I go out and do with Keith and Kristyn Getty, modern day hymn writers that do a bunch of Christmas shows every year and I?m doing Atlanta and maybe Nashville. Pretty much after this we?re finished for the year but if we count Opry shows, we?ve done well over 125 shows in this past year.
When you?re not performing, what are you doing?
I?ve always got things going on here in [Nashville] town, you know I have a studio so I do some recording. Of course we rent the studio out to some people that are making records and a lot of people want me to play or sing on their record.
Because of my schedule, sometimes it?s hard to get everything done, so I?ll go over and knock 4-5 requests out in a day by playing mandolin on this song or singing harmony on another. So, I?m recording and my wife has been in a family band basically all of her life, too.
It?s been 20 years since you started Skaggs Family Records. Has that changed your role or how you look at the music business?
The recording, not so much has changed. Things always progress and the ability to record has gotten even better in lots of ways since the early 80s when I started in Nashville and started making records. The record industry itself has totally, totally changed from what it was even 10-15 years ago, because of the abilities to stream and download music that you didn?t pay for, and that is what has really taken a toll on Nashville songwriters.
It?s really hard, it?s really difficult to invest $75-80,000 into a project when about the only means of selling product is at your shows or through a distributor online. iTunes carries our stuff as well, Amazon, people like that, but it?s really hard to invest into buying promotion because of so many people having such poor record sales.
Obviously, Garth Brooks and the big name country stars, of course Taylor Swift, who?s a freak of nature in the way she?s been able to connect with young people and it?s great and I?m so proud of what she?s been able to accomplish. The business has changed so much, but you can either get bitter or you can get better. We really try not to get bitter about it. We?ve just had to change with the times, but I would like for at least the songwriters to get their fair share of what?s been stolen from them.
What should we expect Saturday night?
A lot of people know me from my hits in the ?80s and early ?90s, but for the last 20 years, I?ve been pretty much full-time bluegrass music, which is acoustic music, which is technically hillbilly jazz music. It?s for people who really enjoy watching musicians be able to be efficient on their instruments. It?s an amazing band that I have, Kentucky Thunder. It?s going to be a fun show, we tell a lot of stories and talk about my family and growing up in Eastern Kentucky, the history of bluegrass. Of course this time of year we?ll be singing some Christmas songs and we?re going to have a great time.
You?re from Kentucky. Are you a Wildcat fan? Did you ever want to be an athlete?
Music has pretty much been what I?ve always done. My dad always tried to discourage me from playing baseball or even basketball. I played some basketball, and you can?t live in Kentucky and your blood not be blue. We?re big Kentucky Wildcat fans, but my dad frowned upon me playing because he knew I had an incredible gift to play music and was always fearful that I would injure a finger, so he encouraged me to stick with the gift I had.
If bluegrass music isn?t an Olympic sport, it should be because when you hear these guys play with all of their speed and accuracy they play with, it?s pretty amazing.
You were a prodigy at 6. Do you think this is what you were put on Earth to do?
The gift is the door opener. I?m a Christian, a strong believer in a man?s faith, a man of God and that?s not something I brag about, but I?m grateful that I have the gift. We?re put on this Earth not to be famous, we?re put on this Earth to be faithful and to reveal Christ and his goodness. It?s the goodness of God that turn?s men?s hearts to repent.
I feel like the music and the gift is what affords me the ability to be in the marketplace and not in church. I carry the church in my heart, but that?s not my call. I look back and say, ?I know the apostle Paul was a market-place guy, because he was a tent maker.? He wasn?t just living on support, I think he went out and worked hard. It?s the joy I have and the gratefulness in my heart that I think people pick up on.
I don?t understand how people can be depressed and sad all the time, that?s just so far from me. I know it?s real and it exists, but I?m just not a person that gets depressed because I have so much to be thankful for and that?s what I focus on when I?m having a ?bad day.?