Joe Paladino, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas discussed on Fresh Air


If you're just joining us, Our guest is banjo player Bela Fleck. He has a new album. It's first in 20 years in a bluegrass context. It's called my Bluegrass Heart. So, as we said earlier, your father left your family before. You even really knew him And you had no contact with them. But you said you did beat him again and your forties. Was it easy to track him down? I was on a duo tour with my teacher, Tony Triska, Banjo teacher and we were passing through Syracuse, and he mentioned that he was, you know, he was kind of sad. His father had passed away that year in Syracuse, and he said, Hey, what's the deal with your father? And and you know, and I started explaining it to him and said, Well, where does he live? And I think I said he's somewhere in the D C area, and he said, Well, we're going to the sea and we were on our way to play there the next day, and he said, Would you like to go try and find him and Tony actually stimulated me to do it? You know, I don't know if I would have had the nerve without him. But I said Yeah, and we found an address and we went to his place. He wasn't there. We asked the neighbors, he said, Oh, yeah, teaches over at the University of Maryland. So, uh, we drove to the university. We asked where he taught found a class. I looked in the window of the class. He was teaching. He was a professor. And there he was. I never seen him before, And it was it was a crazy day. All the students lined up at the end of the class to hand in papers and I got on the end of the line and walked up to him and said, I am Baylor. Wow. What was his real? What was his reaction? Oh, well, this is a surprise. He was very formal, Um And he said, Well, in the case of an acrimonious split, I thought it was best to not be in touch. But you appear to be all grown up now. And he agreed that we would meet. You know we would meet. Next time I came to town. He wanted a heads up. And that's what happened. So I got to know him a bit and spend some time with him and he came to some shows was he controlled at all about leaving or there was one point where he said, You know, I don't think I'm that good. A person or something like that. And I said, Look, you don't I don't You don't have to feel that way, you know. It wasn't like I was forgiving him. I just I wasn't really there for that, Um Just wanted to know. And you know, it's kind of like you want to know who Darth Vader is that he had too much power in my life because I didn't know who he was. And that sort of feeling those feelings were complicated, and I wanted to Make him into a real person, and that's why I wanted to go meet him. We didn't have to suddenly become pals. And you know, we had a friendly enough formerly friendly type relationship from then on. But it wasn't like he suddenly turned into my father. You had a You have a close relationship with your stepfather? Yeah. My stepfather, Joe Paladino. He was my real father and every in every real way except by our accept biological, but at least the mystery was solved. I knew who he was. He knew who I was, and there was some contact and it just took a lot of this sort of Inflammation out of the situation for me. When you looked through the window of that classroom did that give you a shock? We like like that's me and in 20 years or like I remember looking at him and seeing his ear and going, that's my ear. You know, I see that ear And then when I walked up on the line to see him, I looked at his hand and it was like that's my thumb. I'm used to looking at my thumb because I played the banjo with my farm. And there it was on another person, and it was more like it looked more like my thumb than my older brothers. From, for instance, For some reason, the those were the things I felt right at the moment. It was very charged moment as you can imagine, But, uh, you know what happened. Covid really put the brakes on the life of a touring musician, But I was just wondering if Covid made you sort of reevaluate your life and that sort of family work balance and If you just reconsidered how you want to be a musician. I'm after Covid or Yeah. I mean, I guess what I discovered during the covid time is that if I don't work on my music, and I don't have some time to be involved with the music, I get a little bit crazy. And it, um You know, there's a temptation to think that you could just put it away and just, you know, take that time and enjoy just being with your family and That is not a primary driver of who you are. But, you know, I discovered it actually is, And that if I don't have a certain amount of time playing the banjo or working on the music, um I just I just am not Very happy. So I was able to do that. You know, I was able to go downstairs and downstairs in my studio where I am right now. I had you know the whole all the rough tracks from my bluegrass heart to work on so I could go downstairs and play with You know, hang out with Billy Strings and Chris the early and Sam Bush and Jerry Douglas and all of these cats on the speakers, or I could go work on..

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