Banjo ace to play Carbondale tonight |

Banjo ace to play Carbondale tonight

Stina Sieg
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE ” For some musicians, playing for a crowd is a solitary thing. It’s about delivering heavy messages, not interacting with the audience. It’s about being in a glass box.

But that’s never been Tony Furtado’s way.

A banjo player since 11, a professional since 19, the 40-year-old singer-songwriter has been around music long enough to know just what he’s talking about. Over the years, he’s been involved in several bands, opened for the likes of Allison Krauss and Keith Richards, and produced 13 albums. On Saturday, he’ll bring his acoustic blend of Americana, roots and folk to Carbondale.

Talking from his home in Portland, Ore., he touched on his past, his sound and what he called his “strangely large collection of old chain gang songs.”

“There’s nothing better,” he said of entertaining. “I love playing live more than anything. It’s just incredible.”

He described a recent show in Southern California, where it seemed like the whole audience was “right there” with him, every beat.

“They were digging it, and I was digging it, and I was like, ‘wow, I’m doing it,'” he said, getting into the moment. “I just love music.”

He was born into a non-musical family in Pleasanton, Calif. Though he still doesn’t fully know why, in sixth grade, he decided to do a class project on the banjo. He constructed a little one out of objects around the house and was soon begging his parents to get him a real one. They did, and he fell right into it. He started practicing for hours on end.

He would go on to study sculpture and would master the slide guitar, but it would be the banjo he would be known for. At 19 he would go to win the National Banjo Competition in Kansas.

“The creative process is like a drug. I just can’t get enough of it,” he said. “The old tradition of performer on stage, putting on a show, hopefully it’s not a lost art.”

Soon after his banjo win, he got a job as a touring musician and received a recording contract. Since then, regardless of whether he’s been living in Denver or Los Angeles or one of his many stops in-between, he’s been a voracious performer.

While his music has been out there for so long, it’s not easy to describe. The few samples that sit on his myspace page are twangy, yet modern, pining but kind of fun. With most, his smooth voice backed by a guitar or his signature banjo.

For him, being “old school” isn’t the goal, it’s more about being in the moment, connecting with people, giving them a good time. At his shows, he makes a point to draw the audience in and talks to them throughout his set. When it’s time to sell CDs, he’s the one doing it.

“It’s what is me,” he said, of his music.

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