Few artists in any genre have managed such a diverse showing at the Grammys as Steve Martin. In 1978 and 1979, he took home awards for best comedy recordings with his hilarious albums Let’s Get Small and A Wild and Crazy Guy.
It would be more than two decades before Martin’s name was again called from the podium to accept another Grammy when an all-star rendition of “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” claimed the best country instrumental performance at the 2001 Grammys.
Although few people might have known Martin was an exceptional banjo player, he shared that win with a musical icon, Earl Scruggs, along with Scruggs’ sons and esteemed musicians like Jerry Douglas, Vince Gill and more A-list collaborators.
While Martin’s comedy career continues to thrive, his most recent Grammy win came when his album The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo won the 2009 award for best bluegrass recording.
This year, he has two more Grammy nominations under his belt, both for Love Has Come for You, his collaboration with Edie Brickell. In addition to a nod for best Americana album, the title track landed a nomination for best American roots song.
Just before he took off for the holidays, the famously wild and crazy guy — perhaps now more reserved and dignified — answers a few quick questions for CMT Edge.
CMT Edge: Can you talk about the origins of the song “Love Has Come for You”? Did the characters and their predicament present themselves first, or did the story unfold as you wrote it?
Martin: Edie wrote these wonderful lyrics, but the banjo melody came to me almost all at once. I sent her the banjo track, and the lyrics came back to me in less than 12 hours.
You’ve written an album together and are work-shopping a musical. How would you describe your collaborative dynamic? What makes your musical partnership so productive?
We rarely talk about our collaboration. It just happens. It has changed over the long months, and working on the musical has changed it again. But to describe might be to harm it.
You’ve been nominated in the Americana and American Roots categories, and you’ve won in the past in the bluegrass category. How do you feel about these distinctions? Are they useful to you as a musician?
I thought the last album was bluegrass, but now, certainly, I see the distinction. I’m very proud to be in the Americana category, with many artists I admire.
What was your immediate reaction when you heard about this year’s Grammy nominations for your music?
Ecstatic. And totally surprised. Happy for us both, and for Peter Asher as well, our historic and outstanding producer.
Who do you think would win in a Scrabble match between you two and fellow nominees Emmylou Harris/Rodney Crowell?
I’m not sure about Scrabble, but in hopscotch, I don’t think it would be a contest.