Multiple Grammy winner and banjo player Béla Fleck will be heading to Owensboro tonight to kick off his new tour at the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum with two shows at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Despite coming to Owensboro before and being inducted into the hall of fame last year with his former bandmates in New Grass Revival, this will be Fleck’s first time attending the museum.
“...I still remember the first (International Bluegrass Music Association) experience there, just after New Grass Revival separated,” Fleck said. “I haven’t been to the museum and (I) am just happy to be at one of the primary nexus points of our bluegrass musical and with the best musicians one could imagine!”
Fleck is making his first stop on tour promoting his new record “My Bluegrass Heart” — his third chapter in a trilogy discography which includes his 1988 album “Drive” and the 1999 joint effort “The Bluegrass Sessions: Tales from the Acoustic Planet, Vol. 2.” The new project just nabbed a Grammy nomination for Best Bluegrass Album on Tuesday.
This also marks Fleck’s first solo record since his 2013 release “The Imposter.”
Fleck became fascinated with bluegrass music early on after hearing music from Earl Scuggs, among others for its rather unconventional sound versus popular music back then.
“It was just the banjo at first, but as time went by I fell in love with the works!” Fleck said. “The songs, all the instruments, the rugged beauty and joy of bluegrass music….”
Growing up in New York City, Fleck was surrounded by different types of music but notes that it originally proved difficult to find people that had similar music tastes before discovering his calling during his travels.
“There wasn’t anyone my age who was into it, so it was lonely at first,” Fleck said. “But I found a community, and as bluegrass folks know, those people stay with you for life. I had a (New York) set of folks, then one in Boston, and later in Kentucky when I moved into the J.D. Crowe orbit.”
Described as “vividly collaborative,” “My Bluegrass Heart” puts Fleck up front and center leading his bandmates, while giving them a chance to be in the spotlight to showcase the caliber of talent of his fellow musicians on stage.
Despite not being called a “straight” bluegrass album, Fleck has been happy with the reception it has received thus far.
“I guess if any one hates it they’ve been very quiet!” Fleck said. “It’s been wonderful to get the kind of response it’s gotten, especially since it means so much to me personally. And all the musicians I’ve had a chance to interact with (is) the best part.”
On stage, Fleck will be joined by fellow friends and musicians: mandolin player Sam Bush, fiddle player Stuart Duncan, dobro player Jerry Douglas, bassist Edgar Meyer, and guitarist Bryan Sutton.
“This bunch of musicians love to play hard, but we have so much fun,” Fleck said. “I predict spills, chills, stunning displays of virtuosity, astonishing mistakes, and pure joy.”
Even with being a seasoned musician and performer, along with the number of accolades, Fleck is always looking to improve himself and his craft.
“I like to stay intrigued and have to work to keep up, ‘cause it makes me a better musician,” Fleck said. “I need to impress myself by achieving something I’m not as good at, like hard chords or lines, or the right improv. There’s no end to the things that can be done. The creative part is the most fun.”
And he’s not afraid to admit that, he too, is human and may feel some apprehensions before taking the stage.
“After a few nights in a group, I get over the nerves,” Fleck said. “First night of the tour — like Owensboro — should be fairly nervy still.”
Tickets are on sale now at bluegrasshall.org, with reserved seating for $58 and VIP tickets for $68.