Bela Fleck Recalls Rock Star Treatment With Dave Matthews Band
While he is considered one of the best banjo players in the world, Bela Fleck can still strum his four-string in a major airport and go unrecognized. But when he performs with the Dave Matthews Band, the 11-time Grammy winner gets a taste of the rock star lifestyle.
"When they were doing their first stadium tours, which were huge -- 60,000 in some places -- they brought in special guests, and I got to be in Dave's band on those first four or five really huge shows," Fleck tells Spinner. "I could walk on the stage with these great guys and play extended banjo solos for 60,000 people and have them go crazy, like it was an Eddie Van Halen guitar solo or something. That was a really unexpected turn of events in my life -- one I really enjoyed."
Today, he's performing world music on tour with Edgar Meyer and Zakir Hussain while promoting an album and documentary (both titled ''Throw Down Your Heart') about his immersion into African music. But Fleck -- nominated for Grammys in more categories than any other musician -- has also done his share of rock collaborations, with acts like Phish, Shawn Colvin and Bruce Hornsby. In addition to opening for and performing on stage with Matthews, Fleck recorded parts for three songs on the mega-selling DMB album 'Before These Crowded Streets.'
At the time, in 1998, banjo wasn't exactly popular in rock music, Fleck said. Yet, his banjo compositions played a significant role in popular songs like 'Spoon' and 'Don't Drink the Water.'
"I think Dave was looking for things that inspired him and that he liked," Fleck says. "I think he also had that feeling where if he really liked something, he would expose his fans to it."
Fans of the Dave Matthews Band have been exposed to Fleck's