As a banjo player, I have always been attracted to music that is a little out of the mainstream. For several years I played banjo in a rock band, wrote music for the solo banjo, became nearly obsessed with playing celtic tunes, then equally obsessed with playing ragtime tunes. My banjo heroes reflect that trend and people like Butch Robins, Jens Kruger, Bela Fleck, Don Reno, and Tony Trischka have provided a lifetime of inspiration for me. Being a musician though, I am never satisfied with what I know and am always looking for more. And my list of banjo heroes seems to be increasing accordingly.
I really don’t remember when or how I first became aware of classical music being played on the banjo. I do remember though one day in the mid-1990s sitting at my desk looking for something interesting to listen to and remembering an obscure album I had heard somewhere along the line. It was an album of classical music but it had Eric Weissberg playing banjo on it too. Playing classical music on the banjo, but only on a few tracks. At that moment I wanted to hear it again but couldn’t find the album so went to the internet to search for it or something close. That’s when I came upon the name John Bullard.
John had recently released an album called The Classical Banjo. I was intrigued and so I ordered it. When the album (well OK, it was a CD but I am from the time when there were albums and I still think of them as such) came, I was mesmerized by it. Here was an album of mostly solo banjo playing classical music and it sounded GOOD. Off and on in the 20 or so years since then I have spent many hours trying to play some of the things on that album. When his second album came out, Bach on the Banjo, I ordered that one too. Couldn’t get enough of that stuff! And with that, my list of banjo heroes had increased by one more name.
Part 1– In part 1 of this interview, John tells us about when he was first bitten by the banjo bug, talks about his banjo teacher, about how he became inspired to play classical music on the banjo, has a wonderful Galax story that seems to have changed his life and about his time at Virginia Commonwealth University studying music.
Part 2– In part 2, John talks about banjo setup, various bands and musical experiences he has had, talks about his practice routine and tells us about his new album which will be coming out in the Fall of 2016.