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Interview:
Ricky Skaggs in Ann Arbor, 5 Things to Know
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic onTwitter

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Ricky Skaggs by the numbers is an impressive thing.



The bluegrass and country stalwart has one 15 Grammy Awards and 12 trophies from the International Bluegrass Music Association. He's had 12 No. 1 hits on the Billboard charts and 12 Top 20 country albums, with multiple awards form the Academy of Country Music, the Country Music Association and the International Country Music Association. Toss a couple of honorary degrees on that pile, too, as well as a Country Music Hall of Fame induction last year.



Rather than resting on his laurels, however, the 64-year-old multi-instrumentalist is still going -- and strong. He's been playing for nearly 60 years, and he has no plans to stop any time soon...



This year marks the 30th anniversary of Skaggs' "Kentucky Thunder" album, which gave a name to the band that's been touring with him ever since. "When we recorded that record I wasn't thinking about it. I still had the Ricky Skaggs Band. But people thought we should have a better name than that. Then one day a friend and I were driving to a benefit that Steve Wariner does every year in Russellville, Ky., and when we got into Kentucky it was all thunder, lightning, black clouds, rain -- just a bad, bad storm. My friend, said, 'Man, that is some Kentucky thunder' and I that just rang in my heart. I said, 'I want to call my band that!' So it was just kind of crazy how all that happened."



Skaggs says his Hall of Fame induction last year "was pretty crazy. I never came to Nashville and I really don't know anyone that came there thinking, 'Man, I want to come here and work hard and get in the Hall of Fame!' But some people would come up to me and say, 'Why aren't you in the Hall of Fame?' and I would say, "I'm not worried about it. If it ever happens, it'll happen and I'll be grateful but I'll be the same person I am right now.' And it did happen, and I feel the same way about it."



Skaggs has a number of new recording projects in mind, including another bluegrass record with Kentucky Thunder and possibly a sequel to his 2010 album "Mosaic." And he's thinking about returning to his country glory days of the 80s, when he had three consecutive No. 1 albums and 19 Top 10 singles. "I would love to do another real country record, just to do it and throw it out there -- kind of like, 'Hey, don't forget this is where we came from.' I'm not worried about it being on the charts anymore; I know that's the game no one can win unless you have a ton of money to put behind it. I would just love to do it again while I can still sing and still play and see what would happen."



If he does take that direction, Skaggs is well aware that both Nashville and the music business are "very different" than when he was one of the biggest names in the genre. "Things have changed so much. People don't own their stuff hardly, anymore. If you get a deal with some label they want to take some portion of the writing, the concessions, the T-shirts, the hats, the pictures...everything. It didn't used to be that way at all. And they're like, 'We'll try a couple of singles and see how that goes before we spend money for a while record.' Garth (Brooks) is doing it right, but he's able to. He's had so much success he can record what he wants to and put it out and still sell a trillion records and draw more people than everybody. But there aren't many who can do the same."



So what would today's Skaggs tell that five-year-old boy who started out playing mandolin back on Kentucky? "I would just tell him to have heart, I'm sure. I see these little kids, they're very small now, come out to my shows, in the autograph line or backstage. I just encourage them and tell 'em to keep going. I love seeing these young people now. There's a lot of young, little girls playing fiddling and mandolin and guitar. You go on YouTube and find 'em all. It just blows you away when you see all of this talent."



Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder and the Saline Fiddles Philharmonic perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 25, at the Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor. $45. 734-668-8397 or michtheater.org.

Web Site: www.michtheater.org

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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