Ricky Skaggs and his band Kentucky Thunder will make its debut at Spoleto Festival USA with performances May 31 and June 1 in the College of Charleston Cistern Yard.
Skaggs, 63, is a country and bluegrass musician who has earned 15 Grammys and numerous other accolades. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in April.
In anticipation of his Charleston appearance, The Post and Courier asked him a few questions.
Q: What do you hope audiences can take away from the performance?
A: I hope they could take away a lot of joy. Our music is very joyous, very celebratory. Bluegrass music makes people happy, it makes people get excited. It’s hard to listen to bluegrass and be totally still. Some parts of your body want to jump in and enjoy the music. I am a Christian, and I really agree that God has given me a gift in music and I am able to give it back to Him, as worship. We have so much fun in the band. I think that is infectious. I hope people go away from the show feeling really happy.
Q: You were recently inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. How do you hope older generations could pass this music onto the next generation?
A: I am 63. I think that should be our legacy to teach the younger generations the things that we know. The last generation leads the train of the next generation. There is a longing in the heart of every young person to be attached to the past.
Q: Can you explain your definition of good bluegrass and which is a good way to play the music?
A: There is a scripture in the Bible: Honor your father and mother, so that your day will go well with you and you will prosper in the land. I love being able to honor the fathers of the music, Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley. They are the real fathers that really paid the price to work hard and create the music. ...
When we honor others more than ourselves, I think it’s a beautiful picture. If you take care of the music, the music will take care of you. I am even writing new sounds around old songs. There are new creations, but they still come from an old will and creativity. ... These (young) guys want to be in my band because they know I will teach them the old music, teach them how to honor it and be good to it.
Q: What quality do you value the most regarding those who play in your band?
A: Humility is the great thing. I hope they have a humble spirit and so they are teachable. Talent is a big thing, but it’s also good to give me someone that’s got little talent, but a big heart and a big creative mind. There are lots of younger people who have talent, but they don’t have the heart to play the old music. They think anybody can play it. There is a lot more to learn in the music than just the notes and how they played.
Chunzi Shi is a Goldring Arts Journalist at Syracuse University.