Who do you see yourself as now you hit the age of 70? I hear stories all the time about a rebirth at that age.
I'm having a rebirth. For me‚ it's been cyclical ever since I've started to become aware of it. It's almost seasonal. In the fall‚ there will be a bunch of songs from the hard work of the summer. In the spring‚ they will bear fruit and maybe some other ideas will kick in‚ then it's time to record.
Do you feel as you're getting older‚ you're letting a lot of baggage go? That you're seeing more humor in everyday life?
Uh-huh. You can't hold onto it‚ it'll kill it. I wish I was erudite in humor. That's what John Hartford had said. He said his goal was to be able to make people laugh‚ tickle their funny bone and he was very subtle about it. Maybe I see the humor more. I went out in the woods as a kid and discovered silence. You can hear a mockingbird two miles away if you really listen and I used to spend a long time just listening. This notion‚ this Buddhist idea they call emptiness‚ that refer to as egoless‚ that nothing is completely defined as any one thing permanently‚ that everything is in a state of flux. When you're out in the woods and you can hear the state of flux and it's magic and the light changes. All of the great Buddhist analogies of life‚ I like that stuff.
Bluegrass is probably the genre most tied to nature.
Yeah‚ and even with the instruments.
Does all of this ever get tiring?
After a show like tonight‚ it is not tiring. The travel is tiring‚ but the music itself is exhilarating. I think that exhilaration is enough to keep me going. I'm looking for more longevity. I'm a Buddhist‚ so a lot of what my perceptions are‚ are the blessing of the teachers I've had -- blessing of the outer lama. The reflection of me in a mentor who then awakens the inner teacher in me - that's the inner lama in me. That among certain people is enough and that's all you would say‚ but for me‚ I'm still making my thoughts into songs‚ even that level is interesting‚ just translating. I'm not a religious writer‚ but it's always in my music. I never learned how to do that‚ it just was the only way I knew. I mean‚ I would love to write a pop song. I do. I wish I could write a song the whole world could sing‚ but I'm happy with my life.
But‚ maybe if you wrote a pop song‚ it may become a novelty. It's weird that an old rock 'n' roll band goes onstage and there is sense of nostalgia‚ but with bluegrass that's not the case. You have these ancient melodies that never seem to really age‚ and they never seem nostalgic when performed.
Yeah. Well also‚ in order to put bluegrass across you've got bring it in‚ it's so ephemeral. There's no bass and drums to make everybody clap along. You are in the stream. You are the live wire and you've got to make the connection. That's a challenge. It's working out. I didn't know it would. I was kind of panicked a few years ago because I was tired of touring. I just risked it and somehow it all worked out.
Putting your faith in the cosmos.
It's an enormous surrender‚ you know? Surrender maybe finally equals serenity. I'm still a searcher‚ but I think there are ways to put seeds out. Not like‚ "Take care of me. I don't want to end up dead or starving." It's more like‚ "OK‚ I'll end up in the gutter starving before I give up on what I know to be true." That's what gives you the strength.
I would rather stroll down a rugged path of beauty‚ than drive down a paved road of boredom.
When I was in school‚ I was the odd duck. But those people I went to school with‚ they come to the show and we remember all the good times. We all realize after our forties that we're all in the same boat.
It's about one entire journey‚ not making a quick buck and calling it a day. It's about looking at life as one big process‚ one big exploration.
The thing is‚ if you look after the universe and you look after people that need you‚ you'll be looked after. That's just the way it works. The great search is ultimately the life of the mind anyway. It's difficult to prevail upon others your own attitudes and that's what makes you look at yourself. All you can do is take care of those people that need taking care of as best you can. You can't discover their truth for them and they can't discover your truth for you. On the other hand‚ I'm seeing a lot of people go‚ a lot of surprise people‚ a lot of close people. I never thought it would come to this‚ never imagined these days would come‚ in terms of being older. It's a wide open book as far as I'm concerned. In this universe‚ here we are.