Vail music: 7 questions with Tony Furtado |

Vail music: 7 questions with Tony Furtado

Caramie Schnell
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Vail DailyTony Furtado's iPod is always on shuffle, said the bluesman who plays Vail, Colorado Wednesday, but some of his staple artists include Tom Waits, Iron and Wine, Daniel Lanois, Kathleen Edwards and Tom Petty.

VAIL, Colorado – For the first time, slide guitarist and banjo wizard Tony Furtado will perform a solo gig at Samana Lounge in Val, Colorado Wednesday.

“Tony is an impressive performer and just a wonderful person who has been working the national scene tirelessly,” said Scott Stoughton of Samana Lounge. “He always brings 100 percent to the crowd and never gets stale due to his diverse styles.”

The multi-talented Furtado took the time to answer a few questions for the Vail Daily.

Vail Daily: Your song “The Bawds of Euphony” is from a Wallace Stevens poem. Tell me what poem it’s from, what the poem is about and why you decided to name the song that?

Tony Furtado: Well, actually it’s only the title that is from the poem … the poem is called “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” I have no idea what the poem’s about, I’ve read it a bunch and it’s a gorgeous poem with many layers, and it’s one of those poems that’s been analyzed by many poetry classes and poets but all I know is I see something different every time I read it, and I think that’s what poetry is supposed to do. Anyway, one of the stanzas talks about the “Bawds of Euphony,” and every time I’d read that, it just sounded like a great name for a banjo tune! It’s that simple.

VD: Your latest release is called “Deep Water.” When did that come out? How does it differ from your previous albums?

TF: It came out last January. It’s different in that I wrote every song on it. Some of it is a bit more stripped down, some of it’s rocking. I play all the guitars and banjos, Sean (Slade) played some keys and bass and the engineer played a little drums. I guess I was inspired a bit by Elliot Smith and Bon Iver for this … focussing on just playing the parts myself. The songs were written quick, in the couple months before the session.

VD: What was it like working with producing Sean Slade, whose worked with notable bands like Radiohead and The Pixies?

TF: Very cool! He has great ideas and knows how to get through a project with a tight budget … like this one. He knew what to do to get the songs down quick and to get them sounding like me. And he knew how to say no when I was begging to fix things that didn’t need to be fixed.

VD: I really like your version of Tom Petty’s “Running Down a Dream.” Is Tom Petty one of your influences?

TF: I’d say so. I have memories of sitting in front of the TV practicing my banjo, watching MTV when MTV had music in the ’80s, and every time Tom Petty would come on, I was a bit more interested. (I) always loved that song and finally decided to work it up in my own way.

VD: I heard you use empty wine bottles to make your own slides for the guitar. Is that true?

TF: Yes. Cheaper than buying ’em made. I taught myself how to do it years ago … and now I even sell them with little booklets and pouches at the shows.

VD: You started playing the banjo at age 12. Why the banjo?

TF: It’s a long story, but briefly I grew up in the Bay Area, and public schools back then required us to take an intro to music class. In that class we had to do a report on a musical intrument and make one from household items. I immediately got to work in my head, thinking I’d make a banjo out of a pie tin, some paper, a stick, rubber bands for frets and fishing string. I got an A and learned that the banjo had a pretty interesting history and there were a lot of different types of music that used it. I begged my folks for a banjo for my 12th birthday. I got one and have been fascinated by the instrument ever since.

VD: I heard this is your first solo gig at Samana Lounge. What can people expect?

TF: A lot of good energy! A guy rockin’ as hard as he can with just a guitar and a banjo, his voice and a couple guitar pedals. I’ll be doing some of the newer stuff and a lot of the older stuff. If people have never heard me before, the general vibe would be Taj Mahal/Ry Cooder/Bela Fleck I guess?

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or

Support Local Journalism