Steve Martin, movie star, hasn’t had a film credit for two years and has no feature projects on the horizon.
A celebrated author, Martin’s last book was the critically acclaimed 2010 novel “An Object of Beauty.” An ambitious playwright (he wrote the 1993 hit “Picasso at the Lapin Agile”), Martin’s most recent stage work (“Traitor,” which he co-wrote) was in 2008.
Has the comedian-turned-Renaissance man (and first-time father of a daughter born last December) decided to slow down at age 68?
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“Music is definitely what I’m doing right now, and I don’t see it changing,” says Martin by phone. “It just kind of keeps me on my toes.”
A lifelong banjoist, Martin has thrown his creative energies into writing, recording and performing songs during the last four years. His 2009 “The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo” won a Grammy Award for best bluegrass album, and he embarked on lengthy concert tours backed by the North Carolina band the Steep Canyon Rangers.
Martin’s career turn has brought him and the Rangers to Seattle’s Benaroya Hall twice since 2009. They’re back for a sold-out show at Benaroya again on Wednesday, this time with a new collaborator: singer-songwriter Edie Brickell.
Brickell, who launched onto the national stage in the 1980s with the New Bohemians, recently released “Love Has Come for You,” an album recorded with and cowritten by Martin. “Love” has the vibrancy and freshness of a pop discovery, with Brickell’s elliptical but intimate lyrics set against the spare, Celtic feel of Martin’s banjo.
“I’ve always wanted to make a classic record that flowed from A to Z, and which made sense and that you could listen to again and again,” says Brickell, sharing the line with Martin. “It finally happened with Steve Martin, and what a surprise.”
“Edie and I weren’t really after anything,” Martin says. “We knew what we got after the fact. We didn’t know if we were going to write one song or a dozen. We just kept going. We were in the groove.”
The project, both say, emerged from a certain creative readiness each felt.
“Banjo songs, when they’re just on their own, remain banjo songs,” Martin says. “The unspoken narrative in these new melodies I wrote was brought out by Edie in a way I could never have done. They were unlocked in a sense I couldn’t have imagined.”
“I just felt what he had done,” says Brickell. “Images came to me, and my task was to write and sing the way these melodies made me feel.”
Martin’s concerts are a combination of bluegrass intricacy, comedy and, now, the eloquent, rootsy new songs with Brickell.
“The Rangers and I have raised our musicianship and sharpness from playing onstage the past four years,” Martin says. “But we also do a show that is entertaining, funny.”
“Steve makes it happen,” says Brickell. “He’s always in the present moment, and you can see he brings so much joy to the audience.”
Tom Keogh: email@example.com