As if dedicating your life to an instrument like the banjo wasn’tsufficiently avant-garde, the winner of this year’s Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass is a musician recognized for his experimental approach to the banjo. Danny Barnes, the Texas-based banjo player and a founder of Bad Livers, has been named the recipient of the 2015 Steve Martin Prize. Its organizers said they hailed Mr. Barnes as “one of bluegrass music’s most distinctive and innovative performers,” and for the “raw and unpolished musical breadth of his compositions” that have “propelled him across the industry today.”
Mr. Barnes, who studied audio production at the University of Texas at Austin, has recorded and performed with artists like Bill Frisell and the Dave Matthews Band. He is also the innovator of a musical aesthetic he calls “Barnyard Electronics” (sharing the title of one of his solo records), and which he performs in live solo shows using a banjo and his own computer software.
“I’ve been at this a pretty long time. The main thing I use to get my ideas across has been the banjo. It has an unusual sound and is capable of a wide range of expression, however it isn’t very developed yet, in terms of what is being done with it in a current macro sense. It’s untapped.” Danny Barnes