A Q&A with Leo Kottke | AspenTimes.com

A Q&A with Leo Kottke

Andrew Travers
The Aspen Times
Guitarist Leo Kottke will perform at the Wheeler Opera House on Saturday, March 26.
Courtesy photo |

If You Go ….

Who: Leo Kottke

Where: Wheeler Opera House

When: Saturday, March 26, 8 p.m.

How much: $35

Tickets: Wheeler box office; http://www.aspenshowtix.com

The legendary acoustic guitarist Leo Kottke returns to Aspen on Saturday, March 26 for a performance at the Wheeler Opera House.

Kottke, 70, has been on the road with his inimitable instrumentals since the late 1960s, along the way releasing seminal albums like “6- and 12-String Guitar” and “Mudlark,” moving easily between genres along the way. Along with the guitar mastery, he’s known to pepper his sets with clever, unpredictable stage patter and some singing (though he has memorably referred to his singing voice as sounding like “geese farts on a muggy day”).

He hasn’t released an album since 2005’s “Sixty Six Steps,” a collaboration with Phish bassist Mike Gordon. Kottke recently answered a few questions from Aspen Times arts editor Andrew Travers via e-mail from Minneapolis.


Andrew Travers: What do you have planned, set-wise, for the show here at the Wheeler Opera House? Are you singing a few or sticking to the instrumentals?

Leo Kottke: I never plan a set, doesn’t work at all for me. But I have been singing more lately because I’ve learned a couple things. Singing is more fun than it used to be. I gave up trying and that seems to be the trick.


AT: What drives you to keep performing and touring after all these years?

LK: It’s all in the guitar. I can’t get enough. And performance is the distillation of guitar. It takes me to another country. I first went there when I was about 11 or 12 in Oklahoma. Since then I’ve lost the way, sometimes for years, but I think I’ll always find it again. It doesn’t change, but I sure do. It means different things to me now, less light but more atmosphere.


AT: Can we look forward to any new recordings on the horizon? Have you continued to compose new songs in the stretch since the last album?

LK: Yeah, I’ve been making tracks with my engineer Paul DuGre in Burbank, just trying to jump-start my recording head. We work in his garage, I sleep on the floor. By now I’m probably made of 60-cycle hum.


AT: A new generation of fans came to your music through your collaboration with Mike Gordon. What are some of the elements you look for in a musical collaborator?

LK: Starts as friendship. Sure did with Mike. No one thinks like he does, and if he makes you laugh you don’t stop.


AT: In the last decade or so we’ve seen string bands surge in popularity and cross over into pop music – here in Colorado there are more young musicians forming string bands than rock bands these days. To what do you attribute the mainstream adoption of the form? Have you seen your audiences change in recent years?

LK: The constant is people happily sitting next to one another who might punch each other in the face anywhere else. I was seeing that in the 60’s and I see it now. That’s the real meaning of “in concert.”