With two notable exceptions, comic actors pursuing parallel careers as bluegrass musicians are a rare breed. Ed Helms of The Office and the Hangover trilogy is one of them: He’s a regular performer who also co-created the annual Bluegrass Situation festival in Los Angeles in 2010. Helms, 40, caught up with Billboard to discuss the Bluegrass Situation’s stylistic expansion and move to larger digs at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel (taking place Oct. 10 and 11), and the influence of that other prominent actor/bluegrass musician, Steve Martin.
Why reposition the festival as more roots than bluegrass?
When we started at Largo, part of the mission was to give the scene a rallying point. We’re definitely using the word “bluegrass” as an inclusive term in the tradition of events like Hardly Strictly Bluegrass or Newport Folk Festival.
The Bluegrass Situation has expanded the number of shows it helps promote.
It’s all presenting [rather than financing]. We’ve presented shows in L.A. and had a presence at other festivals around the country — we’ve had a stage at Bonnaroo the last two years that is entirely curated by us, and we have a big super jam that I host.
What does Steve Martin mean to you?
He has found something that so few musicians do: his own sound. I’ve gotten to know him almost entirely through music. It’s wonderful when people you admire meet or exceed your expectations.
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 4 issue of Billboard.