Steve Martin puts his new album, “The Crow: New Songs For the Five-String Banjo,” “under the heading of I’m not getting any younger…”
That led the actor/comedian/author/musician to work in earnest on “The Crow,” which comes out Jan. 27 as a three-month Amazon.com exclusive and features 15 original Martin compositions recorded with guests such as Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Mary Black, Earl Scruggs, Tony Trischka, Tim O’Brien and Pete Wrenick. It was produced by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s John McEuen, a high school friend of Martin’s.
“I started (playing banjo) when I was 17,” Martin tells Billboard.com. “I know what my specialty is — playing songs I write, and if I’m asked to step outside that specialty, I can get a little nervous. It’s a dichotomy; on one hand I can play my own songs with anybody, but if I got into a really serious bluegrass crowd, I’d play a couple standards and retire.”
Martin says five of the songs on “The Crow” — named after a track he wrote and performed on Trischka’s “Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular” in 2007 — date back to the late ’60s and early ’70s, while others are more recent. “Tin Roof” came along while he was filming 2003’s “Cheaper By the Dozen,” while “Pretty Flowers” was conceived while filming 2006’s “The Pink Panther” in Boston.
“I had these songs,” Martin says, “and I was up to speed ’cause I sort of got back into the banjo in the last three years. And I thought ‘Now it’s time…'”
Martin is planning a number of TV appearances to promote “The Crow” — including hosting “Saturday Night Live” on Jan. 30 — as well as his new starring role in “The Pink Panther 2,” which opens Feb. 6. As for actual touring, he says that “if I do it’ll be in the summer,” after he wraps another role in an as-yet-untitled Nancy Myers-directed adult romantic comedy with Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin.
“I think I would just do a bluegrass festival or something like that,” Martin says. “The word (about the album) isn’t even out yet, and I don’t even know what I’d do. I guess I have to get a band, right? I wouldn’t even know how to do an hour show of music. I’d have to think about that.”
Martin, who’s also working on a novel, is nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Spoken Album Category for his audio book version of his memoir “Born Standing Up.”