If actor-comedian-banjoist Steve Martin wins a Tony for Bright Star, the new musical he wrote with singer-songwriter Edie Brickell, the 70-year-old will complete his EGOT — the grand slam of showbiz accolades. “I have an EGO,” Martin tells Billboard, referencing — with perfect comedic timing — the Emmy, five Grammys and one honorary Oscar already in his trophy case. Either way, he’s on a roll, prepping both the Broadway show (premiering in 2016) and So Familiar (Oct. 30), his second album of Americana songs with Brickell.
Is it hard for you and Edie to write songs that feel old-fashioned but not anachronistic?
It’s our wheelhouse. If it had to be more of a nightclub sound, I wouldn’t do well. I have a feeling for the way I want the music to sound. I find it emotional and always have.
People expect you to be funny. Was it a conscious decision to make Bright Star a drama?
It’s just what happened. With a musical that’s got my name on it, there might be the expectation of comedy. We’re cautious in the first 10 minutes to let the audience know that even though it’s lighthearted, it’s still a serious show.
Your music tends to be collaborative. Does that come naturally?
I started in my professional life writing for network television, and we were always collaborating. That was the thing I loved and still do. If you’re open to it, you get something completely original and off the wall.
As a longtime fan and player of bluegrass, what did you think when bands like Mumford & Sons took it mainstream?
It has been waiting to happen. Music can’t all sound the same for 30 years. This was a new sound for the audience, although it has been around a very long time. The banjo has such a beautiful tone. It just needed the opportunity to get out there.