INTERVIEW WITH CORY WALKER BANJO EXTRAORDINAIRE
INTERVIEW WITH CORY WALKER
by Sandi Millar
Enjoy this interview with Cory Walker currently playing with Mountain Heart! Thanks for reading.
SANDI: Who are some of your early heroes that helped gravitate you towards playing the banjo?
CORY: My earliest banjo heroes were my dad, Bela Fleck, and Earl Scruggs.
SANDI: As a multi-instrumentalist, you play; banjo, guitar, mandolin, dobro & bass. Which other instruments besides the banjo do you find you are most proficient at?
CORY: Let’s just talk banjo!
SANDI: Gear. Go in-depth on your instrument(s), picks, strings, etc. People always love to hear about gear.
CORY: I play a 2000 Gibson Earl Scruggs Golden Deluxe banjo with a maple Robin Smith compound radius neck. I use the GHS JD Crowe studio light set. Golden Gate thumb picks and national fingerpicks. I also play a great Tim Davis custom maple banjo with a similar compound radius neck.
SANDI: Can you talk about how you like your instruments set up?
CORY: Low action, head tuned to a G or G#. Standard bridge height or slightly taller than ⅝. Standard string spacing. Biggish frets.
SANDI: I see you have played with some great players such as Sierra Hull, Tony Rice, Ricky Skaggs, Clay Hess, Dailey and Vincent. You mentioned you are currently playing more what I would call progressive bluegrass, especially when playing with Mountain Heart. What would you say is your favorite style of music to listen to and favorite to play?
CORY: I like all styles of music. I have a special love of improvised music; newgrass, jazz, whatever music.
SANDI: What musicians have you studied?
CORY: Way too many and way too little.
SANDI: Great answer! Love it.
SANDI: Who were your instructors and what things did they say that really stuck with you over the years that help you become the player you are today?
CORY: Steven Stadler and my father David Walker. “Don’t say can’t. I hate that word.” – Dad
SANDI: Chuck (my husband) has logged over 32,000 practice hours but stopped keeping track a while ago. They say you need to practice perfectly over 10,000 hours to be proficient at playing an instrument. How many hours of practice do you think you have put in to have become such a great musician?
CORY: I have no clue. You have to be neurotically obsessed. (Laughs)
SANDI: What is your practice schedule like? Can you give our readers some good tips for setting up a practice schedule?
CORY: No schedule. “Be honest with yourself. Don’t lose the nerdy love for all the different players etc.”
SANDI: Your favorite all-time musician(s)?
CORY: Impossible question.
SANDI: Studio or touring, which do you prefer?
CORY: They’re completely different. Pros and cons with both.
SANDI: Favorite all-time song(s)?
CORY: Impossible question.
SANDI: Do you write mainly instrumentals or do you write lyrics also? How many tunes have you written? What is your favorite?
CORY: I don’t have a favorite anything really..whether it’s food, color, instrument, etc. I write both.
SANDI: Where can people find your songs?
SANDI: You had mentioned that you play with several bands, what is it like touring and playing with all the different bands, how do you keep the arrangements straight, and would you consider one of the bands your staple band?
CORY: You have to be broad and specific at the right or wrong times.
SANDI: Favorite stage?
CORY: Opry probably. Both the Ryman and the Big Opry House. Merlefest Watson Stage maybe.
SANDI: Bucket list stage?
CORY: Carnegie Hall, Red Rocks but I rarely think of things like this.
SANDI: Favorite musician(s) you’ve worked with?
CORY: Gah..so many…Stuart Duncan, Billy Contreras, Bryan Sutton, Tony Rice, David Grier, Barry Bales, Ron Block, Sierra Hull, Jake Stargel, Dailey and Vincent, Ricky Skaggs, Dennis Crouch, way too many to keep naming.
SANDI: Do you have any plans to release a new solo album?
CORY: Yes, I plan to record a solo record this year. Another section house record soon too.
SANDI: We will look forward to hearing the new records.
SANDI: Have you ever been a member or are you a member of any music associations? What associations?
CORY: IBMA(International Bluegrass Music Association)
SANDI: I found a video on YouTube that was recorded in 1997 when you were 7 years old. Are you okay if we post it? What was it like growing up playing bluegrass? Can you tell us about going to the festivals?
CORY: sure! It was the most exciting and fulfilling part of my childhood.
SANDI: Favorite thing about being a musician?
CORY: Freedom. Expression. Magic.
SANDI: What do you dislike about being a musician?
CORY: I’m not a millionaire yet.
SANDI: (Laughs) Is there a bluegrass artist out there that is? Well, Alison Krauss but is she really bluegrass? (Laughs) I have to say most bluegrassers don’t do it for the money, it’s all about the love of the music.
SANDI: What are some long term goals as a musician moving forward?
CORY: Be the very best musician I can be. Never stop pushing myself to become better.
SANDI: Things you like to do in your spare time. Hobbies?
CORY: Practice banjo. Transcribe solos. Listen to records. Write music. Hunt. Fish. Spend time with my wonderful family. Play sports. Swim. Watch a film. Go out/hang with friends.
SANDI: Are there any other tidbits about you that you would like to share?
CORY: I teach lessons! A lot!!!! Via Skype mostly. I have many students. For inquiries, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on Cory Walker visit:
Special thanks to Cory Walker for taking the time to do this interview. Hope to see you “On the Road“! – Sandi Millar