Welcome to our Banjo Interviews series. Each week we will be interviewing a different Banjo performer, player, maker or enthusiast. Please contact us if you would like to be involved.
Banjo Interview: Logan Hart
My name is Logan Hart, and I live in Chicago, IL. In addition to playing the banjo, I also write more classically-oriented music, as well as music for video games. I also am the director of a small theatre ensemble in Chicago named The Paper Theatre.
How long have you been playing Banjo?
I’ve been playing for about 14 years.
What/Who first got you interested in playing?
It’s a winding road of an origin, but I first heard the tune “Dueling Banjos” in the background of a random internet video. From there, I looked it up and found that my local library had a CD of bluegrass classics called “Appalachian Stomp”. “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” was on that CD, and the rippling sound of Earl Scruggs’s playing absolutely enchanted me. I listened to that one track over and over, and after a few months of discovering other banjo artists I decided that I needed to start playing.
How did you learn? Did you have any formal lessons?
I started from the book Banjo for Dummies, which honestly was a perfect place to begin. It has a great introduction to basic three finger picking as well as clawhammer style, and has accompanying audio so you can hear all of the examples. It builds up at a steady pace in an easygoing manner, so I’d recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone looking to start.
Besides that, I also used Earl Scruggs and the 5-String Banjo to get more into the style that hooked me. I’ve heard some folks say that that book is a bit outdated, but if you’re looking to build up the essential vocabulary for classic bluegrass banjo I believe it’s one of the best places to begin.
Lastly, Pete Seeger’s How to Play the 5-String Banjo is a great intro to a wide variety of folk styles.
All of that was accompanied by a lot of listening and trial and error. I already had some music background from being involved in school band and choir growing up, so that definitely provided me a solid overall musical foundation that I think helped a lot in picking things up.
Tell us about the Banjos you own, including your very first.
My very first banjo was some sort of Washburn beginner model. It was good enough to start but I think I kept it wayyyy longer than I should have. I gave that away and purchased my main instrument, a Gold Tone MM-150 LN (longneck). In addition, I also have a Gold Tone AC-1 banjo which I use as a travel instrument. I cannot recommend their banjos enough. Their instruments were the first time I played a banjo and thought “ah, this is what a banjo should sound and feel like.”
Who are your favorite players and influences?(Current and all-time)
My current banjo influences are: Dock Boggs, Morgan Sexton, and various old-time players. These days I find myself preferring a mellower folky sound as opposed to the hard driving bluegrass picking that first caught my ear.
All time influences are: Earl Scruggs (like everyone, I’m sure), Steve Martin, and Pete Seeger.
Besides banjo players, I’m influenced by a lot of other sources: French Impressionism (I love Maurice Ravel), Renaissance music, video game music (Koji Kondo, Disasterpeace, Eirik Suhrke), and Seattle grunge.
We understand you have a musical release coming out this year (2022)? Tell us all about it. Is it your first recorded release?
I do! It’s called “Brontosaurus” and will consist of eight original pieces played on my longneck banjo. I’m hoping to explore a more “modern” banjo sound that lies somewhere in between folk, bluegrass, classical, and my other influences. I was hoping to release it in August, but my fretting hand had an unfortunate encounter with a box cutter so there might be some delay. You can find more here: https://loganjameshart.com/brontosaurus/
And yep! It’s my first recorded release. I’ve released game soundtracks I’ve worked on, but this will be the first time that I will be releasing my own banjo playing.
Do you play live? Solo or with a band?
I don’t, but I’m hoping to explore that a bit this year. My wife Samantha plays keyboard instruments and violin, so we’ve been putting together a small set list of folk tune arrangements which has been an absolute blast and incredibly fulfilling. We’re also hoping to maybe play a few live gigs together if we can make it happen!
What is the best way for people to check out your work?
My Instagram, https://www.instagram.com/loganhartbeat/, is where I regularly post music and project updates. My website is a bit more static but has a broad overview of all of my music pursuits: https://loganjameshart.com
Any tips for up and coming players?
Take it slow and easy at first, and have fun. Remember that at some point that beginner’s energy is going to fade away and the only thing that will keep you moving forward is discipline and remembering the love you have for what you’re doing.
Anything else you would like to share?
Like I mentioned before, I also freelance as a composer and am working on a couple of exciting projects. One is a mobile game called Peasant to Noble which is about moving up the social ladder. Another is a fantastical noir-style RPG starring a squirrel as the main detective (absolutely wild and I love it) called Project Bramble.