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 Interviews: Paolo Botti
Please introduce yourself
My name is Paolo Botti, I’m an Italian musician.
How long have you been playing Banjo?
I started as a child playing guitar and violin then I attended regular conservatory courses and graduated in Viola.
What/Who first got you interested in playing?
I always loved playing and listening to other kind of music beside my classic studies, and so I became a professional musician in jazz and blues music….
How did you learn? Did you have any formal lessons?
I started playing banjo in 2003 when I was already a professional musician, I started just for curiosity, then I realized that I could expand my musical horizon playing this instrument and I studied it a lot, both on four string (tenor tuning) than five string (especially in clawhammer style)
Being a professional musician I learned by myself, transposing on the banjo what I knew on other instruments.
Tell us about the Banjos you own, including your very first.
The first instrument I got was a cheap Asian made banjo but soon I realized that I needed a good instrument and bought a wonderful prewar Gibson TB3 in original condition, which I still own and play. Then I had many other vintage banjo both four and five string (Vega and Bacon) but since some years I’m using two (one tenor and one 5str) banjos crafted here in Italy by my friend, luthier and banjoist Silvio Ferretti: both are open back and have a Tony pass Tone Rim (so no metal tone ring), I love the soond and playability of these instruments and they are lightweight so it’s comfortable for me because I have to bring with me many instruments when I perform.
Who are your favorite players and influences?(Current and all-time)
Speaking about banjo players I must say that my favourite are the great player of the past, people like Johnny St Cyr, Elmer Snowden, Papa Charlie Jakson, Gus Cannon, Clarence Tom Ashley, Roscoe Holcomb, Uncle Dave Macon Dock Boggs, Tommy Jarrell and so on. Besides these great masters of course I love Pete Seeger along with his brother Mike and sister Peggy, Taj Mahal, and in jazz Mr Eddie Davis (I was in touch with him in some banjo forum and I miss him so much now)
Do you have any music recordings? Tell us about them and where can people buy them?
I have recorded many cd’s over the years, not all of them include banjo since I’m a multi-instrumentalist, they all are on spotify or bandcamp.
Do you play live? Solo or with a band?
I play both solo performances and with combo (quartet or quintet) I also have a band with more musician (8 or 9) that is called ‘La fabbrica dei Botti’ on my Youtube Channel (banjopaolo) is possible to see many videos from some of my concerts, as well as some videos I realized by myself during the lockdown period.
Any tips for up and coming players?
To a young player learning banjo I would recommend to listen to a lot of music, and not only banjo music, I learned much more studying Bach or Miles Davis than trying a banjo roll!!!!