On U.S. tour, Bela Fleck and Chris Thile share ‘musical dialect’

Jul 15, 2016

Virtuosos Bela Fleck and Chris Thile have joined forces for a week-long U.S. tour.

Fleck is widely considered the best banjo player in the world. He’s known for taking the instrument in new and unexpected musical directions.

Thile is a virtuoso on the mandolin, who made a name for himself with his bands Nickel Creek and the Punch Brothers. And later this fall, Thile will take over as the new host of A Prairie Home Companion.

The duo played Thursday night at Kresge Auditorium at Interlochen Center for the Arts.

Bela Fleck and Chris Thile warm up for a studio performance at IPR.
Credit Morgan Springer

Before the show, Thile and Fleck sat down for an interview and in-studio performance with All Things Considered host Aaron Selbig. They talked about their musical inspirations, balancing their careers with newfound fatherhood and how they’ve developed a musical chemistry together.

“It’s remarkably comfortable,” says Fleck of playing with Thile. “We can just go. We start playing and don’t have to say anything. We can play for an hour and go into the ether.”


“It’s wonderful to share musical dialect,” says Thile. “If someone speaks exactly the same language that you do, you can start saying things that you didn’t know you thought. With Bela, we don’t only speak English together, we speak the same dialect.”

In October, Thile will take over as host of the public radio staple A Prairie Home Companion. He says the format of the show, created by Garrison Keillor, will remain largely the same.

“There will still be scripts, there will still be fake commercials and there will still be lots of music,” says Thile. “The scope of the music will change. Garrison has always had a wide window of interests, but he’s 73 and I’m 35, so there’s kind of a change inherent in that.”

Chris Thile and Bela Fleck continue their tour this weekend in New York and New Hampshire. The tour concludes Wednesday in Los Angeles.