SALT LAKE CITY — To say that Jerry Douglas has collaborated with nearly everyone in the music industry isn’t that much of an exaggeration.
A renowned dobro guitar player, Douglas has worked with bluegrass staples Alison Krauss, Earl Scruggs and Bela Fleck and crossed over into other genres to work with James Taylor, Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, Mumford and Sons and many more.
So many more.
“The things you learn from Elvis Costello and T Bone Burnett and Dan Fogelberg — all these people that I’ve played with — they all had different ways of recording and different formulas to build a song, how to shape a song and get the maximum response from a song, “ Douglas said. “I’ve got a pretty big toolbox at this point of things to dip into.”
A recipient of 14 Grammys, Douglas is bringing his seasoned career to Salt Lake City’s State Room on Sunday, Nov. 5. The musician spoke about his musical upbringing and career in a recent interview.
The way Douglas sees it, he didn’t have much of a choice in the music he listened to as a young boy.
Every morning, his parents played Flatt & Scruggs in his northeastern Ohio home, and as a child, Douglas couldn’t even fathom one day sharing the stage with such artists.
Now, he can’t even recall how many times he’s played with Earl Scruggs, who passed away in 2012, but he does know each time was special, as the banjo picker was one of the musicians that made him want to play music in the first place.
“They were all magical — every one,” he said. “When you finished your solo, Earl was looking at you and he was smiling at you. It was all you needed. It was an affirmation from the king, and you were already feeling great just being there with him.
Douglas was 11 years old when he first played the dobro — a resonator guitar with a large metal plate in the body's center — having been inspired by a Flatt & Scruggs concert he attended with his father. After a feeble attempt to transform his Silvertone guitar into a dobro — which he said ended up making his guitar “fold up like a notebook” — Douglas found a real dobro and never stopped playing.
“I loved the sound of it,” he said. “How bluesy it was and how much like the human voice it could be. I stopped singing when I started playing dobro. I’ve since started again, and I really love it, I really enjoy it, but for so long I was backing up just the best singers in the world. There was no reason for me to sing — my singing was coming from the instrument.”
And despite his passion and talent for the instrument, Douglas initially kept his dobro guitar playing a secret.
“I never told anybody in high school that I played,” he said. ”Country music wasn’t cool. You had to be a rock ‘n’ roll fan, so it was a peer pressure kind of thing.”
But word got out between his junior and senior year when he abandoned football practice for the summer to go on tour with bluegrass band The Country Gentlemen.
“When I came back, I was a musician,” he said. “I knew that that’s what I was going to do for a living. I didn’t have to go to school to become a dentist or doctor or something, I was going to be a musician.”
And now he’s the go-to guy.
During the interview, Douglas chuckles, recalling the time he met Paul McCartney and being shocked when the Beatle got the first word in, complimenting him on his solo in a 2012 version of “The Boxer” with Paul Simon and Mumford and Sons.
Or the time he was beside himself when he played alongside James Taylor, doing everything in his power to keep from drooling.
“One of these days I’m going to write a book,” he said. “But I’m kind of a chameleon. I can find my way into and adapt to just about any situation that I’ve come across. And I love that and I think that’s part of the art, is being able to catch on quick and perform and really make a difference in the music in the track. There’s a real artistry to that.”
Lately, the musician has been investing a lot of time in his Jerry Douglas Band — a group that blends elements of jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and, of course, bluegrass.
“Anything I ever do is going to have a bluegrass tinge,” he said. “I can’t get away from it and don’t want to get away from it. I love it, so it’s always going to be part of whatever I do.”
The Jerry Douglas Band hits the State Room stage Sunday night, and while Douglas is excited to share the band’s debut album “What if” with his Salt Lake City audience, he’s especially looking forward to doing so with food from the Red Iguana in his system.
“One thing I’ve learned over the years is where to go find the best food,” he said. “That’s how I know where I am. Everytime I go to Salt Lake, I make time to go to the Red Iguana.”
If you go...
What: Jerry Douglas Band
When: Sunday, Nov. 5, 8 p.m.
Where: State Room, 638 S. State St.
How much: $35