If you haven’t already heard, the banjo is one cool instrument. It’s taken a long road from its origins in Africa to the modern instrument we see today – an instrument that you will find flanked increasingly by musicians like Taylor Swift, The Band Perry and Mumford and Sons. Even comedy icon Steve Martin seems to be all about his banjo career right now. Then there is Ryan Cavanaugh who has known all along that the banjo deserved to take its place in the spotlight and he right there with it.
Cavanaugh came on the scene as somewhat of a phenom of the banjo contest circuit. He won the Merlefest, Rockygrass, and Renofest banjo contests, performances that launched his successful and consistently busy career. He’s performed and recorded with artists including Victor Wooten, Robben Ford and fellow banjo player Bela Fleck.
Most recently he wrapped up a recording with Mark Egan, Bill Evans and Joel Rosenblatt. “I’ve been so busy for the past year that my own projects have taken a back seat and I’m excited to have some time to work more on them. I also love traveling the world of course.”
Cavanaugh is currently logging plenty of miles performing at festivals in Spain, Sweden, Norway, Italy and Germany. After the month long tour he will return to the US for more dates with Bill Evans that will take him through September.
When performing on tour, Cavanaugh chooses to runs his banjos through the Radial PZ-Pre – combination preamp and direct box. Developed to work with any acoustic instrument, the PZ-Pre has a unique front-end that is able to amplify difficult to manage piezo transducers to deliver a more natural tone. “Nothing is better than to hear my banjo the way it’s supposed to sound and to play stress-free. The PZ-Pre is the absolute best! I’ve tried many preamp systems with my banjo and in my opinion, it is one of the most finicky instruments to amplify. Before the PZ-Pre came along, I had a custom preamp made for me and although the sound quality was really good, I was burdened by rack cases, outboard EQs, noisy gear, and fragile equipment. The PZ-Pre solved all of this for me. The compact design, durability, the hi-fi sound quality, paired with the great customer service made me a huge Radial fan.”
With his set up delivering his sound just as he wants it Cavanaugh can focus on developing new styles and imparting his advice to the students he teaches when at home in New York. “Imagination is key! Let your imagination run wild. Think outside the box and always create. Sometimes it’s that unknown territory that holds the coolest creative possibilities. Cavanaugh jokes: “There is a huge surge of banjos starting to take over! Look out. We’re coming for you…”