Culver grass is blue for musician Furtado

(Photo by Alicia J Rose)

Banjo player, singer, songwriter and general talent Tony Furtado plays Boulevard Music this weekend, as he continues to support his most recent album Decembering. Furtado has opened for artists as prestigious as Alison Krauss and Greg Allman in the past, and it will, be great to see him in a relatively intimate setting. Furtado talked to the News about what Culver can expect from his set…

When did you start playing and performing? 

I started on banjo because of a 6th grade report/project I did where I made a banjo out of household items and studied where the instrument came from… but I had no clue what bluegrass was when I started, having grown up in the SF Bay Area with no banjos around. Then when my first banjo teacher started me listening to bluegrass to learn banjo, I figured that’s what I was supposed to play if I wanted to play the banjo. But then right away he had me listening to other music to hear folks like the Eagles and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band to see how banjo could be played in rock, folk, classical or whatever! So I pretty much jumped in with eyes wide open. But it took me years to follow my other passions like slide guitar and songwriting. I needed to get some years in as just a banjo player. It was fun and I had ideas of just playing banjo. When I was 18, I had been practicing banjo for about six to eight hours a day studying jazz and classical music theory. I knew I wanted to be a professional musician whatever it took. I also was enrolled as an art major at California State University, Hayward, studying sculpting and sneaking into any music classes I could as a banjo player (they wouldn’t let me be a music major or minor if I only played banjo). It was around then that I decided to enter the Grand National Banjo Competition, and I won! I felt like that helped make a point to me and my folks that I was serious. Around that time I took a touring job as a sideman with folk singer named Laurie Lewis, and I also secured a record contract with (at the time) the world’s largest indie label, Rounder Records. That’s when I knew my career started.

Describe your sound/style?

Americana, folk, roots, singer/songwriter.

What are your career highlights so far?

Pretty much any time I step up on stage where there’s an audience that wants to hear my music is a highlight of my career these days. But recording and performing with folks like Alison Krauss, David Lindley, Derek Trucks, Jerry Douglas…I had a really fun month long tour many years ago where I opened solo for the Gregg Allman All Star Band. It was an exciting challenge that I loved! 

What recorded music is available — particularly the most recent?

Find my discography at

Have you performed at Boulevard Music before?

Yes, I love it. Folks come there with the full intention of listening to music. And the kind of folks who put shows on there really take care in choosing who they want to play there. Lots of care and love of music there at Boulevard Music.

What can the audience expect from the set this time?

Lots of my old faves and a few new songs. I’ll be solo on this tour, so I’ll be exploring my whole catalog and even be asking for requests.

What else do you have coming up?

Shows throughout the year – a lot of those dates are on my website

I probably will get to work on a new album that focuses on my songwriter songs. My last album (Decembering) was focussed on banjo songs.

Tony Furtado performs at 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 22 at Boulevard Music. Go to for more information.

Elsewhere this week

The Culver Hotel will be hosting the likes of Sylvia & the Rhythm Boys, and Scotty Bramer. Go to for more info.

There’s a full program of music at the Cinema Bar this week, as usual. The Hot Club of Los Angeles plays every Monday, and Wednesdays are singer/songwriter and open mic night. Other artists performing this week include the Hollywood Rivieras, Tom Gramlich, KKAT, Dinosaur Tooth, and Kimon Kirk & Amy Correia. Go to for more info.