He's also a Navy veteran and has been performing his music for nearly 50 years.
Kottke's schedule was a little tight these past couple of weeks, but he was able to answer some questions from The Park Record though email.
Park Record: What was it about the guitar that steered you away from the other musical instruments you tried when you were a child?
Leo Kottke: That would be an E chord. Changed my life, gave me a life. I think I played that chord for about two weeks. When I got to the A I knew I was in trouble.
I continued for a while with the trombone but its days were numbered. I still have the horn, it's sitting across from me. About once a year I'll pick it up and play a scale. My embouchure has not improved.
PR: What was your first guitar, and do you still have it?
LK: It was a toy, a gift from my mother. I'd been sick for a long time and it was something I could play on my back. Trombone didn't cut it. The "guitar" fell apart about two weeks in. It had no sound, no sense, and no self-respect, but it gave me a way out and a way in. Thanks Mom.
As Dick Rosmini told me years later, after I'd been complaining about a guitar I had, "If you really know how to play, it doesn't matter what guitar you're playing."
He was right.
But, obviously, it also doesn't matter what guitar you're playing if you know nothing at all. That's what got me out of bed and saved my life.
PR: What was your initial goal for your music and has that changed throughout your 50-year career?
LK: No goal. Goals are the enemy. All I wanted was to play the thing. I'm still trying to do that. I'm glad for the chance.
PR: How have you been able to maintain (your career), especially though the many changes in the music climate over the years?
LK: The music climate probably doesn't exist. Some kind of marketing stuff exists and that's whatever that is, but it isn't music.
First there was the mob, then there was the union, after that I lose track.
I could put in a nod to Capitol Records. That was an extraordinary company. Or (Takoma Records') John Fahey. Or (record producers) John Hammond, senior and
junior. These are cultural motions and they are self-generating. Marketing is milking.
Music happens for someone alone in a room for a long time with some kind of instrument. The big event is when they walk out the door. After that a lot of us turn around and go back in the room. That's music. It's like food. You can't walk away from, or maintain, food.
PR: Many people consider you a master musician and you have not only been nominated for two Grammys, but also have a doctorate in music performance from the Peck School of Music. With that said, do you still try to discover new ways to play and perform your music?
LK: The guitar is running everything. I have no choice. It's a form of suicide anyhow to decide ahead of time what you're going to do on an instrument. If it isn't suicide it's at least stupid.
The instrument will wise you up, though, and you'll start to learn a few things; but sometimes, as Woody Herman did, you'll just turn it into a lamp.
Meanwhile, it's a form of vanity to remain self-taught. Sooner or later you have to do your homework. There's always more to find, always people you can stand next to — from beginners to virtuosi.
PR: Do you have any special plans regarding your three concerts at the Egyptian Theatre here in Park City?
LK: I don't, really. The most important part of performance is risk. If you eliminate that you've eliminated performance. You've also nearly guaranteed that you won't have a good time. It's a privilege to play but it's rude, especially if you're a soloist, to "map it out." It shows. Better to make a fool of yourself than never to show your face.
Acoustic, fingerpicking guitarist Leo Kottke will perform at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., Friday through Sunday, March 8 through March 10. The Friday and Saturday shows will begin at 8 p.m. and Sunday's concert will start at 6 p.m. Tickets range from $35 to $65 and available at www.parkcityshows.com .