'My dad is a wonderful clawhammer banjo player and so I was immersed in that music. I never imagined I'd want to play it.' - Cara Luft

Cara Luft grew up immersed in folk and traditional music. Even though she moved around a bit before putting down her own musical roots, her travels and the people she's met have informed her art over the years.

Even though she considers herself a Winnipegger now, Luft is rarely here. She spent four months touring through Europe last year and has developed quite a following there.

It's been an interesting journey for Luft, getting to Winnipeg. Originally from Calgary, she came here in 1999 after spending four years in British Columbia. She says ultimately, it was about pursuing her music career.

"Everybody kept saying Winnipeg's such a great music town," she recalled.

So she started asking around, emailing people she'd meet on the road.

"Everyone told me to go to Winnipeg," she said. "They'd offer to put me in touch with their cousin or their uncle or some other relative there. I had this ready-made list of contacts. It was incredible."

While she's known for her guitar playing, Luft is now also proficient on the banjo.

"My dad is a wonderful clawhammer banjo player and so I was immersed in that music. I never imagined I'd want to play it."

Famous last words. Three years ago, she began studying with Daniel Koulack.

"It started opening interesting songwriting avenues for me because it's a completely different instrument than the guitar," she said.

"It was brutal. I felt so embarrassed when I was having lessons. Daniel would play something and I'd just stare at him like a deer caught in the headlights."

Luft loves playing the banjo and finds it's a great secondary instrument for shows.

"Banjo is kind of cool now," she insists. "But it also has a really unique sound to it and clawhammer is a really beautiful style to play if you're singing by yourself."

Luft is beginning work on her next album, in which the banjo will no doubt have a prominent role.

Cara Luft will host Open Mic at the Folk Exchange on Friday, Jan. 17. You can also catch her at the West End Cultural Centre on Saturday, Jan. 25.

Before then, hear her in conversation with CBC host Bruce Ladan on SCENE On Air on Jan. 11. The show airs every Saturday from 5 - 6 p.m. on CBC Radio One, 89.3 FM/990 AM/97.9 FM in Brandon.