You Knew Me When

You Knew Me When at Music on the Green in Mountain Village last summer. (Photo by Lisa Anderson)

She had no idea when she booked them that they were a couple in real-life.

To Cathie Seward, assistant general manager of special events at the New Sheridan Hotel and Chop House — which owns the Phoenix Bean, where the band You Knew Me When plays this Friday — the gig meets a need, and fulfills a mission.

The need is to supplement the Bean’s food with entertainment. “The coffee shop is still a new business,” Seward pointed out, and must compete with both restaurants and smaller musical venues to attract customers in high season. As for the mission: “We want to support local musicians,” Seward said. “We like to give everybody who comes in a shot, at least once.” (A case in point is acoustic rock musician Shana Alverson, who is new to Telluride and will play Wednesdays at the Phoenix Bean beginning this week, continuing through March.)

You Knew Me When “have performed with us for a couple years now,” Seward said. “We gave them a try, and they were great.”

Informed that the band’s members are the married couple Carissa and Cie Hoover — and that therefore a real-life love story will be playing out on stage on Valentine’s Day — Seward replied, “I didn’t know that. That’s so sweet. That’s so cute!”

Sweet and cute isn’t what got them to Telluride, of course. Nor, in fact, was it simply the Hoovers’ love for each other. If it was a shared love of music that inspired them to form You Knew Me When, something else drew the Hoovers out of Nashville (where they are from) and off the road (where they toured, and lived out of their van, for years) to the San Juans, and a home in Ouray.

They’ll sing about it Friday night.

“It’s always fun to play on a special day like Valentine’s Day. We also have a tendency to play on each other’s birthdays,” Cie Hoover said. “It creates a special moment. It’s a nice thing to share” with an audience.

The couple, whose folk-rock conjures a mightier sound than a band-of-two might suggest, has been recording a new album in Durango, and will preview it Friday.

“Ideally we hope to have something out by the summer or the fall,” Cie said. “We’re doing a tour of the East Coast this summer, and we have to factor that into the mix. There are definitely a handful of new songs that we’ve started to perform live; we’re still working things out.”

He spoke of a feeling every musician can relate to: “Are we ready to unveil this? Eventually, you have to pull the trigger,” he said. “A song can always change and morph; you feel it out in front of an audience.

“A lot of our recent songs have been about Colorado, and are specifically southwest-Colorado inspired,” Cie added. “Nashville will always be a special place for us. We have tons of friends and family there. But our hearts were drawn westward to the mountains.”

Like much of You Knew Me When’s music, the tension — in this case between past and present, time and place — is bittersweet:

“How can we go back to, A place we’re always meant to be from, When the memories we cling to, Have not faded in the rear-view of time,” “Songs of the San Juans” goes. “Where the mountains are the meaning, Of the lives we’re living on high…”

The Hoovers have found inspiration in this place. Carissa is the Ouray School’s K-12 music teacher, and Cie’s artwork — judged blind in a contest last year — received the Mayor’s Choice Award from John Clark of Ridgway (an artist himself). They’ve performed at the Sherbino Theater, and in downtown Ouray, and at Music on the Green in Mountain Village last summer. (“I was always meant to be from here,” “Song of the San Juans” continues, “Though the winds they sometimes steered me away.”)

Friday’s concert will be a celebration of affection — of two people for each other, and for these mountains, and ultimately of home.

 “We just love the feeling of tight-knit community in Ouray and Ridgway and Telluride,” Hoover summed up. “Everybody’s very supportive of the arts, and of us. We can’t thank them enough.”

You Knew Me When plays the Phoenix Bean Friday at 6 p.m.