Birds of Play

Telluride band Birds of Play is, from left to right, Jack Tolan, Alex Paul, Anneke Dean and Eric Shedd. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Schwab)

San Miguel County is home to a unique and fruitful music community. Artists and bands choose the region because of the stories mountains and rivers reveal. An artist cannot escape the area without the mountains influencing their art. One of those bands is Birds of Play.

Denver magazine Westword described the folk-Americana band as "intrinsically, undeniably Colorado … and makes listeners feel like they're sitting around a campfire with the band under a Colorado sky."

Started by Alex Paul (guitar, mandolin, vocals and songwriting), the band currently consists of Eric Shedd (bass, mandolin, guitar, vocals and musical director), Anneke Dean (violin and vocals) and Jack Tolan (guitar, mandolin and vocals). Dean, Paul and Tolan are from Colorado, while Shedd is from Idaho. Even though none of them are originally from the area, the four met and formed the band in Telluride.

"We can't think of a better homebase," said Paul.

Rhe band is launching its first Kickstarter campaign Wednesday, which will be the second phase of fundraising for the band in the past year. The first phase was an offline campaign, Paul explained. No social media was involved, and the campaign centered around raising support from friends, family and local fans. The phase raised enough money to support the album "Murmurations Vol. 1,” which was released in September.

"That covered a lot of our initial production expenses, but it was always with the assumption there would be a crowdfunding campaign," Paul said.

The second phase will raise money for “Murmurations Vol. 2” and be shared with a larger public audience through Kickstarter, an online platform used for funding creative projects. According to the Kickstarter website, "over 22,000 music projects by both established and emerging musicians have been successfully funded on Kickstarter — more than any other category."

The band's goal is to raise over $20,000 by Dec. 18, when the Kickstarter ends. The money would cover the production costs of “Murmurations Vol. 2” and help fund the album's release on digital and CD. Birds of Play will host an album release show at the Sheridan Opera House on Feb. 25 in celebrating the new album. The funding will also support the release of both “Murmurations” volumes on vinyl.

Paul stated one of the most challenging aspects of the past year has been getting their music to vinyl.

"There's a pretty big production backlog with supply chain and staffing issues due to the pandemic, and increased popularity in vinyl. … It's been a dream for a while to put an album out on vinyl, and we're really proud of the musicality and production quality of these 16 songs" he said.

The term "Murmurations" refers to both the act of murmuring, as well as a flock of starlings. Much like starlings, “Vol. 1” explored the region from a view only the birds can see. The three songs, "Fate of Saints 1, 2 and 3," echo the stories and tales of the surrounding landscape, like an homage to the area. The song follows Saint Michael (the San Miguel River) and Dolores (the Dolores River) as they run Colorado.

"It's an imagined relationship between the San Miguel River and the Dolores River, and all the friends that St. Michael meets along the way," Paul said.

"Oh, Saint Michael, lay your veil down. You've been rambling all through the town. You know Dolores, for her arms are open wide, go on and run to her leave everything else behind," goes the song.

“Vol. 2” will continue to reflect and share the stories of Colorado. The album will feature a song titled "Sandhill Cranes," displaying Paul's admiration and relationship to the area.

"The land has been instrumental in how I've come to write and share my musicality. It's very tied to love — love of the land and connection to the land," said Paul, who wrote most of the songs at his home in Ophir.

Not only has the land made an impact on the Birds of Play, but the locals and community support have been vital to the band's progression.

"We have been shown a humbling, and at times an inconceivable, amount of support, generosity and love from this community," Paul said.

The arts and music community helps make Telluride the amazing cultural hub it is today, and why so many talented musicians call the area home.

"We are the beating hearts of this community," local musician Emily Scott Robinson said about area artists in a recent Daily Planet feature.

Paul reiterated that sentiment.

"The arts are the white blood cells coursing through the veins of this community. A huge part of what has made Telluride the vibrant, funky, weird, magical place that it has been, and will hopefully continue to be, are the myriad creative folk concocting all manner of strange and beautiful sounds and things," Paul said. "Fortunately, there are also a great many generous people here with the means to make an impact in the lives of individual artists and, in turn, in the flourishing of our beloved community. Let's keep doing that. Not just for us; for all of us."

To donate to the Birds of Play Kickstarter, visit kickstarter.com/projects/birdsofplay/murmurations-volume-2, or visit the Birds of Play Instagram or Facebook.