The first person I thought of when brainstorming my guest musician wish list was Eli West. I first met Eli at Targhee Music Camp and was blown away by songs he shared from his collaboration with artists Anna & Elizabeth and Dori Freeman from his then unreleased album The Both. He makes all the best musical choices and I knew he was the one that could nail the frailing banjo on the unconventional rhythms of “Destroyer” and bring some heartbreak electric guitar to “There is a Right,” the icing on the cake that is his distinct voice. It’s a dream come true having him on this EP, all communication and exchange done over the internet. It’s an amazing time to be making music and exploring what can be accomplished with all this accessible technology.
This picture of Ben Winship, Eli, and Eric Thorin was taken at camp in 2016 by my camp pal/photographer extraordinaire Ed Coyle, just one of dozens of great friends I’ve made there. Ben was one of my first mandolin/songwriting heroes. I spent many summers of my youth watching his band Loose Ties play at festivals across the West, and whatever formidable acoustic group Eric Thorin is part of is something you want to hear. He’s a huge inspiration to me, and one of the nicest humans you could ever encounter. Did I mention I love Targhee Music Camp! I go to camp for the music hero hang.
Last summer’s camp was really special to me, a graduation of sorts. I started playing the Targhee Bluegrass Festival with my youth bluegrass band String Fever in the early 90s, and attending the band camp and festival again about 12 years ago after a hiatus from music. This album brings to light a fragment of my struggle, and standing in front of the music camp crowd at the student open-mic to sing “Battle Songs,” a song Eli put banjo and vocals down on, was scary and rewarding. My banjo was a little out of tune (sorry Danny Barnes who was in the audience!), my voice shaky from trying not to cry, but I got through; a little piece of my heart laid out for an audience that could hardly understand the weight of all I was sharing. I am very excited to share my heart with all of you. My hope is that someone, somewhere can draw something positive from it, even if it is just a pretty melody and some Eli West!
The first step in making Presenting Tara Shupe: Destroyer was scheduling a recording day at Swingfingers Recording Studios, in Fort Collins. I wrote the songs to the deadline! It was a really interesting challenge that left no room for second guessing, which usually stops me in my tracks.
I have been a big fan of Aaron and Erin Youngber since I first saw them in Hit and Run in the early 2000s, and met fiddler Ryan Drickey when their current band FY5 played my Dad’s festival a few summers ago. I also met guitarist Mike Robinson at that festival with the band Taarka. Now a resident of NYC, it seemed far fetched to get him on this album, but he happened to be touring through at the same time and we made it happen. Allen Cooke of Caribou Mountain Collective came as a recommendation from a friend as the 2013 Rockygrass Dobro champion. The Front Range is a great place to record an album with so many great players living so close.
#tbt to one of my favorite days of 2017 recording at #swingfingersstudio with Aaron and @eyoungberg, and @dricklesticks from the fantastic @fy5band @mikerobinson4 of #badassguitarist recently touring with #jeffaustinband but who I first saw with #taarka💜 and Allen Cooke of @cariboumountaincollective. #coloradoringers #destroyer #imisshitandrunbluegrass #dreamband
I am very excited to start introducing the talented people involved in the creation of my upcoming EP Presenting Tara Shupe: Destroyer.
I was able to catch up with Tyler Lambourne and Daniel Young of Utah super group The Lower Lights last night for this picture.
Tyler lives in Austin, TX, and was one of the "satellite" musicians I used for 3 of the songs recorded independently across the country by some of my favorite musicians. With basically nothing to work with, laying bass to guitar/vocal scratch tracks, he nailed everything. I'm beyond stoked with how it turned out. You can catch Tyler playing around Austin with Ragtime Willie and Texas legend Eric Hokkanen, to name a few.
Utah's Daniel Young placed in the Chris Austin songwriter comp a few years back (NBD!), plays with local country band The Hollering Pines, and creates great albums in his studio out of North Salt Lake. We captured the truly incredible drummer Bart Olson at Orchard Studio in June, and then mixed and mastered the album there starting in October. Dan is so much fun to work with, has a great ear, and was so patient and knowledgable in getting the tracks to where I wanted them to be. A little footage of Bart playing: