Music as ‘Medicine’: The Stray Birds perform in Ann Arbor Nov. 12Written by Mike Bauman | | email@example.com
Though she grew up in a musical household where Americana and folk jam sessions took place frequently, The Stray Birds’ Maya de Vitry didn’t envision herself one day performing at the same festivals she used to attend as a girl.
Yet six years removed from high school, that’s exactly where de Vitry finds herself nowadays as The Stray Birds continue to make new fans both stateside and overseas.
“I’m going to camp, and play songs and then go see music at the main stage,” de Vitry said of attending the Americana and bluegrass festivals. “I’ll do that, or I’ll go and camp, and play songs and then play on the main stage. That’s the art that I really can already feel happening.
“And it’s been incredible to go to some of these festivals that I just never had connected the dots as a child for how I might be on that stage playing original songs to an audience, and now I’m doing it. It’s just a really great way to experience this.”
Comprised of de Vitry, Oliver Craven and Charles Muench, The Stray Birds first started to take shape back in 2010. That’s when de Vitry and Craven recorded the debut EP “Borderland” in a friend’s basement studio, with Muench appearing on a few tracks as a guest bassist. Things really started to take off in 2012 when the band independently released its self-titled, debut LP.
The Stray Birds’ debut album ended up on NPR’s “Top 10 Folk & Americana Albums Of 2012” list, and the band had slots at big events like Kerrville, Falcon Ridge Folk Festival and the Philadelphia, as well as an appearance on Mountain Stage. While it only took a few years for The Stray Birds to reach those heights, however, the band’s history goes back much further than “Borderland.”
All three members of The Stray Birds come from the Lancaster, Pennsylvania, area. Muench and de Vitry attended Hempfield High School, having been in junior high and high school orchestra together. Meanwhile, Craven played with Muench in the bluegrass band River Wheel, which is how he and de Vitry first met.
Having an instant connection with Craven as a fiddle player and a songwriter, de Vitry added that she thinks what sets The Stray Birds apart from other Americana and bluegrass bands is its deviation from a more virtuosic style.
“I don’t really think that there’s a virtuosic element to our band, but there’s like a real dedication to writing good songs and then playing them well together the best way that we can,” de Vitry said. “We pass the instruments around so we find the textures that we want on certain songs, and the feel—the groove—that we want.
“It’s kind of a natural formula and a natural chemistry for us. We all love songs, and we all love singing together, so the actual music that’s come out of the friendships has been pretty natural.”
The Stray Birds exemplified that natural element when recording its latest album “Best Medicine.” The band decided to ditch its initial method of recording individual parts, instead opting to jam together in the same room.
“When we play live together we’re not isolated, and we can’t go back in time and correct notes or correct anything,” de Vitry said. “We’re just playing it together for an audience live and it is what it is, and it’s so hard to find that attitude in a studio.
“So the process of doing it live, it was just a process of doing it in isolation and trying to be behind glass windows and wearing headphones, and then just realizing that it was so much of the opposite of what we do every day onstage together. It was just too foreign.”
Coproduced by The Stray Birds and Stuart Martin, the result in this year’s “Best Medicine” is an album that’s already receiving praise from the likes of Laura B. Whitmore of Guitar World, who said the record “should be your next favorite album of 2014.”
On Nov. 12, fans will get to hear tunes from “Best Medicine” when The Stray Birds perform with Jordie Lane at The Ark, located at 316 S. Main St. in Ann Arbor. General admission tickets are available for $15 and the show starts at 8 p.m.
“We have a lot of gratitude for being able to do this, and I think that we found each other at the right place and the right time,” de Vitry said of The Stray Birds being able to perform for fans stateside and overseas. “It’s totally a treat to be able to do that. It’s the best.”
For more info, visit www.theark.org.