When Eric Shedd moved out of the area years ago, it might have looked like the years of music education he’d acquired here remained behind. Next week, he returns with his Colorado-based band, Birds of Play, to prove otherwise.
Shedd didn’t encounter organized music until he transferred to Lewiston High School from Culdesac, where he’d attended since grade school. At LHS, he joined the jazz band and choirs before graduating in 2001. He went on to study music at the University of Idaho, where he performed in countless choirs and ensembles. After graduation, however, he found work outdoors as a river guide, wilderness therapy guide and doing ski patrol.
His outdoor work has taken him all over the West, including Salt Lake City, Bend, Ore.; Missoula, Mont.; and Driggs, Idaho. He lives in Ophir, Colo., near Telluride, which is where he now devotes his time to music as a member of Birds of Play. He primarily plays the upright bass, but also hops on mandolin and guitar.
We checked in with Shedd via email to find out more about his return to music and the year-old band, which also features Alex Paul and Jack Tolan.
360: Describe your music to us.
Shedd: There is definitely a strain of positivity that runs through the songs: appreciating the natural beauty of the world, finding the growth in heartbreak, living life fully. I am really excited about our versatility in our music. We don’t really stick to one genre. Blues and bluegrass. Folk and funk. It’s fun to be able to play a sit-down listening-room style show like the Dahmen Barn one night and then a more raucous bar scene at John’s Alley the next.
360: What was the moment that you decided you wanted to jump back into music?
Shedd: I’d been pondering the shift of treating music as a career for some years. I was battling with myself about the foolishness of the concept of beginning to explore a music career in my 30s, and I had a friend tell me, “Well, it is what you went to school for.” That struck me, and it was still another four years before I started to really make that mental shift. I remember in the summer of 2018 guiding river trips on the Salmon River and telling people that I was going to lean into my music and they would ask “What does that look like?” and I would respond, “I don’t really know.” But by the next summer, I was not guiding rivers because we had tours booked through the Northwest. It’s wild how well it’s come together.
360: You guys describe your music as “born of a mutual love of desert canyons, raging rivers, rocky mountaintops and juice picnics.” Tell us more about juice picnics.
Shedd: Ah, the juice picnic. Allow me to explain: It was on one of our ramblings through a desert canyon when we sat down for a break and one of us pulled out a beer and another pulled out a sparkling water and another pulled out a coconut water and a flask appeared, and we realized that all of our outdoor recreational pursuits were merely elaborate juice picnics. We challenge ourselves physically to get to a remote beautiful location and enjoy a variety of juices. We try to bring the juice picnic vibe to our shows.
360: Your shows involve instrument changes, crowd interaction and, appropriately enough, the occasional bird call. What’s one of your favorite bird calls, and how would you describe it?
Shedd: I’m gonna go with Canyon Wren. Falling repeated whistles. It has been described as sounding like an alarm clock running out of batteries.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Birds of Play.
WHEN: 7 to 9 p.m., Wednesday, March 4.
WHERE: Artisans at the Dahmen Barn, 419 N. Parkway, Uniontown.
COST: $15, limited seating.
WHEN: 9:30 p.m., next Thursday, March 5.
WHERE: John’s Alley, 114 E. 6th St., Moscow.