STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For Digital First Media
“Magic Fire” is the latest album release from indie American folk rock blue grass band “The Stray Birds,” featuring Maya de Vitry (vocals, acoustic guitar, fiddle), Oliver Craven (vocals, acoustic, electric and slide guitar, fiddle and mandolin) and Charles Muench (vocals, upright bass).
What the band believes is their finest album to date lyrically, vocally and musically, “Magic Fire” offers twelve original collaborative compositions.
Retreating to a studio in upstate New York, The Stray Birds enlisted the talents of Grammy Award-winning producer Larry Campbell (Bob Dylan, Levon Helm, Paul Simon, and Willie Nelson). Their collaborative efforts resulted in this masterfully executed collection of songs, accentuated with chilling harmonies, flawless musicianship and heartfelt lyrics.
“Though a few of the new songs had been on stage in the past year, we granted most of these songs the opportunity to come to life right there in the studio,” says Maya de Vitry, while on tour in New Jersey. “It was intoxicating to go to this place of focus with songs that still felt so fresh and free.”
“This collection of songs honors what connects us as humans,” adds de Vitry. “Being human can be a fast-paced, detached experience at times. I feel like part of what we do as musicians is rewire our connections to each other and perhaps our connections to our collective memory or dream.”
Standout tracks include “Shining in the Distance,” “Third Day in a Row,” “Sabrina,” “Where You Come From,” “Somehow,” “Sunday Morning” and “When I Die.”
Hailing from Lancaster County Pennsylvania and currently based out of Nashville, The Stray Birds’ roots as friends and fellow musicians run deep.
“We started out as a trio of people who all grew up together in Lancaster County and had known each other for a very long time,” says de Vitry. “But it was a slow and deliberate musical courtship, and it took years and a lot of patience for us to actually come together and get into a car and start touring and recording as a trio.”
Soon after releasing their self-titled album in 2012, The Stray Birds earned national and praise for that record as one of NPR’s Top Ten Folk/Americana Albums of the Year.
Signed to Yep Roc Records, The Stray Birds released their critically acclaimed sophomore album, “Best Medicine,” in 2014. Debuting at #2 on the Billboard Bluegrass chart, NPR’s World Café praised the album for its “strong harmonies and sharp songwriting.” Guitar World cited the band’s “heartfelt creativity.”
“As far as genres, it’s hard to say what defines us,” says de Vitry. “We’re trying to write songs that stand up on their own two feet in any kind of genre, and then we can put some clothes on the song and see what kind of jacket it wants to wear.
It starts with a well-written song that feels right and lyrics that feel sincere, and then we just put that together.”
“Keeping each song different is how we keep it interesting to ourselves,” adds de Vitry. “I think our songs are driven by sound and three part harmonies. All the styles and influences come from all the stuff we love – Bob Dylan, The Band, The Beatles, Neil Young, Bonnie Raitt and Nina Simone and all kinds of stuff. We use the fiddle, banjo and acoustic guitar and all these blue grass instruments in what we do. It can be indie rock or folk. All of those influences can be genuinely accurate.”
The Stray Birds continue to hone their artistic expression in the studio and on stage while consistently performing at a feverish pace. They are building a growing fan base throughout U.S. and abroad.
“We’re pretty happy with where we are,” says de Vitry. “We’re getting great opportunities to play at incredible music venues and festivals that have their doors open and have people coming through the door. So we feel really fortunate. We keep doing it and keep being creative and enjoying the ride.”
“A lot of people have said to us in the last couple of years, ‘You guys have got something special. This is really great. When the three of you sing together, it’s really powerful and you’ve really got something here,’” adds de Vitry. “I think we’re at that turning point where we’re realizing that it’s special. We’re realizing that it’s something that we really want to work on, keep everything moving forward creatively and not get sucked into the business of it, but be smart about it. It’s a pretty big commitment to go out on the road for a lot of the year and be away from our homes and communities to do this. We really value what we do as a way to connect people to each other, especially in the world today. To extend into that presence with us and with all these strangers and just be present together – that’s what concerts are about and they can be part of that with us.”