Katie Carroll: Meet the Yampa Valley Boys | SteamboatToday.com

Katie Carroll: Meet the Yampa Valley Boys

Sharing their western harmonies and stories

— Tons of great bands make their way through our town, but there are plenty of talented musicians that make Steamboat their home all year round. This new series for Explore Steamboat will profile local bands once a month. Meet your fellow residents that live with an instrument in one hand and skis in the other. 

Katie Carroll: What is it like playing with each other after 15 years? Do you even need rehearsal anymore?

John Fisher: We don’t rehearse any less!

Steve Jones: If we’re working on something new or have a big show coming up.

JF: Unintentional improvising. When we hit the wrong chords we call it jazz…we’ve been together long enough. It’s kind of like the first line on a hockey team. They don’t look at each other they shoot the puck over, and know that the other one will get it. If we miss a word – I think we did once three years ago — the other will get it.

KC: Who or what are your musical influences? 

SJ: We both have an acoustic background. John Denver, folk music in the 60s — which kind of morphed after John Denver, he was the only folk singer after Dylan went electric. Cowboy music is really folk music. That appealed to me and I liked the rural lifestyle and the values — ranchers are the same all over the world, they may speak different languages but animals are the same.

 JF: I came up through the real old timey folk music, banjo, bluegrass. You know I couldn’t tell you any of the music of the sixties except Peter, Paul, Mary and the Kingston Trio! I also do poetry. My heroes in timing and presentation are Garrison Keeler and Baxter Black.

KC: How does Irish music influence the YVB?

SJ: There are quite a few traditional cowboy songs that have their roots in Ireland. The Streets of Laredo – it also has an English version. I spent about a week based out of Galway a few years ago. 

KC: How did YVB become a duo?

JF: Remember in Butch Cassidy [and the Sundance Kid] when they were being chased? He kept looking over the hill and saying, “Who are those guys? Who are those guys?” How Steve and I actually connected, I went to a Channel 9 health fair…his wife was a member of Healing Paws. I was across the auditorium and Steve was standing out in front of their booth playing and singing, “Night Rider’s Lament” with a little yodel in it. And I kept thinking, “Who is that guy?” It took me a week and I kept thinking who is this guy.

KC: What is your songwriting process?

SJ: Sometimes there’s a tune that’s bouncing around in my head and I think oh, I need to get a lyric for that … the one we’re probably most well known [for] in 2005 when FM Light had their hundred year anniversary. They retained us to write a song for it. We did that one together. We sat around a table one Sunday afternoon.

JF: I used to think once we recorded it, that was great. It constantly evolves.

KC: You’ve set a lot of poetry to music, like Bruce Kiskaddon’s poem “Second Guard.” How is that process different than songwriting?

SJ: He [Bruce] was a real cowboy in Oklahoma and moved to California. He did a little bit of cowboying out there, then became a bellhop at the Hollywood hotel…he was published in three to four periodicals at that time and people say he’s the granddaddy of cowboy poetry. That poem, it just hit me what it sounded like. It sounded like a cowboy version of “Big Rock Candy Mountain.” Every once in awhile someone in the audience will say so.

JF: I had the experience with one, the lady I’m married to now. One time I was getting ready to take her to the airport. I was out at Steve’s house and there was a poem called “Romance of the Range” by Robert Carr in 1919. I had read it through a few times and it was about a schoolteacher [which is what John’s wife is] leaving the country, and the lovesick cowboy didn’t have the courage to say anything to her. I took her to the airport, and by the time I got back to Steamboat I had a tune for it. Bang! That’s the emotion I had right then.

The Yampa Valley Boys will perform at the Steamboat BookTrails Fundraiser at 5 p.m. Sponsoring literacy and outdoor education programs for kids, the event will take place on Saturday, March 21 at Olympian Hall, 845 Howelsen Parkway.

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