Sister Hazel performs concert for hazelnuts |

Sister Hazel performs concert for hazelnuts

Fan-friendly rock band Sister Hazel is playing a free concert at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area today at 3 p.m.

— Many of the events Sister Hazel plans and performs are for the benefit of its “hazelnuts.”

“That’s what our fans self-dubbed themselves,” said Ryan Newell, the band’s guitarist. “They are definitely our lifeblood, and we wouldn’t be able to play music for a living if they weren’t in the audience.”

This fan-friendly rock band will play a free concert at 3 p.m. today at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area.

The giving spirit of Sister Hazel was present from the time they selected the band name.

“The name came from a minister in Gainesville, Fla., who ran a homeless shelter,” Newell said. “She put people in a better place, and that’s what we are trying to do.”

The band started a charity called Lyrics for Life that benefits children struggling with cancer.

“Basically, we invite a bunch of our friends – like Edwin McCain, Tonic and the Indigo Girls – and do acoustic, unplugged shows where we get to talk about our songs with a storyteller vibe,” Newell said. “While that is going on, we auction off hand-written lyrics from the Beastie Boys to Elton John to Mtley Crüe. We’ve raised more than a half-million dollars so far.”

Writing powerful lyrics is important to the band because it wants fans to share in the emotions in the songs.

“We try to write from the heart and what we’re feeling. They’re not always biographical but are definitely emotionally biographical,” Newell said. “A lot of people connect with our lyrics, and people often come up to us and say we got them through a hard time.”

The band dug deep into its roots when developing its latest record, “Absolutely,” which was released in October 2006.

“We did all the preproduction and songwriting in Gainesville, Fla., in a room right next door to the first studio we ever recorded in,” Newell said. “We rehearsed eight hours a day seeing the same sights, hearing the same sounds and smelling the same smell. It put us in the mindset of getting back to the core of who we are, and we finally found the balance of forward progression while still embracing our roots.”

It has taken Sister Hazel 13 years to form the perfect democracy within the band. Everyone now understands his role and knows when to pick his battles.

The band’s craft never takes second place, Newell said.

“First and foremost is the music, and we try to write the best music we can,” Newell said. “No matter how nice and cool you are, if the music sucks people aren’t going to come.”

– To reach Allison Plean, call 871-4204 or e-mail

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