Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Woodland Park hosts Mountain of the Sun Music Festival

By Jen Mulson Published: June 28, 2013

Americana, roots and blues music will fill Woodland Park's Aspen Valley Ranch Saturday at the third annual Mountain of the Sun Music Festival.

Familiar names, such as the Tony Furtado Band and the Flying W Wranglers, will play the main stage. In between main-stage acts, the Mobile Music Project Stage showcases stars on the rise, such as Emily Earle, a local girl who competed last fall on NBC's "The Voice," Brendan Hannigan and The Wielands of Mass Destruction.

Along with music, the bowl-shaped meadow that looks out on the backside of Pikes Peak will offer vendors selling local food, Bristol beer and other summertime goodies (lavender, anyone?).

The festival was conceptualized and founded by two men: Michael Hannigan, executive director of Pikes Peak Community Foundation, which sponsors the festival; and Joe McGarry, foreman at Aspen Valley Ranch.

"They're about bringing the community together, and offering them experiences they can't get anywhere else," says Whitney Calhoun, festival manager. "It's combining up-and-coming bands with the beauty of Aspen Valley Ranch."

Here we chatted with music veteran Tony Furtado, and a musician on the rise, singer-songwriter Emily Earle.

Tony Furtado Band

Tony Furtado had to make a choice: music or art.

The now-renowned banjo and slide guitar player went with music. He quit college, where he majored in fine arts and focused on sculpting, and hit the road with his band.

"You show somebody a piece of sculpture you've made, and they say 'Oh, that's nice,'" Furtado said from his home in Portland, Ore. "But you play a song on stage, and you get applauded and all these kudos. That was kind of sexy. It was so immediately gratifying, and for a 20-year old, it was a no-brainer."

Decades later, he's now called a genius of the banjo and slide guitar. He plays Americana, bluegrass, folk and indie rock, and has more than 15 CDs out, including his latest, "Live at Mississippi Studios," in 2012. The Tony Furtado Band will headline the Mountain of the Sun Music Festival.

"As a banjo virtuoso, Furtado is well-known for his envelope-pushing, progressive bluegrass stylings. His picking is rapid-fire quick, sharp and clear, and puts him in the school of B?a Fleck and David Grisman," wrote Katie Klingsporn in the Telluride Daily Planet.

In elementary school, he built a banjo out of household items as a class project, and in the research process, fell a little bit in love with the instrument.

"My mom asked me if I wanted piano or guitar lessons, but it felt like everybody did that in the San Francisco area," he said. "I thought, 'banjo, that's for me,' because nobody else is doing it and I wanted to be different. It sounded cool, it came from Africa and it had a rich musical history."

He received his first at 12, and figured out he was naturally pretty good, he said, and began to spend up to 8 hours a day practicing, through junior high and high school. He'd hit it as soon as he got home from school, and after dinner, into the wee hours of the night.

"I did my 10,000 hours," Furtado said.

No, he's never read the Malcolm Gladwell book, "Outliers: The Story of Success," which suggests that's the number required to master a skill. Furtado just knew he had to practice every chance he got.

It paid off. He won the National Bluegrass Banjo Championship in Kansas twice - in 1987 and 1991.

Now that he's accomplished what he set out to do, his old passion came a knocking.

"As I got older, I realized I missed something - sculpting."

About seven years ago, he succumbed to the siren call of the clay, and had his first sculpture show in Carbondale a few months ago. He likes to sculpt small animals, and brings along a few pieces when he's on tour. They sell out almost immediately, he said.

"It's a fun way to marry my two loves."

Emily Earle

Emily Earle wasn't even born, and she had a thriving musical background. The 24-year-old is the niece of Steve Earle, a Grammy award-winning alternative country singer-songwriter, and Stacey Earle, Steve's sister, also a folk singer-songwriter. Her cousin is Justin Townes Earle, Steve's son and folk singer-songwriter. Her music isn't exactly typical Earle fare, though they share common ground in terms of lyrics, she said. But when it comes to the music, she plays more of a pop country sound.

She describes it: "If Taylor Swift got pushed into the mud a couple times, and then scraped her knee. Mix her personality with the girl from 'The Hunger Games.' There's part sweetness to it, but it's more mature."

The family cheered her on when Earle, a 2007 Pine Creek High School graduate, competed on "The Voice," a reality singing competition on NBC. She wowed judges with a rendition of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire," but only made it through the second round. In October, she appeared on two episodes. The experience proved valuable, though. Each singer had a mentor, and hers was rapper CeeLo Green.

"He said to make sure we don't lose who we were in a song," Earle said, "and above all else you need to be yourself."

She graduated from the Berklee College of Music in Boston after high school, and spent some time playing in the subways of New York City.

"You just had to hit the right people on the right days and times," she said. "I could make $120 in an hour on a good day."

Earle, who now lives in Nashville, said she's making a living with her music in between a nanny job here and there. In December, she performed with Green and The Muppets at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. More recently, she released an original four-song EP called "News From Colorado."

Some of her Uncle Steve's best advice was "to be simple and tell the story, rather than try to color it up. Young writers want to sound poetic - you use images and words to do that - but you don't need all that. You just need to tell the story."

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Jennifer Mulson can be reached at 636-0270.

mountain of the suN music festival

Who: Tony Furtado Band, Flying W Wranglers, SHEL, Emily Earle, The Farewell Drifters, The Abrams Brothers, Brendan Hannigan, The Key of Joy, The Wielands of Mass Destruction and others

When: 9 a.m.-7:45 p.m. Saturday

Where: Aspen Valley Ranch, 1150 S. West Road, Woodland Park

Tickets: $20 if bought before Saturday, $25 at the gate, $15 seniors ages 65 and older, and college students and military with valid ID, free for kids 17 and younger and first responders, including firefighters, police and emergency medical technicians; 389-1251, ppcf.org

music schedule

Main Stage

11-11:45 a.m.: Flying W Wranglers

11:45 a.m.-noon: "Waldo Canyon Fire Remembrance," a presentation by Carol Ekarius, Coalition for the Upper South Platte

12:30-1:45 p.m.: SHEL

2:15-3:30 p.m.: The Farewell Drifters

4-5:30 p.m.: The Abrams Brothers

6:15-7:45 p.m.: The Tony Furtado Band

Mobile Music Project Stage

10:15-11 a.m.: A Positive Note

Noon-12:30 p.m.: The Wielands of Mass Destruction

1:45-2:15 p.m.: The Key of Joy

3:30-4 p.m.: Brendan Hannigan

5:30-6:15 p.m.: Emily Earle

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