When Eli Blackshear had nothing, he had music.
When he figured out how much he loved playing music, he dropped out of high school.
“I wanted to pursue music and I was adamant about not doing anything else,” said Blackshear, 22.
After a brief falling out with his parents, the self-described “wild child” found himself living on the streets of Manitou Springs.
Blackshear spent his days playing music for passersby, hoping to make $15 per day to keep himself afloat. Then he started getting paid to play gigs around town. Soon, he was making enough money to pay rent.
“To some extent, music saved me from a path I could’ve been going on,” Blackshear says.
It also led him to living in a house full of like-minded musicians. Blackshear has been in other bands, but something clicked with these guys. So much so that they decided not to renew their lease and take their music on the road. They bought an RV and spent six months traveling the country.
Along the way, they needed to come up with a band name to match their soul psychedelic sound.
“We’re kind of hippie dippy,” Blackshear explains. “And we don’t wear shoes very often.”
And that was the beginning of The Barefoot Family Caravan, who describe themselves as four musicians “with a passion for making music and playing it anywhere the wind takes us.”
That has included highlights like playing a show with Willie Nelson’s granddaughter at Whisky a Go Go, the iconic venue in Hollywood.
“We’re willing to go where the music is going to be,” Blackshear says.
Lately, though, The Barefoot Family Caravan has been staying put in Manitou Springs. Blackshear, the band’s lead singer and songwriter, spent much of 2020 writing songs in the absence of live shows amid the coronavirus pandemic. He says three new albums are on the way. His songs are inspired by everything from crushes on girls to not being able to sleep.
“We want to be impactful with our music and make the world a better place,” Blackshear said. “There’s a lot of music nowadays that can be impersonal. I’m trying to write from a place of actual struggle.”
Whether they’re playing at local spots like Kinfolks or Armadillo Ranch or touring, they’re just happy to be doing what they love.
“The thing I love about all of us is we all figured out from a young age that music can change people’s lives,” Blackshear said.
Including, he says, his own life.