By Bob Hemenger
Special to The PREVIEW
The Americana Project will be hosting a concert with multi-award winning singer-songwriters Anna Tivel and Jeffrey Martin on Tuesday, April 17.
Twice a year, the Americana Project class brings in professional artists who spend the day working with students on songwriting and performance, as well putting on an assembly concert for the entire high school. The interactive day ends with a concert, open to the public, featuring Tivel and Martin.
Selected students from the class will open the show with original and cover songs.
This is the ninth year of the Americana Project class being offered at Pagosa Springs High School (PSHS). The class objective is to build self-confidence, self-expression and creativity using American roots music, performance and mentorship.
Both Tivel and Martin have been teachers and mentors with the Song Academy for Youth in Sisters, Ore., that PSHS students attend each year. They have a wonderful way of inspiring and guiding young people on the art of music and life. They know how to connect a song with a crowd and encourage people to think and feel. Pagosa is lucky to have them join us for a day.
A nationally touring artist with a deep love of quiet stories, Tivel is carving a place for herself in the songwriting world. She was a winner at both the Kerrville Songwriting Contest and the Telluride Bluegrass Troubadour Contest. She has shared the stage with heroes and friends across the country for a decade or more.
Tivel was raised in the forest and farmland of rural northern Washington and currently calls Portland, Ore., home. Her songs reflect both the stark colors of small-town life and the hard, sharp lines of the city. Tivel’s album, “Before Machines,” was hailed by No Depression as “raw, yet superbly composed and executed, intelligent, personal and deeply expressive.”
Her album, “Heroes Waking Up,” was produced by guitar mastermind Austin Nevins (Josh Ritter, Anais Mitchell, Kris Delmhorst). The album was released by Portland’s well-loved Fluff and Gravy Records and called “vastly expressive in its stark beauty,” by Glide Magazine. Her newest album, “Small Believer,” is receiving rave reviews and lots of airplay on NPR stations across the country.
Tivel has spent some quality hours in a Dodge Caravan repeating lyrical lines over and over until the words fall in time with the windshield wipers, or until the gas light comes on.
Born in Texas in 1984, Martin quickly made his way to the Northwest, where he discovered in nature and in people what would be the deep well for much of his songwriting. His father was a lover of stories, especially in music, and Martin was raised with a careful ear cocked and listening to Neil Young, John Prine, Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan and Harry Chapin.
He was fortunate to live in Eugene, Ore., for much of his adolescence, where in the late ‘90s and early 2000s there was a strong and steady flow of folk songwriters touring through. Leo Kotke, John Gorka and David Wilcox were huge inspirations.
In 2011, Martin caught a lucky break, a chance encounter with a prominent local promoter at a rowdy dive bar. Through that meeting, he was invited to open for Tracy Grammer and then David Wilcox, which then lead to a few small tours and eventually a finalist slot in a national songwriting competition in New York City and a successful national tour.
Martin’s music has been likened to the styles of Josh Ritter and Joe Pug, with an attention to storytelling reminiscent of Harry Chapin and John Prine. Since 2011, Martin has released two full-length albums, “Gold in the Water” (2011) and “Dogs in the Daylight” (2014), and one EP entitled “Build a Home” (2012). Also in 2014, Martin signed to Portland record label Fluff and Gravy Records, where he still makes a happy musical home, along with fellow artists Mike Coykendall, Nick Jaina, Fernando, Dan Stuart, Richmond Fontaine, Tivel and others.
Martin was invited to perform at Kerrville Folk Festival’s New Folk Contest and Rocky Mountain Folks Festival in its song competition, as well. He continues to draw acclaim from musicians and critics around the country.
After taking a brief hiatus from touring in order to teach high school English in 2015-16, Martin returned to the road to tour full time. He has shared shows with the likes of Sean Hayes, Anais Mitchell, Joe Pug, Jefferson Hamer, David Wilcox, Gregory Alan Isakov, Jeffrey Foucault, Frank Fairfield and others.
When asked whether he considers himself a musician or a songwriter first, Martin had this to say: “I’m a writer more than I am a musician. If I could play guitar half as well as I can write, I’d be wearing nicer pants.”
Please join Tivel, Martin and the students in support of creativity and music in the schools Tuesday, April 17, in the Pagosa Springs High School auditorium. Tickets are $10 (those 12 and under get in free). Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and tickets are only available at the door.