Growing a 'Wild Rose'
Saratoga's Garry Wood and wife, aka The Bird and The Bear, set to release full length album titled 'Wild Rose'
July 24, 2019
The last album released by Americana duo The Bird and The Bear was an Extended Play (EP) in 2015 titled "Build A Fire." With the inclusion of the hauntingly romantic track "As Soon As Winter Comes", it was a step-up from their first EP, "Breathe", which was a gorgeous album in its own, bare bones way. Now, four years since the release of "Build A Fire," the Nashville-based duo are preparing to release their first full length album, "Wild Rose."
Though they may be living in Nashville, the duo have a connection the Valley as "The Bear" is none other than Saratoga's own Garry Wood. The duo also have an international connection as "The Bird" Mirthe Bolhuis was born and raised in the Netherlands.
Despite having recorded two EPs, a full album wasn't exactly on the horizon for The Bird and The Bear until they were approached by producer Nick Bullock.
"Our friends in Brentwood, Tenn. put on a little house concert series called Mad Valley Lodge and once a month they'll have, like, two or three acts play and it's a lot of fun. We've played there a few times," said Wood. "So we may have crossed paths with him before."
"It was time, but life happens and it's expensive. Finally, someone saw us play. He's a producer and he asked if we wanted to work with him and we thought 'Maybe this is the time,'" said Bolhuis.
"It just felt like it aligned," Wood added.
Once the idea of producing a full length album came about, the couple began the process of fund raising for the project. When it came to their last EP, the duo went through Indiegogo, a crowdfunding platform that offers incentives for various levels of donation. This time, they steered away from traditional crowdfunding platforms in favor of performing weekly, or as close to weekly as their schedule allows, concerts on Facebook Live for tips and donations.
"Crowdfunding, we tried before, and it felt like ..." began Wood.
"We wanted to give something back immediately, like playing and playing for tips and for donations right away felt better than promising ..." added Bolhuis.
"Incentive packages that we felt we could have followed up on better. So, this seemed like a more ..." continued Wood.
"Honest way of raising funds," Bolhuis concluded.
The two admit that, at first, performing for a computer screen instead of a normal crowd felt different.
"But we're living in the future," said Wood.
Since doing the Facebook Live concerts, The Bird and The Bear have accumulated a small, but loyal, group of fans who tune in for nearly every show. While Wood's parents are, by far, leading the charge, both Wood and Bolhuis state that they get a consistent flow of small donations that have gone towards the recording of the album.
"Everything is a drop in a bucket, so it's really the smaller, consistent donations that really keep us afloat with this project. It gives us a chance to breathe," Wood said.
Even though the pair were approached in 2018 and had budgeted and scheduled for three days in the studio, life threw the duo for a loop when Bolhuis lost her job.
"At first, we were actually going to record it last year and I lost my job and that was a big thing. We were like 'Oh, now we don't have the funds, maybe.' We started recording and we had to add another day. First we pushed the days, then we started recording and had to add another day because we couldn't get it all done," said Bolhuis. "Those things happen"
"Like any creative pursuit, there's things you can't foresee, so we just try to improvise and be organized," added Wood.
Fortunately, the money raised from the Facebook Live shows and regular gigs have provided the money needed to follow through with recording the album. Additionally, the ability to record with friends was a bonus for the duo. This included another Nashville-based group, South for Winter, fiddle player Megan Palmer, drummer Aaron Shafer-Haiss, and friends Lou and Lynn Wamp from Chattanooga, Tenn.
"We had these people in mind that we wanted to record with us and we didn't know if they wanted to do it, if they had time to do it, if we could afford it and it all worked out and they're all playing on our record and we're so happy," Bolhuis said.
"It was kind of like a dream team, which was cool. I think they made it really special," Wood said.
There are plenty of differences, aside from the length, between the two previous EPs and the full length album. For starters, while the previous albums were mostly Wood and Bolhuis singing together, "Wild Rose" has only one track with just the duo.
"The rest is a little bit bigger. More instruments, more electric, but still definitely haunting, a little dark and romantic. There's a bluegrass tune on it to, an instrumental, so that goes back to the very beginning," said Bolhuis.
"It's eight tracks and I don't think there's one of them that sounds the same," Wood said.
"There's one song that is kind of like a Fleetwood Mac vibe, so it's kind of like a rock song, then there's another song kind of like a Norah Jones vibe. So, there's a little bit of everything," added Bolhuis.
Along with using social media to play to audiences around the world from their own living room, The Bird and The Bear have also utilized the use of hashtags with #wildrose2k19. However, it appears that 2019 may conclude before the album is released. The two are hoping to release the full album in February 2020, but produce a single before the end of the year.
With any song, there's a story and the title song, "Wild Rose", is no different.
"I hadn't written a song in a long time. In that four years that we hadn't released anything, I had a few ideas that I'd been working on and it was really frustrating and a lot had happened in that time and so, that was actually just a song that kind of came and I didn't try to question it," said Wood. "I had the riff for a while and kept trying things out with it and then, you just kind of mumble words as you sing and those were the words that came out."
The inspiration for the title literally came from the couple's backyard. In the midst of an overgrown bushline, littered with trash, grows a bright pink wild rose.
"There's so much trash and there's the train tracks and then, in the middle there, we do have a wild rose that grows there and it's really cool. It's like this pink, bright wild rose," said Bolhuis.
"Definitely, subconsciously, you're doing the dishes and you just look at this thing in the backyard," Wood added.
"For me, it means just hopeful. The album, I always felt like, has a lot of hope and spark in it," Bolhuis said.
According to the duo, the four years between the release of "Build A Fire" and the recording of "Wild Rose" went into many of their songs, which they describe as a roller coaster and includes Wood's six month battle with cancer.
"All that kind of transpired in a period of six months, so it wasn't very long, but it was intense. It did linger. It was definitely, like, a transformative thing," said Wood. "We were kind of out there like 'How do we process this?' and I guess, at that moment, it wasn't musically. We just had a lot of other things to figure out about life."
"And now it is musically." said Bolhuis.
"Definitely, which feels really good. Which is all I wanted to ever get back to because that's everything to me," Wood said.
While the album may be recorded and produced, the publicity of it is still a cost that is very real to the duo. They still continue to perform on Facebook Live for tips and donations, which they accept through both Venmo, @birdbearmusic, and PayPal, [email protected]. Announcements about upcoming Facebook Live shows are found on their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/thebirdandthebear.
"We're very excited to share this. It's a step up from everything we've ever done," Bolhuis said.
"I feel like we're really bringing something exciting and special," added Wood.