Whitacre by Brandon Johnson

Songs In The Key Of… Colorado

Whitacre by Brandon Johnson

Whitacre: “Below are some of my favourite tunes from the best Colorado-based musicians and bands…” Photo: Brandon Johnson

Chaperoned by the Whitacre frontman, we head out on a journey of inspiration and music through The Mile High City

The mountain rock made by Whitacre combines elements of folk, Americana and punk, a fusion which allows their songwriting to be both introspective and soaring. Paul Whitacre (lead vocals/rhythm guitar), Chase Perry (banjo), Mark Cunningham (drums) and Joe Fishel (bass) have just dropped their new album Seasons and it doesn’t take long to understand why the four-piece have taken their hometown of Denver by storm, demonstrating their songcraft, storytelling ability and clear joy at being able to make music together.

Here, frontman Paul pays homage to some of the regions finest music…

Listen to the 12-track ‘Songs In The Key Of… Colorado’ Spotify playlist here > >

I originally moved to Colorado in 2016 following a passion for rock climbing. I played music as a hobby throughout college but had no idea how vibrant the music scene was in Colorado, nor how quickly the local Denver scene would sweep me off my feet.

After discovering some amazing success stories (listed below) of other artists, I completely changed the trajectory of my life/career to see if I could follow in their footsteps. Below are some of my favourite tunes from the best Colorado-based musicians and bands…


CLEOPATRA (ACOUSTIC DEMO) – THE LUMINEERS
This demo of one of The Lumineers’ most popular songs feels as grassroots as the band’s early beginnings in Denver. The live acoustic take of this song makes me feel like I’m sitting in on some of the bands’ earliest open mic nights on Larimer St.

LADIES DON’T PLAY GUITAR – TENNIS
Denver is one of the most supportive cities of bands with badass frontwomen, and Tennis is at the forefront of those groups for me. The engineering of the drums has such a vintage sound on this track and draws the listener in from the very start, plus I love the sarcasm in the song title.

RUSH ON – NATHANIEL RATELIFF
This song ‘hurts’ to listen to. The emotion that naturally comes through is unparalleled and sounds like it was done in a single take. This is off of Nathaniel’s most recent solo record, and it’s by far my favourite song from him. The horn section at the very end gives me chills every time.

HERE, AGAIN – WHITACRE
Drawing from the same painful emotions Nathaniel was crying out in Rush, Here, Again uses complex instrumentation to help propel the message of hurt in a way that causes somewhat of a physical response for the listener.

SHE ALWAYS TAKES IT BLACK – GREGORY ALAN ISAKOV
“I’d never say I love you dear, just to hear you say it back.” This is one of those most powerful lines I’ve ever heard in a song, regardless of it being so simple. The delivery is what makes it hit home so hard. Gregory’s tone sounds so honest that it has the listener hanging on for dear life, wondering what every next word is going to be.

CHANGE – CHURCHILL
The first time we met our producer, Joe Richmond, he mentioned he played drums for a band signed to Atlantic Records called Churchill. We all knew of the song Change from the heavy radio rotation it used to get earlier in the 2000s. The mandolin and upbeat folk roots of this song are amazing, simply because it was at the forefront of a massive folk movement that hadn’t happened yet.

NOT FEELING ANY PAIN – ESME PATTERSON
Although I found Esme through her collaboration with Austin-based rocker, Shaky Graves, she’s got an incredible solo project. I think I first heard this song on Audiotree Live or NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert. Like a few of these other songs, it’s got such a natural live sound to it. The drums have such a locked-in groove, it’s not hard to listen to this song on repeat for hours on end.

OVER MY HEAD – THE FRAY
The Fray is one of the most pivotal bands in Denver music history. Their international success gave so many local bands a hunger/motivation to work hard and make the best music possible. They’ve been inspiring locals like us for years. Over My Head is my favorite tune from them!

PRODIGAL – WHITACRE
This song sounds quite a bit different from everything else in Whitacre’s catalog. We really leaned into our banjo player’s bluegrass roots and wrote what we consider to be one of our most country-leaning tunes to date. It’s such a blast to play live.

LET THE LEAVES FALL – A BROTHER’S FOUNTAIN
This Fort Collins-based band have been our friends since before Whitacre was even formed. They have 6-7 full-time members and every one of them is hilarious and a blast to be around. This is my favourite tune of theirs. It’s so hopeful and encompasses everything they showcase in their live gigs.

HANDLEBARS – FLOBOTS
I’ve got such a soft spot for hip-hop, and this song is probably the best blend of folk and hip-hop I’ve ever heard. I don’t know if it’s possible to not know this song by now, but it rocks if you haven’t heard it.

GOOD LIFE – ONEREPUBLIC
Here’s another one of those feel-good songs you can just listen to on repeat all day. Perfect for the warm summer drives with the windows down. OneRepublic, like The Fray, is an important pillar in the history of Denver music that have been inspiring the locals for the last decade.

Seasons by Whitacre is out now. Give it a listen at smarturl.it/whitacre-seasons

Read more ‘Songs In The Key Of’ features here > >



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