A taste of pure Colorado folk is soon to hit Davis. On Jan. 9, Stelth Ulvang of The Lumineers will be performing at Third Space with special guest Abe Abraham.
On the road with The Lumineers, Ulvang is often found painting melodic memories through piano keys. His musicianship, however, stretches over a spectrum of skill. The Denver native is also a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.
With a new album on the way, Ulvang is devoting his winter tour to showcasing his work, along with reminiscing the charm of playing intimate shows. MUSE had the opportunity to speak with Ulvang and discuss his musical journey thus far, as well as what is yet to come.
MUSE: What influenced you to first get into music?
SU: I played the woodwinds growing up in high school. I played the saxophone, clarinet and flute, but I started drifting away from the whole band-classroom thing; it turned me off from music. I didn’t plan on sticking with music, but then I got into piano on my own and taught myself from there, along with the accordion, guitar and other stringed instruments. So the woodwinds and music theory stuff definitely helped me pick up piano, which is probably my main instrument now.
How has your experience in The Lumineers evolved you as an individual musician?
It’s helped create a good balance, not necessarily in singing your own songs, but playing someone else’s songs. In some ways, it’s a lot easier. When you’re standing on stage and you’re putting your heart out there for songs that you wrote, it’s a different kind of pressure in communicating. Communicating as a backup musician is complementary to communicating as the main singer. Also, [Wesley Schultz, lead vocalist and guitarist] is inspiring to work with because he has a really strong stage presence. Something I value playing live is learning how to guide a crowd — not control a crowd, but guide a crowd. I look up to him for that.
As a multi-instrumentalist, how do you connect with all these instruments, when many musicians focus on just one? Do you have a different creative experience with each instrument?
I really admire and feel closely related to the term “jack of all trades, master of none.” I guess the difference is slowly starting to understand the relationship between all these instruments. You have a lot more options musically. It’s almost like a creative infinity. There’s still so much to learn. I’m not necessarily coming up with new ways to make music; I think I’m more of a fan of taking a lot of these old sounds and finding new ways to communicate them in songs I write.
What will fans anticipate to hear from your upcoming album?
Right now, the album doesn’t have a certain direction yet, except I want it all to remain fairly honest. I want it to be a truthful documentation of what’s going on in the moment of the recording. It’s like getting a bad tattoo. I’ve had friends who’ve gotten bad tattoos and I’d say, “Do you regret getting that tattoo?” And they’d say, “Well, it’s a truthful documentation of how I was at 18.” Maybe they don’t even think about it as much anymore, but it’s like a scar — it can’t be denied. I would like that to be said about my album: that all the songs were completely truthful in how I decided to record them.
What is in store for your winter 2014 tour?
It’s just a nice little week of touring where I have the time off; I have a bus, and I’m trying to get it to California from Colorado. It’s basically a good way to keep my chops up; it’s a good way to start meeting new people. With The Lumineers, it’s kind of drifted away from small shows in small places. I think it’s always humiliating and fun to play smaller rooms where the show inevitably becomes more intimate. It will be a good reminder of where we all come from. I’m constantly writing new songs and now is just as good time as any to try out new things and to find out what my sound is and what people are into that I’m doing.