The Lumineers' Neyla Pekarek on Her Influences and Unusual Pre-Show Ritual

The Lumineers will headline tonight's Colorado Up! Inaugural event.
The Lumineers will headline tonight's Colorado Up! Inaugural event.
Courtesy of the band

The Lumineers are unquestionably Colorado's biggest musical success story of the last few years. The Americana outfit is therefore a fitting headliner for tonight's concert celebrating the inauguration of governor John Hickenlooper, who is starting is second term.

Hickenlooper is a longtime fan of the band and a slew of other Colorado artists, frequently championing them in interviews and featuring them in his official programming. In addition to the Lumineers, tonight's sold-out show at the Ogden Theatre will feature the String Cheese Incident, Big Head Todd and the Monsters and Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. Ahead of the show, we spoke with Lumineers cellist and vocalist Neyla Pekarek about why she makes music and her unusual pre-show rituals.

Eugene Yiga: Who are some of your greatest musical inspirations?

I grew up listening to an extremely eclectic selection of music. I was always really into the great vocalists: Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin. I also was (and still am) a big musical theatre dork and have always loved going to the theatre. My parents grew up in the 60s, and always had the great folk singers of that time playing on vinyls in our house. Dylan, Carole King, Emmylou Harris were singers I admired early on.

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Your sound mixes many genres (folk, alternative rock, Americana, indie, and more). How would you describe it to someone who's never heard it before?

It's primarily an acoustic sound. We use guitar, cello, piano, bass and drums primarily with gang vocals and shouts that seems to make people want to clap their hands and stomp their feet.

And what do you think it is about your music that creates such a connection for your fans?

We live in a world that is so technology-driven, and I think people are looking for a break from that in many aspects. I think the music industry was really ready for this folky acoustic sound and young people are often very impressed that we do indeed write our own songs and play our own instruments. There isn't some big machine behind what we do, and I think that's refreshing to people.

Are there any common themes or threads in your music?

I think, at the end of the day, Wesley [Schultz, lead vocalist and guitarist] is a great story teller. All of our songs have that in common. They each paint this little story that entices the listener.

And are there any specific messages you're trying to leave your listeners with? I would say there are a lot of messages of hope in our music. That things do get better, and pushing through with that in mind can make a situation better.

Is it important for you to keep your music fresh? If so, how do you do this?

This is very important. Because even though we have played the same songs all over the world, it is most people's first time hearing us play them and we want it to be just as special for them as it was for our audiences six months ago or two weeks ago or two years ago.  

You recently finished touring South Africa and South America before that. What do you love most about being on the road?

It's been amazing to see so many parts of the world that I never imagined I would see. I love trying the local cuisine and seeing the local sights. It's a really lucky part of our profession.

And what do you miss most when you're away from home?

I miss my friends a lot and just the consistency of sleeping in the same bed every night. I love my home, but I love it so much more because I've been able to get away and explore the world.

Do you have any unusual backstage or pre-performance rituals?

I have a child's play tent in my greenroom. It started as more of a joke, but I like to relax in there before or after a show. Often while wearing a fancy wig. It relaxes me.

The Lumineers will perform at the Ogden Theatre tonight for the Colorado Up! Inaugural event for newly re-elected governor John Hickenlooper.

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