The members of indie-folk duo Whitherward formed in Nashville in 2010 and in 2014 relocated to Denver and made efforts to integrate themselves into the music scene. They’re not the types to settle, though, and eight months later they made the decision to essentially tour permanently. So now, Ashley Norton and Edward Williams jump into their Subaru and drive wherever the wind, or the next booking, takes them.
“We have this wonderful network of friends, fans and family across the whole country,” Norton says. “We can go from city to city, and we either have bases set up where we can stay when we get there, or we’ll throw out a Facebook message and say, ‘Hey, who can we stay with?’ Every once in a while we’ll get invited in by a kind stranger who just wants to help us out on the road.”
It’s a very poetic, bohemian, nomadic existence, fitting for a folk group that formed as a duo for logistical reasons, it being easy to throw a couple of guitars in a car and drive to a gig without having to rely on others. Norton recorded two solo country albums in Nashville, which naturally went over well with the locals, but Denver was an entirely different nut to crack when the newly formed Whitherward arrived here.
“The one thread that ran through everybody that we met in Denver is that they were all really eager to help people get into the scene, get shows, wanting to do shows with you and stuff like that,” Williams says. “It seemed like everyone was really friendly and outgoing, and not super-competitive, like it can be in some places.”
Whitherward returns to Denver to play Ziggies on April 20, and Norton says that despite having lived here for less than a year, they relish every chance to come back to the Rocky Mountains and reconnect with friends. Wherever they roam, it’s all fuel for the songwriting. That process is entirely collaborative, with Norton generally writing the lyrics, though the roles can shift and blur.
“I didn’t have a lot of songwriting experience before I went to Nashville, so it’s interesting now to have that songwriting knowledge,” Williams says. “And co-write with people — that’s something I never even considered was a thing before going to Nashville. It was interesting getting to Denver, too, because we never found anybody with a similar style to us while we were there — which is cool, because I guess we stood out a little bit.”
Whitherward has stretched its creative, collective legs over the past year or so, dabbling with big-concept music videos thanks to an initial experimental toe-dip with Norton's cousin, photographer and filmmaker Howard Ignitius.
“I really enjoy the visual part of music,” Norton says. “We go through the central coast of California a lot, and we started staying with Howard. He wanted to take a stab at doing a real music video for us after helping us out with some other things. He and I conceptualized the video 'The Dragon,' and then we just loved it so much and were so excited by the outcome of it. We all surprised ourselves. It was his first real effort at making a real music video. We just decided to keep that train going. The next time we went through, we did ‘Hand of Fate.’ So, yeah, all of a sudden we’re a video band.
Those songs will be performed live at Ziggies, which happens to be the first Denver venue Whitherward played when the two initially moved here. It holds a special place in their hearts, so they’ll be giving their all.
“We always try to focus on the original songs we have at places like Ziggies,” Williams says. “Venues are our chance to showcase what we can do as songwriters. We never want to miss a chance to do that. So we’ll be doing a lot of originals in that set, and probably just our favorite covers.”
When the show’s over, Whitherward will play a few more Colorado shows, in cities like Colorado Springs. Then they’ll get back into the Subaru and see where they end up next. The new single “The Night I Fell for You” was released in March, and there’s an album due out in May. In between, they’ll keep drifting and playing. It’s the perfect folkie life.
Whitherward, 8 p.m. Thursday, April 20, Ziggies, 4923 West 38th Avenue, 303-455-9930.
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