Payden Widner recruited dozens of Denver musicians to cover Fleet Foxes' "Helplessness Blues."EXPAND
Payden Widner recruited dozens of Denver musicians to cover Fleet Foxes' "Helplessness Blues."
Payden Widner

Denver Musicians Will Devastate You With This Fleet Foxes Cover

Gorgeous tracks have come from musicians collaborating online over the past few weeks, but the Denver artists who covered the Fleet Foxes song "Helplessness Blues" have birthed one of the best.

The project was organized by musician Payden Widner, guitarist for the now-defunct folk band Avenhart. That group's lead singer, Andrea Pares, takes on lead vocals. 

"I knew I wanted it to start with her and I, and from there, I just made a list of all my friends and friends of friends that I would love to perform the song with me," explains Widner. "I used FaceTime, made phone calls, and sent text messages and random Instagram or Facebook messages to over sixty people that I admire and respect from this community. I think the final count of people who actually submitted something was 38, including myself, which ended up being over fifty different instruments/voices."

The musicians involved include Michelle Rocqet of the Milk Blossoms, Emma Cole of Wildermiss, Barry Osborne and many more.

Widner, who has been a longtime fan of Fleet Foxes, didn't fall in love with "Helplessness Blues" until he saw the band play it at Red Rocks a few years back.

"It’s been in the back of my mind to cover this tune for a while, but usually my cover videos involve just me, or maybe one other person," he says. "I heard the song the last week of March, when the quarantine got serious and the state of the world became very uncertain. The song just resonated loudly with me at that moment. The lyrics took on this whole other meaning with the pandemic, and the world’s reaction. There’s something so reassuring about the power of community, and the song talks about yearning for a way of living that serves a greater good than the more individualistic, selfish mindset that we are all so accustomed to."

Widner recorded a scratch track with Pares on April 7, then shared it over Google Drive with the people who agreed to participate. The track was designed so that anybody could record alongside it, whether they had a studio setup or were simply using their phones.

"I really wanted technology to help make this possible, rather than people be discouraged because all they have is their phone," Widner says. "I received a good handful of phone submissions that worked surprisingly well."

He let each musician decide what they would sing or play, then put it all together and released the result on May 11. "I wanted everybody to have fun with it and add their own flair with as much or as little as they wanted to contribute," he says. "I feel so dang lucky to be part of such an insanely talented community." 

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