Recording artist feels at home in barn
By Kim Hurley
A new CD recorded by a Strawberry Point woman was born in a barn.
Trish Bruxvoort Colligan’s music was recorded in the Amish-built barn at Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, the internationally-renowned heirloom seed vault and organic gardening Mecca. In the summer of 2013, her Minneapolis band set up and recorded the album, titled “Wild Acre,” live among the vintage rafters and barnyard birds.
So who is the gal singing on “Wild Acre?” Trish was born and raised in Iowa, near Pella and then Waverly. She met her husband, Richard, around the Okoboji area. About 11 years ago, they settled in Strawberry Point, as that’s where Richard was living at the time. Trish and Richard have one son, Sam, and a beloved dog named Willow.
Trish’s love of music was instilled at a very young age by her musical family. Both her parents not only played the piano and organ, but they also sang in the choir at their church. Trish and her three younger siblings followed in their footsteps by taking part in choir and band.
“My parents tell the story that I would come home from preschool and try to plunk out the songs I’d learned that day,” Trish reminisces. This was the impetus for them to enroll her in piano lessons when she was in first grade. “I hated to practice, so (the lessons) only lasted a few years,” Trish admits. However, she picked it up again on her own in junior high when she wanted to find a way to accompany the songs she was writing.
Throughout her formal education and beyond, Trish has continued to acquire mentors within the musical realm. She went to school in Waverly, which is a community that is very well known for its music programs. “My junior high and high school vocal music teachers spent a lot of time not only on the basics of singing and proper form,” Trish recalls, “but they also encouraged me to take part in all the vocal/choir music offerings, which I did.”
The youth pastor and music director at her family’s church helped develop Trish’s self confidence by conning her into singing a solo in church when she was 13. “I had terrible stage fright and I was too chicken to sing by myself the first time,” Trish confesses, “so my dad sang a duet with me.” It was all she needed to get started on her own.
After high school, Trish spent a semester at UNI in the music department. “It was good,” Trish admits, “but it wasn’t what I was looking for at the time.” It did turn out for the best, as she was hired by a camp and retreat center in Northwest Iowa as their “off-site music minister.” “I jumped in and started my career in music pretty much right away,” Trish said.
Although the piano is her primary instrument, Trish loves “the edginess and grooviness that the guitar offers.” Hence, she does a lot of her writing on the guitar. Surprisingly, Trish doesn’t read music. She explains, “I end up just fiddling around with chords until I find something I like, then I go with it.”
Trish’s love of folk music comes from growing up listening to oldies and old country, as they were pretty much the only tunes on the record player. In her teens, she left behind that “old folks” music, as she terms it. However, over the years Trish has found herself returning to that old and simple sound. “It’s earthy, real, and transparent,” Trish said. “I also love stories, and folk music is often rich with story.”
As for her own genre of music, Trish describes herself as “folk,” “Americana,” or “singer/songwriter new folk.” Trish writes songs with piano or guitar and solo voice. “As a result of the acoustic instrumentation, most of her songs come out sounding folky,” explains Trish’s husband, Richard, who is also a musician. Besides her love of story songs, she has also written instrumentals and simple chants.
Music has been Trish’s vocation for nearly 20 years. In her early 20s, she had a few part-time positions to supplement her music work, such assistant preschool teacher and coffee bar maven. However, performing music opened up the whole world of story to Trish. After performing at concerts, conferences or retreats, people would approach her and begin telling her the most intimate and amazing stories. Sometimes a listener would share a mundane moment they might not have ordinarily thought to consider again; sometimes a person would give voice for the first time to a major life experience. “Always they would say the music brought them to that moment and they wanted to share it with someone,” Trish fondly shares, “I got to be the lucky receiver of part of their story.”
Because this “post-music conversation” became a treasured part of her work, Trish completed training as a spiritual director. She called herself a “story midwife,” and gave herself to that work for several years: leading retreats, meeting one-on-one with clients, and keynoting conferences around the idea that “we’ve all got amazing stories brewing within us.” While Trish still does some teaching and leading in that arena, her new CD marks a return to music as her primary way in the world.
Besides maintaining her music career, Trish homeschools her 12-year old son, Sam. Homeschooling Same allows their family to travel for music without being tied to a school calendar.
Trish plays for a variety of events nationwide, and is soon to be international, as she’ll be on tour in Europe this summer. Sometimes she plays and sings solo, accompanying herself with piano or guitar. Other times, she’s joined by Richard who plays guitar, banjo, and hand drums and sings backup. At still other times, Trish and Richard are booked together, with their duo is known as The River’s Voice. On special occasions, such as an album release concert in Decorah on May 3, she hires a band.
On average, Trish performs at about two events per month. A few of the venues of her past gigs include Women’s Sustainable Agriculture conference, Black Rose Acoustic Society (Colorado Springs), house and barn concerts, and women’s spirituality retreats/conferences.
Trish has recorded two previous CDs of her own: “Splash: An Invitation to Radical Self-Compassion,” with a folk-pop genre, was released in 2010; and “Breath,” with a folk genre, was released in 2000. She has also recorded several CDs with Richard under the name The River’s Voice.
Since “Wild Acre” is Trish’s first solo CD in over a decade, she really wanted to do something special: “I wanted to reach for something much bigger than myself. . . to create a project that would force me to grow, learn, and lean into a community of people to make it happen.” This has certainly been the case!
Two years ago, when most of the songs began to come together for the new album, Trish’s vision for “Wild Acre” took shape. Themes of trust, organic food and honest community living started to develop. These all conspired to make a surprising recording process. “Wild Acre” has an Americana-folk sound featuring Trish’s melodic voice and piano.
A number of people helped to make Trish’s dream album happen. Most significantly, the project was financed by a relatively new money-raising concept known as crowdfunding. (See related story on page X.)
On Saturday, May 3, the public is invited to same barn where the music was recorded for an album release party and concert. Details and tickets are available at SeedSavers.org.