Award-winner Arvel Bird will perform at Riffs Acoustic Music
June 2, 2015
Musician Arvel Bird has a diverse background.
The award-winning Native American flutist started his musical journey as a classical violinist and, after a switch to country music, toured and performed with Glen Campbell, Loretta Lynn, Tom T. Hall and Louise Mandrell.
Through country music, Bird discovered Appalachian Mountain music and its Celtic roots.
"At the same time, I operated my own music studio in Nashville and my own music was calling me from inside," Bird told The Park Record during a phone call from his home in Kanab. "The gnawing was eating me up to record my own album."
That chance came while he was helping a woman record a Native American album.
"I comped her the studio time and we later collaborated on a second album, which eventually became my album ‘Animal Totem,’" Bird said.
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The album was comprised of music that represented an array of animals’ totem powers.
"Since I was recording music of totem animals, I wanted to add some flute and that’s what got me into the flute," he said.
Arvel Bird will showcase his love for the fiddle and the flute when he performs at Riffs Acoustic Music, 1205 Iron Horse Dr., on Saturday, June 6, at 7 p.m.
"The performance will be a challenge to perform more acoustically, but I’m looking forward to it," Bird said. "Normally, when I perform, I use a lot of back-up tracks because my music is very cinematic and sweeping.
"So, I’m looking at how to bring the same passion into the room without the lush arrangements," he said. "I’ll probably do a lot of solo pieces, so it will be very intimate."
Bird heard about Riffs and owner Larry Hart through a friend, Kate MacLeod, a singer and songwriter who has performed at Riffs in the past.
"Kate told me about it during the Earthfest concert in Kanab," Bird said. "We’ve been coming up to the Wasatch Back for the past couple of years to perform at the Heber Valley Pow Wow and the Solstice Native Flute School in Park City, so I decided to go visit and check it out."
Bird and Hart talked about music and the possibility of a performance.
"We looked at the venue and it turned out he had an open date that worked for us," Bird said.
In addition to the performance, Bird will present a flute workshop at Riffs earlier in the afternoon.
"The workshop is kind of what I’ll be doing at the Solstice Native Flute School later this month," Bird said.
The flute helped Bird get in touch with his Native American heritage all those years ago.
"I’m Southern Piute, and as I began to visit the reservation and talk with my cousins, I became more aware of my affinity to my roots and North American Indians in general."
This not only fed the musician’s spirituality, but affected his music as well.
"The flute wasn’t a hard instrument to learn," Bird said. "It came to me naturally, and I allowed it to teach me. Eventually, by playing from the heart, I learned how to play and I was able to match flute with the different songs and competitions."
Bird’s first "Animal Totems" album won Best Instrumental and Bird won Best New Artist from the Native American Music Awards. That only pushed him to make another album.
"I didn’t expect the albums to become a series, but a producer heard me perform during the ceremony and told me he could market a second album," Bird said. "I recorded the second CD, but didn’t hear anything back from the producer. So I remastered it and entered it again at the Native American Music Awards and it won Artist of the Year."
On "Animal Totems 2" Bird pushed the Native American flute tradition into blues, Latin jazz and other contemporary styles.
"I really expanded what I wanted to do with the instrument," he said.
"Animal Totems 2" won Best Instrumental.
"The funny thing is that it has taken me another seven years to get back to recording a new ‘Animal Totems’ album," Bird said.
"Animal Totems 3" shows more of Bird’s musical and inspirational evolution.
"I worked at a sanctuary for big cats such as lions, tigers, jaguars and cougars in Florida and that, along with my fans’ proddings, inspired me to take a new approach to the music," he said. "I decided that the theme would be about endangered species and it would be more of a world-music CD."
Bird’s goal is to highlight the musical traditions of the countries where these animals live.
"It’s been a fun process so far," he said. "I have planned to have a basic album of 12 songs with four bonus tracks. I have completed one song, but have seven currently in the works."
Native American flutist and violinist Arvel Bird will perform at Riffs Acoustic Music, 1205 Iron Horse Dr., on Saturday, June 6, at 7 p.m. The cost is $20. Bird will also hold a flute workshop at Riffs from 3 p.m. until 5 p.m. The cost for that is $40. The cost for a package that will include admission to the concert and admission to the workshops is $50. For more information and to RSVP, call 435-647-1940, or visit http://www.riffspc.com.