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Women Who Rock

Getting To Know Fort Collins Women In Music

Now more than ever we realize the impact that live music has on our lives. We’ve spent time in our homes away from the excitement of finding a new local band to follow, venues & restaurants and making memories with our friends and family.  Our creative community needs us to continue to support it by going to concerts, buying music and even the small but meaningful  act of following them on social media and engaging with them online. 

Our friend and local musician Tyler Weston of The Kity Project & Sick Trick,  sat down with the women who continue to amaze us with their talent and contributions to Fort Collins. 

Alana Rolfe - 36 - Vivian, Stella Luce, Fierce Bad Rabbit
What first got you into music? My parents. I’m from a musical family where both of my parents were music majors that decided to do something more lucrative. I started on violin when I was five and so did my siblings. I was in band and choir and stuff like that. My sister had piano lessons and my mom tried to convince me to do that too but I was a dancer too and I was tired of being in lessons. 

What sort of message, if any, do you try to convey with your music? You know, I’ve been thinking about that one a lot actually. With writing the new stuff this week. I feel like, no, no overarching message but each song definitely. You could narrow each song down to a word or an emotion. When you’re songwriting, it could be about this thing that happened or this person or this one thing but in reality it’s about this shared experience that we all have. So the most recent one was about control. We’re all experiencing a severe lack or loss of control and some people are more into control than others. We’re all pretty much the same I believe so tapping into that shared experience as much as possible.

Bonnie Simms - 33 - Bonnie and the Clydes 
How long have you been performing? In Fort Collins and otherwise? Since I was three years old. My dad played children's music and did this summer reading program at Texas libraries all over the state. It was a kids show about making the choice to read or be creative or write a poem, write a book.

How have you evolved as a musician since you first began performing? So being a long time performer I feel like in my head I always had a way I thought it would be and reconciling that with how it really is has been my evolution as a performer. Just relaxing into who I am on stage instead of trying to be somebody on stage. I have a big personality anyways in real life, without a microphone. So I don’t need to play it up and I really had to learn to relax and not try to put on a show, just be myself. 

Erin Youngberg - 38 - FY5
How long have you been performing? In Fort Collins and otherwise? About 30 years, I had to stand on a little stool and I just busked with my dad a bunch. When their bass player quit their bluegrass band I was 12 and he told his bandmates like, ‘my daughter’s been playing bass for a couple years and she can keep up, let’s try her out.’ So I played this weekly gig at The Gun Barrel Steakhouse in Jackson Hole. It was nice because I could be there with my dad, so that was a cool connection that we got to share through my middle-school and high-school years. Then we got busier, we’d play weddings. You know, growing up in Jackson Hole, everybody goes up there to get married. So we got to learn a lot of cool songs and saw a lot of beautiful spots. Made more money than my highschool peers. They’d invite me to parties and I’m like, ‘sorry, I’ve got a gig with my dad.’ That afforded me to save up for college and kept me out of trouble.

What women have been most inspiring to you as an artist and a woman? Good question, and you’d think I would say yes, but all of my musical influences are dudes. All my favorite bass players were guys, bluegrass bass players. A lot of my vocal influencers bluegrass-wise were guys. I didn’t even learn who like Allison Kraus was, if I’m gonna stick to bluegrass as a genre, until I was in college. But I really loved Tony Rice and Tim Bryant, some of these other vocalists, I just like their delivery. I never really thought about trying to sound like a girl cause I have a lower voice anyways and, I don’t know, I never tried to jack up the key to sing like a girl. So I wasn’t really listening to girl singers either. I mean in highschool I think I went through like a Jewel phase and an Ani Defranko phase, but I never tried to emulate that, I just enjoyed it. So, as far as like inspiring me musically, not anybody specific. Besides people like my mom, I love my mom. She’s a go-getter, fearless, that kind of thing. You mention something and she gets it done right away, I love that about her. I have strong female family role models.

Who has been your biggest supporter? My husband. I love that we can play music together and it’s not competitive. I’ve dated other musicians and it’s kind of fallen apart because it gets competitive and I really appreciate that we can support each other in that and hear what each other is going for musically and encourage and not take it personally when we’re like ‘try that note, it’s better than that note.’ When you’re learning to sing or to take a solo, he’s made me feel really safe in trying to learn new things. As a songwriter and a performer too. That’s been awesome and my dad I would say, encouraging me when I was younger. Sometimes he was learning a new banjo tune and be like ‘grab your bass’ and I’d roll my eyes like I don’t want to like, ‘c’mon it’ll take like 30 minutes,’ and he always hooked me in and then next thing we’d know we’d been jamming for two hours. I appreciate his playfulness with that as my parent when I was learning so I’m trying to impart that to our girls because I want them to enjoy music, but you have to practice to do that, so where’s the line, ‘let’s jam, show me what you’re learning, oh, do it again.’

Zoe Berman - 24 - Zoe Berman 
What is your creative process like? That’s always a tricky question cause there’s no exact formula. I find that I often write lyrics first, 99% of the time. Sometimes I’ll come up with a lick on the piano or something on the guitar but I’ll end up pairing it with lyrics that I’ve already written cause I’ve got so many scraps of lyrics either in my songwriting books or in voice memos on my phone. So I’ll kind of mix and match that way. I’ll often find myself on a hike or a long walk and I’ll end up writing out, I’ll come up with some kind of idea or I’m struck by something and I’ll real quick write all the lyrics to a song or at least a verse and a chorus or something then I get home and actually try to figure out what that’s gonna sound like musically. It often changes completely.

What is your favorite song to perform? Right now, probably, so I have a song that’s coming out on all the streaming platforms, it’s on Bandcamp right now. But I did like a prerelease of it on band camp, but it’ll be out on April 10th. That song I played actually with Futon Down and they’re all the guys that played with it on the record so that song is really fun to perform. It’s called Edit, Delete, and Save. It’s really happy and has like a boppy horn section. I think I just put out a prerelease because people are doing nothing. This song is so happy and it’s all doo-woppy and I was just trying to think of anything that’s more positive that I could put into the world right now.

Sarah Slaton - 33 - Sarah Slaton Previously of Edison
What first got you into music? What first got me into music, Mr. Robin, my neighbor, playing guitar out in the driveway next door. That was always huge, our neighbor, whenever we were little-bitty kids, we’d always dance every night to him playing guitar. Whenever I got older I sang in church. We didn’t have instruments at my church so it was all acapella. I was never in choir but I really fell in love with vocal harmonies that way, and then when I was a teenager I turned super emo and listened to a lot of Dashboard Confessionals and Deathcab for Cutie and Counting Crows were really huge for me and I fell in love with songwriting that way. That kinda led me to start playing.

What is your favorite live performance memory? My favorite performance ever was when my band got to play at Red Rocks. It was for Film on the Rocks which is put on by the Denver Film Society in collaboration with Red Rocks. It was in 2017 and it was sold out, and we had all of our dear friends fly in from around the country and my family flew in and it was just a magical experience to have. Like, all the VIPs of your heart at one show.

Who has been your biggest supporter? My mom, she was always my biggest supporter. She passed away in 2010 and she’s the reason that I ever played my first shows and when I was a teenager playing in coffee shops she would always come to my shows and bought me a guitar. My dad too, both my parents have been super supportive, but my mom’s been a huge influence on me and when she passed away it’s honestly the reason I ended up starting Edison. 

What advice would you give to young women or newer artists who aspire to be musicians? I say focus on your craft and really work on expanding your working knowledge of music as a business. Especially if you want to be out gigging and releasing albums, don’t just wait for someone to tell you what to do. Learn how to do it yourself. I think that’s the most important lesson for any artist and for women just make sure that you stay confident and stay strong and don’t be afraid to speak up for the things that you want and the things that you’re passionate about.