by Lauren Rosier
Four years ago, Lancaster County’s own The Stray Birds released their self-titled debut album that fueled nationwide attention their way and helped the band soar to new heights. The band’s third record, Magic Fire, is due out this August, and according to Oliver Craven, it’s the band’s best work to-date.
The Stray Birds’ self-titled record garnered the trio a positive response and national attention. “We felt like it was pretty well received in the roots/Americana/folk community,” Craven explains. ‘The eponymous record opened some doors and helped spread our music around. Like any journey there are landmarks and things take you in a particular direction.”
Their sophomore release, Best Medicine, was also met with incredible reviews and praise from media outlets like NPR and Mountain Stage. The response to this record, like their debut, opened even more doors for the band in all facets of their career.
“I think what had more to do with it [than the response] was what we wanted to do, writing music together, and the response, indirectly, took us to places where we were able to have opportunities,” Craven clarifies.
With two records in, and now their third due out in August, The Stray Birds are just really getting the feel of how well they collaborate as a group and with people outside of the band. Prior to Magic Fire, the band would write separately at times, with Craven bringing a song in or Maya de Vitry bringing a song, or now Charles Muench. Craven explains that writing with his bandmates was “easier. [You] share ownership and are part of a contribution. Sometimes you don’t see eye to eye on something. It’s validating. You write a song with another person and there’s more opinions, it was fun.
“I think we’ve become more collaborative and just with the entirety of the process. In the beginning, it was one of my songs, one of Maya’s songs, etc. – that’s how we made the self-titled record,” says Craven. “[With Magic Fire], we’ve got songs written by all three of us, by people outside of the band. I think we’ve kind of matured to a point where we’re willing to open ourselves up to a shared creative vision.”
The group is still learning and growing as friends, and still creating. “With Magic Fire, it was a really great experience with Shane Leonard, the drummer who is on the record, who helped us arrange all the songs. Also, working with Larry Campbell, helped us turn this thing into what it is,” Craven reveals.
With Leonard on drums and producer Campbell, the trio has really been ambitious with this record, bringing outside players and influences into the mix. The way they’ve been able to move from their comfort zone, so to speak, and bring in people that can challenge them creatively, shows a lot about their ambition and drive to continue building upon each record.
“I think we’re getting closer to realizing what things can be,” says Craven. “I think that as far as realizing any musical vision in the studio. It feels like this is what we were trying to do.”
The Stray Birds will in Ardmore on June 23rd with Evie Ladin at the Ardmore Music Hall. The two will also be together on June 24th at the Abbey Bar in Harrisburg.