Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Jocelyn Rowley

Niwot holds special memories for Rebecca Folsom


Courtesy Photo

Singer-songwriter and Boulder County native Rebecca Folsom returns to Rock & Rails on July 5.

Singer-songwriter Rebecca Folsom performs in exotic venues all over the world, but there is no place the long-time Rock & Rails favorite enjoys more than the bandstand at Whistle Stop Park in the summertime.

“It’s my favorite of the whole year,” the Boulder native said about her upcoming show on July 5. “Coming home and playing for my Colorado people is where I’m very happy. It’s the sweet spot for me, to play for the hometown crowds. I’m in the heart of where I want to be.”

Though Folsom isn’t technically from Niwot, she feels a special connection to the little town. A fixture on the local music circuit earlier in her career, she played regular gigs at Le Chantecler, Left Hand Grange, and the late lamented Lobster Bash before becoming a recurring member of the summer concert lineup. But that’s not the only reason Folsom considers Niwot a home away from home.

“My husband and I live in Sunshine Canyon, and when we had the wildfires, we were displaced out of our house for two months,” she recalled. “We lived in Niwot during that time, and it was an incredible haven for us when we were under a lot of stress. We felt very taken in.”

Folsom has been active in the Boulder-area music scene for about 25 years, and has also gained a loyal following among fans at folk and Americana music festivals nationwide. Her blend of contemplative lyrics and a deeply expressive voice provide much of the heft of her music, which is hard to pin down stylistically. A mix of blues-infused rock and folk-tinged country, it was once described by a critic as “a cross between Joni Mitchell…and the Cranberries’ mystic Irish pop.”

She counts Mitchell, Carole King and others of the 1970s singer-songwriter era among her earliest influences. About 10 years ago, she added shades of Etta James and Grace Slick to her musical palette.

“I discovered that part of my voice halfway into my career,” she said. “One day, I was trying to sing a Janis Joplin tune, and out came a big yell. I thought ‘Wow! I can do this now.’”

Lyrically, Folsom’s affection for her country roots and native Boulder County is hard to miss in her music. A lifelong resident of the 80302 zip code, the singer is also a published poet, who “wants people to listen and hear the lyrics.” Many of her songs touch on themes of freedom and liberation, two values that deeply inform her outlook.

“I have a song called ‘Let’s Be Too Much’ that’s message is quit holding yourself back,” she said. “Take the leap. You will find your wings on the way down.”

Folsom knows a little bit about taking leaps. She started writing music and performing as a young girl, and even competed in a local production of “Stars of Tomorrow,” a forerunner of The Voice-style talent shows, but on a regional scale. When she was a teenager, upheaval at home triggered a long break from music that lasted into her mid-20s. Ironically, in order to regain her voice, she had to give her imagination another outlet.

“When I came back to creativity after a ten-year spell, I came back to art first,” she said. Folsom is also an accomplished oil painter, whose vivid paintings of Western scenes and imagery regularly show at galleries around the county. “That was wonderful, and it opened the door, and I was selling lots of paintings, but my bullseye was music.”

Folsom has noticed that pattern repeating in what she terms “creative arcs” ever since. Her creativity will assert itself first through painting and then, in turns, through songwriting and poetry.

“One thing will feed the other,” she said. “I believe that any creative discipline that you focus on is going to feed your other creative impulses.”

Her latest CD, Extraordinary Days/Little Medicine, came after a particularly prodigious year of writing that resulted in 52 new songs. Then, the death of her mother brought on a long spell of writer’s block, but spurred “Grace Overflowing,” a collection 34 new paintings which showed at Nourish & Company last year.

“The creative arc of that has completed,” she said. “Now I’ve begun to write like crazy.”

Folsom has recently completed two new songs, and has “seven more trying to be written,” a few of which she hopes to try out at Rock & Rails. If all goes well, she hopes to finish writing in the late summer or early fall, and then release a new album early next year.

She also has a busy touring schedule ahead, with upcoming shows at Swallow Hill and the “heavenly” Lyons Folk Festival. In the fall, she hits the road for a series of out-of-state dates.

“I’m pretty spoiled these days,” she said. “I used to play bars and non-listening rooms, and now it’s concerts and festivals.”

In the meantime, Folsom is just hoping for a “feel-good” show in front of a hometown-adjacent crowd, especially as tensions are on the rise culturally and politically.

Courtesy Photo

Folsom’s paintings often contain vivid images and western-themed imagery.

“I believe there’s a resonant tone each artist has,” she said. “What I want to do is wake people up; I want to open their hearts so that they cry and go, ‘Yes! I can do it!’, and then I want to uplift them. This is what I love about Rock & Rails, you can just feel the whole audience pulsing - we’re all in it together, and we are being uplifted.

“There are so many things in the news that are bringing us down,” she continued. “It’s important to keep the faith and stick together. There’s good and beauty in this world, and it’s important to focus on it.”

Rebecca Folsom takes the stage at Rock & Rails on July 5. Arrive early to see opening act Livy and the Boys, and take advantage of Happy Hour prices ($5 for beer, wine, and margaritas) before 6 p.m.

The Rock & Rails concert series runs 13 weeks on Thursday nights from June 7 through August 30 at Whistlestop Park, just south of Old Town. For a full lineup for opening and headlining acts, go to Niwot.com/rock-and-rails.


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