Following the CD Trio, featuring mellow acoustic guitars and lush vocal harmonies, the band moved toward a more dynamic and percussive sound. Addding drums, Ironwood Rain produces a smooth drive and a rounded sound, evoking the musical sprit of Train, Vertical Horizon, or a modern Moody Blues found on their followup CD, Burn The Ships.
Ironwood Rain’s varied audience includes educated middle class families, mainstream, country cross-over, adult alternative and indie radio fans, and New Age enthusiasts. “Our fans often get overlooked by college radio-style bands and younger alternative acts,” says Burns, “they love the bands they grew up with, but crave new music. We see an amazing opportunity to offer it to people, who like us, have diverse backgrounds but share a deep emotional link to the music that serves as soundtrack to their lives.”
Like the title track inspired by Cortez, who in a leap of faith burned his ships upon arrival at the New World, Burns says, “I invested all I have in this project. My wife and our manager, Toni, and I are even selling our house to prepare for eventual touring. We believe in IR so strongly that we're burning the ships and moving forward because to accomplish great things, it’s the only way to go.”
How do you describe your music to people?
We are a vocals driven acoustic rock band. The trade name for the genre that best suits us is "AAA" or Adult Album Alternative, known in radio jargon as "World-Class Rock." But we like the words of a local promoter who described us as "the bastard yet comely lovechild of Crosby Stills Nash, The Eagles and Jethro Tull."
Tell me about how you originally got into your craft.
Scotte (bass, vocals)– I played percussion in school band and experimented with keyboards and guitar later while living in Seattle, but in my early teens my sister’s boyfriend let me borrow a beat-to-death Fender Mustang bass, a hideous candy apple red 19-fret thumper, and taught me how to play UFO’s “Rock Bottom”. I was hopelessly stupid in love with learning every song I could play on that bass, slinging it low and letting the hair fall over my eyes. It was heaven. I wear a better quality bass a little higher these days and my hair still falls (in a way) but playing is still just as glorious.
I didn’t spend a great deal of time on voice earlier in my music endeavors, but a stint in a metal band in the early and mid-nineties brought an opportunity to sing harmonies with a very talented lead – Alice in Chains songs were a staple – and that same amazing hunger to learn returned. The blossom of voices when they work together in a song is astounding and finding my own voice in that mix was another epiphany in music. I now work closely with vocal instructor Dr. L. Scott Martin at Denver's Academy of the Arts and am devoted to developing my voice in singing multiple genres and also am beginning to explore voice-over work and voice acting.
Not really a single moment, then, but every time Emerson Lake and Palmer would release a new album, I was always in awe of Greg Lake's rich voice and the passion and intellect of his lyrics. He was my inspiration both as a singer and as a bassist. Pirates is still a song I aspire to be able to do justice and I love performing From the Beginning and Lucky Man. Closer to Believing was our wedding song 27 years ago!
Mikey (guitar/vocals) - I have always been an ‘audial’ person, could always ‘hear’ music in my head. Melodies would get stuck there and clatter around for hours, days… even years. My parents loved music, even though they did not play instruments. Big band swing was always on the stereo, and polka dancing in the basement was popular whenever large groups were over at the house. Entertainment was always a big deal at our house. My parents offered each of us the opportunity to learn an instrument because, as they said “music is something no-one can ever take away from you.” So I chose guitar (I was 8, I wanted to be unique – ha!) My first teachers gave me a thorough understanding of music theory, and a wide range of musical styles, from classical fingerstyle, to jazz, to Dixieland, to pop music. Right about that time, I had several surgeries and had to spend a lot of time convalescing. So the guitar and art were natural vehicles for my energy, and as I was to learn, for my soul. This deepened my appreciation, my connection, and my love for both art and music. Plus, I got to be pretty good, and a little attention goes a long way when you’re a skinny kid. By the time I hit puberty, and most of my friends were picking up guitars “to be cool like the rock stars on TV,” I had already developed a love of all styles of music.
JJ (guitar/vocals) - I was always interested in making music. As a child my mom would sing entire conversations to me. As I got older I would entertain myself for hours picking out melodies on any instrument I could get my hands on at friends and relatives houses. I got my first guitar at age 15 and have played ever since.
Gary - At the age of seven I found a collection of rock and roll records in the attic and instantly became a permanent student in the “School of Rock” Shortly after my attic foray, my family took me to my first rock concert: the King himself, Elvis Presley! But in 1978, when I saw the rockumentary “The Kids are Alright”, featuring the explosive antics of the Who's Keith Moon, that I knew drums were to be my instrument. Much to my surprise, my Mom was thrilled when I told her of my musical desires. It turns out that her father, had been a drummer during the Big Band era. So, in 1980 I purchased my first drum kit (which I still play to this day) and after taking lessons for a couple of years from Ron Hurst – who had been performing with Steppenwolf since 1982 – I decided to take the path of road scholar and continued my schooling by listening, looking, practicing and learning . . . the road of self-teaching/actualization. From the 80’s to the early 1990’s I performed with a number of cover and original acts in Massachusetts. Along the way, I was influenced and enthralled by the works of such percussion greats as John Bonham, Neil Peart and Stewart Copeland. I closed out the 90’s by taking a break from the music industry (thanks to Neil Young) to explore acoustic guitar, piano, and harmonica. The drum kit was packed away carefully, lovingly, and quietly.
In 2001, I left the east coast and settled in Colorado - settled being a bit of a misnomer – and found myself spending much time motorcycling through the Rockies and beyond, indulging in a new found love of nature photography. The drums were silent but present, waiting patiently. 2006 heralded a re-connection with my inner drummer; a nearby church needed a drummer for the rock music they featured in their services. This was a genre with which I was totally unfamiliar (my last public performance as a drummer being some 13 years prior in Boston performing at a transvestite club), but I figured – what the heck. Someone or something was calling me back to the drums, so I auditioned for the spot. Providence spoke afterward, as a series of related endeavors led me to eventually Ironwood Rain. All of these events were truly incredible blessings – God works in mysterious ways.
What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
The sheer volume of contacts, technologies and updates that have to be maintained online now is overwhelming and it's often difficult to see the return on the investment of time. The web has become a very mixed blessing for music, especially for someone who was versed in the old music business traditions and now is working to assimilate the new traditions. If the record companies had realized early on the potential of the internet for marketing and promoting music and capitalized on their resources and market share then, the industry would look VERY different today, with the majority of music production still in centralized control and independent businesses supporting its functions. For good or ill, though, they didn't move quickly enough and small indie businesses quickly dropped, gutted and ground the beast that was the old music business and has been serving up the burgers ever since. Between the accessibility and speed the net provides and the availability of quality home digital recording, it's now possible to produce high quality recordings at home for comparatively nothing. Unfortunately, this also means that (and this is my own figure picked out of the air) if 10% of the music that used to be made was great, 10% awful and 80% middling - and 10,000 new albums came out every year - there were already 9000 middling to awful albums bouncing off the top of the cumulative pile. Now, with gawd-only-knows how many new CD's coming out every month from everywhere, there's an enormous creaking tower of mundane tunes crushing everything in its path while the really great music struggles to find the high ground. Luckily, there are a few great outlets, podcasts and services helping weed through the harvest, so there's always new hope for greater markets and exposure. But it's a continuing struggle to stay on top of the emerging technologies and approaches. It often leaves little time for practicing and songwriting, which is why we all do all the other stuff. Whew!
When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
I thought I would be a paleontologist. Instead I went for the money and glamor, hehe...I'm a songwriter and a Middle School teacher! (Loving it, too.)
In what way has your community impacted your development as a musician?
Longtime Coloradoans, we share with our audience strong mountain states sensibilities: a pioneering spirit and history, commitment to family, community, and a loving connection to the natural beauty of the land. The eclectic nature of Colorado culture has also meant a wide exposure throughout our lives to a variety of musical and artistic talent, meaning that our songs are touched and influenced by progressive rock, jazz, classic rock, country, even the Celtic and Carribean music from our pirate and RenFest days. Because family and community are so important to our personal lives and wider culture, we are devoted to the ideal of music moving people through life from birth to death and accompanying all events in-between. So, along with successful recordings and live shows, our vision of ‘making it’ includes hearing our songs at the times that matter to folks: weddings, holidays, memorials and sung as lullabies.
What other artists out there do you love?
Scotte - I love Train, Live, and Collective Soul. I also grew up on old-school prog, so spend much time with classic art rock acts like Yes and Jethro Tull and contemporary progressive artists Porcupine Tree, Shadow Gallery and Spock's Beard. My tastes for vocal music are pretty eclectic, though, so I may be the only person in Colorado with Roger Whittaker, Dio and Juluka in the same car CD case!
I'm also fascinated by the transcendent and transformative power of music , so there's particular songs and not necesarily artists on my list too. Johnny B. Goode is the rockin' voice of humanity out in interstellar space on the disc attached to the Voyager I probe. Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Blues tied together hemispheres of society that never would have touched otherwise. All Along the Watchtower, Buffalo Soldier, Smells Like Teen Spirit, My Generation, California Dreamin', Ohio, Every Breath You Take, Drops of Jupiter...songs like these not only defined their genres and outlined their times, but captured the souls of their players and audiences. "Fortunate Son" and the Vietnam War, "Land of Illusion" and The Reagan Years, or Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" and the early Civil Rights Movement were all moved sharply by the music. I could give examples all day (the teacher in me escaping, a bit) Music is the language of the times in joy, sorrow, protest and patriotism. It's the voice of the soul of events that inspire and provoke it.
JJ - Beatles, Eagles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and many of the singer/songwriters of the 70's
Mikey - My fellow musicians, piano instructor Bill Alexander, guitar instructors Ron Herdt, Gordon Close and Dale Bruning, and I've loved seeing great artists perform over the years. My all-time favorites are: Yes, Jethro Tull, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Steve Howe, Steve Morse, Ritchie Blackmore and Deep Purple, Chick Corea, Loreena McKennit, Patrick Moraz, Chet Atkins, Johnny Smith, , Frank Zappa, and many, many others…
Gary - The Who, Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd - I love the music, but it's the live shows that really made the music great!
What else should we know about you guys?
Scotte – Performed as a mercenary swordsman in Renaissance Festivals. Have written manuscripts for two books, one on being an at-home dad (Stealing Home) and the other on the history of the End of the World (The Forever Ending Story). Graduated Summa cum Laude at age 37 with a degree in English from Regis University, completing 4year program and teaching certification in 19mos. In third grade, exchanged letters on the direction of the country with President Richard Nixon. My grandfather was a Treasury agent in the 30’s, chasing bootleggers through the Ozarks and was the first “G-man” to exchange fire with Malcolm “Pretty Boy” Floyd.
Mikey - I have actually been forced by pirates to walk the plank off the deck of a sailing ship into the Caribbean. I have drawn over 9,000 professional portraits and my art has been collected by people from every continent on earth. I have had my art personally critiqued by a dolphin. My parents were married on skis, in a ski lodge that they built by hand with their friends in the ski club. By the time I was 13, I was gigging regularly in my first band.
Gary - I live on top of a mountain, but I never throw thunderbolts off it. I put 64,000mi on my last bike and have gone through eight sets of tires, touring the western US solo. My whole life is split in twos - must be a Gemini thing. It's either fast or slow, glorious or dreadful. I never seem to land in the middle ground. Weird.
JJ - I was born into a huge extended family that supports one another through life's obstacles. I was one of only a few boys of my generation amid a sea of giggling girls. I am a US Navy veteran with a military background in computers and electronics. I am twice divorced by two sisters with three teenaged children. I also have one step daughter/niece from second marriage. I also own 2 dogs and some outdoor goldfish!
What does your future hold?
Hard work, good times, learning, struggles, achievement...and with a little luck and faith - Peace and Success!