The Stray Birds' Oliver Craven looks back on a busy 2016 - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
The Stray Birds | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Lancaster County country-folk trio The Stray Birds have been anything but dormant in 2016. From extensive touring, writing, and the release of their fourth proper LP, Magic Fire, the trio has definitely kept busy this year, and it’s been exciting.

I recently caught up with singer-guitarist Oliver Craven to find out what the trio has been up to since we last talked. For starters, Magic Fire has been met with positive acclaim from notable media outlets like NPR’s Mountain Stage and Folk Alley, as well as American Songwriter.

“There’s a lot of newness and it’s going well,” reflects Craven. “We started touring with a drummer [fellow Pennsylvanian Dominic Billett] and started touring new songs. The longest run with him was over in the UK for about three weeks. [It was] the best tour ever. We played in what felt were the right rooms, well-organized, and energized.”

Magic Fire is a very cohesive collection, compiled with tracks that stand out individually in their own way. Upon listening, you can feel the passion, artistry, and authenticity in The Stray Birds’ music. They’re very real and the album title can’t be more true in itself.

According to Craven, it was their “most collaborative” effort yet, whereas previous efforts they would work on material individually, and bring it to the group. And perhaps, the collaborative effort contributed to that feeling.

“I’m proud of it. It’s a good record, you know?” Craven admitted. “These are songs I want people to hear.”

The confidence doesn’t equate arrogance, though.

“With any record, it’s easy to look back on it, and talk about what can be done differently. That points you in the future,” Craven explained.

And future looks blindingly bright for Craven and the band. They were recently featured on World Café with David Dye and in WXPN’s weekly Free at Noon concert.

“It’s really flattering. We believe in what we do and we want the opportunity to be heard by as many people as possible. We want to give people what can actually mean something,” he explained. “It’s only been five years that we’ve been a band. We feel pretty honored that we have the support from a lot of those places. It’s encouraging, fun, enabling, and it helps us move forward.”

The Stray Birds are creating music that you have to experience live. Their live show exudes passion and authenticity. One of the songs that most represents the band is “The Hands of Man,” said Craven. It was one that was “co-written and one we perform in nearly identical fashion the way it was recorded,” he described. “It’s got a good feel and it’s what we hope to deliver when someone turns it on or sees us live.”

Their story started five years ago in the small town of Lancaster, Pennsylvania and here they are now performing for crowds worldwide. It’s bands like The Stray Birds that are the future of folk, and their drive and dedication for creating music that means something continues to propel them forward.

The Stray Birds will be performing two local shows: a hometown show at Tellus360 in Lancaster on December 14 and at World Café Live on December 16. Tickets are still available for both, more information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.

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