The Stray Birds – multi-instrumentalists and vocalists Maya de Vitry, Oliver Craven, and Charlie Muench – hail from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. All three are classically-trained musicians who’ve been making music of all kinds since childhood (before they reconnected through the local music scene, de Vitry and Muench first met in middle school orchestra); however, they were also all raised with a steady diet of music ranging from pioneers like The Carter Family and Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys to the joyous invention of The Beatles and The Band, to the groundbreaking artistry of Jimi Hendrix.
The band just released it's second full length album, Best Medicine via Yep Roc Records. The album follows the band’s 2012 highly praised self-titled release, which NPR Music named as one of the Top 10 Folk/Americana albums. Co-produced by the band and Stuart Martin, the album features 12 tracks, including 10 original compositions and two traditional songs, “Pallet” and “Who’s Gonna Shoe.”
We sat down with Maya de Vitry for a revealing interview prior to the show at The Southgate House Revival on Tuesday, December 2nd.
Your song, “Best Medicine” brought me to tears. Who was the first artist that taught you that music is the best medicine?
I saw Levon Helm (the drummer for The Band) sing and play in his home studio and venue in Woodstock, NY in 2011. I didn't know it at the time, but I was seeing him perform in the last year of his life. The tone of his voice had been compromised from his battle with throat cancer, but his inflection and phrasing and pure love of music that flowed through his hands and his face was overwhelming. He was taking in his own best medicine.
What can one expect at a live The Stray Birds show?
We all sing lead, we all sing harmony, we pass around acoustic instruments. There are songs that make you want to move, and songs that might move you to just sit and take in the nuances. I think you will see how much we enjoy playing music together.
Tell us about your songwriting process. How do you determine who sings which song?
In general, I (Maya) sing lead on songs I write, and Oliver takes lead on his songs. Charlie hasn't had any original songs on the table yet, but he has great taste in picking a cover song. He's a really fine singer. This is starting to evolve slowly, as we are beginning to take a more collaborative approach to writing. But as far as the songs on the most recent record, we wrote them pretty individually, in quiet moments along the road.
What is next for The Stray Birds?
More touring, and then some time off the road in early January for the kind of songcrafting and rehearsing that can only come when we really slow down! We are honestly feeling more motivated and creative than ever these days. The songs are reaching people, and it is very satisfying.