STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald
STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald
Everyone should know Tim Birchard. The world would be a better place.
Unfortunately, on a globe with 7 billion people, it’s just not mathematically possible. But on the bright side, (which is where Birchard permanently resides), anyone with an Internet connection and a set of speakers can connect, through his music, with one of the only genuine people that I’ve ever come across.
I’ve known Birchard for only about two years, and I feel cheated out of the other four decades that I missed. It’s not that this musician/educator/writer is some bubbly, too-good-to-be-true ray of sunshine. I don’t associate with people like that – they’re depressing. He’s just an honest man who actually thinks of others more than himself, but he’s not afraid to tell you who he is, either. And he does that best in songs, which now fill eight albums’ worth of storage.
His latest release is “Dots and Dashes,” a record that came only weeks after his previous compilation, “The Sacred and Profane,” on which his brother, Chris, helped him. All the while, he also was producing a collection of hymns recorded by his wife, Cheryl, with whom he often performs. As is so often the case, this latest spurt of inspiration was born of trying times when the couple was forced from their home for several months after a house fire in December.
“I’ve had all this music building up in me, and once I got back in I locked myself in for months and just cranked out music for 12 to 14 hours a day,” Birchard said.
The albums are available only by digital download at www.bandcamp.com. They’re available for purchase, but listeners can hear the music for free any time if keeping it permanently isn’t important.
“If they’re listening, that’s cool. I want them to listen, and letting them do it for free is my way of sticking it to the man,” Birchard said.
Musically, he’s a jack of all trades. Every sound on every song is him – vocals (lead and backing) and instrumentation. He records it all separately and then mixes and masters it himself. The end result is a polished and full sound that spans the musical spectrum.
“I love my rock stuff. As a teenager in the early 80s, I grew up with the whole hair-metal thing and it still holds a special place in my heart,” he said. “But that’s just a small piece of what I love and create. My dad was always playing jazz, blues, rock, funk and everything else when I was little, so I grew up with all of that. I remember being surprised when none of the other first-graders in my class knew who Frank Zappa was. As I recall, the nuns were not impressed.”
Birchard’s résumé gets confusing, but his past includes a stint as a journalist with the U.S. Navy as well as more than 20 years as a professional educator. For the last five years, he has been the student services coordinator for the Durango Adult Education Center, but he’s leaving that life to pursue music production as a full-time occupation. Birchard is in the process of starting his own production company.
“I look forward to scoring independent films, helping up-and-coming bands with recording demos and performing live with my wife, Cheryl, in solo settings, as well as with our kirtan band, Blue Lotus Feet,” he said. “As a producer, recording engineer, guitarist, bassist and vocalist who loves a variety of music, I’m excited about playing with as many people as I can.”
Ah, yes – the kirtan thing. Such things fall into what I call my “sphere of ignorance,” but apparently the Eastern tradition of call-and-response chanting is really catching on locally. The Birchards are among a growing group that performs regularly at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church to standing-room only crowds.
“There’s a real demand in Durango and in the Four Corners ... for music that helps people connect in a spiritual way without all of the baggage that comes with exclusivity,” Birchard said.
“In kirtan, everyone is welcome and everyone is valued. Everyone has a voice, and everyone’s voice is beautiful, no matter what it sounds like. There is no one who is not worthy of receiving love. This is not a religion thing; it’s a human thing. It’s unique. There’s plenty of rock, blues and bluegrass in our region, and I love that. Now there’s kirtan as well.”
There’s also plenty of country music, and even though Birchard records much of that, he acknowledges it and its place in the local community in the opening track of “Dots and Dashes.” As he,Cheryl and their kirtan friends prepare to take their show on the road with a planned tour of the Southwest, those of us here at home can still learn about Birchard the man and the artist through his songs like “Don’t Tell Me I Ain’t Country:”
“They tell me country takes more than wearing clothes...it’s never giving up when nobody’s around. Maybe I don’t ride horses, maybe I live in town ... But when push comes to shove, I’ve got holes in my gloves and plenty of love to go around.”