Old North State is bidding Durango goodbye

Brothers Jantzen, left, and Dillon Wray of Old North State will head east to further their music career after one last Durango show Wednesday night at the 8th Avenue Tavern. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Jantzen Cole Wray/Brightwater Productions

Brothers Jantzen, left, and Dillon Wray of Old North State will head east to further their music career after one last Durango show Wednesday night at the 8th Avenue Tavern.

Aiming high sometimes means moving on. Old North State, the local acoustic rock and bluegrass band that has at times been a duo, a trio and a quartet, is pulling up stakes for higher hopes.

No matter the musical configuration, the band has at its heart been led by brothers Dillon and Jantzen Wray. The band stripped down to being just a sibling duo since August, and the tireless marketing, writing and recording, filming, Internet outreach and long stretches of touring has led to a tough decision: it’s time to leave Durango.

It’s not like they’ve been chained up on a local street corner or confined themselves to La Plata County. The brothers have played 118 shows around the country this year and are looking ahead to playing more than 200 in 2013. Their final Durango show, for now, will be a nostalgic one Wednesday night at 8th Ave. Tavern.

“We wanted to throw the show at a place where we started at. We went back to the venue we booked with in the beginning,” Dillon Wray said last week at the KDUR studios. “If you saw Old North State back when we started, it was a carefree show. It was fun. I feel like we’ve been tamed down. We wanted to create the atmosphere again.”

The motivation to relocate is simple: They want to jump on what could be an opportunity to build fan bases in the Mid-Atlantic, North and Southeast regions of the U.S. Driving the need to move is a relationship they’ve built with Ace Enders from the band Early November, who produced their next recording project.

“We’ve never hit those important places like New York, Baltimore, Boston and Philadelphia,” Wray said. “We now have a base. We have a hub in Durango, We have a hub in Asheville (N.C.) because our parents are there, and we’ve added New Jersey to the list. We’re going to put in some hard work up there this year.”

This opportunity came up a year ago, and the offer to move was initially turned down. One thing about the Wray brothers is they have made their career moves after calculated thought. They want to be prepared.

“This year I feel like we’re more ready to go into a city and start making a name for ourselves, and holding our own against acts that are much better than we are,” he said.

The brothers are in for the long haul. Making music isn’t something they plan to do until a desk job comes along. During their time here, they have put out a handful of records, toured endlessly between Durango and the East Coast, and most recently won the “Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands,” a contest in which the winner landed a spot on the Vans Warped Tour in Denver. Their answer to the “where will I be five years from now?” question involves a whole lot more of what they’ve already got: travel and music.

“Hopefully, we’ll be on a tour,” Wray said. “When I was a child, I looked at certain things in a music career, and I would think if that happens to me, I’ve made it. I’ve already done five or six of those things, and I don’t feel any different. There’s so much more to do now. I hope we have the ability to keep on struggling through what we’d like to do.”

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager.

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