It can be difficult to be a promising independent musician, and perhaps even more so in a rural state like Wyoming. But several organizers are trying to improve access to resources, touring, and making Wyoming’s music scene more vibrant and sustainable.
The Wyoming Arts Council’s Wyoming Independent Music Initiative is designed to nurture Wyoming musicians and their talent, according to WAC Creative Arts Specialist Taylor Craig. Several years ago, the arts council discovered that independent music in Wyoming was not well supported at the state level and has been working to change that ever since. Various programs are being developed as part of the initiative to strengthen Wyoming’s independent music scene, encourage and support live music venues, and stimulate community development, social cohesion and habitability.
“Through strategic planning, the arts council found that independent music was an avenue that was not as well served, mainly because many independent musicians do not follow a traditional training path and may not be connected to the resources that exist,” explained Craig. “So the arts council has put in the effort and the money to serve that group.”
Since coming on board in 2019, touring indie musicians have faced many challenges, Craig said. Covid-19 closures have disrupted many opportunities, and the arts council is helping people bounce back.
“My primary goal, and what we’ve really been focused on, is helping musicians in Wyoming find performing and touring opportunities that will help grow their audiences, get them more regionally known, and get them booked. in bigger venues,” Craig said.
One way to do that, she said, has been to form partnerships with existing efforts like the WYOmericana Caravan, which has been promoting local Wyoming musicians and helping them tour since 2013.
“It says Wyoming is a city with a long main street, it’s similar in the music scene,” said WYOmericana Caravan co-founder Aaron Davis.
Seadar Rose Davis, also co-founder and both members of Screen Door Porch, said that at the time of the first trailer in 2013, the Davises saw many wonderful indie musicians in Wyoming fail to get the audiences they deserved. The show has become a way to collaborate across artists and genres, and to share and bring together resources.
“We wanted to have headlining talent that people would recognize and also talent that it was maybe the first time they were on the road. Being on the road is a whole other thing, figuring out how to show up and how to make it work,” said Aaron Davis.
Fast forward to today, and some of those early tour musicians are now veterans, he said.
“The idea is to bring out new talent. There’s really a camaraderie aspect of being on the road…so it’s a way of really getting to know people, their music and taking risks,” he said.
Being a professional touring musician is not an easy career choice. Accessing resources and funding can be a challenge, yet music brings so much to a community. For the past two years, Aaron Davis said the WYOmericana Caravan has partnered with the Wyoming Arts Council to publicize tours, calls for musicians and seeking additional support.
“Our state is rural and there aren’t as many opportunities for musicians to play their music. If you’re from a small town, having the infrastructure for that is even more important,” said Aaron Davis.
Every year the Caravan tour has been different.
“We present the show with the idea that no one has ever seen it, and so we do the show and introduce each act, telling people that there are moving parts and collaboration. One of the benefits of doing a show this way is that there’s an opportunity to inspire people to a different way of consuming gigs,” said Aaron Davis.
It’s getting harder and harder to put on the show because of the touring environment, so “without state support, it would be really hard to do a show like this,” he said. . “At this point, we don’t know what the next (tour) will be.”
The WYOmericana Caravan has a few summer shows planned for Laramie and Cheyenne, he said. The name WYOmericana began as a celebration of a specific blend of country, rock, folk, and blues, but its meaning has also changed.
“Now it’s grown and kind of represents artists from Wyoming playing their own music,” Aaron Davis said.
Seadar Rose Davis said amazing music comes out of Wyoming, and in some ways it’s even more wonderful because Wyoming is such a unique state.
“If we really rally around musicians and have supporters like the arts council and people like Wyoming Public Radio, there’s no one else who has one radio station in the whole state, and that’s It’s really amazing how wonderful they are to Wyoming artists. ,” she said. “It’s an opportunity that few artists get to experience, and so we want to curate things and show people what’s possible by being from Wyoming.”
When the caravan started, it was primarily a grassroots effort. Now, in addition to touring, musicians can travel to Wyoming schools for clinics with young musicians.
“This latest collaboration with the arts council has allowed us, for example, to go to secondary schools and work with young musicians who are curious not only to write their own songs, but also to know how to do it” , said Aaron Davis. “It’s been huge, to connect with young musicians and show them there’s an outlet for their art.”
Seadar Rose Davis said that involving women was also a passion of hers and that it was also important that the Caravan tour in Wyoming.
“For the past few years we’ve been doing an application process, really trying to open it up so that anyone who needs to hear about it hears about it. From there, we pick one or two from the Wyoming scene, and we also find new people that way,” she said.
The trailer’s future, Aaron Davis said, may depend on funding.
“As long as the touring environment permits and we are able to do so financially, I think we will continue. There is certainly no shortage of new talent in the state,” he said. “I think a big part of our future depends on state funding. I don’t think there will be any new lineup in 2022. We’re going to be doing a few shows, and there’s a lot of ideas that we’ve thrown around like a one or two day festival, or recording sessions that involve Wyoming Artists.
At the arts council level, there are other ways for musicians to get involved, Craig said.
“We also promoted local Wyoming talent by partnering with regional venues and festivals,” she said.
This spring, several Wyoming musicians performed at Treefort Music Fest, a five-day indie rock festival held at multiple venues in downtown Boise, Idaho.
“We hosted a showcase of six bands from Wyoming at this festival,” Craig said. “The reason is that it’s a big regional music festival that focuses on emerging musicians. The idea is, can we bring more Wyoming musicians in front of people in the industry and a wider audience to help grow their practices.
Similar pre-Covid-19 efforts took place at the Levitt Pavilion Denver, and Craig is on the lookout for others.
“Most of our efforts are around touring and performing opportunities that we can find for musicians in Wyoming, and helping to spread the word and get more people for that,” Craig said.
The best way to get in touch with the Wyoming Independent Music Initiative is to join its musician-specific mailing list, available online. For most opportunities, the initiative issues a public call to artists and often sends submissions to bookers for selection. Craig said musicians can also email him directly at [email protected]
“It’s great to have people on my radar, because I get emails asking for people of a certain gender. If I know where people are, I can send them the right direction,” said she declared.
“We believe and know that live music, and music in general, creates livable communities and places where people want to live and enjoy being. It also creates social cohesion, bringing people together,” he said. she continued. “These things make the places better and also promote the economic development of our communities. This can affect things like food sales, hotels, and camping…all of these are part of why we want to help support musicians, because we also want to keep them in Wyoming.
“We want these people to know there’s a place they can have a successful career while living in Wyoming,” Craig said.