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Barry Osborne, Distance Walk - Friend of the DFC

Denver-based indie folk quartet Distance Walk is Niki Tredinnick (vocals, clarinet and percussion),Olivia Shaw (fiddle), Seth Fine (guitar) and Barry Osborne (banjo and vocals). Barry is the primary songwriter for the group (and Niki and Olivia front their own bands that highlight their original songs). He describes the music of Distance Walk as a mix of “old-time folk, post-punk, Celtic and baroque music. It’s a melodic sound that is at turns ethereal and down to earth.” He shared his thoughts with us about the band, musicians that have impacted him, performing live and more. 

distance walk bandThe Big Bang Moment
Barry grew up in “a musical household where the radio was always on and we were always playing records. I remember the American Graffiti Soundtrack in particular - we were always singing along.” However, no one in his family actually played an instrument, so “it always felt a bit beyond me, like it was magic, which I suppose it is.”

That changed when Barry went to college. “A friend wanted to start a band and I wanted to be in a band. Everyone played guitar so I took up the electric bass and started writing songs. I loved it! I had a lot to learn but it was fun.”

A diverse group of musicians made an early impact on Barry. “As a music fan I always go back to R.E.M. and The Replacements who imprinted on me in my teens. That era of rock still means a lot to me - Sonic Youth, Tanya Donelly - who's been in a lot of bands - Belly, The Breeders and Throwing Muses. Kim Deal (also) of The Breeders. From an acoustic perspective, the 1997 CD release of Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music was a big bang moment for me. It changed how I listen to music.”

These days the band listens to all kinds of music. “We’re all over the map I suppose, being four people. I love music coming out of Ireland these days - Lankum, Anna Mieke (who we just opened for) John Francis Flynn. We’re all fans of Big Thief and cover their song “Spud Infinity”. Radiohead, Slowdive, The Cranberries. Niki fronts The Dollhouse Thieves, Olivia launches her band Livluma this spring. We’re all fans of each other’s music.”

Working at Swallow Hill Music allows Barry to meet a wide variety of musicians, but his biggest influences are his bandmates. “They are always introducing me to new artists, but even better, they’ve taught me so much about their creative processes. It’s a gift to have their insights. Becky Hostetler, who plays in Denver band Bellhoss, is a great friend and an incredibly creative person who always leaves me inspired to try new things.”  

distance walk barry osborneThe Denver Folklore Center Connection
In his early 20s, Barry taught himself to play the banjo … to a point. “I picked up a pawn shop banjo after hearing Clarence Ashley’s rendition of “The Coo Coo Bird”. I played it quite a bit for several years before drifting away. Then in my mid 30s I got back into it, but knew I wanted some instruction so I could get further and do more - and play with other musicians. I wanted to learn old-time playing. So, I started taking group lessons at Swallow Hill Music and it changed my playing and my life. My clawhammer banjo teacher was (former DFC store manager) Jeff Jaros. Jeff is wonderful, he set me off on a great path. Last year I took some lessons from (friend of the DFC) Sam Armstrong-Zickefoose and he’s wonderful. I highly recommend lessons with him.”

Barry’s current banjo, a Gold Tone White Ladye Banjo, was purchased at the Denver Folklore Center. “I bought it close to ten years ago. I was looking for a new banjo and was striking out on finding the right fit. One day I walked into the shop and picked it up and it felt very natural in my hands - an Excalibur moment! I’ve played it almost every day since I got it. I’ve been going to the Denver Folklore Center for over a dozen years now. I love that every time I walk in I see or learn about something new but the shop itself feels like it's always been.” 

A Designated “Show Buddy”
Distance Walk has been performing together since their first show at Swallow Hill Music in 2019. Barry describes each live performance as an “unique experience that exists only once and cannot be replicated. I love that you share a space with your bandmates and the audience and you can exist apart from the outside world for a moment … and afterwards I meet new people I might not have otherwise. It means a lot that someone will not only listen to your music but come up afterwards and say ‘hi’ or ask a question. I really appreciate it and it’s humbling.”

While playing live is a rush for Barry, he doesn’t like the crash that follows. “The day after the show I sometimes get down. I’ve learned to mitigate that by keeping in touch with my bandmates, to check in on one another. Or if I play solo, I designate someone as a ‘show buddy’ to check in with the next day.” 

distance walkSongwriting and “the Australian Bruce Springsteen”
While some songwriters have a strict writing process, others write when inspired. Barry’s writing process is somewhere in between. “Several years ago, I read an interview with the Australian songwriter Paul Kelly. He’s sometimes called ‘the Australian Bruce Springsteen’, but over there he’s a living legend and national treasure. He said he tries to write twelve songs a year. Well, I’m a dad with a day job, so I told myself I should write six songs a year.”

Songwriting is an obsession for him. “You’re always working on a song even in your daily life. I normally have a primary song I’m working on and then a stray idea that’s flitting in and out of my mind. A lot of times I’ll have a shot of inspiration that I have to quickly hum into my voice memos, or if I am playing my banjo, quickly capture that melodic spark on my recorder. I try to match a lyric or theme with a melody as quickly as possible. Even if that initial thought doesn’t end up in the final lyrics, it helps drive the direction of the song.

“From there I’ll try to work on it gently over the following weeks. The latest song I wrote came together in about a week. I don’t like to overthink a song. When it’s almost done I’ll send a demo to a friend and that helps it feel more real to me. Then I’ll try to play it, get it into the world. I have a song I love called “Wandering Rocks” that’s taken several years to write. That’s the longest I’ve worked on a song. I hope to play it with Distance Walk soon.” 

Follow Distance Walk
The band hopes to release the single “Faces Are Falling” later this spring. And they released their latest single “Will O’ the Wisp” late last year - you can find that, along with their self-titled debut EP Distance Walk on all major streaming services. 

And you can keep up to date with the band on their websiteInstagram and Facebook pages.

Photo credits: 
Band selfie, left to right, Niki Tredinnick, Seth Fine, Barry Osborne, Olivia Shaw (photo by Olivia Shaw)
Band live shot - left to right: Barry, Niki, Olivia, Seth (Photo by Meesh Deyden)
Band live shot: Barry and Niki (Photo by Meesh Deyden)