The sounds of Paonia |

The sounds of Paonia

Photo by Devon Meyers

CARBONDALE, Carbondale ” A few nights ago, Devon Meyers was at a Paonia solstice party and dancing with a mandolin around a bonfire.

“Sometimes, it’s amazing,” said the singer-songwriter of his adopted little town.

He likened the place’s friendly, quirky vibe to “Northern Exposure,” but with a great music scene.

“And the potlucks are legendary around here,” he added.

Talking from his toasty, remolded barn/studio, he sounded so happy to be exactly where he is ” in life, that is.

At 50, Meyers is an artist, both with photos and song, who splits his time between Western Colorado and Malibu, Calif. He has a family and works for himself, doing freelance photography for everything from newspapers to weddings. He makes music wherever he can. And though he’s totally laid back, he’s not about to take this creative, off-the-beaten-path lifestyle for granted.

“I feel extremely lucky,” he said. “It wasn’t easy, and I feel extremely lucky.”

For him, the journey to this point started back in Wichita, Kan., where he grew up. He had a “salt-of-the-earth” upbringing, he said, one where he had to entertain himself. In his teenage years, he started taking around his father’s camera and, in his words, “kidnapped” his brother’s guitar.

Right off, he knew art was for him.

After going to college for photojournalism, he landed his “dream job” at the Aspen Times. For about 10 years, he came and went from the area, working in the valley and then leaving to do freelance stuff on the West Coast. He grew into his natural, fly-on-the-wall way of picture-taking. It was clear to him that he had a real aptitude for photography. But more importantly, he found he simply loved it.

“I just like meeting people and getting out into the community,” he said. “What a way to make a living.”

At the same time, he dove into something a little more challenging for him: his music career. While the photos came so easily to him, playing guitar and singing felt new. Luckily, he found a place that embraced him. The Aspen community then was a locale where he could hang out and experiment his way into his current musical style ” whatever it may be.

He still has a hard time defining that for himself.

“I try to make it have a nice, solid groove,” he said. “I like songs that are actually songs.”

He went on describe his work as a “Chinese, mountain folk music kind of thing” and “organic, groovy stuff.” It’s sometimes licked with electric notes and influenced by the likes of Tony Furtado, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Jerry Garcia. When Meyers decided, about five years back, to take the risk to freelance his photography out in California full-time, he brought his music with him. When he chose to spend about five months out of each year in Paonia, his musical life kept on going. He started recording and playing live with fellow locals. Among many others, he met Michael Meadows, who will be playing alongside him tonight. Together, they call themselves the ptownrats.

While they do a bevy of covers, the majority of their songs are original. Meyers gets inspiration for them everywhere, he explained, but mentioned one place, sort of unexpected, in particular.

National Public Radio.

Its “beautiful life and death stories” affect him, he said, and show “just how connected we all are and just how much we ignore that.”

Somehow, they spin him in a certain way, a way that fellow Paonians seem to really get. He always feels so welcome there.

“There’s not a lot of places like that where people listen like they do out here,” he said.

When he goes back to California, it’s not quite the same. He doesn’t fit in as seamlessly. Still, he loves the extra energy, the sophistication, the ocean. In many ways, it does feed him.

And, no matter where he is, when it comes to his music, there’s one thing that’s always the same ” regardless of whether he’s at a backwoods bonfire or some swank SoCal club.

It’s got to be fun.

“When people are moving,” he said, “I feel successful.”

Contact Stina Sieg: 384-9111

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