Paper Bird comes from the same fertile Denver music scene that produced the Lumineers. Genevieve Patterson, one of Paper Bird’s three lead singers and seven songwriters, remembers seeing members of the Lumineers perform at open mic nights in Denver in 2010. Of course, that was before the trio’s hit single, “Ho Hey,” before its album debut sold nearly a million copies, before appearances on Saturday Night Live and the Grammy Awards broadcast.
Two of Patterson’s roommates ran open mic nights at The Meadowlark. In the dead of Denver winter, only 10 people or so would even show up. The 10 included Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites of the Lumineers. True to open mic format, the future stars played just a few songs.
“They were so amazing, but nobody knew who they were yet,” Patterson said from Santa Fe, N.M., first stop on Paper Bird’s latest tour. “So we spent a lot of time hanging out and trading songs. We had so much fun.”
Far from being jealous of the Lumineers, Patterson is thrilled about the group’s success.
“I’m so proud of them and I feel so grateful that I got to know them when we did,” she said. “They’re doing so much for Denver.”
There’s excitement in the Paper Bird camp, too. This week the group began a 22-city tour and released its new single, “As I Am.” The band’s third studio album, Rooms, arrives March 26.
Paper Bird financed Rooms via the online fundraising platform Kickstarter. The campaign exceeded its $15,000 goal by $2,000.
“It made it all so easy,” Patterson said. “We got to go to the studio that we wanted and get the sound we wanted. We’re really proud of what came out.”
Members of Paper Bird, an indie-folk-rock group that many would, at least for the sake of convenience, place in the Americana genre, formed in 2007. Paper Bird developed concurrently with the Denver music scene. Unlike competitive scenes in other cities, Patterson said Denver is supportive and inspiring.
“It’s allowed us to explore what we wanted to be as a band,” she said. “We tell people everywhere that Denver’s amazing. They’re like, ‘Yeah, you like your hometown. That’s great.’ But when people come through Denver they can’t believe it.”
Nonetheless, a healthy scene doesn’t mean there’s an identifiable Denver sound.
“There really isn’t a model or brand,” Patterson said. “Seattle and Portland have a sound, but in Denver there’s still a lot of freedom to be yourself.
“Just from the time we started being a band, we’ve seen so many people start up and grow exponentially as musicians. Everybody in Denver is hitting their stride and writing some incredible music.”
The Denver music scene isn’t large, but the concentration of talented songwriters there inspires the music community at large.
“I might write something that I think is the best thing I’ve ever written,” Patterson said. “The next day a friend is like, ‘Hey, I just wrote this song.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, man. That’s a really good song.’ So you never rest on your laurels, you’re always inspired.”
Following their fall appearance with the Lumineers at the House of Blues in October, Paper Bird returns to New Orleans Sunday, Feb. 24, for a show at One Eyed Jacks.
“Every time we go down to New Orleans we always end up at pretending we know how to Lindy Hop and being blown away by the musicians down there. It’s incredible.”