For the past 40 years, singer-songwriter Jenny Bird has made her home in Taos.
With her nature-inspired lyrics and gorgeous soaring vocals, Bird has been touching the hearts of her audiences at home and on the road for decades. A prolific songwriter, Bird has written and recorded 15 CDs and is getting ready to launch her latest into the world.
Bird will release her 16th CD, "Deeper Than Light" at a special concert planned Sunday (April 22), 6 p.m., at Unity of Taos, 69 Blueberry Hill Road.
Bird said she only records about half the songs she writes. Because she writes about her own life experiences, each CD records a different chapter of her life. She calls this one the "loss and grief chapter." The CD is dedicated to her friend, Robin Ellis (1963-2015).
"It's more of a journey than a wrapup," says Bird. "The CD takes you on that journey."
Bird explained that the flow of the record moves from the despondent to what heals you from sorrow. The title track of "Deeper Than Light" is a reference to lantern fish, a sea animal that lives in the deepest part of the ocean, in utter darkness. The lantern fish make their own light through bioluminescence. Another song, "Everything Glows," was inspired by the dying mother of Bird's friend Tracy Turner and also "ties into the little creatures that glow in the darkest sea," Bird said.
Turner painted the CD's cover art, an image of a seashell in the ocean, which Bird said is also a metaphor for "the shell of the body."
Bird said each of her CD projects has been different and that she learns something new every time she records. Her recordings have featured special guests, such as Rory Block and Eliza Gilkyson.
"Deeper Than Light" was recorded, mixed and mastered by Omar Rane who also added his guitar playing. Don Richmond played mandolin on the record, Gregg Braden played flute and Adrienne Braswell, Melanie DeMore and Gina Breedlove contributed vocal harmonies. Bird said that the whole album was recorded as first takes.
"I think it's better," Bird said. "Generally, first takes have the most freshness."
Bird has been performing her own songs since the age of 10. She said she wrote her first songs with lyrics on the piano before she was 7 years old.
"One of my first songs was about wild horses," she said." And, I see the wild horses here a lot, and it always intrigues me. [The song] was about wild animals and being wild." In her early life, Bird lived on a farm with animals. "I had a pet sheep and pet pig. They were buddies. And, we had horses."
As a teenager, Bird lived and recorded in Germany and Belgium. She has toured throughout Europe, Canada and the United States playing festivals and clubs. She has performed on the same stage with Sheryl Crow, John Prine, Iris Dement, JJ Cale, Blues Traveller, Sinead O'Connor, Indigo Girls and Sarah McLachlan.
These days, she continues to travel to share her music, though her touring schedule is gentler than it used to be, so she can enjoy her hometown of Taos. This year's planned stops include Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Oregon, Utah and Canada. She may also add an East Coast loop.
Bird takes special pleasure in singing to those who are in hospice care. That is how she met Taos Pueblo elder Jeri Track.
For the past four years, Bird has met with Track on a weekly basis to sing to her. It is one of the highlights of Bird's days. She also enjoys spending time with her 2-year-old grandson, Leo. She sings to him every day.
"I'm in the middle, between this 100-year-old person, and this little baby, and they are my ballasts, my balancing in this whole chapter," Bird said.
Every Sunday, Bird leads the music for Unity, an inter-spiritual group in Taos. She has been part of the Taos chapter of Unity since its inception 30 years ago.
Bird's CD release party takes place on Earth Day and will include special guests Don Richmond, Omar Rane and Adrienne Braswell. They will play all of the songs from "Deeper Than Light" as well as favorites and requests from the audience. Bird also has opportunities for audience members to sing at her concerts.
"I always sing with people at every show because singing makes you feel better 100 percent of the time. It always works," Bird said.
The CD release party kicks off the Goddess Festival, which Bird also organizes. This year's schedule includes New York City songwriter Sonya Heller (May 20), Eliza Gilkyson (June 10), Michael Mandrell (July 8), Melanie DeMore, Adrienne Braswell and Jenny Bird (August 12), Gina Breedlove (Sept. 9) and award-winning harpists Aine Minogue and Sunita Staneslaw (Oct. 3). All shows take place at Unity and focus on spiritually uplifting music.
"It's super quiet. You can hear every little thing," Bird said. "It's the listening room."
Tickets are $10-20 sliding scale. No one will be turned away for lack of funds. For more information, call (575) 751-1452 or visit jennybird.com.