A fulsome feast of folk music
Listening to the stunning vocals by folk band The Western Den, you might be surprised to learn that a career in music wasn't even on the radar for its Bermudian member Chris West in his early childhood.
“Growing up, my church in Bermuda would always put on a children's concert around the holiday seasons and I was the one in the back with my mouth closed the whole time — to give you a perspective,” Mr West said.
“I was in the music programme at Warwick Academy, from primary to high school as a percussionist, which I enjoyed and certainly expanded my knowledge of music, but my love for music never truly developed until I began studying guitar at age 12.
“I could sit in my room for hours on end, without a trace of time. I was quite shy with it all, however, so my friends and family never knew me as a musician or songwriter until I was 15.”
Last year Mr West joined forces with girlfriend, and fellow Berklee College of Music student, Deni Hlavinka to launch the group The Western Den.
During their first semester at Berklee in 2011, the pair began writing together and bonding over music. Mr West said they “felt an eerily close connection” in their voices and it soon became obvious to them that they should pursue it further. They officially launched the band in February 2013.
Since then several opportunities to open up share their music. They were invited to open up for folk-rock artist Melissa Ferrick, during the northeastern leg of her 'The Truth Is' tour last summer.
“That was a crazy experience for us, playing to large crowds night after night,” Mr West said. “It ensured the fact that I want to write, perform, and travel for as long as I possibly can. Since then, we've been performing throughout the New England area.”
The band has also been able to release two mini-albums, including their debut called 'Battle Hymns', co-produced by Jon Hubbell; as well as a self-produced Christmas EP in December 2013.
If that's not enough they were also recently featured on a Berklee student album called 'Dorm Sessions 9', created by student-run label, Heavy Rotation Records.
They are also close to finished with the writing portion of a full-length album and plan to start recording in late April.
So far the reaction to the music has been overwhelming, the singer/song writer said.
He admitted he never writes songs with the intention of having people like it, so when they do it's a great feeling.
“We want to write stories that resonate with our listeners so that they feel connected to both the song, and us,” he explained.
Over the past year, Mr West said he has experienced “tons of challenges” — but even more rewards.
He has had to work hard to find a balance between his studies and commitments to The Western Den. But the good news is their hard work seems to be paying off.
“We've recently expanded our live band set-up from four to eight people, and we've developed close friendships with all of them,” Mr West explained.
“Playing music with the people you love is definitely a big reward. And seeing an audience member singing along to the words that you wrote in your bedroom is more than rewarding.
“All of the opportunities we've been given — going on tour with a nationally recognised musician, various companies we've worked with that have been so friendly to us. We just officially launched a year ago, so to me, anything that happens to us and is remotely exciting, is entirely rewarding!”
Although they don't know what exactly is next for them, Mr West said the group remains open to wherever the future may lead them.
“At this point, we are close to finishing up with college, so we are exploring different locations to base ourselves and are remaining open to any opportunities that we may receive,” he added.
To hear more of The Western Den, visit: http://thewesternden.bandcamp.com/. Or to stream or download a free version of Dorm Sessions 9, go to: BerkleeCollegeofMusic.bandcamp.com.