There is music that feels as if it was built in the mountains. Like it was forged above tree line and migrated down the snow melt, reaching for Ponderosa and Spruce along the way. It seems remote, which is why we love it, because it connects us to the unknown. It walks us closer to that which hasn’t been tamed or domesticated, and in the process teaches us more about ourselves. It reminds us of places that are still wild, because it is also not afraid to wander out of bounds or lose itself in the hills.
The story began in 2001 when friends and Tulsa natives Brian Payne (guitar/lead vocals) and Parker Ferrell (guitar/mandolin/vocals) realized their identical interests in music/songwriting and decided to start a simple acoustic duo. Dubbing themselves and a couple friends Lyle Newearth & The Runaways, they soon became a regular staple at churches, coffee shops and small venues citywide. Their energetic and impressive live shows soon became events to see, quickly building a large and mostly high school age audience, consistently packing venues beyond the maximum capacity. These shows were generally acoustic jams where they would showcase surprising musical prowess beyond their years as well as intelligent and mature songwriting, stemming from both Brian and Parkers 6-plus years of experience on their instruments. After almost a year of doing this, Brian and Parker decided to evolve the group to more of a band format, with more emphasis on song structure, while often still staying true to the live jams that they were known for.
As word spread about this young supergroup (Xanadu) with amazing songs, musicianship and vocal harmonies, the attendance at the shows grew even larger, bringing older fans and even parents who love to draw comparisons to bands of their generation such as Crosby, Stills and Nash. The highlight of the bands career to date would surprisingly be only their 3rd show together, at Tulsas legendary Cains Ballroom. When the boys heard that the Tulsa World was putting on a high school battle of the bands sponsored by the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus as well as numerous local vendors, they quickly threw together and submitted a live bedroom recording of two of their songs. Out of almost 60 bands that entered and only 7 that were chosen, Xanadu was one of them. The night of the battle turned out to be what every band dreams of: a sold out show, almost two thousand people watching, dancing, singing along. At the culmination of the evening, Xanadu was the winner, earning the cash prize as the crowd favorite, as well as the grand prizes as the judges favorite. Aside from the extremely positive press the band received as a result, the icing on the cake was no doubt that the band got the chance to record their crowd-favorite song So High on the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, as well as shoot a music video for the same song. The song and video were placed on the Tour Bus website and automatically entered into the annual John Lennon Songwriting Contest. Their song was also entered into the nationwide fan-voted high-school battle of the bands competition, where they placed 2nd in the nation.
Other highlights this year included the opportunity to play the 2005 Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, receiving a nomination for a Spot Music Award, as well as performing live at the Spot Awards ceremony. The band finished their debut album, a huge thanks goes out from the band to Steve Ripley(The Tractors) and his Church Studio for putting SO much time, effort, help and advice in the cd. The band split ways a year after high school to pursue their personal endeavors. Though the band was no longer together, Brian Payne continued his solo career playing with other local artists such as Zach Winters, Wink Burcham, Sunday Lane, and many others. After a few years of time off in the mountains and attempting a “big boy desk job” he quickly realized that music was his passion and no other job would suffice. He is now back on the Colorado music scene in full force. The future is bright for him with his recent release of his self-titled EP (2014) showcasing four of his favorite songs, recently written.
With influences ranging from Ray Lamontange and Gregory Alan Isakov to Paul Simon and JJ Cale, he has created a melodic, soulful love child born into the New Tulsa Sound and transplanted into an indie folk heaven (Boulder, CO.). Melody, harmony and rhythm have not been lost over the decades, merely rediscovered in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains.