Native son coming home for Shovelin’ Stone at Eagle’s ShowDown Town

Eagle native son Zak Thrall, on banjo, and bandmate Makenzie Willox, on guitar, will perform the final ShowDown Town Concert at Eagle Town Park this Thursday, Aug. 15.
Special to the Daily

EAGLE — Native son Zak Thrall is returning to Eagle Thursday night to share talents his hometown has never had the chance to see.

Folks in Eagle likely remember Zak Thrall’s pigskin prowess from the days when he anchored the Eagle Valley High School football team. But since his graduation a decade ago, he has picked up a whole new passion. His passion is actually picking — banjo picking, to be precise.

Thrall and his buddy Makenzie Willox compose the popular Front Range duo Shovelin’ Stone — the featured performers for this week’s ShowDown Town finale concert. The free music begins at 6:30 p.m. at Eagle Town Park.

Don’t let the word “banjo” trick you into expecting traditional bluegrass or country sound from Shovelin’ Stone.

“We like to think of ourselves as indie folk or Americana group,” said Thrall.

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As the band’s Facebook page touts, heartfelt lyrics and original musical compositions highlight “the unknowing joy for the moment and the obsession with the complications that life brings.”

Look no further than the duo’s name as confirmation. Shovelin’ Stone is a metaphor for both the music business and life itself.

“When you are digging a hole and you hit a big rock, you have to figure out a way around it,” said Thrall.

Finding passion

Back when he was growing up in Eagle, Thrall was a sports enthusiast, not a music student. While he and his dad were regular attendees of events such as the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Thrall never performed until he was in college.

“I was never into instruments. I was way too into football for that,” he joked. “But I grew up going to Red Rocks and seeing all these amazing performers.”

Back in Thrall’s early teens, Eagle Valley Middle School music teacher Tommy Dodge taught him how to play guitar. By the time Thrall hit college — the University of Northern Colorado, where he was a member of the football team — he decided to pick up a banjo. He ultimately taught himself to play.

“I picked up the banjo and never looked back,” Thrall said.

He also found his voice, as in his singing voice. “I always enjoyed singing along, but I never knew I was any good,” he said.

Ultimately Thrall and his guitar-playing buddy Mackenzie Willox formed their duo, started writing music and playing clubs. On Aug. 15 — the same day as the ShowDown Town performance — a new Stovelin’ Stone single title “Smile” will be released on Spotify, Apple Music and other platforms. The duo’s first studio album, self-titled Shovelin’ Stone, will be released this fall and they are planning a European tour next spring.

“We are looking forward to the day when we can make music our full-time career,” said Thrall. “Life had been moving pretty fast for us.”

But Thrall is going to make sure he savors what this week brings — a chance to sing on his hometown stage.

“It’s the first time for me, coming home to perform. We do most of our stuff on the Front Range,” he said. “It’s very exciting to get to play in Eagle. As I remember, they get pretty big crowds at those ShowDown Town concerts.”

Fine Finale

It’s not just chance that brings Shovelin’ Stone to close out this year’s Alpine Bank ShowDown Town series.

“We like to close out ShowDown Town with a great show,” said Tom Boyd of the Vail Valley Foundation. “As we looked around, we thought this is the perfect band to finish out the season.”

Boyd said the ideal conclusion to the Eagle summer concert series is an up-and-coming band with a local tie-in.

“I think this is a band that we are going to see a lot more from,” said Boyd. “They have a great sound and a lot of potential.”

As they look forward to taking the stage to share their original music, Thrall and Willox are excited to show their stuff for a local audience that has applauded their efforts from afar.

“We are so thankful for all the support we have gotten from the valley. It’s been so cool and we are really excited for this opportunity and for whatever lies ahead for us, ” Thrall concluded.

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