Red Horse harmonies
Vail CO Colorado
Most bands perform covers, but usually the person who originally sang the song isn’t one of the backup singers. This is what makes Red Horse, a new supergroup combining the talents of singer/songwriters Eliza Gilkyson, John Gorka and Lucy Kaplansky, stand out from other folk trios. Red Horse formed in 2010 when Gilkyson asked Gorka and Kaplansky to join her on tour for a few shows. Kaplansky and Gorka have sung together since the 1980s, and Gilkyson has performed with both Kaplansky and Gorka, but they had never played together as a trio. The members of Red Horse have all put out several solo records. When it came time to record an album as Red Horse, they decided to sing their favorite songs from each other’s catalogs.
“A lot of singer-songwriters, when grouped together, sing their own songs, but we thought it would be cool to do each other’s songs instead,” Gilkyson said. “This way you try to make the song your own, inhabit it in a way.”
Although all three are singer-songwriters and play acoustic folk music, each member of Red Horse has a distinct sound and style. The camaraderie that comes about when they play together is reflected in their harmonies and on-stage chemistry.
“John writes about the culture, he’s more of a storyteller,” Gilkyson said. “He’s able to tap into a story. Lucy is more of heartfelt writer, she writes about what’s going on around her, her family. [As for me] I don’t want to be a one-trick pony.”
‘The older I get the less … I know’
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Gilkyson is best known for her political songs. One popular song, “Requiem,” was written as a response to the tsunami in Southeast Asia in 2004. For Gilkyson, writing political songs poses a number of challenges.
“First and foremost, you have to write a great song. People don’t want to hear messages rammed at them. You want them to be engaged in a story first. Hopefully it touches a spot of empathy. People don’t want to be preached at,” Gilkyson said.
A veteran in the folk music scene, Gilkyson has been touring and recording for almost 40 years. Getting older hasn’t stopped Gilkyson from finding new modes of inspiration.
“As long as your growing yourself, I think the muse will entertain you. As you get older, you’re more set in your ways. I find I really have to challenge myself,” Gilkyson said. “The older I get the less I realize I know.”
Making the stage their home
Edwards resident Betty Ann Woodland has seen both Gorka and Kaplansky in concert and has been a friend of Gorka’s since seeing him play nearly 20 years ago.
“I met John in the early ’90s at a folk festival in Estes Park,” Woodland said. “He jumped up on stage to do a duet with Nancy Griffith. I didn’t know John from anybody, but after their performance I was a John fan forever. I saw him at the Vilar last year. He’s great live because he draws you in; they make a lot of jokes, they do a great live performance.”
All three members live in “different quadrants of the universe,” Gilkyson said.
Gorka lives in Stillwater, Minnesota, Kaplansky lives in New York City, and Gilkyson makes her home in Austin, Texas. Getting together to play live is a treat for both fans and the band members of Red Horse themselves. For a band that makes the stage their home, fans can expect a warm and family-like vibe for their show this Sunday.
“Our shows are always a little spontaneous, they’re not all the same. The show could go anywhere, we have a lot of fun, we tell stories, it’s almost like a living room kind of feeling,” Gilkyson said.
Rosanna Turner is an intern at the Vail Daily. Email comments about this story to email@example.com.