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Our Town: Natalie Spears

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By Will Grandbois
Sopris Sun Staff 

The Sopris Sun is conducting a series of interviews with folks you may not have seen in the paper before – a sort of introduction to your neighbors. A while back we caught up with Natalie Spears. She’s perhaps best known as a founding member of the local band Pearl & Wood (

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that seemed to be playing every venue and event around this summer. She’s also a teacher of music and adventure, and she’s currently helping revive the art of the “crankie” scrolling stories — more at

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Sopris Sun: Where are you from and how did you end up out here?

Natalie Spears: I grew up in Washington D.C., but I spent a lot of time upvalley as a kid because my grandpa helped start the hut system. My dad’s English and I grew up in international schools and I lived in Switzerland for two years as a kid. I think that fed my desire for alternative education. I dropped out of Colorado College to learn about natural building and Laura Bartells was building her straw bale house, so I got in touch with her for what I thought would be a three month internship which turned into six months and nine months and I just fell in love with Carbondale.

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Q: What was it that appealed?

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A: I think it was how people really genuinely cared about this town. It was a place that felt welcoming and felt like it was supporting me and what I wanted to do. I just starting meeting all these characters around town and seeing this web of what Carbondale is.

Q: What made you decide to go to Naropa and what did it do for you?

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A: I really wanted to study music, but I’d had so many friends that went to traditional schools and just burned out. It was a program that offered a different way of teaching. I learned a lot and grew a lot, especially seeing how people value personal inquiry in addition to objective inquiry. I also worked in an outdoor program out there, so I kind of honed these skills to bring back to the Valley.

Q: Tell us about your summer camp.

A: I really wanted to run a program focused on girls around nature connection. I want to empower them in a way that I wish I’d been empowered. I don’t think it needs to be exclusive — I’ve been brainstorming about gender and how not to make it this dualistic thing.

Q: What’s your relationship with

the outdoors?

A: I teach skiing and snowboarding and go hiking and backpacking, and that’s all soul feeding to me. I find a lot of peace in experiencing just one tree. I don’t need to charge through the backcountry. And it seems like musical adventures are in the forefront for me right now.

Q: In that case, tell us about Pearl & Wood.

A: Ellie and I had a lot of mutual friends who thought we should play together. When we finally met we exchanged numbers and got together and it was fun. We put something together for The Sopris Music Fest and then got another gig and another so we learned a two hour set of music and eventually pulled in Mark who just brought this groove underneath the sound.

Q: Where does the name come from?

A: We were looking for something that could capture the variety of our sound. We were hanging out with Chris Hassig at Roaring Fork brewing and Miles Phillips’ guitars were on the wall and we notice there was a lot of pearl and wood. We’re both inspired by the elements of the natural world, and those two things add such contrasting images.

Q: Any plans for the cold season?

A: We’re looking to try to get some stuff rolling and get an album out. I’m teaching music, which I love. It’s really fun to watch and strengthens me as a musician. You need to have a foundation of theory and technique and skill, but there also needs to be space for the creative.

Q: Do you have a sense of what’s

beyond that?

A: I’m trying to craft a life where I can experience the world through the lens of music. I’m not sure if that means staying here and building up a teaching practice or what.

If you know of someone who should be featured in “Our Town,” email or call 510-3003.

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