MILLHEIM - Americana band The Stray Birds will perform at 4 p.m. Dec. 9 at Elk Creek Cafe and Aleworks, 100 W. Main St.
The trio from Lancaster County hit the road for their longest tour this summer - 10 weeks - following the release of their full-length debut self-titled album in July.
The Stray Birds are Maya de Vitry on banjo, acoustic guitar and fiddle; Charlie Munch on bass; and Oliver Craven on acoustic guitar, resonator guitar, fiddle and mandolin. All three members sing lead as well as harmony.
Their sound is sometimes described as old-timey with bluegrass harmonies and a chamber music quality, said de Vitry.
"We call it Americana because we feel like it comes from a lot of traditions we grew up loving," she said. "Singer-songwriters in the '70s and old-time fiddle tunes."
All three members began playing music when they were very young and have diverse musical backgrounds. Munch and de Vitry met in middle school and Craven and Munch played in a bluegrass band together before the three officially formed The Stray Birds.
De Vitry said after returning home from a traveling trip through Europe, she happened upon a bluegrass band recording an album at a friend's house. Munch and Craven were members in the band. She said she and Craven connected quickly because they were both fiddle players who found their way to songwriting.
"He (Craven) was really encouraging to me to play those songs out in public and he backed me up on mandolin," she said. "We spent that winter (2009) just playing songs together ... at that point, it was just a duo - me and Oliver."
After all going their separate ways - de Vitry and Munch went to college and Craven toured with The Steel Wheels as a fiddle player - de Vitry said they all knew they had found something special together and when they all returned home, they decided to form the trio and see where it would take them.
They didn't have specific roles when they played together, they just played the instrument they wanted to play at the time and enjoyed listening to the outcome of the music they all were able to make with each other.
"There wasn't a lot of limits to what each other could do," she said. "Some bands are sort of placed in a role and that wasn't what this was about. It kind of came from sitting around on a couch playing songs together."
Both Craven and Munch have played the Elk Creek Cafe in the past and are looking forward to their return. Craven played the cafe with his father, Tim Craven, as a part of the Rustical Quality String Band. He and Munch also have played the cafe together in the band River Wheel.
The band enjoys connecting with their audiences and sharing their music with them during their live performances.
"I like when I can look somebody in the eye and really feel that they're gaining something from what I'm doing," Craven said. "Even if it's only for a moment."
Munch said he loves when the audience is responsive and feels a rush of satisfaction and exhilaration when those watching the band can give musicians the comfort of being able to just be themselves.
The band has spent a good amount of time on the road and plans to hit the trails again after the new year.
De Vitry said traveling is just part of being a committed musician and she is glad that she discovered her love of the road before she became a full-time musician.
"Just being flexible and being able to sleep in different places. I love seeing new places and I get restless when I'm in one place for too long," she said.
All three members agree that their friendship and mutual appreciation of each other and their talents are vital to the success of their band.
"I have had the opportunity to watch Maya and Charlie play in a band that didn't include me and after playing with them for so long, it was then that I was reminded of how good they are as musicians," Craven said. "I was like, man, these guys are awesome! I enjoy being a part of my band because my bandmates are so talented and they make me better."
De Vitry said she is inspired by the band's teamwork and commitment to each other. She said their friendship is "the fire behind the band ... We really value what each other brings and it's inspiring to keep encouraging each other and keep growing."
For more information about The Stray Birds, visit www.thestraybirds.com.