A local band with an old-fashioned sound is using modern-day technology to keep members connected and propel their careers into the future.
The six members of One Horse Shy, who classify their sound as Americana, created alternatives to physically being together after guitar player, singer, songwriter and founding member Cris Kelly moved from Southern Oregon to Portland more than a year ago.
Bob Evoniuk, who plays lap steel guitar and Dobro and sings in the band, said One Horse Shy members are now able to record songs to mp3, then e-mail them to each other to receive feedback.
"That was not typically a convenient way to do stuff a couple of years ago, and it's becoming more and more easy," said Evoniuk.
One Horse Shy members even have played together live online in Second Life, a virtual world where real people are represented by avatars. The real-life band played a live show in San Antonio, Texas, for an educational technology conference, and technicians, each responsible for the avatar of one band member, recreated the show in Second Life.
"The avatars looked very much like us and were wearing our clothing," said Manda Bryn, lead vocalist and founding member of One Horse Shy.
"It was synched up with us and the live music we were playing," said Evoniuk, whose wife is involved in the conference and suggested the band for the event.
Even in the virtual world, things can go wrong.
"In all their amazing planning, in Second Life, they failed to put boundaries around the stage so that people couldn't walk onto the stage," said Bryn. "What we found out later was that you couldn't see us on stage unless you were literally nose to nose with us, so we kept having these people walk right up and get right in our faces in Second Life."
Band members were able to watch themselves perform online even as they were playing. "I got my arm stuck in the air for awhile," said Bryn, "and then dragons would occasionally run across the stage."
In addition to branching into cyberspace, the band added several other achievements to its resume over the last two years, including opening for Clint Black at the Britt Festivals in Jacksonville in 2008. But One Horse Shy enjoys more intimate venues as well.
"There have been just a whole bunch of smaller events at really cool places," said Evoniuk, "like the one where we had to carry our gear over a rope bridge."
The group is not afraid of adventure or trying something new, such as adding drums and bass to their folk sound.
Even though One Horse Shy may sound like early folk, the band draws from a number of influences. "We're definitely not a bluegrass band," said Kelly.
Founding members Kelly and Bryn added Bryan Helfrich on drums, and soon after Mysha Caruso on bass. Caruso came on board playing a mandolin, but next to the full drum kit he felt there needed to be some bass.
"You can't have drums in a bluegrass band," said Helfrich.
The Americana genre allows the band more freedom."That's the definition of Americana, its roots American music, and bluegrass is one of them, so we have ties to that," said Caruso.
No wonder sounds from folk, bluegrass, rock 'n' roll and blues can be heard on the band's latest CD, "Better Life."
"I think each of us would give a completely different set of musical influences, which I think works to our benefit," said Bryn.
This is the band's second album in two years, with all original songs. "This past year with Cris in Portland, we've come up with, I think, our best songs that we've written to date," said Bryn.
So prolific is the band's songwriting that the songs that did not make it onto the latest release are now being considered for a third album in progress.
"We do all the recording at Bryan's house in his studio," said Kelly, demonstrating yet another aspect of the band's technical skills. Helfrich lives on the outskirts of west Medford.
"It's really nice to have that facility, because then we have the time we need in the studio and it gives us editing control with production," said Helfrich, "which is an important part of our growth."
Caruso writes songs for his other band, Kites & Crows, and One Horse Shy plans on taking advantage of his songwriting in the next CD release. The band wants to increase its exposure using social networking Web sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in addition to radio play.
The band's summer is already fully booked with gigs, except for the month of July, when Bryn and fellow band member Ezra Severin are to be married.
"This summer is going to be great, I mean we've already got that locked in," said Bryn.
Mandy Valencia is a freelance writer and videographer living in Ashland. Reach her at email@example.com.