New Mexico Tech’s Performing Arts Series will kick off the season with folk singer-songwriters Eliza Gilkyson and Rooster Blackspur on September 17 at 7:30 p.m. in Macey Center.
Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, $5 for youth, and free to NM Tech students. For more information go to nmt.edu/pas or call 575-835-568.
The Chieftain caught up with Rooster Blackspur to learn more about what inspires her music.
How Rooster Blackspur got her name
When Rooster Blackspur was a little kid she watched her mom try to make their rooster into a pot of stew.
“It fought and kicked and really beat the hell out of my mom and then took off and never came back, and so I wrote a song about how its tenacity inspired me,” said Blackspur. “My life has really been a story of tenacity to really fight to be myself.”
When Blackspur started performing the song at shows, audiences began calling out Rooster. The name fit better than her given name.
“Now I don’t answer to anything else. My name means precious lamb and it’s really far off. My poor mom meant well, but it’s really not who I am,” said Blackspur.
Blackspur’s tenacity was on display when she launched her professional music career 10 years ago. She moved from Alaska to Portland, driving 3,000 miles with no idea how she’d find an apartment, or get a job. During the journey, she wrote the songs that make up her first album.
To celebrate that 10th anniversary, Blackspur is re-recording and re-releasing some of the singles from that album.
“I had somebody in my life say, ‘it sounds like two different people,’ when I showed them the original recording from 10 years ago, and then I showed them the remastered version. They said ‘it sounds like two different people,’ and I said, ‘Well that’s because it is.’”
“I was just a kid who got in my car 10 years ago with a naïve dream. I sharpened myself on all the rocks and trials and tribulations of being a touring musician, so I have a much bigger voice than I did 10 years ago.”
Along with finding a bigger voice, Blackspur also picked up a new instrument along her musical journey: the guitar.
Serendipity brought Blackspur from the northwest to the southwest, when she was hired to perform on a rafting trip in the heart of the Grand Canyon.
“I had eight days no cellphone, no radio, no TV, on a raft, eating cast iron meals, with 20 some odd people on a raft and playing music in, in my opinion, the greatest stages of the world, which were canyons and slot canyons and natural amphitheaters.
“It really was a baptism into the desert that I couldn’t get out of my system.”
The next time she came back to the desert, it was with a moving van. Growing up in a dark cold place, Blackspur was a “brooding piano player,” but the desert sunshine brought out her joy.
“It feels like I’m solar powered and it feels like it just fills me up and empowers me and makes me grow taller and walk bigger. I’ve been looking for that on my own my whole life. I think we all want to walk taller and be in our own power.
“There’s something about the energy in New Mexico that allows you—it’s almost like you can’t be too big for the desert. You can’t be too much or you can’t give the desert some kind of awful tale about yourself that it’ll be like intimidated by you. You’re like here’s my rage, here’s my anger, here’s my grief and it goes, is that all you got? I needed something bigger than me because I’m a pretty big personality and a pretty big presence and the desert holds me very tenderly and likes who I am just as I am.”
What hasn’t changed is Blackspur’s deep love for nature. She believes nature, music and community are a powerful combination.
“I think that unfortunately a lot of music in the current age is kind of experienced as background noise or a background experience. I really tried to create scenes and experiences inside of my musical career that asked people to put their cellphone down, come into a quiet space. That’s why I started doing so many shows in nature. An undistracted experience can be so healing. It isn’t even something that I have to try to create. If I just create an undistracted environment or a focused environment, then music will do the work.”
Blackspur is a storyteller, along with a songwriter, and audiences on the 17th can expect a little bit of everything from along her 10-year journey as a professional musician.