Winston Yellen has never played a show in Colorado, never seen a band at the Hi-Dive, where he headlines with his band Night Beds on Feb. 13, fresh off of a performance on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” But he still considers himself a Colorado musician.
Having spent middle school through high school — some of the most formidable years of growing up — in Colorado Springs, the sound of the state is etched into the music on Night Beds’ debut album, “Country Sleep.” Drawn from his time in the Springs fighting off monotony, the sound of Colorado for Yellen is that of loneliness.
“I have a friend who has a bumper sticker on his amp that says, ‘Keep Colorado Springs Lame,’ ” said Yellen, 23, after playing NPR’s World Cafe in Philadelphia. “Colorado Springs is lonely and a very private place. There’s a vibe there that I can’t really explain.”
To fight off the boredom of an antisocial high school experience, Yellen’s mom gave him a “crappy keyboard” that he used to start writing songs.
“Colorado is something that I get most of my inspiration from,” Yellen said. “There’s kind of a magic there that’s kind of intangible.”
From there Yellen went to college at Belmont University in Nashville, the historic music town that recently acquired another upcoming Colorado band, Tennis.
After dropping out of Belmont and traveling the country — including some time back in Colorado, going to bars alone — Yellen returned to Nashville where he recorded his album that landed him a deal with Dead Oceans last year. The label includes other indie artists Akron/Family, Destroyer, A Place To Bury Strangers and even more former Coloradans: Gauntlet Hair.
“Country Sleep,” released Tuesday, is a therapeutic and at times heartbreaking indie country record. Opening the album with Yellen singing in a pure, lone voice, “When the sorrow comes,” his solitude in Colorado becomes an anthem of the Night Beds identity.
“I wanted to make something that wasn’t trying to be anything other than a song,” Yellen said. “For me it’s an old-timey country record. I listened to a lot of Neil Young’s ‘Harvest.’ I wanted to make something bareknuckle and raw and vulnerable.”
In support of this release, Night Beds is playing “Fallon” on Friday and kicking off a month-and-a-half U.S. headlining tour on Monday.
On Feb. 13 at the Hi-Dive, Yellen — a Colorado music scene “outcast” — makes his debut with Night Beds in the state that shaped much of his album. But he doesn’t know if anyone will show up.
He said family will be there — his parents from the Springs, a brother in high school, another up north at Colorado State University — but other than that, he’s not sure.
“I guess we’ll find out,” he said of the show. “I have no idea. I’m sure it will be very small. It’s hard to gauge.”
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