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John Denver tribute artist returns

by Guinne Stropes Mail Staff Writer | Mountain Mail, Salida, CO | Jul 5, 2018


John Denver tribute artist Chris Collins returns to Salida with Alexander Mitchell and Paul Swanton for the eighth year in a row at 7 p.m. Friday at Salida SteamPlant, 220 W. Sackett Ave.


Collins recently returned from a 10-show tour through Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

Collins, Mitchell and Swanton are part of a six-piece band, the Boulder Canyon Band, but the SteamPlant show will showcase only the trio’s talents.



Collins plays six- and twelve-string acoustic guitar and banjo and is the lead singer; Mitchell plays fiddle and mandolin and sings; and Swanton is the lead guitarist.


“Paul and I met in Aspen at the annual John Denver celebration,” Collins said.


He said Mitchell was a friend of a friend who hooked up with the duo to play and has been performing with the group since.


Collins said he has been interested in music since the 1970s, when he first began learning to play guitar.


He said he played guitar throughout college, then moved to Texas to further his career in western music.


He quit playing music for 15 years when the Houston economy went bust because of a downturn in the oil business.


“My partner and I lost a year’s worth of bookings in one day,” Collins said.

He started a landscaping company and decided he liked having a solid income.

He said he got married, had children, raised his family and then slowly began to get back into performing.


When he first started performing again, he said lots of people told him he should perform John Denver covers because of the way he sounds and looks.


“It took quite a lot of convincing,” he said.

Collins said he was reluctant to begin the path of a tribute artist because it meant relinquishing his own musical identity.


As an artist, he said, it’s hard to both be original and be a tribute artist, and to do something wholeheartedly he had to give up his own music.


“I haven’t written for a while,” he said.


Collins said his genre is “that ’70s stuff” like James Taylor. He said that being out of the game for 15 years didn’t help, and he didn’t keep up with contemporary sounds.


“The reason John Denver is still relevant today, 50 years after his first hit single was made, is because he speaks on real human issues.


“John Denver is about the human experience. He sings about the emotional stuff that we face as people. His music is multigenerational because of that,” Collins said.


He said that, given today’s political environment, people want the connection to each other and the Earth that John Denver gave them.

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