As shown by a young maraca-wielding fan, the singing duo of Byrd & Street values their personal connection to their audience. Photo by Phil Houseal
Byrd & Street: Well Connected
by Phil Houseal
When I walked into Hondo's one evening I noticed something different - the band members were handing out maracas. What kind of band arms its audience with instruments?
A band like Byrd & Street.
Tommy Byrd and Kathy Street are Byrd & Street. The harmonizing duo values the connection to their audience so much, they ask them to play and sing along.
"We certainly hope that connection happens," Byrd said. "I love that. We try to connect with folks. That is what it's all about."
Byrd and Street connected with each other in 2001. During a recording session, Street sang a simple harmony along with Byrd's original melody. Something unexpected happened.
"It sounded like three people were singing!" Street recalled. "The harmonics create that effect. People used to think we were related because of our close harmonies. It's a blend you don't find very often."
Since that magic moment, the two have performed hundreds of gigs together and have released a CD "Stories of Life, Songs of Love." They have won songwriting competitions, and regional awards at the Kerrville Folk Festival. They are starting to play regularly in the area, appearing at Hondo's, the Auslander, Welfare, and Johnson City.
Tommy Byrd was once signed with STAX records, played with the Geezinslaw Brothers, and recorded with Willie Nelson. He does most of the songwriting and runs a recording studio. Kathy Street, a former elementary teacher and stage actor, creates the harmonies and handles most of the business side of the band.
During a break at Hondo's, I asked them what made them different from other singer-songwriters. I got an answer I don't often get: silence.
"That's a good question," Byrd finally said. It turns out the pause wasn't because they did not have an answer; it was because they had so many. Street came up with eight:
1) We sing award-winning original songs.
2) We feature male lead vocals.
3) We feature female lead vocals.
4) We do tight male/female harmony - like sibling harmony.
5) We play an extremely wide range of covers done with our own Texas/Americana spin (Hank Williams to Cyndi Lauper, Neil Young to Peggy Lee, John Prine to Carol King).
6) Our Americana genre with a Texas Hill-country twist includes a taste of country, folk, blues, story songs, sing-alongs. We have sweet love songs, sad songs and funny songs. An evening of our music is varied in both vocals (male or female) and style.
7) We have a collection of different sidemen who help keep our sound fresh. We sometimes feature a guitarist, fiddle player, mandolin player, or dobro player.
8) We've got a big desire to connect with the listeners. We have an understanding that we're there to serve the audience...not the other way around.
"We talk how it would be fun to play in huge arenas," said Byrd, who early on had a taste of playing for crowds of 10,000. "But actually it is more fun to play where you can connect to the crowd. That is why when we take a break, we go out and talk to people - they are our friends."
That point was made and made well as one of their new fans unceremoniously interrupted my interview to tell them how much he liked their music.
Now that is connecting with your audience.