One of the great things about Vermont is, it’s the type of place where if you have an idea, and you’re willing to work hard, you just might pull it off.
So say Rutland singer-songwriters Phil Henry and George Nostrand, who recently put that idea to the test. The locally well-known musicians were both looking for an ideal spot to showcase their bands. Both artists have released several albums of original material, and the West Rutland Town Hall Theater turned out to be the perfect means to an end.
At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1, you can see George’s Back Pocket and Phil Henry & The Newsfeed together for the first time, performing a mix of mostly original music, with some covers thrown in with their own unique spin.
“We both have bands that we don’t get the opportunity to play with as often as we’d like,” Nostrand said by phone recently. “A lot of people in this area see us as solo artists or playing in small lineups.” (Nostrand is calendar editor of The Times Argus and Rutland Herald.)
But they were looking for an opportunity to show another side of what they do.
“I enjoy playing cover songs at bars and restaurants, but that’s a totally different experience than performing your own songs,” Nostrand said. “We’re trying to create opportunities and keep the music scene alive in a way that allows us to be creative.”
George’s Back Pocket will open the show, featuring a lineup of local all-star musicians to play songs from the 2011 “George’s Back Pocket” album, as well as a few surprises.
Phil Henry & The Newsfeed is Henry’s newest ensemble, featuring a variety of instruments such as drums, guitar, piano, accordion, acoustic and electric mandolins, keyboard and glockenspiel.
“People (can) feel trapped in their situations,” Henry said, “but you can break out of it if you have a good idea and you’re willing to work hard. Self-producing a concert at this level is something you can do if you put the time and effort in.”
“It’s easier to do solo and duo shows around here,” Nostrand explained. “It’s a little bit more of a challenge to do a full band and (one) that plays original music. Phil and I both write our own songs, so part of the idea was looking for a place and an opportunity to play our own songs with a full band.”
The two bands are not necessarily similar in genre or style, but Nostrand says they can both fall under the umbrella of folk-rock. Their songwriting processes are unique, as well.
“I have a tendency to write songs that are narrative based, or story-songs based on characters and thoughts,” Henry said.
“Restraints are the key to creativity,” he added. “I really feel that way. I think of songwriting almost like engineering, where you have a problem to solve — this creative expression to channel into something that is palatable for an audience. It takes some constraints, and one of those constraints is a deadline.”
“For me, it’s usually a lyric,” Nostrand said. “An image or an idea or a line that pops into my head. I like to use the example of my song ‘Traffic Lights,’ which was driving home from somewhere down Route 7 at night and the different images of the road signs and the traffic lights and sleeping shopping carts.”
The show marks the first time the two bands will play together, but if all goes well, they say it won’t be the last.
“It would be easy for us to complain and say there’s nowhere for us to play,” Nostrand said. “Instead we found a place and put on our own show.”