Write, record and release. That’s the pattern for local musician Tim Birchard, a pattern he’s followed for the past decade or so with regards to his music career – “career” being a loose term as Birchard doesn’t make music to pay the bills. Nor does he set foot on local stages, route potential tours or seek out a record label. But he pursues music as a full-time endeavor outside his full-time job as director of the TRIO STEM3 Program at Fort Lewis College, working at a feverish pace releasing music filed under rock ’n’ roll, with hints of metal, surf, ska and reggae, ambient dub, trance or experimental pop music.
He’s put out two records already in 2020. March saw the release of “Love Stories,” and “Covid Romance” dropped in May, both found along with numerous other Birchard original records and singles via his Bandcamp page. It’s a nonstop production schedule that includes ’round-the-clock writing.
“There’s always something new cooking,” he said. “Usually, after a couple albums there might be a little break, like right now I’m in that in-between time. But there’s already new stuff cooking.”
Birchard’s love affair with music, like many a youngster, started with the discovery of KISS. It was the mid-1970s, and the makeup-wearing, heavy-merchandising rock ’n’ roll quartet was making its rounds in and on multiple media platforms, providing both ear and eye candy.
“I didn’t know what it was, but I sure loved it,” he said. “I remember shortly after that I got the single of ‘Shock Me’ and ‘Strutter.’ I didn’t know what they were talking about, I just knew it was heavy guitars and that just really made me happy. So if you finished your homework early, you could go in the backroom and sit on the big carpet and listen to your own records with headphones. So I was back there listening to KISS. And I loved it.”
Soon after, Birchard had a guitar made from a kit, something that resembled a lute, and he proceeded to break strings, learn chords and write songs. He now knows his chords, writes plenty and probably still breaks a string or two.
His two latest releases were an effort to explore songwriting and musical diversity. Birchard handled all the instruments for “Love Stories,” a laid-back rock record that hints around psychedelic pop, an effort where Birchard was trying to craft the perfect “three-and-a-half-minute pop tune.” “Covid Romance” found Birchard exploring genres, taking the kind of liberties you can when the sky’s the limit on your art. With moments of reggae, Judas Priest-inspired rock and even a Norteno song, it’s an exploration in styles.
“Covid Romance” also came along as the world started to fall apart. Unlike “Love Stories,” where Birchard was the only musician, this record found him reaching out to musician friends nationwide to be part of his record in an effort of musical communication and collaboration.
“I didn’t even care what we wrote, I just wanted to write as many songs with as many of my friends as I could, from all over the country, to see what their experience was of this, back then, brand-new thing of feeling so isolated,” he said. “A lot of my friends were expressing that a swift lack of connection was really rocking their boats, so this seemed like a good way to help bring people together.”
The package is very DIY. Birchard makes music to be heard – thus, its easy availability via Bandcamp. Sure, he’ll take a donation when you download a record, but even then that price remains a suggestion.
“I’ve had some people, which is pretty cool, knowing they can get it for free, sometimes they’ll throw down a few dollars. And that’s always a lovely surprise,” he said. “But it’s more about creating something and connection. If people are interested in hearing it, I’m all for it.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at email@example.com.