Stephanie Bettman and Luke Halpin have a story to tell. Voiced throughout the 14 tracks of their new album, 1,000 miles, the Denver-based duo has grounded their latest music in the roots of blue grass and folk. They will be performing live at the River Arts Center March 1.
River Arts Center Executive Director Lindsey Giese said she was introduced to their music at a conference several years back. “They blew me away with their storytelling and incredible talent as musicians,” Giese said. “I knew I wanted to book them for the River Arts Center but it took a few years to align all the parts that go into booking shows.”
Giese said Bettman and Halpin are a good fit for the community because their folk-Americana music is popular.
“More than that, I look for quality, talented performers and they will not disappoint,” Giese said.
Bettman said the sound for their new album was based on their own favorite albums.
“We sat down and started putting together songs and feeling the vibe,” Bettman said. “We kept those original inspirations in mind while the album took on its own. The themes of home and being on a journey became clear.”
Bettman and Halpin tackle folk giant John Denver’s Take me Home, Country Roads, which was “a given” for the couple, Bettman said.
The album also includes the foot-stomping tunes Banjo Boogie Stomp Stomp and Stone Country Breakdown, and pays homage to love and loss in the song, Cherokee Rose, among others.
“Something about his legacy is here everywhere in Denver,” Bettman said. “We’ve been living here eight years and started thinking about covering it in a live show.
“After fussing with it, Luke came up with this driving guitar sound, which slows down lyrics but also speeds up the song.”
The pair met about a decade ago when Bettman was looking for a mandolin player. A mutual friend suggested Halpin, and before too long, they began playing together.
“He suggested we start working on vocal harmonies and it became clear really quickly we had a similar musical aesthetic,” Bettman said. “We didn’t always have the same trajectory, but we liked the same result. That made working together great fun.”
Halpin said their coming together was a “serendipitous gift.”
“It wasn’t something you could plan for,” Halpin said. We both want the same thing when working on something. That’s not to say we don’t have moments of conflict, but we are also very aware of the fact we are trying to get to the same place. We are like a science project; it’s what happens when you put two musicians together in a Honda for nine years.”
As seamlessly as the two sound together, both Bettman and Halpin bring their own unique attributes to the equation.
Bettman points out Halpin is “totally self-taught” where she has had tons of teachers.
Halpin said his introduction to music came when his father handed him a mandolin and told him to learn it. “My mother didn’t want him playing in a band anymore,” Halpin said. “So I became part of his band.”
Over the years he has taught himself both the fiddle and the banjo and most recently, the guitar.
“It was a wonderful experience being in my thirties with this ability to learn and tackle an instrument with solid goal in mind,” Halpin said. “With the guitar I spent three, sold months teaching myself how to be a really good guitar player. It was a lot of work. It now feels natural, but I have never had a Mozart experience and there was angelic sound and knew what I was doing.”
For Bettman, the call to the arts has always been there: She has been an actress, a trapeze artist, singer, songwriter and is an award-winning fiddle player.
“I have always been driven to follow my passions, and that has always been the arts,” Bettman said. “At no point was I pursuing being a CPA.”
While she has enjoyed everything she’s done, Bettman said she feels most connected with music.
“As a songwriter, I can communicate with an audience,” she said. “Story-telling is a big part of our show. When you listen to songs and stories, you are going on an emotional ride.”