Travis Ehrenstrom
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Travis Ehrenstrom

Band Folk Singer/Songwriter

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Like many teenage kids, singer-songwriter Travis Ehrenstrom was singularly focused on sports as a career when he was in middle school.

“I was a huge Blazers fan and (San Francisco) 49ers fan, and I played football, baseball and basketball until my freshman year,” the 18-year-old Sisters native said last week.

“I was really bent on being a professional baseball player.”

Only one problem: By the time he reached ninth grade at Sisters High School, Ehrenstrom realized he “didn’t like the competitive edge” of high school sports.

Competitive edge is one of those things you probably need to have to play in the major leagues.

“Yeah,” he said, “I quickly realized that wasn’t a possibility.”

IF YOU GO
What: Travis Ehrenstrom’s CD-release show, with opener Jena Rickards
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Sisters High School, 1700 W. McKinney Butte Road, Sisters
Cost: $10 (adults) and $5 (students) at the door
Contact: www.travisehrenstrom.com or 390-2926
Fortunately for Ehrenstrom, who will play a CD-release show tonight in Sisters (see “If You Go”), that realization was the first wind of a perfect storm brewing in his life — one that would lead him to pursue music as at least a lifelong hobby and perhaps a career.

At about the same time, Ehrenstrom’s big brother Matt, then a student at Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls, passed along his expanding musical taste to Travis. Matt was getting into roots-rock-oriented acts such as the Dave Matthews Band, Counting Crows, Bob Dylan, Steve Earle and Jackson Browne, which just happened to overlap with the music the boys heard their father playing when they were growing up.

“(Matt) started listening to a lot of different types of music,” Travis said. “That’s when I started getting into it.”

Though he had been playing guitar since seventh grade, Ehrenstrom got serious about it during his freshman year. (“I wasn’t playing sports, so I had a lot of free time,” he says.) And then came the third wind of that perfect storm: Sisters High School’s Americana Project program, which teaches students the history of American roots music as well as how to play and write their own songs.

The program has been up and running in Sisters since 2000, and it’s the brainchild of local singer-songwriter Brad Tisdel, who also books bands for the Sisters Folk Festival. When Ehrenstrom entered high school, Tisdel was still heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of the class, which meets daily for 70 minutes.

Ehrenstrom gives Tisdel a lot of credit for his development as a musician.

“Brad was really kind of the creative force behind my songwriting, for sure,” he said. “He’d come into class like three times a week and oversee things, more so in the past because he has a little boy now. But back then he’d come in often and just listen to the songs the kids were coming up with and help out with writing.”

The class gave Ehrenstrom the fundamentals to grow into the songwriter he is today, and it gave him the chance to practice. It gave him a mentor to help him during times of writer’s block.

But most of all, Ehrenstrom says, it gave him time. Time to let the music come out.

There’s undoubtedly natural ability inside the most successful musicians — an innate talent for stringing chords together or humming a pretty melody. But Ehrenstrom’s take on songwriting is more egalitarian than that.

“The one thing I remember when I first went to write a song is not really knowing how to, I guess, and I still kind of feel that way today,” he said. “I think there’s some element of songwriting that the songwriter doesn’t control, and it’s really just the ability to focus on what you’re feeling and being able to express that.

“I think that everyone has that, and it’s just being able to tap into it,” he continued. “I wouldn’t say that I really learned how to do that in the class, but it was really about having the class time to focus on it.”

By the end of his freshman year of high school, Ehrenstrom had enough songs to record an album, he says. But it wasn’t until last July — after he’d graduated from Sisters High and with financial support from his dad and brother — that he took a band down to Ridgetop Sound studio near Santa Cruz, Calif., to record the songs that would become Ehrenstrom’s new album, “Somewhere In Between.”

He chose Ridgetop on the recommendation of Sisters-based artist Dennis McGregor, and the seven-day recording session was a who’s-who of Sisters musicians. Sisters High grads Benji Nagel and Justin Veloso played guitar and drums, respectively. Current student Seth Rodriguez played sax. Patrick Pearsall played bass, and Brent Alan produced the album.

The result is a warm, rootsy set of songs that recalls both old-school pop songwriters like Browne as well as current alt-country star Ryan Adams. (To hear some songs, check out www.travisehrenstrom.com or www.myspace.com/southbound.)

“Benji and I came up with the term ‘eclectic - Bend Bulletin


Discography

Almost Tomorrow - 2004
Somewhere In Between - 2007

Photos

Bio

Like many teenage kids, singer-songwriter Travis Ehrenstrom was singularly focused on sports as a career when he was in middle school.

“I was a huge Blazers fan and (San Francisco) 49ers fan, and I played football, baseball and basketball until my freshman year,” the 18-year-old Sisters native said last week.

“I was really bent on being a professional baseball player.”

Only one problem: By the time he reached ninth grade at Sisters High School, Ehrenstrom realized he “didn’t like the competitive edge” of high school sports.

Competitive edge is one of those things you probably need to have to play in the major leagues.

“Yeah,” he said, “I quickly realized that wasn’t a possibility.”
This realization was the first wind of a perfect storm brewing in his life — one that would lead him to pursue music as a career.

At about the same time, Ehrenstrom’s big brother Matt, then a student at Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls, passed along his expanding musical taste to Travis. Matt was getting into roots-rock-oriented acts such as the Dave Matthews Band, Counting Crows, Bob Dylan, Steve Earle and Jackson Browne, which just happened to overlap with the music the boys heard their father playing when they were growing up.

“(Matt) started listening to a lot of different types of music,” Travis said. “That’s when I started getting into it.”

Though he had been playing guitar since seventh grade, Ehrenstrom got serious about it during his freshman year. (“I wasn’t playing sports, so I had a lot of free time,” he says.) And then came the third wind of that perfect storm: Sisters High School’s Americana Project program, which teaches students the history of American roots music as well as how to play and write their own songs.

The program has been up and running in Sisters since 2000, and it’s the brainchild of local singer-songwriter Brad Tisdel, who also books bands for the Sisters Folk Festival. When Ehrenstrom entered high school, Tisdel was still heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of the class, which meets daily for 70 minutes.

Ehrenstrom gives Tisdel a lot of credit for his development as a musician.

“Brad was really kind of the creative force behind my songwriting, for sure,” he said. “He’d come into class like three times a week and oversee things, more so in the past because he has a little boy now. But back then he’d come in often and just listen to the songs the kids were coming up with and help out with writing.”

The class gave Ehrenstrom the fundamentals to grow into the songwriter he is today, and it gave him the chance to practice. It gave him a mentor to help him during times of writer’s block.

But most of all, Ehrenstrom says, it gave him time. Time to let the music come out.

There’s undoubtedly natural ability inside the most successful musicians — an innate talent for stringing chords together or humming a pretty melody. But Ehrenstrom’s take on songwriting is more egalitarian than that.

“The one thing I remember when I first went to write a song is not really knowing how to, I guess, and I still kind of feel that way today,” he said. “I think there’s some element of songwriting that the songwriter doesn’t control, and it’s really just the ability to focus on what you’re feeling and being able to express that.

“I think that everyone has that, and it’s just being able to tap into it,” he continued. “I wouldn’t say that I really learned how to do that in the class, but it was really about having the class time to focus on it.”

By the end of his freshman year of high school, Ehrenstrom had enough songs to record an album, he says. But it wasn’t until last July — after he’d graduated from Sisters High and with financial support from his dad and brother — that he took a band down to Ridgetop Sound studio near Santa Cruz, Calif., to record the songs that would become Ehrenstrom’s new album, “Somewhere In Between.”

He chose Ridgetop on the recommendation of Sisters-based artist Dennis McGregor, and the seven-day recording session was a who’s-who of Sisters musicians. Sisters High grads Benji Nagel and Justin Veloso played guitar and drums, respectively. Current student Seth Rodriguez played sax. Patrick Pearsall played bass, and Brent Alan produced the album.

The result is a warm, rootsy set of songs that recalls both old-school pop songwriters like Browne as well as current alt-country star Ryan Adams. (To hear some songs, check out www.travisehrenstrom.com or www.myspace.com/southbound.)

“Benji and I came up with the term ‘eclectic folk-rock,’” Ehrenstrom said. “I think I draw on so many influences that … I wouldn’t be able to give it a label other than that.”

These days, Ehrenstrom is living in Portland and majoring in history at Portland State University. He likes the same thing about history as he does about writing songs.

“I think the reason I have a passion for history is it’s just stories,” he says. “I just love stor