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Breathe Owl Breathe is a Michigan-based trio that plays atmospheric, evocative acoustic-based music, fusing folk traditions with the adventurous approach of indie rock. Breathe Owl Breathe was formed in Ann Arbor, MI by songwriter, vocalist, guitarist, and banjo picker Micah Middaugh and Andrea Moreno-Beals, a cellist who also contributes banjo and vocals. Middaugh was born and raised in a small town in Northern Michigan, and he inherited his love of music from his father, who played a home-made banjo as well as the concertina. Moreno-Beals was born in Colombia but spent most of her childhood in Ann Arbor, where she displayed a talent for the cello at an early age. Moreno-Beals was offered scholarships to a number of music schools after graduating from high school, but grew tired of the strictures of classical music. In 2001, she was introduced to Middaugh by a mutual friend during a visit to an ice-cream stand, and the two became fast friends and musical collaborators. (They also helped a friend with a VHS video camera make a home-made zombie movie the same evening.) With the addition of Lansing-based percussionist Trevor Hobbes, Breathe Owl Breathe became a three-piece, and they began performing around the Midwest. In 2004, they released their first album, The Fall Album, through Earthwork Music, a collective of socially and environmentally conscious musicians. Climb In followed in 2005, and Canadian Shield in 2008, as the group continued to spread the word about their music though steady touring. Ghost Glacier was issued on CD, LP, and download formats in the fall of 2009, and another album was scheduled for release in 2010. Middaugh and Moreno-Beals also collaborated with guitarist and singer Sari Brown in a side project, Three Spoons Make Three.
Breathe Owl Breathe is a band from East Jordan, Michigan which consists of Micah Middaugh, Trevor Hobbs, and Andréa Moreno-Beals.
Breathe Owl Breathe's first four albums were with a small Michigan based record label Earthwork Music, run by friends and fellow folk musicians Seth Bernard and May Erlewine. On September 28, 2010, Breathe Owl Breathe signed to Hometapes to release their fifth studio album Magic Central.
The way Breathe Owl Breathe likes to tell their story, their collective journey started in the parking lot of the Boyne City Dairy Queen, when Micah, a printmaking student at Grand Valley State University, had a chance meeting with Andréa, a lifelong student of classical cello about to start at Oberlin College. There at the DQ, over a half-chocolate, half-vanilla soft serve cone, something clicked between the two young musicians. They began making music together, traveling to each other’s schools to collaborate. They released two albums—Fall Album in 2004, and Climb In in 2005—weaving an organic, folk-influenced sound with lyrical inspiration drawn from the natural world.
They wrote songs about caves, marshlands and black bears, and created lovely vocal harmonies between two seemingly disparate voices: Andréa’s ethereal, warbling soprano, and Micah’s broken, sing-speak baritone. Though spare and beautiful, the albums had a loose, living room–performance vibe, which changed when Trevor joined the mix. Canadian Shield in 2007, followed by Ghost Glacier a year later, marked a deepening of the band’s sound. The music became more textured and tight, while still maintaining a homespun feel.
Through this growth, Breathe Owl Breathe’s wide-eyed wonderment remained one of its trademark—and perhaps most endearing—qualities. “I feel like I shouldn’t call a band charming ... [but] Breathe Owl Breathe is a charming band,” wrote a reviewer at Portland’s The Oregonian during the band’s Northwest tour in spring 2010. Words like “whimsical” and “clever” are often used to describe the band, and many media mentions, including Paste magazine’s full-page piece on the band in the June/July 2010 issue’s “Best of What’s Next” section, have likened the sound to a sort of musical Shel Silverstein.
Even the band members get stumped when asked to describe their sound—they look up at the sky or down at their hands awhile before responding with an answer like “swimming.” A more traditional description: They make music feel like a 3D experience, through storytelling, smart arranging, and creative instrumentation.