When I met Stelth Ulvang, he was standing on the side of the road halfway between Cincinnati and Indianapolis with his thumb up. I told my now-fiancée that we should pick him up, adding comfortingly, “He’s safe: he has a skateboard.”
(Side note: Ever since, my detective aunt won’t cease to remind me not to pick up hitchhikers.)
He looked familiar, somehow, and I later remembered where I remembered seeing him—on the Grammy’s. During the ride, we talked about books and Ben Folds, and he told us he was touring with a band, looking honest as he said we might know of them. “They’re called the Lumineers.”
Honestly, I thought he meant he was the guy who sold T-shirts, not the barefoot multi-instrumentalist who launches into mad piano solos one minute and gently strums a mandolin the next. The guy can play almost anything. “I actively like to play most of the keyed instruments (keys, piano, organ/accordion) and most the fretted strings (banjo, guitar, bass, mandolin), as well as most the woodwinds (flute, saxes, clarinets),” he said.
Stelth will perform Tomorrow, Sept. 17, at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, with guitarist Nick Jaina starting off the evening. Though tickets are sold out, you can still find out more and get a taste of Stelth and his music career below.
1. When did you start playing music and what instrument did you start with?
I started playing clarinet in middle school for the sole purpose of eventually playing sax. Sax was ultimately the coolest instrument a 6th grader could play.
I played sax all through high school and eventually started teaching myself piano—I got obsessed with Ben Folds and made out to learn every song of his—and now stick mainly to piano.
2. In the beginning, you weren’t a Lumineer; how did you meet and what’s the experience been like?
I am now officially a Lumineer! Met them upon their move to Denver and used to play shows with them in my old band Dovekins. Eventually (Dovekins) broke up, and I made the move in to the Lumineers.
Experience is amazing. I’d love to do everything, and it sure is helping knock some places and things off my list.
3. What do you miss most about your home state, Colorado, when you’re on the road?
Colorado is greatly missed now by our band, which is primarily Denverites. I miss the sun, and even when it’s cold, it’s nice out.
I miss the tight community, great music scene there.
4. When you go to a new place, and actually have free time, is there anything you do or look for right away?
I use this app ‘wikihood.’ It uses your coordinates and gives wikipedia articles based on historic events or nearby things on wikipedia—so I get settled, turn that on, and sometimes there will be some ‘historical house’ next door, or the hotel has some history in wikipedia. I recommend it.
But I do love some museums, ideally natural history and science museums. I like public parks—and sneaking into universities to find pianos to practice on.
5. Since you’re a big Vonnegut fan, what’s your favorite work of his? And why?
Favorite Vonnegut is probably Mother Night—really fascinating, short novel. I read it in an afternoon in Houston, Texas, and am obsessed with the ‘You are who you pretend to be, so be careful of who you pretend to be’ idea behind it.
I feel sometimes, as a musician, I have to be careful of how I come across, and that I am staying as true as possible to myself.