ROCKIN' OUT

Bluegrass musician to take pedal-powered tour of Maine coast

Posted July 14, 2011, at 6:40 p.m.
Adam Nordell, seen here in a picture taken in his home state of Montana, is performing in multiple venues across the state next week.
PHOTO COURTESY ADAM NORDELL
Adam Nordell, seen here in a picture taken in his home state of Montana, is performing in multiple venues across the state next week.

If you see a guy riding his bike somewhere between Lubec and Portland, hauling a trailer with a guitar in it, be sure to say hello. It’s probably musician and organic farmer Adam Nordell, whose mini tour of Maine next week is pedal-powered.

Nordell, 28, spends much of his year growing corn, beans and veggies on the farm he shares with his girlfriend, Johanna, in the Somerset County town of Starks. The rest of the time, he’s writing reflective, bluegrass-folk music on guitar and banjo, which is showcased on his new album, “Spring Fed Creek.” The tour will take him from Cobscook Bay Music in Lubec on July 22 to Local Sprouts Cafe in Portland on July 30, with stops in Machias, Belfast and Damariscotta in between.

“I’ve never ridden that far on a bike before,” said Nordell. “But that’s kind of the way I do things. I just jump in and get my feet wet and learn as I go.”

In many ways, that’s how Nordell came to play music. A native of Helena, Mont., Nordell recalls receiving a bass guitar as a bar mitzvah gift at age 13. Since then, he has studiously learned all he can about music. When he was 17, he attended a music and arts high school in southern California, which he says taught him a lot. Mostly that he did not want to live in a city.

“It was great, because I knew I wanted to get as far away from that as possible,” said Nordell. “So I found a little liberal arts school in Maine and headed east. Maine and Montana have a lot in common. It’s rural, it’s down to earth and it has a really unique, special kind of beauty.”

That little school was College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, where he studied writing and oral history — and became acquainted with Maine’s thriving contradance scene. The rich tradition of the music of contras and the vibrancy of the dances he attended further influenced his music, which combines that old-fashioned sound with Nordell’s contemporary voice.

“Contradances are definitely a nationwide thing, but it’s really strong and deeply rooted here in New England. That was really my gateway into traditional music,” he said. “As a songwriter, I try to blend the traditional with original ideas, and with the imagery of where I’m at, whether it’s Maine or Montana.”

After graduating, Nordell and his girlfriend moved back to Montana, where they took up residency in several dance halls playing contra music for dances. It was in Montana last year where Nordell recorded his album, “Spring Fed Creek,” at Base Camp Studios outside of Bozeman, which is owned by Chris Cunningham of the folk duo Storyhill.

“It’s a collection of songs that feel very alive to me. Most of them are newer songs, but a few are some older ones that still felt important,” said Nordell. “I write songs when there’s something bugging me or there’s an experience I need to process. If I can’t express it in conversation, it comes out in a song.”

The couple traded Big Sky Country for the Pine Tree State last year, when they returned to Maine to buy a farm and start life in western Maine. Nordell’s album came out early this year, and he has played a number of shows around the state, mostly in western Maine. Nordell wanted to tour the state, and as he’s an environmentally-conscious guy, he decided to have zero carbon footprint and tour by bike.

“It’s a neat way of traveling and meeting people,” he said. “You have a different perspective when you’re traveling outside of metal box. A lot of things open up to you.”

Adam Nordell will perform at 7 p.m.:

• Friday, July 22, at Cobscook Bay Music in Lubec

• Saturday, July 23, at the Beehive Design Collective in Machias

• Thursday, July 28, at Three Tides in Belfast

• Friday, July 29, at River Arts in Damariscotta

• Saturday, July 30, at Local Sprouts Cafe in Portland

Follow Emily Burnham on Twitter at twitter.com/rockblogsterbdn.

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