A brief history

of the artist

I got got my first guitar from my beloved Grandma Helen as a high school graduation gift. I spent the next few summers learning some of the music I grew up with, like the Limelighters (my Dad was a huge fan), Gordon Lightfoot, Bob Dylan.

I kept plugging away at playing the guitar, and eventually began to practice singing as well.   It was years before I finally started to play coffeehouses, festivals and grange halls in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  There were live music venues everywhere in those days!

During that time I worked for “A Prairie Home Companion,” and got to sing in the Lake Wobegon Community Choir, standing alongside Greg Brown and Peter Ostroushko. In the mid-80’s, the green, green mountains of Oregon called me back home. Back again on my home soil, I began to write the first of my own songs, which I sang at some local festivals and coffeehouses.

At that time I was the host of the weekly folk music radio show, Friends and Neighbors, on KLCC 89.7 FM. As a folk music DJ I got to meet many touring musicians, which kept me inspired.

In the early 90’s, I attempted to leave music behind for a career as a psycho- therapist. For several years I tried, but just couldn’t leave it. After traveling in east Africa, new songs started coming out of me. So, I quit my counseling practice, and started writing these new songs down. In March of 1995, I opened for perennial Eugene favorite Laura Kemp, singing the first of the songs that would later become the album “Flying Canoe”. Later on, Laura and I toured together a bit in Oregon, Washington and California.

Then I met multi-talented music and dance artist Allison Rickenbaugh (now Alli Bach)–little did I know we would soon form Flying Canoe, which would later grow into a five piece band and win an army of fans. The album Flying Canoe came out in 1996. The final splash of Flying Canoe was the headline show at the New Year’s Eve First Night Festival in Eugene, with live TV coverage and a throbbing mass of several hundred revelers ringing in the New Year.

In the early 2000’s, I met drummer Carrie Jahde and her bassist partner Michael Schaller, and vocalist Christa Flores.  We put together a project we called The Wild Elfin Band, which played shows around the Eugene area until Carrie went off to the Berklee School of Music in Massachusetts, where she now works.  We had a blast for those few shows!

Solo performances and songwriting were sporadic until 2007, when I took a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon, on the mighty Colorado River. Something mysterious happened during that epic wilderness journey, as if the river itself became my muse. Songs began to pour out at an almost alarming rate. Perhaps it was the nightly singing sessions in that awesome canyon wilderness. Maybe it was it was surviving being tossed from the boat in North America’s largest rapid. I don’t know, but I wasn’t complaining!

After a couple of years of steady writing, it was clear that there were more than enough songs for a new recording. The question was when, where and how to make it. I met Nashville producer Nomad Ovunc through Laura Kemp, when Nomad and his partner Mare Wakefield passed through town on tour. By the end of the evening, I knew that Nomad and I would co-produce the new recording. And, indeed, that effort culminated with me traveling to Nashville to complete the recording and mixing of “Light and Darkness” in July 2011.

Photo of Neil Bjorklund and FriendsFollowing the release of “Light and Darkness” I teamed up with an amazing group of Eugene singers and musicians, a project we called The Bodacious Band, mostly because we couldn’t think of any other name!  I was so honored to share the stage with Matt Keenan, Megan Basset, Austin Bowles, Beau Eastlund and Jenny Getty!