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Perkolations: Inspiration in friendly places

Recently a friend of mine, Stelth Ulvang (surprisingly, that’s his real name), performed with his band, The Lumineers, at the Grammys. Though they didn’t win, they were nominated for two awards.

I am amazed at his success. The album the band released (most famous for the song “Ho Hey”) came out only about 10 months ago, and already the band is on a world-wide tour, has played on “Saturday Night Live” and most other major talk shows, and recently played live to 12,000 people over two nights in London.

I had to do what any self-respecting reporter would do: I called him up and asked him some questions. Who hasn’t wanted to ask a big-name musician a few questions?

I asked him if he knew, when he joined the band just before their album was released, if things would get this big.

“There had to be something, this dream, somewhere, and I think I saw that in the lead singer,” Stelth said. “I didn’t see it maybe getting this big. But you don’t think of it like that. I didn’t know what this looked like.”

I like the idea that this really is an American dream realized for the five band members. So few accomplish something so generally considered “big” as being Grammy-nominated.

He also talked about honesty — not something that pops into my mind when I picture bright stage lights.

“Sometimes there’s a lot of assumed insincerity with pop folk music,” Stelth said. “When we express feelings, it’s coming from the truth.”

He often wonders (and I do, too) if bands are telling the truth when they sing of stories and feelings.

“If someone were to sing about aliens, I would want them to believe in them,” Stelth said as an example, adding hastily, “We don’t have any songs about aliens.”

He said very simply that he believes in music. My hope is that believing in and working hard at something can do for you, me or anyone what it’s done for Stelth.

Watching him has been an inspiration. I see red carpet photos of him on the Internet, appearing on shows and coaxing the audience into singing during performances. It is surreal to see a friend in those situations, and it makes big accomplishments seem much more attainable.

And maybe the best part is this: Stelth is the most social person I know. He has literally hundreds of friends. And that means all those people are saying the same thing I am: “I have a friend who did something so cool!”

All those people are getting excited, and I bet they’re thinking the same thing I am: If he can do something so big, maybe I can, too.