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Published: Friday, 9/20/2013 - Updated: 10 months ago

Nesting came naturally for Birds of Chicago

BY ROD LOCKWOOD
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Birds of Chicago’s Jeremy Lindsay and Allison Russell were married this summer. Birds of Chicago’s Jeremy Lindsay and Allison Russell were married this summer.
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Allison Russell and Jeremy Lindsay would have it no other way.

Sure she’s pregnant with their first child, but the couple who perform as Birds of Chicago have maintained a rigorous touring schedule that finds them on the road for weeks, criss-crossing the United States and Canada.

For a couple of self-described “vagabonds” this is routine.

Russell, a Canadian who also is in the band Po Girl, said she has leaned on fellow touring musician moms Rhiannon Giddens from the Carolina Chocolate Drops, and Abigail Washburn of Bela Fleck’s band for advice and mentoring.

“There are a few people out there who are managing to keep their touring going and still having a healthy, happy family so JT and I find that pretty inspiring and it’s great just to have people who are in the same kind of unconventional career or lifestyle to give you advice about things. Because, of course, some of our friends are just absolutely horrified by the idea of touring with a baby,” she said laughing.

Lindsay is a Toledo native who also performs solo as JT Nero and with the band JT and the Clouds. They will be in the area for a show Saturday night at the Village Idiot in Maumee, a favorite musical stomping ground that likely will packed with Birds followers.

Their first release “Birds of Chicago” is critically acclaimed in Americana circles and its music is a joyous, invigorating combination of folk, soul, pop, and rhythm and blues that features Lindsay’s literate, evocative lyrics and singing and Russell’s sublime vocals and multi-instrumental prowess.

They had been involved romantically for years before deciding this summer to get married.

“It feels fantastic,” Lindsay said in a phone interview from his parents’ home in Milwaukee, the city where they plan to have the baby.

“Alli and I have been partners for a while and we both knew we were in it for the long haul and we had every intention to getting around to both having a family and getting married."

The pregnancy made the decision easy after months of trying to determine how to combine a career and raising a child.

"It was great because we had some decisions made for us and one thing led to another," he said. "The main emotion we felt was relief. ‘Oh great we don't have to make that decision anymore, we're going to have a baby.'"

Russell is an energetic, engaging live performer who bops around the stage, and she said her baby seems to enjoy the action.

"We're just about six and a half months along and she is very active and I'm extremely aware of her during performances and how she's reacting to things," she said. "It's been pretty wonderful actually. I certainly feel like I'm singing to her some nights."

The baby is due in the late fall, and the couple plans to take December and January off before embarking on a European tour in February. Their traveling nanny initially will be Lindsay's mother, Norene, a retired University of Toledo professor who now lives in Wisconsin.

"She's been angling for that job for a few years," Lindsay said. "I think she's been worrying about us getting around to giving her another grandchild."

Also this fall is a live album release that will include some new songs along with regulars in the band's repertoire. Lindsay said that he hopes it will be out in late October or early November.

Meantime, the band will keep plugging away on the road. Russell said she does yoga and jogs to stave off the discomfort of long rides in a van or plane. But, otherwise, the traveling and performing come naturally, pregnancy or not.

"Both Alli and I are pretty much vagabonds when it comes to that. We love being on the road," Lindsay said. "I think in our perfect world we'll sort of be able to tour seven months out of the year as opposed to 10. That's just in the blood, and I think you figure out pretty quickly whether that is in your blood or not."

Once their daughter is school age, things will change, but for now she can expect to see plenty of the country in her early years.

"Part of the beauty for us is that for our little one, this is all she will know," Russell said. "She's been hearing music in utero her whole little life and she'll be traveling around and we figure we have a grace period up until she can express her desires."

The Birds of Chicago will be at the Village Idiot, 309 Conant St., in Maumee, Saturday at 10 p.m. Tickets are $15 at the door. Information: 419-893-7281.

Contact Rod Lockwood at: rlockwood@theblade.com or 419-724-6159.



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