Bon Jovi & Border Country: An Interview with Tres Altman of The Paper Stars

By: Deana Morton

The Paper Stars are bringing a great mix of tunes to their Fox show this weekend.

The Paper Stars are a folk Americana band based out of Eldorado Springs, CO. Lead singer and guitarist Tres Altman’s rustic, and at times heartbreaking lyrics layer on top of an alt-country ensemble that is perfect for a road trip, cozying up by the campfire, or even just cracking open a beer on your porch while watching the world go by. Their latest release Border Country weaves in and out of love, hope, hardship, and loss with musical ease that is both comforting and pleasing to the ears. Tunes like “Caroline” and “We All Know The Way” are the perfect mix of blues, country, and rock n’ roll reminiscent of bands like Wilco, Drive-By Truckers, and Whiskeytown. I had the opportunity to talk with Tres about Bon Jovi, how creativity spun from tragedy, and The Paper Stars upcoming show at The Fox Theater.

I love the name The Paper Stars. What is the story behind the name?

Once upon a time, a good friend of mine and I were playing Ro-Sham-Bo to decide who would have to drive the last leg of a late-night road trip. I won the round by throwing ‘paper’ over ‘rock’ - and quickly said "That's right, paper beats rock every time sucker - I'd rather be a ‘paper star’ than a ‘rock star’ any day." And thus the name was born.

Do you remember either seeing a live show or hearing a record that made you want to form a band and create your own sound?

My first concert was Bon Jovi at the Cumberland County Auditorium when I was 12. I knew right then that I wanted to be in a band. I got a drum kit for Christmas and we formed our first band - The Electric Lazyboys - in 8th grade.

Tres Altman of The Paper Stars.  

Tres Altman of The Paper Stars.
 

Fast forward to the formation of The Paper Stars. There’s something that really warms my musical heart about having both a pedal steel player and a violinist in an Americana folk band. It’s great how you incorporate both into your music. Did you seek out musicians who played those instruments or was it more of an organic incorporation into your sound?

Seek and ye shall find. Or better yet, don't seek and it shall find you.

Wise words. I read that the title track from your album Border Country was inspired by your friend Jonny Copp who died in an avalanche while attempting to climb Mt. Edgar in Tibet. Can you tell me a little bit about your friendship with Jonny and how it inspired you to create the song?

Jonny Copp was one of the greats. Aside from being a well-known, highly determined, almost "superhuman" athlete, he was a compassionate friend, a talented writer, a jedi of the simple yet abundant life, and he loved music. He was a gifted flutist and percussionist and any chance we had to jam together, we would relish. He is missed continually by those who loved him and his life remains to be a great source of inspiration for countless people. His legend lives on through the Adventure Film Festival (which he founded). It just celebrated it's 10th anniversary [this year]! And I mean, the story is just so powerful: He wrote "Border Country" in his journal just days before he and his mates died in an avalanche and it was found in his pocket, folded up, buried in the rock and ice. His parents asked me to put it to music, so I did my best.

Border Country.  

Border Country.
 

At your Fox Theater show on May 30th, The Paper Stars are playing one set and then backing Paul Kimbiris when he takes the stage. How have rehearsals been with Paul and what can the audience expect from the collaboration?

Both Paul and I are blessed to have these epic musicians supporting our songs. I just got to town, so he and I haven't rehearsed together yet and I'm not sure if we're gonna do a group song or not. I hope so! I probably need to call him.

Speaking of The Fox, what’s the best part about playing for a hometown?

First and foremost - reconnecting with my musical friends. Playing our songs for some familiar faces (and some new ones hopefully!). The sound. The staff and crew at the Fox. It's just all super near and dear to my heart.  

That’s very exciting. What do The Paper Stars have on the horizon in the future?

We recently placed three songs in Sender Films’ epic award-winning release “Valley Uprising.” It aired on the Discovery Channel. I really like collaborating with film and TV folks. A lot of our music feels "cinematic" to me and I am kind of an "image-based" songwriter. I like to "see" the song unfold in my mind.  So we'd really like to keep that train rolling. And of course, nothing beats a great live show. So we'll always be on the lookout for special engagements.

See The Paper Stars perform this Saturday at the Fox with Paul Kimbiris and Augustus! 

-Deana

Follow Deana on her music blog and Twitter.

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.