The Musicians

Birds of Chicago soar with successful campaign

By Mackenzie Templeton

JT Nero and Allison Russell take the dimly lit stage at Space in Evanston as their band, Birds of Chicago, gets ready to perform. Russell scampers across the stage to take the mic as Nero stands stage left, a bun stacked on top of his head, guitar in hand. They begin to play, and this is when Birds of Chicago takes flight–six musicians on stage giving their hearts to what they love: music.

Birds of Chicago, a collective that’s been described as having “organic gospel, hillbilly, folk and soul elements,” celebrated its second successful Kickstarter campaign for the album “Real Midnight” at the intimate venue in March. The band, led by the husband-and-wife duo, raised nearly $81,000, double an initial goal.

“It was a real shot in the arm for us to know that before the record is even out, there are at least 1,203 people that really want to hear it,” Russell, 35, says. “It’s awesome.”

The group didn’t always have music on the brain. The pair would get together and sing often, but in 2012 they decided to do something with their talent.

“There was this bell that would kind of go off in the back of my head that was like this is a really special thing, the blend of our voices,” Nero, 42, says.

The foundation for their career was built with an initial Kickstarter campaign, which funded the band’s, self-titled, debut album. This was followed by months of touring, an international record release and the birth of daughter Ida Maeve, to form a life they couldn’t have dreamed up.  In 2015, the good news continues with another killer Kickstarter campaign.

Nero and Russell didn’t expect that they’d be turning to crowdfunding to launch their music career, but it’s proved rewarding. “It’s about how artists in this new landscape roll with the punches,” Nero says. Crowdfunding is a “cornerstone” that allows artists to access their fans while still accomplishing what needs to be done to gain access to the business, according to Nero.

Birds of Chicago couldn’t “let a good thing die,” says Nero and it appears that 1,000-plus backers agreed.


edited by Alex Harrell and Alexis Castanos

photos by Mackenzie Templeton


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