Americana with influences of country and folk is how Duke and Tami (Williams) Sheppard, the music duo known as Pint & a Half, describe their sound.
“We say our influences are Puccini and Prine,” said Tami, who has a background in classical music and opera and has been known to sing an aria in the middle of one of their live performances.
Duke, on the other hand, used to play drums in both heavy metal and country bands, and one of his musical influences is the singer/songwriter John Prine.
The Union natives who have been living in Salida, Colo., for years, are in Missouri this week for a quick Midwest tour that includes a performance Friday, Sept. 29, at Henderson House Concerts in Union.
Last Friday they played at a gallery, 1900 Park, in St. Louis’ Lafayette Square, and over the weekend, they played a folk and bluegrass festival, Rattle the Bottoms, in Illinois. Tuesday evening they were scheduled to play in Perryville at Mary Jane’s Burgers and Brews. They will close out the tour Sunday, Oct. 1, in Peoria, Ill., with an afternoon show at Music in the McKenzie.
From there, they will begin the drive west to be home in time for the Southwest Independent Artists Awards being held Oct. 7.
Pint & a Half is a finalist for three awards from their second album, “Boomtown Ghosts” — Folk/Singer Songwriter Song for “Drive, Drive, Drive”; Song of the Year for “Boomtown Ghosts”; and Album of the Year for “Boomtown Ghosts.”
The Sheppards are humbled by their nominations and hopeful to win, but that has never been a motivation for playing their music, they said.
“My main goal was to have fun, and when it stops being fun, I don’t want to do it anymore,” said Tami, a 1987 graduate of Union High School and the daughter of Roy and Barbara Williams, Union. “But it just gets more and more fun all of the time.”
Duke, a 1988 graduate of UHS and son of Phil and Pat Sheppard, Washington, agreed.
“We’ve met a lot of musicians, several St. Louis bands who come to Salida to play, so we’ve kind of reconnected with people from this area,” he said.
Began With a Christmas Gift
Both Duke and Tami have always been musical, but after getting married and moving out west, they set that aside to start careers. Each opened a small business in Salida — she has a bead store, and he has a T-shirt and screenprinting store.
During that time, Tami, who had been a music major at East Central College, did work with a vocal coach in Salida for a while and also performed a few classical concerts.
Then about six years ago, Duke’s dad, who is a musician, gave him a guitar for Christmas.
“He was just sort of obsessed with it for two solid years,” said Tami. “And then he started writing songs, so we were like, ‘Let’s play some songs together.’ ”
They started out singing around a campfire with some friends, who suggested they check out the open mic nights at a nearby restaurant.
“So we did,” said Tami. “We played four songs; that’s all we knew at the time. And the owner of the bar came up to us afterward and asked if we would want to do a two-hour show for pay.”
A few months later, they played that show to a packed house, and suddenly they found themselves on the verge of a new career.
“We were overwhelmed by it, but then other venues in town started approaching us, asking if we wanted to play there too,” said Tami.
Salida is a small community of around 5,000 people, but it has a fairly vibrant music scene, Duke noted. And it’s growing.
“People come from all over to hear music there,” he said.
Set in the mountains on the Arkansas River, Salida attracts people for all of Colorado’s popular outdoor activities — fly-fishing, kayaking, white water rafting, mountain biking, climbing . . . But it’s also become a sort of artists’ mecca with a good number of galleries there, and the original music scene has really started to boom in the last five years or so.
“On some random Tuesday night, you might find five or six places to go listen to original music, and there’s maybe only six places that can have music,” said Tami.
First Album Had More Than 800,000 Plays
The Sheppards played their first show for pay in 2013, and said it was the encouragement and support they found in Salida that led them to keep going.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better place to be to start playing music,” Tami remarked.
They recorded their first album, “Blue Sky Earth,” in July 2015. It was a home-recording, completely self-produced in their home studio on a laptop computer. All of the songs were original, written by Duke.
They put the album on Spotify and iTunes radio, and were overwhelmed by the reception — 800,000 plays on iTunes radio.
That was so encouraging that they began writing and recording a second album. “Boomtown Ghosts” came out in March 2017. This time around they decided to record in a professional studio. They went to Howlin’ Dog Records to rent the studio space, and left with a recording contract.
“The guy liked the songs so much that he asked if they would consider coming on with the label,” said Duke. “They are in the midst of growing the label, signing some new people.”
Howlin’ Dog was recently nominated for some awards, Record Label of the Year and Producer of the Year, for the Josie Awards, in Nashville, Tenn., Duke noted.
The local radio station in Salida plays their music a lot, and stores in town play it as well.
Although it’s early to be talking about recording a third album, the Sheppards say that is part of their plan.
“That’s down the road,” said Duke, who said he hasn’t been able to focus on writing any new music because they have been on the road so much.
He mostly works on song writing when he has a quiet place and some time to play around, but there have been times when he woke up with a whole song in his head. Typically the music comes first for him, and then the words.
“It’s everything from fictional stories to stuff straight from our lives or friends’ lives,” said Duke, recalling how they were once out with a friend who was sharing a story with the two of them, and right away they knew it had the makings of a great song.
They even named the song after her.
The Sheppards took their duo name, Pint & a Half, from Tami’s nickname, Half-Pint. She stands just 5 feet tall.
Tami provides the main vocals, and Duke writes the songs. They both play percussion, and Duke also plays guitar and harmonica.
Want to Hear Their Music?
The performance this Friday at the Henderson House Concert is by reservation only because there is extremely limited seating.
House concerts have been a trend in music for the last few years, the Sheppards explained. They are a great option for people who like to hear live music, but don’t like a bar atmosphere. The concerts are played in living rooms and basements or anywhere in the house that has ample room.
The Hendersons, who are friends of the Sheppards from high school, hold concerts often enough that there is a stage and a sound system.
To make a reservation to Friday night’s concert, email Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you can’t make the local show, you can find Pint and a Half on Spotify and iTunes, or go to pint-and-a-half.com
Looking back a few years ago to when they started down this road, the Sheppards said they never dreamed they would get to a point like this, where they are performing concerts, signing with a record label, touring and winning awards.
“It was never a conscious decision for us to start a music career,” said Tami, noting it was more like a suggestion that led to an invitation that led to more.
“It was a wave,” she remarked.