"Chris Collins and Boulder Canyon are the perfect band to deliver this music… talented, authentic, and sincere. “ Tom Tranchilla, KPFT
Collins and his band, Boulder Canyon, bring the keynote tribute back to the Wheeler!"….. Aspen Times
"The trick is developing a unique show and style that represents the artist while brushing their music with original style… the most well-known John Denver tribute band in the nation Chris Collins and Boulder Canyon delivered a performance both fun and interactive…." from review in The Daily Collegian, State College, PA
"Audience members gave a standing ovation for Chris Collins and Boulder Canyon’s renditions of “Sunshine on My Shoulders” and “Annie’s Song.”…..Chris Collins and Boulder Canyon did a great job of emulating such an incredible musician and performer….Fans, some dizzied with exhaustive excitement and others streaming with tears, were sad to see the evening draw to a close….They completely captured the essence of everything that was John Denver…." from Review in The Daily Anthenaeum, West Virginia
"We have not had this enthusiastic of an audience since Chris Collins and Boulder Canyon performed here the last time!"…..House Manager, Majestic Theatre, Gettysburg, PA
"In my years of involvement with our event, I had never seen an entertainer receive a standing ovation until the crowd stood and cheered for Chris Collins' performance. It was the best show we've had in 23 years." Rural Valley Electric
"We were truly in awe of your performance in Carlisle. I am not usually impressed with tribute groups but must say WOW!"
Sincerely, Steve Henry
"I took my three elderly relatives and my husband to see this show. I loved John Denver as a kid. I didn't know what to expect . We all loved it. My 83 year old father in law said that was one of the best show he saw in a long time. It was a great present for them." Anonymous
Beautifully done (Show at Scranton Cultural Center)by Bluebear9
"Very entertaining, and a wonderful tribute to a legend! Authentic voice and accurate accounts of JD. Band was fantastic."by Deb926
"He was very entertaining. Love the jokes. Would go see again.Favorite moment: When he sang "Annie's Song"... concert goer, Scranton Christmas Concert
".....Chris has an ease about him that reflects the persona of John Denver. Such a tragedy that John is no longer with us as thus world could use a little of his influence in the beauty of nature and the simpler things in life. Two thumbs up for this event." Steph, Bartlett, IL, Rosemont Theatre Christmas Concert
"Loved the whole concert with a great band wonderful tribute to John and a great time to get in the holiday spirit." Stephanie, Chicago, IL, Rosemont Theatre Christmas Concert
"...Collins and company gave their audience a night to remember, allowing attendees to enjoy live the music of a singer-songwriter whose work is still loved today." from review, S. Yunker, The Ramapo News
"I have seen many tribute artists, but Chris Collins with Boulder Canyon are by far the best! A great concert with a superb singer and great musicians!" anonymous concert attendee, PA
"I was a skeptic up until last night. Chris Collins and the Boulder Canyon band are awesome. That band has way more talent than you could ever imagine. I'm a huge John Denver fan and thought that nobody could pull up his music. Collins and the band are magnificent. If you have a chance to catch his show definitely do so! Thank you for coming to Woonsocket Rhode Island last night...you guys are incredible." K. White, concert attendee, Stadium Theatre, Woonsocket, RI
"What an awesome show you put on at the Derby Dinner playhouse. I never was able to see John Denver before he passed and you and your band are an excellent representation. You have an important job continuing playing the awesome songs of John. They need to be heard by future generations. Thanks again!" L. Lorimor, concert attendee, Derby Dinner Playhouse
I was gifted a place at the West Salem, WI performance on December19th
I can't tell you the impact you have had on me. Great music, instrumental, vocal, and energy. Loved it ! Loved it ! I'm 71 years old - and that is the closest I have ever come to experiencing true greatness. Thanks to all of you for your hard work and love of John Denver's music. The spirit of John Denver truly filled the center ! His blessings be upon you !
May God give you many years of happiness and safe travels. Sincerely, Margie, attendee Marie W. Heider Center for the Arts, W. Salem, WI 2019
Chris Collins and Boulder Canyon
in the Press
Music can inspire many emotions, including ones that lead to acts of great generosity.
After a show in Norwood, Massachusetts, Chris Collins met an audience member who surprised him with a gift.
“Last year there was a fella there … he heard our show and heard me tell the story of how John Denver got his start by his grandmother giving him her 1910 Gibson F-hole jazz guitar,” Collins said. “Well, he heard the story and this year he showed up at our show and he met me in the lobby after the show and said ‘I have something at my house I want to give you.’ And what he wanted to give me was a Gibson F-hole jazz guitar very much like the one John played from his grandmother.
“So I just got that this weekend. So we’ve been tuning it up and cleaning it up and getting it worked on a little bit so we can start playing it in the show,” he said. “(It’s) Incredibly generous. It’s a beautiful old instrument.”
Collins and the band, Boulder Canyon, tour internationally performing a John Denver tribute show. They will perform a holiday concert at 5 p.m. Dec. 21 at 210 Live in Highwood and at 3 p.m. Dec. 22 at The Arcada Theatre in St. Charles.
“We’ll be doing some of the Christmas standards that people love, along with John Denver music,” he said. “We do about five or six Christmas songs. Some of them are John Denver Christmas songs.”
They also perform “Snowing in Colorado,” an original Christmas song written by Collins’ friend, DianaJo Burleson. The approximately two-hour show is loosely based on the style of show that Denver used to produce, Collins said.
“All of the humor, the banter and everything is original,” he said. “So the audience will get something that feels very much like a John Denver concert, except it will be completely contemporary in terms of its banter and content.”
Collins began playing guitar when he was 17, primarily listening to Jim Croce and James Taylor. It was about the time that Denver’s “Back Home Again” album was out.
“I liked that album so much I went backwards in John Denver’s catalogue of albums,” he said. “And the more researched backwards, the more I liked his music. And really became a huge fan.”
While performing his own music, Collins would hear from audience members about his resemblance to the late singer.
“Every place I would go, people would say ‘Hey, you look like John Denver. Play some John Denver,'” he said. “So I would for them. Eventually, someone from Aspen heard me and invited me to the … annual John Denver Celebration that takes place in Aspen every second weekend of October to celebrate his life and the anniversary of his passing.
That’s where I met most of the band members. We started sort of reluctantly doing tribute concerts,” he said. “One every here and there. And the last five or six years we really decided that we would like to put a little more effort into producing the show.”
The band includes Kevin Delmolino on bass, Paul Swanton on lead guitar, Alexander Mitchell on mandolin/fiddle and Bill Powell on keyboards. Guest band members include Mark Nelson on percussion, Joel Tolley on bass and Nigel Newton on keyboards.
“Everybody in the band really loves John Denver and plays everything with such heart,” Collins said.
Collins, who grew up in Wisconsin but now lives in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, said the concerts draw all ages because Denver’s music is so universal.
“The thing that makes John’s music so enduring is he writes about the human experience. And despite all the changes — the wars, political changes and all the changes in technology — the one thing that remains consistent is our human experience of life,” Collins said.
“Our longing for love, our longing for freedom, our longing to understanding our place in society. Our longing to feel useful and important. That’s something everybody shares. And whether John did it consciously or subconsciously, most of his music reflects that message.”
Collins said he is glad people still want to experience Denver’s music live.
“It’s very different than listening to it on the stereo,” he said. “To be amongst people who also love his music and loved John Denver the way they did, I think there’s a certain magic that occurs.”
Chris Collins and Boulder Canyon: John Denver Tribute Christmas Show
When: 5 p.m. Dec. 21
Where: 210 Live, 210 Green Bay Road, Highwood
Information: 847-433-0304; www.210live.com
When: 3 p.m. Dec. 22
Where: The Arcada Theatre, 105 E. Main St., St. Charles
Information: 630-962-7000; www.arcadalive.com
Chris Collins brings John Denver back
Devin Wilger / Yorkton This Week
APRIL 26, 2019 12:27 PM
Chris Collins and Boulder Canyon bring the songs of John Denver back to the stage, their tribute act bringing favorites like Country Roads to the stage. The singer will be in Yorkton with Boulder Canyon on May 3 at the Anne Portnuff Theatre, presented by the Yorkton Arts Council as part of the Stars for Saskatchewan Series.
Collins didn’t set out to do a Denver tribute. While he looks like him, he says that’s an accident of genetics. While he tried doing his own music, audiences noticed the similarities right away.
“Every time I went out to play my own music people were like ‘hey, you look like John Denver, play some John Denver!’”
The similarity in style goes down to how they sing, Collins believes, and while he wasn’t originally setting out to sound like Denver, the comparison was inevitable
“People perceive a pure way that I sing. I don’t try to do anything with my voice, I sing very straightforward, which is also the way John Denver sings. There’s a style similarity that people respond to.”
As with any tribute act, one has to ask what it is about that artist that makes people still respond. Denver’s songs are still resonate with audiences today, and Collins believes it’s because of what Denver was searching for in his songs.
“He really understood the human condition and human longing. Underlying most songs is that longing to be loved, longing to be home, longing to be important in the world. He understood that completely and was able to articulate that in his songs. John’s music was popular right after the Vietnam War, and I think that message of wanting to be home and wanting to be loved, looking for something kinder and gentler in the world, his music resonated back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. I think today, because of our political circumstances, people are still feeling that longing for something kinder and gentler.”
He jokes that there are people who think they’re too cool for Denver, especially when they’re in their 20s and 30s, but they come around.
“I think that the thing that surprises most people about themselves, is that those who didn’t care for his music in their 20s and 30s now hear it again and they get the message much clearer and much better now that they have some life experiences... I think that’s the surprising part, and the surprising part for themselves, that they love it.”
The funny thing about Denver is that he wrote many songs that have been tied to specific places. Collins has played in those places, so he’s got evidence they’re doing it right. He points to the time he was in Prince Edward Island, playing The Ballad of St. Anne’s Reel.
“When we played up there, the sound man said, ‘don’t do that song. If you don’t do that song perfect they’re going to throw lobsters at you.’ We just had to do it, because we were there, and the audience went crazy for it, because our fiddle player is a hot player. He just tore it up, so they just loved it.”
While you could play John Denver with just a guitar, Collins said, that’s not what you’re getting with his show. This is a full band performance, and everyone is great at their instrument of choice.
“We’re bringing the A-Team up there. We hope that there’s a great crowd because there’s going to be a great show.”
But what is the top song for someone who lives and breathes John Denver? While there are plenty of hits to choose from, Collins picks a deeper cut. “For me Poems, Prayers and Promises is the song that says it all. It’s pretty simple, pretty straightforward, just about being with friends and people you care about, talking about poems and prayers and promises and things you believe in. That’s it, that’s all you can ask for out of life, to be with people you care about, talking about things that you care about. For me that’s the perfect song.”
Chris Collins showcases his Rocky Mountain Identity
John Zelazny, Time Out Music Columnist
Aspen Daily News
Oct 11, 2018
"Back when I was 18, John Denver was very popular, and I was drawn to his music,” says Chris Collins, who learned how to play guitar around the same time. “I liked his music, and because of the timbre of my voice, it was kind of a natural fit.”
Collins played music throughout his college years and a little after before setting his musical aspirations down. When he got back into strumming and writing his own songs, everybody wanted him to perform John Denver music. He finally caved in Fort Worth, agreeing to an all-Denver set at a small bar. Three hundred eager fans packed into the tiny space, and some of them were from Aspen. Impressed, they invited Collins to perform at the annual John Denver celebration, which takes place every year during the second weekend in October.
Collins and his band, Boulder Canyon, will be in Aspen this Saturday night, paying tribute to Denver in the town that was once his home and inspiration. Along with the many shows they play around the states and in Canada, Boulder Canyon comes to Aspen every year, where many of them met.
Collins started singing Denver’s songs because he connected with them, but they became a major part of his life because he looks and sounds similar. Collins even wears comparable wire-frame glasses, along with most members of the band and other super fans.
“John Denver was an incredibly dynamic entertainer,” says Collins. “He not only had a great voice, he was a good guitar player and an excellent songwriter. But, I think above all of that, he had the ability to make each person in the audience feel as though he was singing just to them. His shows were very intimate no matter how many people were in the audience.”
Because of Collins’ appearance and the soft harmony of his voice, Boulder Canyon’s style translates well to playing John Denver. In between songs they banter and tell jokes in a lighthearted manner, and audiences appreciate their effort, but the main event is the soulful sound of remaking an American icon.
“It’s a complicated relationship,” says Collins. “People love John Denver; fans just absolutely adore him. They want to be reminded of him, but, at the same time, they don’t want someone to imitate him. So, the trick in doing a good tribute show is to do the music with musical integrity and be yourself, but present it in a way that gives people the same sense they would have at a John Denver show.”
Along with Denver’s success as a musician, he was also an actor and activist. His music paved the way for him to stand up for the environment and get on the big screen. His best role was in “Oh, God!” when Denver costarred with George Burns, who was already old in 1977. In the movie, Jerry (Denver) is an atheist grocery-store assistant manager who is chosen by God (Burns) to spread the word despite the media’s skepticism or religious authority’s shortcomings. “Oh, God!” will be playing for free at the Wheeler on Friday night.
Denver’s first hit came 50 years ago, leading to a career that would make him one of the most popular entertainers in the world. He is part of Colorado’s identity and he always will be. Chris Collins and Boulder Canyon are the act John Denver fans need to see, and they regularly sellout.
“John Denver is the one artist that I related to back in the ’70s whose songs still hold incredible relevance today,” says Collins. “The older I get, the meaning of some songs changed a little, but the relevance is still there, and I think that’s one of the reasons his music is still so strong.”
John Zelazny was born in the summer of his 27th year, coming home to a place he’d never been before. He appreciates your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Denver tribute artist returns
by Guinne Stropes Mail Staff Writer
Mountain Mail, Salida, CO
Jul 5, 2018
John Denver tribute artist Chris Collins returns to Salida with Alexander Mitchell and Paul Swanton for the eighth year in a row at 7 p.m. Friday at Salida SteamPlant, 220 W. Sackett Ave.
Collins recently returned from a 10-show tour through Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
Collins, Mitchell and Swanton are part of a six-piece band, the Boulder Canyon Band, but the SteamPlant show will showcase only the trio’s talents.
Collins plays six- and twelve-string acoustic guitar and banjo and is the lead singer; Mitchell plays fiddle and mandolin and sings; and Swanton is the lead guitarist.
“Paul and I met in Aspen at the annual John Denver celebration,” Collins said.
He said Mitchell was a friend of a friend who hooked up with the duo to play and has been performing with the group since.
Collins said he has been interested in music since the 1970s, when he first began learning to play guitar.
He said he played guitar throughout college, then moved to Texas to further his career in western music.
He quit playing music for 15 years when the Houston economy went bust because of a downturn in the oil business.
“My partner and I lost a year’s worth of bookings in one day,” Collins said.
He started a landscaping company and decided he liked having a solid income.
He said he got married, had children, raised his family and then slowly began to get back into performing.
When he first started performing again, he said lots of people told him he should perform John Denver covers because of the way he sounds and looks.
“It took quite a lot of convincing,” he said.
Collins said he was reluctant to begin the path of a tribute artist because it meant relinquishing his own musical identity.
As an artist, he said, it’s hard to both be original and be a tribute artist, and to do something wholeheartedly he had to give up his own music.
“I haven’t written for a while,” he said.
Collins said his genre is “that ’70s stuff” like James Taylor. He said that being out of the game for 15 years didn’t help, and he didn’t keep up with contemporary sounds.
“The reason John Denver is still relevant today, 50 years after his first hit single was made, is because he speaks on real human issues.
“John Denver is about the human experience. He sings about the emotional stuff that we face as people. His music is multigenerational because of that,” Collins said.
He said that, given today’s political environment, people want the connection to each other and the Earth that John Denver gave them.
Tickets for the show cost $20 in advance at salidasteamplant.comor the SteamPlant box office and $25 at the door.