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Patty and Larry Herd: Music in their DNA
Local duo to play Heather’s in downtown Basalt
Patty and Larry Herd
Patty and Larry Herd play more than 100 shows a year. Courtesy photo

“I like living in Basalt. I like our life here. I would hate to be on a tour bus,” says musician Patty Herd in the home-recording studio she shares with her longtime working partner, husband Larry. “We found our place in this valley, and it’s been a great landing spot.”

On average, the Herds play 100-150 shows a year, and they will perform this winter at the Limelight Aspen and at Heather’s in downtown Basalt, where they will appear Friday, Feb. 1.

“We're really thankful to be at the Limelight Aspen and at Heather’s," Patty says. “We have locals that come out at both places, and it’s fun. We like so many different styles of music, so it’s never boring.”

Heather and Renee Lujan are credited with bringing live music back to the Mid-Valley, and they offer up a rotating cast of performers each week at Heather’s.

Once upon a time, live music flourished in Aspen and throughout the Roaring Fork Valley.

 “They used to have venues for bands in Aspen, and now it’s kind of a thing of the past,” Larry says. 

 “It was a great time,” Patty adds. "When you got off gigs, you could surf around to 15 different bars with bands everywhere, sit in and play. It was a blast.”

These days, there are far fewer restaurants and bars where an eight-piece band with loud live drums will be welcome. Now, owners look for duos, trios or DJs to entertain customers.

Entertain is what the Herds do, playing up to 50 songs a night and running through a diverse set list of rock, blues, jazz, country and Latin cover songs, along with their own original tunes.

Larry’s versatile electric and acoustic guitars are accompanied by Patty’s silky-smooth voice that has a richness of character like a fine port wine. 

Steely Dan, Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, Santana, Sade, Bobby Caldwell, Merle Haggard and a host of other well-known musicians are represented each time they entertain.

We sit in front of Larry’s multi-track Soundcraft recording console with a dizzying array of dials, gauges and monitors in front of us, framed by two large speakers. The sound is incredible as we listen to cover songs they have recorded, original songs they have written and recorded and backing tracks that they currently use in their live shows.

Did they always want to be musicians?

Together they answer in unison, “Oh yeah … ”

“I don't think there really a big choice,” Larry says. “If you like playing music, it’s in your DNA.”

You can see it in their eyes, which light up the excitement of kids as they explain their musical lives, and we listen to their recorded songs.

Patty started playing piano at age 5 and later studied classical guitar, but never had a voice lesson. Larry is a self-taught guitar, bass and keyboard musician who mainly learned from the many musicians he has played with over the years.

Aurage +-2

Original arrangement by Larry Herd.

The Herds met in Austin, Texas, in 1983, and they have been together ever since.

For a time, they moved to Santa Monica, Calif., to test the challenging waters of the music business and see if they could find their place in it. When their rent-controlled apartment was sold and they had to vacate, they decided to flip a coin on where to land next: Austin or Aspen.

Aspen won out, and we are all winners for that luck of the flip.

Though they have come and gone a few times, the Herds moved to the Mid-Valley permanently in 2010.

 “The music flows more freely now,” Patty says. “Instead of struggling to get somewhere, and struggling to learn how to play, sing, harmonize and put it all together, now it’s more comfortable.”

Larry adds, “I think it’s a double-edge sword. When you first start out, you have this anticipation of not being technically great, so you fill that up with more youthful energy and enthusiasm. Then, as you get older, you’re more accomplished technically.”

But that journeyman’s technical prowess only comes with practice, and Larry plays guitar most every day and can also be found in front of his Soundcraft recording board most every day, according to Patty.

That practice shows in Larry's guitar playing. As we listen to Jeff Beck’s “’Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers,” Larry's guitar soars and sings, and his solo is a mesmerizing blend of eerie-sounding, bending notes mixed with staccato flourishes up and down the musical scale.

And while Patty may have never had a voice lesson, her natural talent shows as she croons with rich huskiness Annie Lennox’s “Sweet Dreams” or belts out the words to U2’s “Pride,” accompanied by Larry’s jangly guitar chords.

Asking about their favorites songs, Patty is quick to say that hers is Stevie Wonder’s “Ribbon in the Sky,” while the look on the Larry’s face tells you that’s a difficult choice for someone who reveres guitar players from the rock improvisation of Jimmy Hendrix to the soul of blues players BB King and Robben Ford to the complex jazz of Larry Carlton.  

 “We love what we do,” Patty gushes, and you believe her.

She continues: “This is a magic place. We’re just happy to be in a place where it’s so friendly and fun, where there’s nature and beauty and going to a gig at night is not like work. It’s like going to a fun party with your friends.”

So, join the party and the fun this winter with Patty and Larry Herd in either Aspen or Basalt, and see how two happy people enjoy playing music for their hometown friends and visitors.  

Heather's Savory Pies and Tapas Bar. 166 Midland Ave., Basalt. (970) 927-0151.