by Tony Potter Staff Writer
HIBBING — A traditional, folk group is gearing up for a pair of performances in their own backyard.
The band, Mitchell Yards, is exclusively made of Hibbing natives including: singer/songwriter Paul Seeba of St. Paul, his brother Bob Seeba on bass, Rod Tahija on guitar and Greg Tiburzi on drums. The group is slated to perform Friday, March 14, at Zimmy’s and on April 26 at Palmer’s Tavern.
“The City of Hibbing is what I consider the hearth of my family,” Paul Seeba said, adding that many of his relatives still reside in the area. “It is near and dear to my heart, as it’s the place of my roots.”
Seeba said the songs he writes are inspired by a wide-variety of artists including: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, as well as REM, Greg Brown, Lucinda Williams, some Minnesota-based bands and lots of old time country.
“The music of alternative country-rock is sort of a low-key affair to begin with,” he said. “But my hope is the melody, harmonies, lyrical choices, as well as the narrative being spun, is enough to capture an audience.”
Aside from original pieces, Seeba and his band also perform various cover tunes.
“But we try to pick the deeper tracks from popular artists believing the audience would liked to be challenged,” he said. “In other words, we’re not interested in playing Bob Dylan’s ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.’ We rather do something from Dylan like ‘From a Buick 6,’ twisting it around into our own idiom.”
Seeba said he got into performing music for two reasons. He used to enjoy watching his older brother’s band play around town back in the day, and he realized during his youth that sports weren’t quite his thing.
“I wasn’t a very big kid, so guitar seemed the right path,” he said. “I also realized my hockey career was over by the sixth grade. There were just too many good players in Hibbing then.”
Now many years later, Seeba said that Minnesota winters have played a huge role in keeping him writing and performing music.
“Despite the brutal winter we have had, I found it is my time to reflect, go inward and write music/lyrics,” he said. “… For me, there is a definite artistic benefit to the cold.”
Seeba said that music is also his way to artistically express himself.
“It is my hobby, but also helps me grow as a person,” he added.
Despite having more than 30 years of song-writing experience, Seeba, along with his band, are nearing the debut of their first album. He said he never got any of his songs professionally recorded because he was too busy being a teacher and a dad. But now that his kids have grown up, he has found some time to do it.
“It means a lot,” he said. “I hate to oversell this, but it feels sort of like a life’s work for me since it is my first album. Most of the songs are new, but a few are easily old enough to legally buy a beer if we were to personify them.”
The self-title album, “Mitchell Yards,” consists of 13 songs, and several of them contain strong, Iron Range connections.
The song “Mitchell Yards” is about taking a short walk into the woods to find the Mitchell Yards, an old abandoned switching station between Hibbing and Chisholm that was slated for the wrecking ball. Seeba noted that the train station has avoided being razed due to its cultural significance in helping the allies in World War II.
“The song brings this Northern Minnesota history to life without it sounding like a lecture,” he said. “On one level it is a story about a nine-year-old kid, but it has a deeper meaning bringing a narrative from the Range to light.”
Seeba said he is also really excited about his upcoming concerts in Hibbing.
“Even though I don’t live in Hibbing anymore, I always love to come back,” he said. “I am very proud to be from a place with such a rich history, and that’s why I think I write about it so often. … There’s that old saying that you can take the guy from the Range, but you can’t take the Range out of the guy. I feel I have lived that.”
Those planning to attend the concerts can expect electric and acoustic guitars woven together with melody and harmony that often evokes stories from the Arrowhead region, Seeba said.
“Musically, we can sort of shape shift into different forms,” he said. “Stripped down I think we can be described as an acoustic-based, Americana-style group with an emphasis on lyrics and harmonies.”
Seeba’s debut album can currently be found online, with the official release date set for late April. Once released, it will be available at his concerts, on CD Baby or at www.paulseeba.com.