March 30 2016 11:28 AM

Global folk/pop band flying high on album release

The Ragbirds (left to right: Randall Moore, Jon Brown, Erin Zindle, Dan Jones and TJ Zindle) celebrates the release of "The Threshold & The Hearth" Saturday at the Loft.
Courtesy Photo

When the Ragbirds began 10 years ago, no one could have mapped out the musical tailwinds it would navigate. Not even the Ragbirds’ lead singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Erin Zindle, who started the group with her husband, percussionist Randall Moore, in 2005.

“It was just my husband and I as core members, and we wanted to record an album,” Zindle said. “I had all these songs that I just felt like I needed to get out into the world somehow, so I started recording. Along the way, I brought a few band members on board to record those parts, and they ended up being the original Ragbirds cast of people.”

In addition to Zindle and Moore, the current Ragbirds lineup includes bassist Dan Jones, drummer Jon Brown and Zindle’s brother, TJ Zindle, on guitars. The band celebrates the release of its latest studio album, “The Threshold & The Hearth,” Saturday at the Loft.

The Ragbirds has built up a national following with its internationally inflected blend of music. The group combines global traditions with catchy American pop sensibilities and high-energy folk fiddling.

“We have a lot of world music influence and always have, from the beginning,” Zindle said. “Although I think that more and more, as we develop as a band, we’re kind of finding what our unique sound is. I think in the past it was easier to pin down our older songs by region and say, ‘Oh, this song sounds sort of Gypsy, this one sounds sort of African and this one is Latin — and whatever else we delved in.’”

Zindle, who spent her formative teenage years in a suburb of Buffalo, N.Y., said her earliest exposure to world music came indirectly through artists like Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel, Rusted Root and the Grateful Dead. These artists’ use of non-Western instruments provided a gateway to a much wider world of music.

“Because I was so drawn to those particular artists, and I knew it was these exotic sounds I was most attracted to, I started to listen to all types of world music,” she said. “I just sought it out, and I ate it up. I loved it. It just felt like it took me places that I wanted to go. It was like an adventure.”

The Ragbirds' latest adventure took a twist when the band added Grammy-nominated producer Jamie Candiloro to its flock. Candiloro has worked with a variety of folk crossover artists, including Ryan Adams, R.E.M. and Willie Nelson.

“He flew in from L.A. to do a lot of prerecording prep work and then to record with us here in our hometown of Ann Arbor,” Zindle said. “Jamie just did everything that we hoped a producer could do for us, which was to challenge and stretch us beyond what we thought we could accomplish.”

The resulting album, “The Threshold & The Hearth,” is built on a decade of travels as musical nomads. But in a way, Zindle said, it feels like coming home.

“We’ve been traveling for so long, and we’re finally figuring out where home is to us — both sonically and also in the message and the story of this album,” she said. “There are a lot of reflections on home and what that means to a bunch of travelers.”

Recently, Zindle and Moore added another challenge to the band’s already rigorous touring schedule: raising a child on the road. Zindle gave birth to a daughter, Aviva, about two and a half years ago. At just five weeks old, Aviva accompanied the Ragbirds on tour — with the help of a road nanny.

“It changes everything,” Zindle said. “It makes traveling a lot more complicated, but it also makes everything we experience so much more joyful. It’s been a complete overhaul of the touring musician experience. It’s shifted my whole world of thinking and, of course, it’s reflected in my songwriting too.”

The Ragbirds' songwriting is often described as uplifting, both by fans and the musicians themselves.

“We are so in love with what we do,” Zindle said. “We love making this music, we love playing together and I feel like our joy is contagious. I feel like we bring people to an elevated place.”

The Ragbirds

With Alex Mendenall 7 p.m. Saturday, April 2 $12/$10 advance The Loft 414 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing,

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