Flurries might not be flying yet, but a winter’s night is on its way to Schenectady.
The On A Winter’s Night tour, featuring folk artists Patty Larkin, Christine Lavin, Cheryl Wheeler, John Gorka and Cliff Eberhardt, heads to The Eighth Step on Saturday. The concert shares its name and partially its lineup with one that started 25 years ago.
Lavin started the first tour after inviting artists like Julie Gold, David Wilcox, Larkin and others to collaborate on an album of wintry love songs
“[She] basically got people in the limelight that were in the trenches as these young singer-songwriters,” Larkin said.
The musicians, including Larkin, were all continuing the tradition of folk singers of the 1970s and making their own way in the ever-changing musical landscape. They toured together for several winters after the album was released in 1994, back when Larkin’s career was just taking off.
Larkin, a graceful and gritty guitar player, comes from a family that’s rooted in music. Growing up in Iowa, she, her sisters and her grandmothers all played classical piano.
“When guests came over, we would perform a song each. We went to visit my grandparents; both my grandmothers were pianists and they would play for a long time and we would stand around singing. There was a lot of support for music, a lot of respect for music,” Larkin said.
While she was no stranger to the keys, it wasn’t until she picked up the guitar that she started writing songs.
“That became something I did for fun and then by the time I got to high school it was something I did after school and really got a lot of [my] identity from it when I played it for my friends,” Larkin said.
However, when she headed to college, she studied English and was on the path to becoming a high school English teacher.
“[During] my last semester, I was student teaching and in the teacher’s library there was a book on reading guitar [music] by a Berklee professor and I started learning how to read guitar notes and I started taking music theory classes at the university I was at. I had been gigging at coffee houses throughout college and by the time I graduated I knew that that’s what I wanted to do if there was any way to do it,” Larkin said.
Instead of diving into teaching, she headed to Berklee for a few music classes and started gigging around the Boston area. While her family would come to her gigs, they were unsure of her path.
“I think it was tough for them. . . I remember my dad at some point going ‘What are you doing?’
“I was passionate about it and if you get logical about something like that I think that you would probably walk away from it. It was sort of a driving force that didn’t really make sense. I just knew that I wanted to do it,” Larkin said.
Over a dozen albums later — with one on the way — along with countless tours and shows across the country, she’s certainly followed that drive. Larkin’s music has been praised by NPR and Rolling Stone. Her songs often mix together folk and pop, and her lyrics are at once bewitching and witty.
“I feel very lucky and fortunate that I have been able to play my own songs and be a singer,” Larkin said.
On Jan. 14, she’ll release her latest album, “Bird in a Cage,” which is filled with songs inspired by both classical and contemporary poetry. The list ranges from Dante to Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, from the 20th-century poet William Carlos Williams to contemporary memoirist and poet Nick Flynn.
“I’m putting it out on my own label and it’s a collection of 10 poems that I set to music. It’s a partial fundraiser for a poetry program at the Fine Arts Work Center near where I live. The plan is to highlight the poets that I’ve fallen in love with and do some performances with [them],” Larkin said.
For now, though, she’s happy to get back on the road with On A Winter’s Night, especially as it’s the first time in several years that they’ve been able to tour together.
While on previous tours, the musicians have all been on stage at the same time, this year they’ll perform the first half of the show in intervals, switching musicians every few songs. The second half will rely on audience participation and every musician will be on stage.
“The fun of it in the past has been that people jump in on each other’s songs so I’m looking at things that I want people to sing on. That’s part of the fun as well,” Larkin said.
There are sure to be songs from the “On A Winter’s Night” album, though Larkin plans to bring a few other wintry songs, along with fan favorites like “Tango,” “Who Holds Your Hand” and “Good Thing.”
“We’re just really excited to be playing together. The thing about the people who show up for these shows is they’re really fun to be with. I’m looking forward to meeting the audience,” Larkin said.
tour kicks off tonight at the Tarrytown Music Hall and heads to Proctors on Saturday, presented by The Eighth Step.
On A Winter’s Night
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: The Eighth Step at the GE Theatre, Proctors
MORE INFO: proctors.org