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20 Denton musicians band together in fight against multiple sclerosis

20 Denton musicians band together in fight against multiple sclerosis

Aaron Anttila, known as Catfish, started the project known as "The Elk Sessions." Courtesy | Aaron Antilla

20 Denton musicians band together in fight against multiple sclerosis
August 22
22:11 2017

Twenty Denton musicians will embark to a cabin in Missouri later this month to record an album titled the “Elk River Sessions.”

The “Elk River Sessions” is a project devised by local musician Aaron Anttila, better known as Catfish among the Denton community. A film crew is setup to record the event, and a subsequent documentary is planned for future release.

“Catfish approached me two years ago,” Denton resident Traci Batson said. “He came up and said he had an idea to go to his cabin and record some music with some awesome people. He wanted me to be the person benefiting from it.”

Batson has lived in Denton for almost nine years, and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2015.

“The main goal is to bring some relief to Traci and her situation,” said Isaac Lewis, who is part of the film crew recording the “Elk River Sessions.” “But we’re doing it in a really cool, Denton kind of way. The film crew is from Denton [and] most of the musicians are either from here or live here. So it’s a really neat thing we’re doing, and this town has kind of banded together.”

While the project was devised to produce both an album and a documentary, the proceeds will aid Batson with her medical bills, which she has been encumbered by a great deal since her diagnosis.

“This [Denton] community is a family,” Batson said. “And it doesn’t matter if you don’t know who’s in trouble — this whole community comes together just to take care of that person, and I’ve seen that over and over again. I’m fortunate enough to have been one of those people.”

The cabin is located is Noel Village, Missouri and sits on the Elk River. The cabin has been in Anttila’s family for decades. In recent years it has been used by Anttila and his friends to play music.

“I’ve had this idea for about three years now,” Anttila said. “I’ve visited this cabin pretty much my whole life. One day, we said, ‘man, we know so many great musicians in Denton, we should actually [go to the cabin] and do some fun music stuff.’”

Musician Andy Cox has visited Anttila’s cabin, and he is one of the musicians set to perform for the “Elk River Sessions” project. Cox said during earlier visits with friends they would make songs for passing canoes and kayaks drifting down the river.

“We had such a good time, at some point we were like, ‘let’s go back!’” Cox said. “Any time you get to be around musicians and work together, you develop [a] camaraderie that’ll probably last you forever.”

The project has many sponsors, including Oak Street Drafthouse, Little Guys Movers and Sysco, with one of the largest sponsors being Armadillo Ale Works, a Denton craft brewery.

“[This project is] a very Denton thing,” said Bobby Mullins, co-founder of Armadillo Ale Works. “I’ve been here most of my life, and it just sounded like something I had to be a part of.”

Mullins is a UNT alumnus, graduating in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in radio, television and film. Armadillo Ale Works took off after a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2011 and established its own facility in Denton in 2015.

“People here are involved with music because they love the music,” Mullins said. “Not necessarily because there’s money behind it. People here, they want to play, they want to support the music scene that’s here, and I just think that’s great. It’s a great town and a great scene.”

Another musician set to join the “Elk River Sessions” is UNT graduate Eric Nichelson, one of the founders of the band Midlake, an American folk rock band formed in Denton in 1999. In addition to touring worldwide with Midlake, Nichelson also performs with his two young children in his second band, Marathons & Unicorns.

“Catfish asked me to be a part of ‘Elk River Sessions,’” Nichelson said. “We’re not rehearsing — some of these people I don’t even know. I’m sure they’ll be some really awesome moments we can get.”

After much jamming, fishing and whiskey, the group is planning to perform the album live at Dan’s Silverleaf late August. The sessions are set to begin Aug. 24.

“The thing I’m most excited to come out of this, honestly, is an easier future for Traci,” said Chuck Crosswhite, producer on the film crew and curator of music event Rock Lottery. “I think the music’s going to be badass, and I think everyone’s going to have a good time. I hope the documentary turns out well —  but really, I think the reason for the season is trying to help out Traci and her struggle with MS. I hope we can do something to help her out in her battle.”

Featured Image: Aaron Anttila, known as Catfish, started the project known as the “Elk River Sessions.” Courtesy | Aaron Antilla

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Alexander Willis

Alexander Willis

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