Musician Chadwick Stokes, aka Chad Urmston, is a man of many gifts and many titles — advocate, humanitarian, organizer, former freight-train hopper, folk rocker.
From crafting highly praised records with his bands Dispatch and State Radio to helping to launch nonprofit charities that are still thriving, the activist musician stays busy on the stage, studio and in the field.
As a college student volunteering in Zimbabwe, Stokes crossed paths with a gardener named Elias who had a dream of putting his three sons through college. Dispatch penned a song, “Elias,” in his honor and also hosted a fundraiser that brought in the monetary support that exceeded the amount needed to provide the young men with an education. The outpouring of support resulted in the start of Elias Fund, a grassroots movement dedicated to providing backing to indigenous organizations focused on education, food aid and micro-grants.
Calling All Crows — an organization Stokes co-founded with tour manager Sybil Gallagher — raises awareness about issues that affect women through fundraising efforts and education. Multi-day “Alternative Break Tours” give concertgoers a chance to travel on a tour bus to a different locale, give back by completing service projects by day and then watch as musical acts take the stage by night.
Stokes’ philanthropic crusading is also reflected in the multiple jams he’s composed throughout his more than two-decade-long career.
It takes a certain skill to fuse catchy danceable melodies with lyrics that make listeners stop, think and think some more. Stokes manages to do just that. Dispatch’s 1997 tune “The General” was a ballad that conveyed the story of a Civil War general telling his young soldiers to not enter into battle, but instead go live their lives and prosper.
“Bang Bang,” off of Dispatch’s ’97 album of the same name, offers music styling hints of Jack Johnson and G. Love. It’s almost as if one can smell the coconut oil wafting through the air and taste a daiquiri when the first strums hit.
Eclectic, significant and ever-evolving, Stokes is an artist who welds folk-punk anthems and island-vibed roots-reggae hybrids while subtly weaving in the echoes of social justice alongside infectious hooks and hummable choruses.
In November, Chadwick Stokes & The Pintos released its self-titled album — an 11-song offering that delivers all the variety, current social climate relevance and stellar musicianship one would expect from the conscious frontman. Dusted with subject matter that explores the immigration crisis, gun violence and PTSD, the album explores heavy themes while still being a straight-up enjoyable listen — perfect for both leisurely drives and late-night pondering.
“Joan of Arc” takes listeners on the saint’s journey, from seeing visions in her father’s garden to her eventual execution. The track is just as much a peek into one of history’s most fascinating female figures as it is a searing feminist anthem.
The country-tinged fast-paced “Chaska” kicks off with a rowdy fiddle intro, packs in chill-inducing harmonies and tells the real-life story of a Native American who was executed during a mass hanging in 1862, despite the fact that President Abraham Lincoln called off his death sentence days prior.
On Jan. 24, Chadwick Stokes & The Pintos will join Boulder County musician Daniel Rodriquez at the Fox Theatre. On Jan. 25, the band will play at Denver’s Bluebird Theater.
We caught up with the troubadour ahead of his Colorado gigs to talk early musical favorites, current binge-worthy shows and the storytellers he most admires.
Daily Camera: Congrats on the release of the latest album. Really loving the variety of songs. Are there any that you are particularly fond of at the moment? Ones you can’t wait to play live?
Chadwick Stokes: “Blanket on the Moon” and “Let Me Down Easy” were the two we’d never played before this tour and they are mainstays of the set.
DC: Do you remember the first song, artist or album that really had an impact on you in your youth?
CS: Dire Straits’ “Brothers In Arms” was given to me by a friend who wanted me to lip sync “Walk Of Life” in the elementary school talent show.
DC: As a fan of the show “Weeds,” I remember that pivotal scene where Nancy is pouring gasoline all over her home to eventually set it ablaze, while State Radio’s “Keepsake” plays in the background. Such a perfect complement to the scene. Are there any current shows or films you are particularly a fan of?
CS: I’ve liked “Fleabag” and “Ozark,” and any rock documentary that I can find.
DC: What’s it been like touring with Colorado’s Daniel Rodriquez? Do y’all have any plans to visit certain Colorado spots while here?
CS: D-Rod rocks! Maybe hit the hot pool in Glenwood Springs.
DC: The songs you craft are always so lyrically relevant and also manage to draw on elements of the past. Who are some storytellers you admire?
CS: Dylan, Cat Stevens, Springsteen, Credence, authors Richard Powers, S.C. Gwynne, Roald Dahl, Steinbeck and Toni Morrison.
DC: You’ve been so active in creating foundations and working for the greater good. Do you think being a musician comes with the responsibility of being an activist of sorts? Are there any current causes you are looking to give back to?
CS: I don’t think every artist has to be trumpeting some cause — but I like when they do. At the moment, we’re learning more about our country’s systematic lockup of people of color — our justice system is so f—–up.
DC: Lastly, tell us a little bit about the photo that graces the album cover. Where was it taken?
CS: It was taken at a women’s march in Boston. My son is up on my brother’s shoulders. I wanted people to know that this is a protest band and we sing protest music.
If you go
What: Chadwick Stokes & The Pintos with Daniel Rodriquez opening the show
When: 8 p.m. Jan. 24
Where: Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder
More info: foxtheatre.com