Folk singer Shawn James was on tour in Colorado. On his travels, the long-haired, flannel-clad musician was given an amazing opportunity; to film an impromptu music video in a wolf sanctuary under the falling snow.
Naturally, James jumped at the chance.
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Choosing to sing a heartfelt, acoustic cover of A.A. Bondy’s “American Hearts,” the Fayetteville, Arkansas, native singer set up the scene with his companions: multi-instrumentalist Baker, and videographer Anna Hutchison. Colorado’s W.O.L.F. Sanctuary staff stood close by, watching the magic unfold.
It was a cold and snowy day; the gathered crew could only film one take before the equipment (and people!) had had enough of the biting conditions. But one take was all it took. The team was hoping for a scenic shot, but they ended up getting a lot more than they bargained for.
James, Baker, and Hutchison struck gold on that snowy day in the woods. The music video exploded on YouTube after a nudge from Reddit user Michael Jonestowne, says the Fayetteville Flyer. To date, the video has been viewed over 4.6 million times.
Why, exactly, is this music video so special? Well, every singer dreams of one day earning a choir of backing vocalists, but not every singer is treated to a spontaneous chorus of wolves!
Halfway through the song, a chilling sound emanates from the woods behind the two folk musicians, and it doesn’t take long to work out that the wolves are joining in. Roused by the soulful lyrics of the A.A. Bondy song, a few solo voices rise quickly to a cacophony of wolf song; a veritable choir of howling.
It is magical, and it doesn’t stop the musicians in their tracks. The whole episode is caught on camera.
Another video by local photographer/videographer Anna Hutchison featuring Shawn James is blowing up online.
Anna Hutchison took time out to speak to the Fayetteville Flyer about the unique experience. “I’ve been a fan of [James’s] insane talent since I heard the first note out of his mouth at a basement show,” Anna shared, “so it’s pretty cool to see the rest of the world take notice.”
“Before we went into that particular enclosure,” the videographer explained, “we got to get up-close and personal with some of the more tame wolves. We still had to be very cautious and not make sudden movements,” she added, “but it was really cool having giant wolves rub their scent on you and lick your face.”
“We never felt unsafe, because the sanctuary workers wouldn’t have put us in an enclosure with hostile wolves.”
Our Pack up at the Sanctuary truly had a Howling Holiday….Mr. Denali
Hutchison admitted that she’d secretly hoped the wolves would make a vocal cameo during the impromptu set, but she had no idea it would be quite as epic as it turned out. “It was such an awesome experience,” she reiterated, “that we all went and got wolf paw prints tattooed behind our ears to commemorate it!”
As James and Baker finished playing, one of the wolves tentatively approached the bearded folk singers and allowed James to pet it. “If you watch the video,” Hutchison explained, “and notice the wolf behind Shawn’s left shoulder that just stops and watches him the whole time, thats the one.”
“The owner said he’s never seen that wolf react to something in that way […] It was such a surreal thing to witness.”
Human creativity met the artistry of nature on that miraculous snowy day. We doubt that James, Baker, or Hutchison will be forgetting this howlin’ moment for a long, long while!