Musicians have found all sorts of ways to keep going during the pandemic.
Andy Thorn befriended a fox.
Weeks after his unfamiliar routine of staying home, Thorn embarked on a new routine of playing his banjo outside. He and his wife, Cecelia, moved into their home in the Boulder foothills in 2015, but the life of a touring musician meant Thorn was always coming and going.
Thorn, a member of beloved Colorado bluegrass jam band Leftover Salmon, had never been home long enough to really notice the foxes in the neighborhood. Or how a fox walked through their garden every day.
Or how the fox didn’t run away when Thorn sat outside on the deck and gently strummed his banjo. The fox stopped. He sat in the grass, watching the man and his instrument. The fox’s furry little ears even seemed to perk up, as if liking what he was hearing.
The wildlife-loving couple got kicked out of sight. It was something to text friends when they asked what was new.
“It started out as something we enjoyed for ourselves,” Thorn said. “We were like, ‘Wow, this fox likes music.'”
When it happened again, Thorn’s wife pulled out her phone to record the interaction. It was the first of a dozen such videos they shared with friends or posted on YouTube. They didn’t expect the millions of views, which would come later.
“It was the pandemic and we were stuck at home and bored,” Thorn, 39, said as a kind of warning. “Nothing was really happening, but it was something fun and cool happening for us.”
As sometimes happens in music, the fox has gone from fan to muse.
In Leftover Salmon, Thorn’s banjo picking is very energetic. But the fox didn’t like that sound. Thorn realized that the fox, whom he eventually named Foxy, preferred a slower, trickier style of play called clawhammer.
“I’ve never done a clawhammer before,” he said. “And now I really love her.”
All of this inspired the couple to write an album together. They released “Fox Songs and Other Tales From the Pandemic” in March 2021.
If you wanted to catch up with the couple, the song titles would tell the short story.
“Cancelled all the shows” is the first track on the disc and “Got the Fox as Company” comes next.
“He’s the only friend we’re allowed to see,” sings Thorn. “And yes, I would say that’s fine with me.”
At the bottom of the list is another song title: “Bun in the Oven”.
“That’s another thing we did during the pandemic,” Thorn said. “We had a child.”
Their son was born just in time to witness Thorn’s moments of glory.
As videos of Thorn and the fox circulated the internet, they increasingly hit the right eyeballs.
“It started as a small thing,” Thorn said. “Then it got crazy.”
A video, featuring the fox’s gentle serenade with the sunset and mountain views in the background, has reached over 3 million views.
News outlets started calling and emailing. Thorn found her photo on the front page of Reddit and heard about her face on TV screens around the world.
In January, he was on television again.
“Yeah, I was on Kelly Clarkson’s creepy show,” Thorn said. “It was a trip.”
He made sure to mention that he was part of a band called Leftover Salmon.
“I’m just riding the wave,” he said. “If I can come out of this with more fans for the band, then why not?”
His story has led to other positive sides.
Thorn’s music inspired others to start playing the banjo. The videos have inspired others to talk about their favorite musical animal encounters. And they simply inspired smiles.
YouTube comments offer insight.
“It’s like he knows he’s supposed to do some foxy stuff, but he just can’t get away from it,” it read.
“That’s about as pure as it gets, man.”
That’s how Thorn might describe some of his solo gigs for the fox.
“It was incredibly magical,” he said. “You are so in the moment and enjoying the moment.”