Like a wolf

Britt Straw

Britt Straw mixes music and wildlife.

Britt Straw mixes music and wildlife.

Photo/Kent Irwin

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Britt Straw, local musician and activist, says she prefers to surround herself with either music or wolves. The 27-year old singer-songwriter is also known around Reno as an advocate for the United States Wolf Refuge, where she works as a volunteer coordinator. Although it may sound like she splits her time between a phone and a desk, the job often entails getting her hands dirty.

“The wolves don’t mind the dirt,” said Straw. “But I clean it up anyway.”

Her wildlife conservation work and presence in the Reno music scene recently intersected in the form of a benefit concert, first of a planned annual series, held at Jub Jub’s Thirst Parlor. She pulled together $6,000 in donations from local businesses to raffle off. Among those who participated were several tattoo parlors, like Absolute, Valor and Battle Born, Bizarre Guitar, as well as restaurants, recording studios, and even chiropractors.

Straw says the benefit show, which raised over $2,000 in profit, came at a particularly vital time in the history of the United States Wolf Refuge. There are some groups, such as farmers, ranchers and hunters, who would like to see wolves eradicated.

“The percentage of livestock killed by wolves is somewhere around 0.02 percent” said Straw. “Domesticated dogs kill more livestock than wolves do.”

Inspired by a recent meeting with conservationist Jane Goodall, Straw wants to make the Wolf Refuge Benefit an annual event in Reno, with more bands and vendors each time.

“Reno has so much talent,” said Straw. “Hopefully I can show people we have more to offer than hookers and gambling.”

Influenced as much by Christina Aguilera as she is by Jane Goodall, Straw has yet to put her environmental message to a tune. She says her songs are all about love.

“Love is precious,” said Straw. “Most of us take advantage of it.”

Although she’s been singing most of her life, Straw only began composing when she started learning ukulele, around three years ago. Her father was a guitarist for a casino band that performed five nights a week, but he never pushed his daughter into music. Straw says that while she wishes she had pressed him for information sooner, she has been enjoying teaching herself how to play and write her own songs.

“As soon as you put together two chords, you start to think of a melody,” said Straw.

Once she had written and learned a few tunes, Straw took to playing open mic nights. There, she was noticed by the lead singer of the Sparks-based reggae-funk band Seedless 10denC. Six months later, she still plays ukelele, percussion and sings backup vocals for the band.

Seedless 10denC’s reggae and hip-hop influence has found its way into Straw’s solo work, which had previously focused mainly on folk styles.

“Reggae just makes my head bob,” said Straw. “It’s really happy, upbeat music. It’s a really simple way of expressing myself. Sometimes simple can be really complex.”

As far as hip-hop goes, Straw prefers socially-conscious, positive messages over the glamorous, self-centered side of the genre.

“I’m not so much into the stuff about pimped-out rims,” laughed Straw. “But I do have a song about what it would be like to have a lot of money, how it would be both a blessing and a curse.”

Straw recently recorded a single version of a song titled “Let You Go,” which she hopes to release within the next few months. However, she insists that her live performance is the best way to hear her music.

“When I’m singing, I get really into the moment,” she said. “Energy is transferred. When it’s good, people can feel that.”