Video of local musician Shawn James singing in a wolf sanctuary goes viral

Fayetteville musician Shawn James and local photographer/videographer Anna Hutchison have another YouTube hit on their hands.

Hutchison’s 2013 video featuring James and multi-instrumentalist Baker playing a cover of A.A. Bondy’s American Hearts in the snow at a Colorado wolf sanctuary has recently exploded online.

Thanks to a nudge by a Reddit user (Michael Jonestowne has taken credit for starting the avalanche), the video went from a few thousand views to more than 1.3 million views as of this week.

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The story behind the video is pretty great. During a 2013 Colorado tour, the owners of W.O.L.F. Sanctuary agreed to host the band after their Fort Collins show. While they were there, in some pretty heavy snow, Shawn and Baker made the impromptu decision to perform out among the wolves, and Anna made sure to have her camera ready.

In addition to the musicians and photographer’s talent shining through, the success of the most recent video could also have something to do with the fact that the wolves joined in to add back up vocals on the chorus. Their howling had a visible effect on James and Baker that’s evident in the video as well. It was really a cool moment, captured perfectly by Hutchison.

The most recent video not the first time the duo has paired up for viral success, either. Hutchison’s recording of James and the band playing a cover of the John Legend song “Who Did That To You” from the Django Unchained soundtrack blew up for over 40,000 views in 2013.

We got in touch with Anna to learn more about the video, and she was nice enough to answer some questions for us.

It looks like the video is a couple years old. Any idea what made it blow up recently?
It is a couple years old! This was actually from the very first time I packed up my gear and hopped on a tour with Shawn and Baker. Someone shared it on Reddit a couple weeks ago and it’s just kind of blown up since then. It went from 40,000 views to over 1.3 million in that time.

You’ve had some of your videos take off before. Is this one your most popular creation so far?
This is actually the second time one of my videos for Shawn has blown up. I’ve been a fan of his insane talent since I heard the first note out of his mouth at a basement show, so it’s pretty cool to see the rest of the world take notice! The last video to blow up was a cover Shawn, Baker, and Nick Shoulders did of John Legend’s “Who Did That To You”. We all used to live within a couple blocks of each other so Shawn hit me up the morning he was doing an interview for KUAF. I popped over to get some video and Shoulders ended up posting the video to Reddit. It hit the front page of r/videos. Shawn even ended up getting put on as the male vocalist of the week, which is even more crazy.

The wolves howling along to the song game me chills. What was it like to be there in person?
It was such a surreal thing to witness. We were really just touring the facilities and learning about the wolves and the sanctuary’s mission. Shawn asked the owner if it would be possible for them to get their instruments out and play a song and he was down. We were freezing and Shawn and Baker were performing on an icy slope, you can see them start to slip at points. We all hoped that the wolves would how along, but we had no idea how awesome it was going to be. It was such an awesome experience that we all went and got wolf paw prints tattooed behind our ears to commemorate it.

Being in such close proximity to the wolves also seems somewhat dangerous. Did you ever feel unsafe?
Before we went into that particular enclosure, 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, 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. We were in with some older wolves; I believe he said they were all at least 15 years old. He said that they probably would keep their distance, but after we were finished one of them came all the way up to Shawn and let him pet him. If you watch the video and notice the wolf behind Shawn’s left shoulder that just stops and watched him the whole time, thats the one. The owner said he’s never seen that wolf react to something in that way.

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