Gallery & Interview / Town Mountain

By Patrick Quiring

While Town Mountain was travelling through Texas to Oklahoma I was able to catch them over the phone while they were riding in their vans. The band consists of Phil Barker (Mandolin, Vocals), Robert Greer (Vocals, Guitar), Jesse Langlais (Banjo, Vocals) Bobby Britt (Fiddle), and Zach Smith  (Bass). I was lucky enough to catch Jesse on their long trek up north to Oklahoma. During our quick conversation we covered many different things ranging from their recent concert in Tulsa, Oklahoma to the the creative process to folk in Finland and so much more. Check out our conversation below and learn a thing about these amazing musicians who are tearing it up in the bluegrass world.

PQ: I noticed this was your first time in Oklahoma?

JL: Yeah, Cain’s was awesome. It was the first time that any of us had spent any time in Tulsa besides driving through it. We actually did play Oklahoma City a few years back at this killer concert series that’s kind of right downtown that happens during the summer.

PQ: Oh yeah, I’ve heard of that place before.

PQ:  So I’ve reviewed your Songkick (online touring database), and it’s massive. You’ve played like 330 plus shows this past 10 year. How do you guys find the motivation and inspiration to keep going out?

JL: It beats a regular day job. You know we’ve got something to say. We play and write music. We’ve got something to say in our songs. It doesn’t always feel like work.

PQ: What’s been your favorite part then of the whole experience?

JL:  I really like just getting our, and meeting people. That’s always a fun thing to do. After the set just go back to the merch table, and just meet local people. You start to realize you know we all have a lot more in common than we actually think. That’s a fun aspect of it for me. Obviously performing kind of takes a precedent in all of that. it’s the funnest thing to do while we’re on the road, but I personally really enjoy meeting people.

PQ: With this being your sixth album what inspires you guys to keep going after so many albums? Is it just you’ve got something to say that you have to get off of your chest, and let the world know what you’re thinking?

JL: Yeah, you know it’s just kind of what we do. We write songs, and what inspires us to continue to do it is seeing people dig our music and sing lyrics to our songs. When they come back to us, and when we’re meeting those people and they tell us they really love this song or love the line in this song. When people can take away the message that you put into that song, and they come back and tell you that it’s really inspiring. It makes you want to continue doing that. When they are consuming and ingesting it the way that you hope that they would.

You know the fan/ musician relationship is fairly symbiotic, and you know neither one could do it without the other. We couldn’t travel around the country playing music if nobody came to see us, and those fans couldn’t go see music if nobody played music. It really takes you know a collective part on both the fan and the musician, and I think that in itself is pretty inspiring that we can make that connection.  

PQ: So, have you kept up with the people you’ve like met on your first tour?

JL: All the time. We always see people that come to Town Mountain shows. You go back and play the same city, the same town multiple times, and those people just come and those people eventually become really good friends. We have folks all over the country that weren’t friends of ours until we met at a Town Mountain show, and they just come back and now we’re just friends. That happens on a fairly regular bases

PQ: Wow, that’s so cool how that happens, and evolves in a way.

JL: Yeah, and you know we play bluegrass music. We don’t play pop or rock and roll so it’s a lot easier to make those personal connections.

PQ: That’s so cool man. So, have you ever played outside the U.S. before like Canada, or outside the country?

JL: Oh yeah, we’ve played Canada a few times. We did like a 10 day Finland run once.

PQ: Wow, Finland?

JL: We played a bluegrass festival that was having it’s 25 year anniversary about 5 or 6 years ago. A couple of years after that Finland run we did a three week Germany run. We played like 18 or 19 dates out that many days.

PQ: That’s pretty cool man.

JL: Yeah, the bluegrass market goes well beyond the lower 48.

PQ: What’s bluegrass like in Finland? Do they differ in their style, or is kind of the same type of music we have here in the states?

JL: In terms of like the interpretation of bluegrass music in another country?

PQ: Yeah
JL: There were some artists at that festival in Finland that seemed to have studied the traditional form of bluegrass music, and their delivery of it was pretty damn good. Everytime you go to a different country and you see these people that are into a bluegrass music a certain faction of these people will stick to the source of where it came from and really try to study and understand the foundation of bluegrass music. And then you’ll have some people that you know listen to it and play it a little bit and don’t really go back and study Bill Monroe and Flatt and Scruggs and try to really play it for the way it is. You’d be surprised man. You go to Japan, we’ve never been to Japan, and find Japanese players who are playing exactly like first generation bluegrassers.

PQ: That’s so interesting how music just traverses human language, and kind of just goes everywhere. Whoever likes it picks it up in a way. That’s pretty cool man.

JL: Yeah, it really is. Bluegrass music a contagious music. Really, American music is all over the world. People obviously love like Jazz and blues and rock and roll and it’s all connected. Bluegrass is connected to that as well. People love music that comes from our country.

PQ: When it comes to writing what comes first? The music or the lyrics? Is it like a trade-off, does it come naturally?

JL: I think every song writer would give you a different answer, and some of those answers would overlap. I know personally from me it typically starts with lyrics, the concept of the song, and then I apply music to it. But it’s not how I work every song, and I don’t think every songwriter works the same way all the time. Sometimes the melody will pop into your head, and will be a really great melody and you’ll say “Ahh, that’s a really great melody I need to put some lyrics to that”.

PQ: So it just depends on the day of the week I guess.

JL: Yeah, it’s a good point. Everybody differs how they do their musical writing and whatnot.

PQ:  The last question I have is basically a free-for all for you. What would you like to tell the world out there right now? The mic is all yours, and you can say or promote whatever you want .

JL: We just want to continue to keep coming out to this part of the country. It’s one of the spots (Texas, Oklahoma) that we don’t come to often. We feel a connection here, and we get great feedback from people who have come to the shows in either years past or just this run. We know that bluegrass music is not the dominant music out here. So, we want to come and promote the music and give people a taste of what we do, and hopefully they can walk away and say yeah we’re bluegrass music fans now.

Make sure you check out Town Mountain when they come near you. You wouldn’t to miss it for the world.

Rickie McCanna