A Conversation & Session with Head For The Hills
Words & Video By Jesse Filippelli (Filippelli Photos)
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to sit down and hang out with the guys from Head for the Hills before their performance at Planet Bluegrass in Lyons, CO at the Wildflower Pavilion. Aside from the overall hospitality I felt from the band and manager Sean MacAskill, these individuals are not only extremely talented musicians, but are as a group some of the nicest people I’ve dealt with in the music industry.
After a quick interview, the band agreed to play a few songs for me that we recorded on the bank of the St. Vrain River. Read below for the interview and video!
Head for the Hills is Mike Chappell (Mandolin), Adam Kinghorn (Guitar), Joe Lessard (Fiddle), Matt Loewen (Bass)
Honorary Head for the Hills Member, James Thomas (Piano/Keyboards)
Jesse Filippelli: First off, what is your favorite part about bluegrass music?
Head for the Hills: (Mike) Specifically, the flexibility. Especially in a place like Colorado where people embrace a lot of different styles of music in the bluegrass instrumentation, while also sticking to the traditional bluegrass. (Adam) It’s a style of music without drums. The mandolin is mimicking the drums and creating it’s own rhythm. (Matt) Even with folk music there isn’t that drive, it doesn’t sound like there is percussion, but in bluegrass it sounds like there is percussion involved.
Jesse: At what point did you all realize that music was going to be more than a hobby, or something you do with your friends, to a real path in life and career for you?
H4tH: (Adam) Possibly when we stopped playing at Cheba Hut and started opening for David Grisman at Mishawaka Amphitheatre. At the same time in Ft. Collins things were really starting to take off for us. We all started to look at each other and say, “So, are we going to use our degrees or are we going to try and make this happen?”
Jesse: How did it feel to go from playing Cheba Hut to opening for a legend such as David Grisman?
H4tH: (Mike) We started as a party band, so I have basically worshipped guys like David Grisman, or even at the time bands like Yonder Mountain String Band. Regardless, once we did switch over to opening for people like that it was very surreal.
Jesse: How did the band come together?
H4tH: (Adam) We all met at CSU. Some of us were living together; Sean was on the same floor as me. It all kind of just came together.
Jesse: What did you think of last nights sold out show in Denver at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom?
H4tH: (Joe) It was fun, it’s very cool to get that many people to come out on a Thursday night. Also, it’s a fun venue, people pack the place and when they go there they are ready to get down.
Jesse: So, this is my first time at Planet Bluegrass, and WOW it such a naturally gorgeous venue and so well known across the bluegrass scene. Though, you guys have played here before, what’s it like to play at such a landmark venue?
H4tH: (Matt) It’s great, granted we are very lucky to basically have this in our backyard. You never take it for granted, but like you said, we have played here before. We’re just fortunate to have this so close, and be able to play here like we do.
Jesse: When I drive into Lyons, I feel an overwhelming sense of life going down Main Street. Knowing how bad the town was after the floods, and all the work put into repairing it; is it special for you guys to play here since the flooding?
H4tH: Most definitely. (Mike) Adam and I were talking earlier, when the floods came there was a helicopter filming right here [Points out to the main lawn of Planet Bluegrass] and it was all completely under water. I had totally believed that this place was never going to open again, because based on that picture, Planet Bluegrass no longer existed. I would say the fact that we are even sitting here right now is monumental. (Adam) This place was just about as close as you can get to being totally destroyed. Lyons is a music town; it’s a bluegrass town. We know people and musicians who were directly affected and lost their homes, lost their instruments, and even a recording studio. So when you come back and play here, it’s almost a symbol of the triumph that people are overcoming.
Jesse: What’s next for Head for the Hills?
H4tH: (Matt) The goal is to release our next album. We are going to release it digitally, but we are also going to have it pressed onto a 7” vinyl. Other then that, we want to keep playing throughout the year and tour some new territory.
I want to send out a huge thank you to the Head for the Hills guys, and specifically their manager Sean MacAskill, for helping set up the interview and acoustic session!