Fort Collins based band, Head for the Hills, returns to Telluride tomorrow night (1/23/2014) to perform at the Fly Me to the Moon Saloon. These guys have been on the scene since 2004 bringing their sound of post-bluegrass, progressive string music, modern acoustic noir, and bluegrass bricolage. They have performed at numerous premier festivals across the country including the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and have worked with some of the biggest names in the industry like Grammy Award winning Dobroist Sally Van Meter and Drew Emmit of Leftover Salmon.
Telluride.com caught up with Head for the Hills fiddle player and vocalist Joe Lessard for a brief interview.
Telluride.com: Who are your musical and non-musical influences? Name your top 3 favorite musicians.
Joe: My musical influences are all over the map, I'm in a hip-hop group, I play in this bluegrass band and I freelance with whoever in whatever genre I can. That's to say I'm influenced by everything from old time string music to contemporary rap fare and absolutely everything in between. Naming three favorites is near impossible. I'd say if there's three people I could currently meet, it might be Jack White, Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson of the Roots, and, I dunno, let's say, Joan Jett.
Telluride.com: What music, new or old, are you listening to right now?
Joe: I'm listening to a lot of African music right now, mostly stuff from the 60's and 70's, Nigerian, Ethiopian, stuff from all over west Africa. I've just been getting into the modal, repetitive grooves and the improvisatory nature of all that music, now it's a matter of figuring out how to work all that into my own songwriting.
Telluride.com: What was it like working with Drew Emmit of Leftover Salmon? Bill Nershi of The String Cheese Incident? And Grammy Award winning Dobroist Sally Van Meter?
Joe: They're all super cool people and still good friends of ours long after the projects wrapped. Drew and Billy both really welcomed us into the scene in terms of introducing us to people and getting us up on stage with them and making us feel like a part of things. Sally's great, she whipped us into shape on the first album and told us how it was and made us get serious about how we presented our sound as a young, relatively inexperienced band.
Telluride.com: What are your dreams/goals as a band?
Joe: We want to bring our songs and our unique style to as many people as possible. We want to make a living playing the music we love and continue traveling and experiencing the world through playing that music.
Telluride.com: What was it like playing at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival?
Joe: I was amazing! That's a festival we've been attending for years before we got the chance to play it, we more or less learned everything we know about bluegrass there, so it means a lot for us to be involved. Telluride in general has a special place in our hearts because of TBF, we love coming back because it's a great and historic place for this kind of music.
Telluride.com: What is the best/worst thing about playing clubs?
Joe: I love playing clubs, I like the sweaty, loud, intimate, up-close, visceral thing you get in smaller venues. It's just a personal relationship, from the musician and audience perspectives, you get to feel people's energy and emotion, watch them screw up, fake mouthing the words, actually sing the words, whatever. I like playing the big festivals too, don't get me wrong, but I'd always rather play without a giant fence and a twenty foot boundary separating us from the crowd.
Telluride.com: What inspires you to do what you do?
Joe: I'm constantly inspired by people enthusiastically and genuinely supporting what we do. The earnest emotion and feedback we get from fans, friends, and family provides all the inspiration I could ever need to continue making music. I'm constantly inspired by the super talented group of people I'm surrounded by too, that doesn't hurt either, haha.
A big thanks to head for th eHills for taking the time to speak with us!