Head for the Hills bluegrass band is back in Steamboat with a few surprises
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In the homeland of bands like Hot Rize, Leftover Salmon and Yonder Mountain String Band, the question for bands like Fort Collins’ Head for the Hills is no longer, “Can you play?”
The question nowadays is, “What is it that makes you stand out?”
They are known for their music that’s rooted in classic bluegrass, yet weaves in elements of jazz, indie rock, hip hop, soul, world and folk to create their innovative sound.
With more than a decade touring, hundreds of performances, a handful of independently released records, four Best Bluegrass in Colorado awards and one new mandolin player, Head for the Hills shows no signs of stopping their momentum.
In support of their new EP that will be out in March, Head for the Hills will be in Steamboat Springs as part of their “Say Your Mind” tour with their headlining show starting at 9 p.m. Saturday at Schmiggity’s.
Joe Lessard, fiddle player, and Matt Loewen, bass player, recently discussed new music, their passion for bluegrass and the Colorado music scene.
Explore Steamboat: Where did your passion for bluegrass originate?
Joe Lessard: I come from a musical family, so it’s always been a part of my life. My dad, an avid record collector, was a big bluegrass fan and made a series of mixes that circulated among my friends in college back when recordable CDs and disc drives were a thing.
ES: How did you guys land on the name Head for the Hills? Does it have a significant meaning or emulate something?
JL: It obviously speaks to the Colorado lifestyle as well as the mountain roots this kind of music traces back to. But really, it’s a Marvin the Martian quote in a Bugs Bunny episode, something our guitar player, Adam, latched onto. “Head for the hills folks, or you’ll be up to your armpits in Martians.”
ES: How has your overall sound/outlook on your music changed over the years?
JL: Our sound has definitely changed a bit over the years, especially in the last year and a half or so. After playing as a more-or-less bluegrass quartet for over a decade, we’ve really loved adding some new sounds and textures into the mix. Our cast of collaborators, and therefore friends, has expanded a lot too.
What: Head for the Hills
When: 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2
Where: Schmiggity’s, 821 Lincoln Ave.
ES: What makes Head for the Hills stand out?
JL: We make an effort to present material, both originals and cover songs, with real subject matter. That doesn’t mean we don’t play party music. We just pepper in some social commentary here and there. That mix of flavors is well represented in our new EP “Say Your Mind” out in March.
ES: Who would you say has been the most influential artist/group that you’ve collaborated with over the years?
Matt Loewen: We did a series of shows a few years back with Peter Rowan, so I’d have to pick him as the most critically influential person we’ve played with. From his work with Bill Monroe to Old and in the Way with Jerry Garcia, he was in the middle of a ton of music history and has the stories to prove it.
ES: Looking over all that you’ve done, is there one thing that stands out to you as a proudest achievement?
ML: Our main stage slot at Telluride Bluegrass is a high point. We had played the band contest years before and didn’t even do well enough to place. It was a huge achievement to be asked to play of our own accord. Love that festival.
ES: What can the audience expect for the upcoming performance?
ML: The band has evolved over the years, and the show we’re bringing to Steamboat this weekend is a wonderful culmination of that evolution. We’ll play original songs, vibrant covers, bluegrass and more, all with a new feature for Head for the Hills — a percussionist/drummer.
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Witches and goblins and ghosts, oh my!