Head for the Hills performs July 20 as part of Vail Summer Bluegrass concert series
VAIL — The Vail Summer Bluegrass concert series concludes today with Colorado progressive string band Head for the Hills. We caught up with Head for the Hills bassist Matt Loewen to learn more about the ageless appeal of bluegrass, poignant songs for troubled times and the band’s new record, due out in the spring.
VAIL DAILY: What’s your musical background, and how did you get into bluegrass?
MATT LOEWEN: We come from various musical backgrounds. Punk bands, Suzuki method and even campfire bluegrass picking are all in our collective experience, and we came to bluegrass in different ways. Personally, my first experience of bluegrass came through the backdoor of more modern players and “new grass,” including some Colorado bands like Leftover Salmon.
VD: What do you love about bluegrass, compared to other genres of music: How does it fit your lifestyle or mindset? How do you connect with the storytelling or instrumentation?
LOEWEN: Something I love and always come back to with bluegrass is its ageless appeal. This is music my grandmother listened to, my parents, as well. I see college kids and young children and octogenarians all enjoying this music, and at the same time, it’s not a throwback nostalgia thing. We write contemporary songs about current issues, drawing on the bluegrass of the past while creating our own more modern version.
VD: Break down one of the songs we might hear in Vail: How did it come to be and what inspired it? How does it make you feel when you perform it?
LOEWEN: One of Joe’s (Lessard, violinist and vocalist) newer songs “Afraid of the Dark” is unfortunately relevant at the moment — it deals with gun violence and our relationship to firearms. It’s not a black and white sort of look at the issue, nor is it preaching, but it does attempt to make you think a little. I really enjoy performing it and watching folks listen to the lyrics and contemplate.
VD: Tell me about one of your recent projects that you’re particularly proud of. How did it come to fruition, and what makes it unique?
LOEWEN: I have to say I’m most excited about the new Head for the Hills record due next spring. We’re finishing up recording now, and it’s been such a great experience bringing this new version of the band into the studio and rocking. Great songs performances and arrangements are coming soon.
VD: Bluegrass and mountains just seem to go together. What do you like about playing in the Colorado Rockies, and what are you looking forward to about the show in Vail?
LOEWEN: Performing anywhere is a privilege; performing in a spectacularly beautiful place like Vail is the best — great people, amazing weather, crazy views and much more. Really looking forward to it!
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While Kaemmer loved skiing, he also loved to work, and in Vail he found what he believed would be an idyllic setting to be both an entrepreneur and a skier.