Town Mountain loves Asheville.
So much so, in fact, that they named their band after one of the city's most recognizable natural landmarks. And, says bassist Barrett Smith, they can't stop talking about it. Criss-crossing the nation, spreading their adrenaline-filled blend of aggressive bluegrass and traditional country, it's obvious to the band that people are genuinely interested in their hometown.
"We drive around the country bragging about Asheville, just inadvertently. It's such a great town, and there's so much hype about it that everybody wants to talk about it, especially in the acoustic music world," Smith says. "Everywhere we go, especially out West, the thing we hear over and over again from people west of the Mississippi is, 'If I ever had to move to the East Coast, Asheville is definitely where I'd go.'"
And for Town Mountain, that's just fine. When they are on tour, these guys aren't just taking their music on the road. Smith says, in their minds at least, they're taking Asheville on the road too, which is why they chose a name that would so intimately link the band with the city in which it was formed.
"We like being associated with it," he says. "We like putting the name of Asheville with our band, and when we travel somewhere, like, say, Portland, Ore., we like to be representing Asheville in Portland. People seem to be into that and they really associate us with Asheville."
Rest assured that Town Mountain is representing Asheville well. From their earliest beginnings in 2005, the band has been winning awards and enthusiastic fans from Colorado to California with their mountain-bred sound and unmistakable sincerity.
In fact, the band's first national tour was an early indicator of just how well-received its seamless blend of traditional and modern elements would be. After weeks of performing in clubs and bars across the western United States, the trip culminated with a spot at the prestigious Rockygrass Band Competition in Colorado. And remarkably, the rookies from North Carolina won.
"I think that's pretty much what really brought the band together," remembers Smith. "Winning that competition gave us a little more leverage, as far as booking and stuff like that, and it gave us a little more of a name for ourselves. It definitely helped solidify our identity at that moment. That became what Town Mountain was all about."
Since then, Town Mountain has been tirelessly spreading their sound and developing one of the most raucous live shows in bluegrass today. And it's working. The constant touring has won the band a hefty national following and slots at some of the biggest bluegrass festivals in the country, including several showcases at the upcoming International Bluegrass Music Awards in Nashville.
But it won't just be the band in the spotlight this time around. Mandolin player Philip Barker will be a featured songwriter at the event, a highly coveted honor, one that the band is quite excited to have bestowed upon one of their members.
And then there are the parties.
"We get selected by different companies and different sponsors who put on the IBMA showcases," Smith explains of the event, "and they go on all night. Festival promoters and booking agents and bookers for clubs, they can all come to the hotel suite and see us play along with people who just want to come and party. And we party at IBMA. It's a huge party, and Town Mountain has a really good time playing and partying all night."
Don't think you can only catch Town Mountain rocking out in the flesh though. While the band has undoubtedly cut their teeth on the road, they've also got two self-released albums under their belt, and Smith believes they're just coming into their own in the studio. The biggest obstacle these days, he says, is coming up with the time and money to record.
"I think in this last project," Smith says of Heroes and Heretics, "we actually became a pretty good studio band, as far as knowing what we want and how to get it. And we have enough material, probably, to do another album right now. But it's so expensive to do it. And thus far, we've really avoided the whole record label thing all together. The most daunting thing about going into the studio right now is definitely the money."
Luckily, fans in Asheville won't have to wait for the band to get in the studio to get a preview of new Town Mountain material. This Friday, the five-piece will be back to play for the city it loves. And that, Smith says, will be the perfect end to a highly successful summer.
"The show that we're most excited about is this next Grey Eagle show," he says. "There's always one somewhere off in the next couple months that's the one that we're really really looking forward to and not really considering what happens after that, and right now, that's definitely the Grey Eagle.
"We're all looking around realizing not only have we not played at home in a long time, but we haven't even really been at home in a long time. It'll be great to actually be there in front of the hometown crowd and get grounded again."
Dane Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
who: Town Mountain, with Greensky Bluegrass opening
what: Raucous bluegrass
where: The Grey Eagle
when: Friday, Sept. 25 (8 p.m., $10. www.thegreyeagle.com or www.townmountain.net)