Photo courtesy of Sydney Gawlik / Lollapalooza 2017
About a month before Lollapalooza 2017 would begin, indie-folk outfit Mt. Joy found out they would be playing in Grant Park on the final day of the festival.
“It has been an incredibly strange year,” said Sam Cooper, the guitarist for Mt. Joy and one of the two founding members of the band.
Mt. Joy traces its roots to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where Cooper and the other founding member, Matt Quinn, began writing songs in 2005.
It wasn’t until 2016 that Quinn and Cooper recorded three singles with their producer, Caleb Nelson. The two musicians quit their jobs when their song “Astrovan” took off.
“A year ago, we were both working jobs that we really didn’t like and didn’t enjoy, and now we’re being interviewed at Lollapalooza,” Cooper told Sidelines.
It was no easy task for Quinn and Cooper to completely change their life-paths. Quinn was in L.A. studying music management, and Cooper was a lawyer in Philadelphia.
“Nothing is certain, but there was a part of (those careers) that felt more stable, and just kind of jumping into shaky ground is always a little scary,” Quinn said.
Ironically, “Astrovan” is about just that: the struggles of a musician.
Quinn said the single is about “the 21st century where (music is) not necessarily the most financially viable career choice — just sort of jumping into it and doing it because it’s the only thing that’s gonna make you happy.”
Riding on the success of their three songs, whose covers feature artwork by Cooper’s college friend Steve Girard, Mt. Joy expanded to include three more members. The band made L.A. its home base.
“A lot of the stress with this industry is that you don’t really know where you’ll be in six months, or a month,” Quinn said.
Mt. Joy’s sound draws influence in part from rock groups and folk revivalists of the ’60s and ’70s, from the likes of Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and the Grateful Dead. Exactly one week before their set at Lollapalooza, Mt. Joy played Newport Folk Festival.
“It was definitely a dream come true for us,” Quinn said. “We watched a video previous to being added to (Newport Folk Festival) of Bob Dylan playing in 1964 … It definitely feels surreal when you’re there.”
Social activism also plays a part in Mt. Joy’s music, similar to the artists they draw influence from. Their single “Sheep,” which released in early 2017, addresses police brutality in America.
“Whenever you have any sort of a platform, I think there’s some responsibility to try to rally people behind the common theme and then try to do everything you can to make things right,” Quinn said.
Mt. Joy’s Nashville show took place just a day after a concert in St. Louis and two days after playing in Chicago. Quinn said the constant touring expends lots of energy.
“It’s a lot of work,” he said. “I think our joke on this tour was, it’s like being a full-time trucker and a part-time musician.”
In addition to touring the country, Mt. Joy is in the process of recording a full-length studio album. The band played some of their new songs for their Lollapalooza crowd.
“We are in the process right now of finishing up our first album, so a lot of those songs that you heard will hopefully end up on that album,” Cooper said.
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