Reverbnation Artist: Moonshine Mountain

Brian Ripple  |  Tuesday Jun. 30th, 2015

Moonshine Mountain is a six-piece band hailing from Northwest Montana that plays Americana, folk, and country.  In five years the group has played over
350 shows all around Montana and parts of Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and California.  Moonshine Mountain has had the great opportunity to open for Trampled by Turtles, The Kyle Hollingsworth Band, Keller Williams, Fruition, Polecat, The Lil’ Smokies, Pure Mountain Prairie League, Poco, Christian Johnson, The Outlaws, and many others.  Their high-energy sound and harmonies are helping them establish a reputation for keeping dance floors packed.

BR:  First of all, thanks for taking the time to chat and answer some questions for us. We really appreciate it.

Lets start with Moonshine Mountain’s beginnings… Who is in the band and how did it start?

Cory Chopp: We are a six-piece band including Elliott Abbott on upright bass, Tina Bertram on keyboards and banjo, Rio Mattole on acoustic guitar and vocals, Vince Rannazzisi on drums, Jamie Simpson on acoustic guitar, and me on mandolin and vocals. The band started when I quit my former band on a Friday night in 2010 and called Jamie and Vinnie on Saturday morning to start Moonshine Mountain. I had come up with the name when I couldn’t sleep after that Friday night gig.  Tina really improved our sound when she joined the lineup three years ago. Then, in May of 2014, we made some personnel changes and Rio and Elliott came along at the opportune time. They have truly given the band a breath of fresh air. In one year, we’ve added about 20 more original songs.

BR: You are kind of a bluegrass band, but you do have a drummer. How would you describe the music you write and play in Moonshine Mountain? And what makes you special or unique in a place where bluegrass bands are showing up everywhere?

CC: We actually consider ourselves an Americana band perched on the folk and country side of things. We are a string band with drums, and sometimes we provide a hint of bluegrass. I think that makes us unique in itself.  I agree with you that bluegrass bands are showing up everywhere, and we are stoked to have a great drummer. I think our songs also set us apart from others. Fruition has been a major influence on us, and they really write some amazing songs. We’ve been honored to open for them a few times.

BR: You will be at the Red Ants Pants festival in White Sulphur Springs in July... Can you tell us what you anticipate this experience to be like?

CC: Well, our set will be a short one. We are on the side stage for a 20-minute set. It’s also a band competition involving about a dozen bands. The winner gets to play the main stage in 2016. We are really excited about bringing our music to more ears, and anything is possible.  Just ask our friends The Lil’ Smokies who recently won a major competition in Telluride. Rio and I won a competition back in December to play a poolside set in Mexico. Three members of Railroad Earth sat in with us! Anything can happen.

BR: What are some of your favorite venues or places to play in Montana?

CC: We love playing all over Montana. The Great Northern Bar and the Craggy Range in Whitefish are both home to us. The Top Hat is now one of the best clubs in the country.  And we play a ton of outside gigs in the summer. Anywhere outside.  Especially Polebridge on the edge of Glacier National Park.

BR: It looks like you do a fair amount of touring around Montana and Idaho at least. Any plans for a national tour, or to hit any other big festivals this summer?

CC: We are just doing some small tours this summer, and then heading to California in September for a longer tour.  It will be our 4th time down there, and we are actually putting on our first little festival near Petrolia, involving some local bands from the area. Hopefully, next summer we can hit some more festivals!

BR: If you could sit on a bench with a musician legend for a day and jam out, who would it be??? And why this person or people?

CC: Jerry Garcia. He has influenced me more than any other musician, and I know he has inspired tons of my heroes. Also, anybody that knew him talks about what a cool person he was and how much fun he was to hang out with.

BR: What are a few of your favorite albums to listen to on a long drive, both old and new? And what makes them so special to you?

CC: We drive a 1996 School Bus converted into an RV. It depends on who’s driving Gus. If Jamie is driving, we might listen to Galactic or Chris Robinson Brotherhood. If Elliott is driving, we listen to Hank III or Deadbolt. If I’m driving, it’s probably Greensky, Leftover Salmon, or Railroad Earth.

BR: Can you tell us about your latest Recording project / CD "Movin’ On" that you released this April?

CC: It was a fun project. All the recording was done by Lars Pointer at Cougar Canyon Studio in Woods Bay. It’s a cool house with a toasty woodstove overlooking Flathead Lake. Lars was very professional and great to work with. We spent about 2 months there polishing everything.  Then, we were honored to have Toby Scott mix and master it for us.  Toby has worked extensively with Springsteen and Dylan, so needless to say, we were extremely thankful for his time, his input, and his efforts. And we are proud of the album. Our buddy Jeff Arcel painted the amazing artwork for us.

BR: What are a few of your favorite tracks off the CD to play live?

CC: For me I would say Open Road, Bad Day, and Movin’ On which happen to be the first 3 tracks on the album.

BR: Do you think its harder for uniquely talented musicians to “make it” in todays market, since popular music seems so homogenized.

CC: I think the phrase “making it” has a different meaning for every musician. For some, making it is selling out theaters that hold 1000 people. For others, it’s selling out stadiums that hold 60,000 people. For others, it’s playing 10 times a year at the local pub. Which is definitely “not making it” in my book.

BR: Thanks for taking the time to chat, see you at Red Ants Pants.

CC: Thanks a million!    

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