The Legendary Trainhoppers with opening act swimming[into]view are performing at the 2018 Living Fort Wayne Concert Series at Headwaters Park West on Wednesday, May 30 from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Living Fort Wayne recently caught up with the Legendary Trainhoppers’ Matt Kelley to get his thoughts on what the Trainhoppers are all about!
Tell us about The Legendary Trainhoppers
The Legendary Trainhoppers are a six-piece Americana band based in Fort Wayne, IN. The band was originally active 2005–7, and re-formed in late-2015. The Trainhoppers have recorded three albums of original songs, and have performed at Middle Waves Music Festival, Down the Line (twice), the Living Fort Wayne Concert Series (twice) and more, and have opened for The Avett Brothers, The Cactus Blossoms, Marah, Rorey Carroll and Ike Reilly. Their most-recent album, LET IT BREATHE, was released in June 2017.
Current Lineup for The Legendary Trainhoppers
Colin Boyd – drums
Chris Dodds – vocals, guitars, keys, harp
Matt Kelley – mandolin, guitar
Phil Potts – vocals, guitar
Dan Smyth – vocals, guitar
Casey Stansifer – bass
Describe your approach to Americana, roots-rock, alt-country?
Well, we keep it loose, especially in live performance—we always get a little anxious if we’re feeling TOO rehearsed! We like to feel like the train could come off the tracks at any minute. The music we make is really just rock and roll, with some winks and nods to roots through some of our particular instrumentation, and of course lots of three-part harmony vocals.
How did your band get its name?
Thanks for asking—over time, the “legendary” thing is a bit smug, yeah? But, it’s kinda true. Basically, our band formed after my aunt presented me with a photo of my great-grandpa’s band, circa 1905. They had crooked hats, string instruments, and looked like they had just hopped off (or robbed) a train. It was 2005, and we just sat there staring at that photo and wondering, “What would they sound like today?” And then we decided to re-form the band, and find out.
The band was originally a project to write songs that sounded like that photo looked. Soon enough, we had so much fun, we couldn’t resist making it a serious part of our lives.
Which songs do you perform most frequently?
Well, the repertoire is pretty large. We play 80 percent originals, and then covers that fit our vibe. We never play the same set twice, and are able to tailor the performance to the venue. This show, a big, outdoor, all ages affair, will be rock and roll. Other times, we’ll play a venue like The B-Side, and then we do the quiet, more introspective songs.
What is the most memorable performance you’ve had?
Well, we try to make everything really, really special, because we know it is a privilege to even get to do this. Recently, our album release/film screening at ArtsLab was awesome, and our GRACELAND (Paul Simon’s album in its entirety) performance at The Philmore was amazing for us. Most memorable, we were able to bring The Avett Brothers to town in 2006 and played the Wayne Calhoun Troubadour Series block party on Calhoun with them. It was a cathartic, game-changing evening, really. YLNI (Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana) and the DID (Downtown Improvement District) helped present that event, so, thank you—it’s great to do another show together.
Describe the music-making process that you have
We’re all Dylan nerds and love ‘The Basement Tapes’ aesthetic—so, songs and ideas are presented half-formed (if that) and we collaborate on everything, at all times. The songs take many forms before we finally record them, and we’re eager to play some new things we’re working on at our shows this summer.
How would you like the audience to feel when they are listening to your music?
I’m super proud of our songs and our performances—the time we dedicate to creating these songs, we should like them, right? I think all of us, in 2018, should seek to create the things that we want to see in the world. Anyway, we think the songs are good. But also, and very importantly, I think we’re a fun band. I can’t imagine it being any more fun for us to get to do this, and we love to share that feeling with everyone who sees us play.
What is it like to record an album in Fort Wayne?
We made LET IT BREATHE with Jason Davis at Off the Cuff Music. It was a tremendous experience. With my work, I’ve been able to travel and see great studios, interesting studios—in Nashville, Austin, Portland and so on—and Jason’s setup is as unique and inspiring as any I’ve ever seen. It’s a national treasure, right here in Fort Wayne.
What does the future hold?
We were looking for a winter project before writing the next album, and decided to cover Paul Simon’s GRACELAND in its entirety, in February of this year. It was an amazing experience—the six of us, joined by four incredible guests, in the beautiful Philmore. Well, the show was such a hit, we’ve been invited to perform it at Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo this August. We’re excited for that, and for a great summer of interesting, mostly outdoor gigs—after Living Fort Wayne, we’re doing Two-EE’s, Buck Lake Ranch, Country Heritage and more. And then—recording the fourth record.
Learn More About The Legendary Trainhoppers
RAMBLE ON, 2006
FAMILY TREE, 2016
LET IT BREATHE, 2017